Post by Susan Peabody on Jan 26, 2009 13:31:14 GMT -8
Toxic guilt is the unreasonable guilt you feel for things that are beyond your control. Where does it come from? It is usually the legacy of a traumatic childhood. Because of what psychologists call self-referencing, children blame themselves when something goes wrong in their home. There is no logic to this, it is just a fact. Children with undeveloped egos see themselves as the center of the universe and take responsibility for everything. They think, “If mother is angry, then it is my fault. I am a bad person.” This leads to feelings of shame and toxic guilt.
This phase of childhood development has a lasting impact on our adult lives. The feelings of guilt live on in our unconscious mind and float to the surface now and then when we least expect them. This gets in the way of change because it weighs us down. Like depression, toxic guilt saps our energy and keeps us in survival mode. We have to spend all of our time fighting off the feelings of shame and guilt, and as a result there is no time or desire to change.
To counteract this kind of guilt we must use positive reinforcement. We must counter the free-floating feelings of guilt with an awareness of the truth, that we are not to blame, and then keep reminding ourselves of this truth with constant self-talk until the guilt recedes. Most of all, we must not act on this toxic guilt. For instance, codependents live lives of quiet desperation trying to get rid of this toxic guilt by taking care of people in unhealthy ways. They must stop doing this and erase the toxic guilt to the best of their ability in other positive ways.