Feeling Guilty For No Reason

This is from a consultation. I think it’s somewhat harsh but some people are in jacked up situations and they don’t want to be coddled. They want to know how to untangle the knot and solve the damned problem so that can get their life on track and enjoy it. So what if your problem is that you feel guilty all the time?

“…I realize that last is simplistic but if you are feeling guilty for no reason, that is a sign of inflation. You are making yourself more important than you are.  So the quick answer cheat sheet is:

If you did it, fix it.

If you didn’t do it, forget about it.

Note again how the limitation pays off. There are only 2 ways to go. It’s easy to sort…”

I think it is fairly nasty to tell someone they are inflating their importance but no one wants to be guilty of this and if a person can see themselves doing it, they will be super-motivated to stop.

How to stop is provided. The instructions are simple so what happens is your life-long, intractable problem can now be solved, provided you follow the map. But this post is about guilt.

If a person feels guilty all the time, what do you think the root of that might be?



Feeling Guilty For No Reason — 62 Comments

  1. Not living up to full potential. It’s a sort of regret associated with a lack of motivation to do your best. What transit are we talking about here?

    • Cow, it’s not a transit. This is just a client who has chronic feelings of guilt that she’d rather not have so I am (was) trying to give her a map out of the maze. That is why the veggies are cut and arranged rather than in a jumble. But in this process, I married guilt to inflation, which just came out of me.

      I think it’s right (and again, I think it will motivate her) but I have never heard it before so I came on here to ask what other think.

  2. But what if you feel guilty for nothing?

    For example, CArRiE, what if I feel guilty because you had a bad day and I had a good one?

    How does your day become *about me*?

  3. One of my college roommates was a chronic apologizer. It was maddening to deal with.

    If you walked near her she would apologize for being in your area even though she was there first and there was no need to apologize.

  4. Could it be because that other person lives by a different standard (and perhaps acts as if theirs is a higher standard), and the person suffering from guilt is always trying to live up to someone else’s expectation? I don’t know, just tossing around ideas.

    I also have a good friend that constantly apologizes for nothing. We always seemed to think it stemmed from his family life, like he took an unreasonable amount of blame for perpetuating his parents problems or whatever the thing was.

  5. Now you have me thinking also. When I think of some people in my life who do this I can see it, but in another vein my mother always tried to guilt us kids into an expected behavior. She would try to make me feel guilty for the problems her and my father were having it is hard to shake that when its been entrained into you as a child. I mean you carry those way too heavy burdens for a long, long time. But yeah I think I am finally shaking them loose. How sad.

  6. Responsibility. I think many people are unclear about where their responsibility lies, ie what is “theirs” to take care of and what is not (says my 10th house venus/mars/jupiter). I believe much of that stems from a (distorted) larger world view. We want to be “good” humans and show care and concern for others (we tend to deify those who self-sacrifice in the name of a greater cause), which in turn often flips a healthy sense of self into “selfishness”. It’s up to the individual to untie that knot through discerning what they want to be responsible for. Hone their focus.

    There can be many causes for this – one that sticks out to me is that once you stop feeling responsible for everything outside yourself you have to start truly owning what is yours. scary task for all of us on one level or another.

    my nickel.

    • I think it is common a person feels guilty over something and the person they feel guilty about isn’t feeling a damned thing about them. Sorry but I do think this is true and if so, what does that add up to? It’s about YOU not them.

      Again, if you screwed up then apologize. If not this falls into the category of “pampering your vomit”, a phrase I used once with, satori which registered.

  7. Brilliant insight on the self-inflation. I need to bookmark that somehow. I think the super-simple flow chart of what to do is awesome too.

    What do you think of this possibility for the root: A mental pattern or habit of blaming others or judging others. It occurred to me that “judge not lest ye be judged” may really mean: if you think harshly of others as a habit, this will come out again in harsh self-judgement. Bad deal all around.

    Shame, blame, judgement and guilt seem to be very similar species, and seem to be very double-edged.

    So maybe ask yourself who you need to forgive, who you need to be more gentle with?

  8. I blame my sun-Saturn for my guilt, personally. No matter how hard I try, it never seems like enough to me and I feel like I let others down as a result. Ergo, guilt!
    I feel like I should do more, be more, strive more, attain more, more more more more more! Never enough.

    I know it’s just me being hard on myself. I logically know that (most) others like me just fine, feel like I’m okay, that I’m enough just as I am. And, yeah, I can absolutely see the argument for Jupiter/inflation…

    I vividly remember the summer it hit me that if everyone was as wrapped up in themselves as I was at the time that they would have very little time left over to worry about me and my faults. It was liberating!
    No, I’m not that important. I can live and be myself without a microscope hanging overhead. Whew!! 😀

  9. I am guilty of this. Wait, I mean….ha ha just kidding….anyway, I feel guilty all the time. About everything. I have definitely see it as a weird reverse-egotism of sorts.

    I grew up in a really religious family and shame was just part of life. My mother was (is) mentally ill and she did a lot of blaming.

    A couple of months ago my mother was telling this story of how one of the kids didn’t eat a sandwich she’d packed them for lunch. She was going on and on about this sandwich! I started laughing.

    So, a kid doesn’t eat a sandwich (it was probably one of her Taurus kids who didn’t like bologna and margarine) and it is dragged out 25 years later as this hideous crime.

    I’m moving away from that (I hope) but can attest that being shamed continuously over long periods of time for inane reasons might be the root for some. Some, meaning me:)

  10. For example, CArRiE, what if I feel guilty because you had a bad day and I had a good one?

    How does your day become *about me*?

    Thanks Elsa- Now I’m getting what you’re talking about.

    You’re so right- and so, when you say inflation, are you thinking it’s kind of an ‘ego’ thing? Like someone thinking that it’s ‘all about me’… makes me think inflated ego.

  11. I don’t think you feel guilty for “no” reason. Someone had to install that button in you. And odds are it was one of your parents making damn sure you knew that you were inadequate, not pleasing them, not enough, totally offensive, whatever. So you go around life feeling that way with everyone and everything. Like you are an offensive person because you are breathing in another human being’s presence. You feel guilty because you EXIST. “Not my fault” and “innocent” doesn’t matter and isn’t relevant because that’s all you KNOW and all you’ve ever known.

  12. Elsa, I think you’re right on. I have a friend like this – she can never say no and always feels guilty about what she has to do or what she isn’t doing. (Honestly, sometimes I just want to smack her.)

    But I had to really think about this behaviour and try to deconstruct it. I thought: what would she do if she didn’t have anything to feel guilty about?

    And I realized that it is all about ego – she wants attention. She wants people to think: oh you’re so good, so kind to everyone. You poor thing. You’re so taken advantage of!

    Yeah… I think you’re right on. It seems to be tied to some form of ego inflation.

    However, I also agree that there’s a lot of truth to what Topaz said: “…once you stop feeling responsible for everything outside yourself you have to start truly owning what is yours.”

  13. Elsa:”They want to know how to untangle the knot and solve the damned problem so that can get their life on track and enjoy it. So what if your problem is that you feel guilty all the time?”

    Now change guilty to martyred and that’s where I was. I’m learning how to balance the service (6th) vs martyred (12th) axis, in order to get on track.

    As for what causes the guilt? I don’t have a clue, but am interest to hear, as the hubs feels guilty a lot when he follows true self and it’s not what other want???? This is strange to me,

  14. Lack of self-esteem or a parent or authoritative figure that taught them that. I used to be like that. It definitely came from a lack of trusting myself/low self-confidence.

  15. I agree with you moxiemarcy, the uprbringing is going to set a certain tone for that person’s 1st half of their life. Cultural is so so strong, it can set you like cement, condition to a mindset; I was made all too familiar with Catholic guilt growing up, a narrow mindset my mother inherited from her mother. Just the way it is, nobody’s wicked or bad.

    I did worry for many years if I was a good enough friend and person generally, whereas over time I’ve just learned to focus on myself; how do I feel at this moment? Is this the right time to do something?? For example….

  16. I definitely see the angle of inflation. But I think it can have other roots as well…particularly, as Kashmiri mentioned, religious upbringing. Being told from infancy, as I was, that one is “not worthy” of god’s love can be, for some people, very damaging. Maybe that’s my Saturn in the 9th talking…

  17. Feeling guilty is a habit, not easily changed especially when you don’t know there are other options. I was raised with guilt as the primary option: saw it dished up and swallowed most the time at home. But, as a kid you don’t know there’s more on the menu than that.

    I was feeling guilty this morning for telling someone who called me early yesterday morning. I have been recovering from a set-back. “You don’t sound so good.” “I’m not.” “Could I call you back when I can talk.” “I just have a quick question.” [Hear the opportunity?] Rather than say, “No. I’ll call you later.” I said, “If you HAVE TO.” She got the message and said she’d get my husband’s number and ask him. I crashed into the futon for more sleep.

    Guilt is an old habit. When I asked my husband is the woman had called he said no. Guilt slipped in … could I have been better at being sick? Is this projection?

    Great question, and comments. Still in recovery-mode and gult is on hold.

  18. One root could be a narcisistic tendancy. a need to make it about them?

    but then why is there a narcisistic tendancy in the first place?

    why do they feel such a need to take others stuff and draw the attention to themselves.

    Or if not outwardly drawing attention to them selves but this being all inner “feelings” then why can’t they simply enjoy a moment?

    what? missing, broken, or disconected, within them that they have to try and find a reason to make eveything about them?

    And what tools or strategies can they employ to break the cycle of it being about them?

    Is this what you mean Elsa?

    If so it might be kinda fun to do a thread about this. Sometimes it may be a temporary defense mechognism. Sometimes It may be or become a life long pattern 🙁 I know I’ve done it at times.

    Sucks for a mooment when you realize it but then the next point hits you… Now that I know I can work to get past it 🙂

  19. excellent thread..I also think along the same lines of if you did it fix it etc.. Guilt can be about having choices to make, one of which for example is doing the thing you want to, when there is something tugging your emotions elsewhere, such as a lonely parent you could go visit. I don’t have that situation as my father is intensely imaginative and independent and inclined to please himself nicely, but my husband does have an elderly mom and he does well by her but he always feels bad about the time he doesn’t give to her.
    I keep saying to myself, make a plan, allocate time for the duties and time for the pleasures, but don’t waste energy feeling drained by guilt. It’s a real negative.

  20. An astrologer I went to put it down to ancestral wounding. Chiron conjunct south node in the 8th house. Lots of drama generations back.

  21. Tangential: a problem I used to have due to over-inflated self-importance was feeling put upon or insulted all the time. Like if someone bumped into me on the bus, they were being rude *to me*. Whereas, the reality? I bet they didn’t even notice me there. Or the bus bounced at the wrong moment. Or whatever. Pretty sure it’s not because it was personal, ya know?

    And truthfully my life is a LOT easier since I realized that.

  22. It stems from this ‘original sin’ nonsense, where women have been blamed for the downfall of humanity from it’s godlike state. How many men do you know who suffer this, compared to women?

  23. Like Tam I used to share house-space with (in fact rented off) woman who used to apologise for everything… I once bnged my hip into the corner of the kitchen table, swore, and she apologised for the table being there. I rolled my eyes and said “For Gawd’s sake Sonja – there is NOWHERE ELSE THE TABLE CAN GO IN THIS KITCHEN!” It’s a maddening habit.

    This woman did suffer from low self-esteem, but then after her marriage failed (which I did my best to help her through) she became a big shot international drug smuggler, and her ego grew accordingly. Like Kashniri I believe it may well be ” a weird reverse-egotism of sorts”; which is why such people veer between martyrdom and self-inflation.

    I’ve felt very little guilt in my life, which those in the know might find questionble; but I don’t feel guilty about that ;^)

  24. @ Blessed Place … nice to see you back!
    @ Shannon: Tangential … that is a good word, and even better practice.
    @ Kat … I have that conjuct with Chiron along with Sun and Merc all in Scorp and South Node. The journey to the historic drama and then out the North Node is a good part of the healing. Bridging the story so drama is less trauma.

  25. I used to be a chronic apologizer, and I feel awful over the smallest mistake. I wasn’t born that way, and had it pummelled into me via my grandmother, bullies, etc – that there was something wrong with me, that I was unacceptable. And when you get to a certain point there, then it doesn’t matter that some people are nice – if you think, “they’re just being nice” but it doesn’t occur to you that they’re being nice for a reason – because they like you, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

    That’s why i let loose on someone who tried to blame me for everything in the past year. this didn’t happen because of me, and that didn’t happen because of me. I’ve been carrying around enough “omfg, why did I think that was a good idea?” shame as it is, without them foisting their faults onto me. The same person who, a few years ago, told me that they didn’t ever want to hear me apologize again, was now making everything all my fault (or trying to). If my self-esteem hadn’t been flattened again, then I would have made sure to never have contact with them again. there’s a part of me that seems to think that everything will have a positive ending (I think I needed that part of me to show itself again, so that I could get over agoraphobia). I needed to know that my time knowing this person hadn’t been a waste, but when they turn around and do that, I can’t think of it as anything but a waste.

  26. I think this ties in to inflation, but my experience with someone that carries a lot of neeedless guilt pointed to massive internal power struggles. The person I’m thinking of had heavy conflicts within their ego, the guilt manifested to keep their own needs in check, and to deny themselves. The outward expression was primarily to function as a codependent. Both codependency and guilt/shame, IMHO, are controlling forces and ways of expunging/supressing ones own power. It’s the conflict of self inflation and deflation, I guess.

  27. I agree with Jennifer the most. Many times, parents do it to their kids. They’ll end up feeling guilty all their lives, because their parents (who are an authority to a kid) have told them that they’re never good enough, they’ve never tried hard enough, they’re never smart/beautiful/cheerful/social enough.

  28. Elsa, I agree.
    I haven’t read all the comments, but I helped my brother with this problem, and worse, feeling like he needed to be punished. I felt it was a mix of things, but the solution was similier, I did tie it to overvaluing himself and his problems. He is someone who does everything in a big way, and feeling guilty is no exception.

    He is doing a lot better now.

  29. This whole thing reminds me of that quote “Stop being so humble, you aren’t that great.” I guess it depends what they feel guilty for. is it because they feel they are neglectful, negligent or lacking in some way or because they feel they do not deserve t ask for what they need or want? Sounds like mommy might be involved in this, either way it’s easy to put down you just have to decide to.

  30. My parents had nothing to do with it, that I can remember. If anything, with the way they treat me, I should be feeling pretty fine, and a really healthy human being, happy. I just didn’t get help nearly soon enough. I should have had it years ago.

  31. This is so spot on.

    Have you ever been with someone who apologizes for *your* tough circumstances or feelings in a way that makes it about them? “I’m mad.” “Is it something I’ve done?” “No, I just am having a real tough time with this, this and that.” “Oh, I should have done this, this and that so you wouldn’t be feeling that way.” “Grrrrrrr….it is NOT about you!”

    Then they feel lousy, and suddenly —if you’re not careful—-you’re left with their burden on top of yours.

    I really believe the root of this is the need for attention. I don’t think it’s always malicious, but the results can be awful if it’s not brought into awareness..

    So, on behalf of all of us who’ve 1) felt chronic guilt for no reason or 2) dealt with close ones who feel the same, thank you for this post Elsa!

  32. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to read all the comments and won’t until tomorrow. However, this is so brilliant and needs lots of thought from me… I wanted to leave one note here so I didn’t forget.

    I wonder if the root of this is, in some way, tied to being made to carry out an adult role at a very young age. I see this in myself and also, much worse, in someone very close to me. She began caring for three other children at age 4. And I mean caring as in diaper changing, bathing, feeding. I think that might injure the sense of responsibility. I need to think more on this.

  33. Not everyone who feels guilty will constantly apologize for their existence though. I often feel guilty but don’t really tell anyone. My problem is rooted in my biological mother who physically and emotionally abused me for years. According to her I should have never been born and I was a retard (which I’m obviously not, thanks mom).

    Anyway, this made me feel like everything I did was wrong and everything that ever went wrong was my fault. “You are making yourself more important than you are.” Sort of true, like “I’m so much worse than everyone else”, but I don’t think anyone wants to make themselves like this.

  34. I had a therapist tell me that exact thing about 20 years ago. She told me that I must think I’m pretty powerful and important to be responsible for everyone’s lives and happiness. I remember being taken aback and a little huffy about it at first, but I’ve never forgotten it and I let go of a lot of guilt about expectations I had no reponsibility to live up to.

  35. I agree that sometimes it starts with the parents. So it is a very responsible thing to do as an adult to seek out the parenting/information you missed out on, even if it comes in the form of “tough love.”

  36. i think mine comes from 8th house aries SN conjunct my sun.
    pervasive underlying feeling like lady macbeth trying to wash her hands

    it’s not guilty for things that happen now. i just feel like i have karma to address.

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