Gary's Guidance: Guilt

December 2012

Gary’s Guidance


In light of my working with older adults and their children I have had ample opportunities to deal with the emotional aspects of caregivers or those directly involved in supporting a senior’s aging in place or residing in a personal care facility.  Guilt is one of the more common emotional states that become part of life changing events like an adult child intervening on their parent’s behalf in order to facilitate their getting help; and sometimes against their wishes.  Here are some characteristics of guilt for helping with understanding how this emotional state exists:

Guilt is not neutral because it gets labeled as either good or bad.  This can happen in the form of self-judgment or from judgment made by others.

Guilt comes as a failure to meet another’s standard of behavior or one’s own standard.

Guilt encourages us to obey laws, regulations, social norms, and standards.  It can promote socially desirable behavior.  It can be an internal punishment for socially or morally unacceptable behavior.

Guilt can be motivating to avoid others thinking/ judging poorly of them.

Guilt can exist when feeling badly about your actions.  It acts as a form of self-punishment.

Guilt can be irrational and based upon inaccurate beliefs or conclusions more often than not.

Guilt exists by causing harm or failing to prevent harm.

Guilt comes by not living up to meeting expectations of others or not meeting one’s responsibility to others.

In the next edition of Gary’s Guidance, coping with guilt will be addressed in respect to acceptance of responsibility, remorse, restitution, and healing.

Gary Kozick, LCSW

(215) 510-8901