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Is guilt a positive or negative emotion?

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

An emotion is just an emotion - it's neither negative nor positive. However, how we respond to that emotion can be negative or positive. Quite often we feel guilt when we don't need to.

Guilt is an emotion that should come up for yous when you've done something that goes against your morals and values - you've told a lie, done something to hurt someone, taken something that didn't belong to you, etc. Guilt comes to tell you that you should make repair for what you've done. So the next time you feel guilt, ask yourself this: "Have I done something that goes against my morals?" If the answer is "no", then chances are you're judging yourself in some way. If you can stop judging yourself, the guilt will go away.

Here's an example: quite often, people feel guilty about doing nice things for themselves. Jill, for example, feels guilty when she takes half an hour to have a relaxing bath. Is she doing anything that goes against her morals? - No! Rather, she's judging herself - she's thinking she should be doing something else, that she's wasting time, that there are other more important things she should be doing, and so on. So if Jill can stop those judgments and just allow herself to enjoy her bath, her guilt will dissipate; and eventually, when she goes to take her bath, it won't come up at all.

Many of us are very judgmental, especially when it comes to ourselves; so working on reducing the self-judgments usually reduces the guilt over time.

Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Many people who have a strong moral sense find it hard to correctthe sin and not the sinner. The voice raised against a wrongsomehow keeps going and wants the person to be redeemed as well. Atbottom this aim is not just pointless but impossible. Actions areredeemed by exchanging bad for good. You undo the wrong and payyour debt. If you try to save your soul in the process, you missthe truth that it is the soul that is out to save you, not theother way around.

Since guilt drives us to correct our sins (defined in anonreligious sense as consciously wrong actions), it is often heldas a positive emotion. Taken too far, guilt is extremelydestructive. Like many other energies, such as fear and anger,guilt will not willingly go away once it is let out of the box. Itprefers to deliver its guilty verdict over and over, long past thetime when any useful purpose had been served. The most moral peopletend to suffer over trivial sins, or over no sin at all. Thereforerepudiate any impulse to attack yourself. This habit ofself-torture will never lead you to your soul but only keep you indeeper isolation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.