If you have a guilt complex, it may be affecting your behavior and your whole life without you even knowing. Below, you will find signs that you might be suffering from it.
We all feel guilty at some point in our lives. It’s a perfectly natural emotional response and we feel it generally if we have done something wrong or upset someone. It is when those feelings of guilt are exaggerated, unnecessary or unreasonable that they are not classed as typical guilty responses. These could be signs that you have a guilt complex.
Before we examine specific signs of a guilt complex, let’s explore what kinds of guilt there are.
Experts believe there are 5 types of guilt:
- Guilt for something you did. This is where your actions caused hurt or harm to someone directly.
- Guilt for something you didn’t do (but wanted to). This is where you want to commit an act that goes against your moral code, but you don’t.
- Guilt for something you think you did. Studies show that if we perceive we have done something wrong, we can feel the same guilty emotions as if we had actually carried it out.
- Guilt that you didn’t do enough. This is where you feel you could have done more for someone and are now beating yourself up about it.
- Guilt that you are doing better than others. Often called ‘survivor guilt’, this is where you feel you are doing better but don’t really deserve it.
These are the five recognized types of guilt and are all perfectly natural. It is when these guilt feelings overwhelm you and start affecting your life that could indicate signs of a guilt complex.
Here are six signs that you might have a guilt complex:
1. You are paranoid about everything.
Guilty minds work overtime and chances are, if you’ve done something that is making you feel guilty, you’ll suspect everyone else is watching you or out to get you. What is happening is that you are projecting your guilty feelings onto a third party. Your mind is trying to defend your actions and stop you from feeling upset by focussing on others.
2. You overreact to minor issues.
If you are feeling guilty, you are already punishing yourself. This means you are really sensitive to any form of criticism. So what happens is that any minor issue gets the full treatment and your exaggerated wrath.
What is happening is that you are overcompensating for the guilt you are hiding and not resolving. It is a bit like a cheating husband who has not told his wife about his affair getting into a huge row about forgetting to bring home some milk.
3. Your jokes become nasty and not funny.
Do you find yourself joking at someone else’s expense all the time? Are you always putting someone down in order to get a laugh? If this is getting to be a problem and people are complaining, you might want to think about where these jokes and putdowns are coming from.
We use putdowns and jokes at other’s expense in order to alleviate our guilty feelings, as it tars everyone with the same brush. You are tainted, so why shouldn’t everyone else be?
4. Freudian Slips.
Sigmund Freud was the daddy of suppressing guilt and what it did to the psyche. So much so that we named those little slips of the tongue that indicate our guilt ‘Freudian Slips’.
These little accidents that appear to slip out at the most inappropriate times are our subconscious minds fighting against the repression of our guilt and breaking free. If your Freudian slips are embarrassing you in public, then perhaps it’s time to come clean about what you are feeling guilty about.
Like our favorite cheating husband who buys his wife flowers or expensive gifts because he is having an affair, having a guilt complex makes us over-compensate in other areas. We are trying to compensate for our actions and end up exaggerating this compensation because we cannot deal with the consequences in real life.
6. You take responsibility for minor issues.
There’s nothing like drawing the attention away from yourself by admitting some minor indiscretion or accident. Your subconscious mind is crying out to be heard and wants to offload its guilty secret. But as you are suppressing it, you have to let something out. Thus, you take responsibility for small, unimportant things so that you can at least fess up to something.
Having a guilt complex and suppressing your guilty feelings is bad for your mental health. It has been linked to depression, can lead to mental disorders such as OCD, anxiety and self-harming, and can affect relationships with others.
It is important to get help if you recognize any of the six signs of a guilt complex. There are several different therapies that can help, including cognitive behavioral to person-centered therapy. Using one of these methods will allow you to identify how guilt is ruining your life and what you can do about it.