Apologies Aren’t Enough to Face Feelings of Guilt—Incandescent Psychology #UnderstandingHuman

(This article is adapted from Guy Winch’s book, titled “Emotional First Aid”)

Have you read the previous article about guilt? To read this passage, it’s a good idea to read that passage first.

Feelings of guilt cannot be avoided because humans will not escape mistakes in living their lives. Mistakes that are intentionally made or not, directly or indirectly, provide their own challenges to resolve.

We may realize one way to deal with mistakes is to apologize. In some cases, perhaps an apology or effort has reduced or even eliminated guilt.

But why are so many still trapped in guilt? Why does anyone still feel hurt by those who have apologized with him?

Three Treatments for Dealing with Feelings of Guilt

According to Guy Winch, there are three treatments to deal with feelings of guilt. First, focus on a powerful apology. Second, it centers on self-forgiveness. Third, focus on re-engaging in life.

A Powerful Apology

Actually, the solution to dealing with guilt is simple. The solution is how do you apologize to the person who has been hurt with sincerity in it. Besides, the mistakes you make are not too big. Until finally all will be forgiven, as time goes by.

In reality, a powerful apology is difficult to do. Moreover, there is no sincerity in his apology, which can worsen the situation.

There are three basic statements in an apology: remorse for what happened, a clear “I’m sorry” statement, and a sincere apology.

When these three things are combined, the apology is, “I’m sorry, I completely forgot the promise tonight. I feel very sorry and I hope you will forgive me.” Instead of just saying, “Eh yes, that promise was last night, huh? I forgot instead.”

There are three additional elements to a powerful apology. The three elements are justifying the hurt person’s feelings, offering to make amends, and admitting that they have violated the expectations of others.

Justifying Feelings

When you feel hurt, disappointed, or upset because of someone else’s actions, you will find it difficult to forgive them. It’s hard to forgive until you’re sure that the person really understands the impact their actions have on you.

When apologizing, a person who is able to prove that he clearly understands the emotional pain caused and wants to take full responsibility, will make the person who was hurt feel easier to let go of the hurt he felt.

Justifying the emotions felt by others is indeed a powerful move in apologizing. You seem to be in that person’s position. Thus, you are able to understand in detail the impact of actions, the influence felt, and the consequences of feelings that arise as a result of the actions you have done.

Make amends

Not everyone feels offering something as a form of making amends as the right way. However, the desire to make amends can be meaningful to those who have been hurt.

By conveying the desire to do something as a ransom for mistakes, you can communicate deeper regret for the actions you did. It can also be a strong impetus to make things right.

Admitting Wrong

One of the reasons why it is difficult for the hurt party to forgive mistakes is that they do not know if you have regretted and learned from the mistakes made. This is why it’s important to admit mistakes.

It needs recognition that the mistake has violated or disturbed the prevailing expectations, rules, and social norms. After that, make sure not to repeat that mistake in the future.

Forgiving Yourself

When you apologize to the person you’ve hurt and that person forgives, the burden of guilt on you is lighter. However, there are conditions that make you unable to apologize or be forgiven by the person who was hurt. When this condition occurs, you will drown in feelings of guilt and punish yourself.

To overcome this, the way you can do is to forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness is also a process that begins with the decision to do so.

At first, you have to admit that you’ve hit yourself enough. In addition, you realize, this excessive guilt will not result in a clear purpose in life.

Research shows that forgiving yourself can reduce guilt and eliminate attempts to avoid the person who was hurt. You will also be better able to enjoy life and reduce the tendency to punish or act destructively yourself.

On the other hand, forgiving yourself also has risks. The risk is to make it too easy and quick for someone to forgive themselves. Another risk is that a person fails to implement change, awareness, and care to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

The Stage of Self-Affirmation

There are two stages to forgiving yourself. First, you take full responsibility for your actions and calculate honestly and accurately the events that led to your guilt.

You must be able to admit mistakes clearly and the impact caused, emotionally and practically. However, it will be different when the impact caused is a very big danger. For example, being involved in an accident and causing someone else to die. If this happens, you need the help of a mental health professional to overcome it.

You also need to make changes and improvements to the losses caused. Then, look for ways to reduce the chances of making the same mistake in the future.

Re-engage in Life

This treatment is specifically done for people who feel survivor guilt, separation guilt, or disloyalty guilt. These three forms of guilt become a greater challenge to resolve. This is because there is nothing clear to account for or make up for wrongdoing.

Sometimes, it’s easier to forgive ourselves when something wrong has been done than there is no obvious form of mistake.

Example Case

Here are two writings, quoted from Winch, when meeting with his client.

There is a father of three, who lost his wife in an accident. This accident happened when the wife did something that the husband was supposed to do. This caused such great guilt to the husband. Slowly the husband realized, he should not be trapped in guilt.

He admitted that he felt as if he had felt dead in recent months. However, He had to get out of this bondage. “Otherwise, my three children will feel the loss of both parents.”

Another case in point is a husband who feels sad when his wife goes out of the house with friends. The wife had obeyed her husband’s wishes and stayed at home for several months. Then, she realized, by going out and enjoying her life, it didn’t mean she did her husband anything wrong.

Try it yourself if you don’t see an expert

Various kinds of perceived errors with different causes and effects, provide different challenges for each human being. If you can indeed come to terms with guilt with your own efforts, then keep trying. Until later you feel calm and return to live life more relieved.

However, if your problem is indeed more severe and cannot be handled alone, try to see a mental health professional. By meeting the expert, you will be more helped to overcome your problems. Until finally, you can escape the bondage of prolonged guilt and return to enjoy your life now.

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