Among all the difficult emotions I have been having lately, guilt seems to be creeping in very fast. And this guilt is becoming almost obsessive and I can’t turn it off. I just think about all these past things that I did wrong. For instance, several years ago I told on someone (they were doing something against company policy) and ultimately after an investigation was done on this person they lost their job. Although I know I did not make the decision to fire them, my telling started the series of events. Yes, this person was doing something against company policy, but honestly it wasn’t anything bad. I feel so guilty about it today. I was young then and I guess if I realized the impact my words would ultimately have on this person’s life I might have made a different decision. I think I feel so guilty about it now because this person was out of a job. Now that I am searching for a job and know the pain and struggle that comes with that, I feel horrible about how I impacted this person. I do know that this person did eventually get a new job and moved on with his life, but I can’t help but think how my decision changed his life and the struggle I might have caused.
My guilt is staring to spiral. It starts off with something small with something like accidentally spilling something, to the event described above, to more deeper issues. Recently, probably due to being depressed and anxious, my thoughts go back to my childhood. I will be seeing of the of people who abused me soon. Whenever we see each other we act like nothing happened. We are nice to one another and talk about the weather or something superficial. It has been many years since the abuse, but when I am around him (and the other person who abused me) I find myself feeling so guilty. I have tried to understand where this guilt is coming from. I think I have tried to downplay the events of my childhood so that I can go into these encounters with the individuals and not feel the trauma all over again. At the same time I also feel guilty for my decision to tell when I was a child. Authorities got involved and it was a big mess (though ultimately nothing ever came about with it – nobody got in trouble, except for me). Maybe part of me believes that since no one got in trouble that what really happened was not a big deal. When I made the decision to tell then I impacted people’s lives – forever. Though no one got in trouble, those events always hang in the air and I feel guilty for causing those people pain and inconvenience – as confusing as that sounds considering what they did to me. I hate to inconvenience people, or cause others pain. I try to be a good person, but sometimes I don’t think about all the consequences of my words/actions. When the things I do negatively impact someone else I find it almost impossible to forgive myself.
This guilt gets so intense that I feel the need to punish myself over and over again. SI was always that form of self-punishment. I am trying to be more mindful and really thing about how I am feeling, why there is this need to SI and what other ways I can handle it. But sometimes the guilt just feels so intense that the automatic response is SI. I don’t want to deal with this guilt along with all the other things going on right now. Any suggestions on how to deal with guilt (and shame)?