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The Excessity of Guilt

In my 25 years of counseling others, I’ve seen guilt pulled out and put on just about as often as anger. It can be much quieter, though, especially when a person wears the guilt instead of placing it onto someone else. Guilt, when thrown over others, has the potential to be noisily, loudly, angrily rejected and shaken off. Guilt, when worn by the person, however, is generally quiet, like a shroud.

Whereas anger is retaliatory, guilt is preemptive.

Guilt says, You don’t need to hurt me; I’ll do it myself. By administering a self-inflicted blow, guilt seeks to control the level — if not the presence — of pain.

Guilt is a way to make yourself responsible for and thus in control of the pain in your life. The guiltier you feel, the more pain you experience. The more pain you experience the more apt you are to attempt to control it through guilt. This is what leads to guilt becoming an excessity for some.

SOURCE: Chapter 2, “Examine Your Excess,” in Gotta Have It! by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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