Guilt Gone Wrong


Do you spend hours worrying that you said or did the wrong thing and may have hurt someone’s feelings? Do you obsess over mistakes you made? Do you take responsibility for things outside of your control and feel guilty that you couldn’t do more? Do you agonize over saying no to someone and/or continually agree to do things you don’t want to? 

If any of these questions ring true, you might be someone who struggles with excessive guilt. 

Guilt is a pretty common phenomenon. Generally, it’s a signal to us that we’ve done something against our values, or in the case of excessive guilt, we’ve done something that we perceive as being “bad.” It’s a type of moral code created by us, our families, our cultures, our society, etc. If we follow this code, we feel good. If we break this code, we feel bad and experience guilt. While guilt doesn’t always feel nice, it is important for us to have moral codes that we live by. Establishing “right and wrong” and having empathy for others is what makes us human. So, you could argue that guilt does have its place in our world. 

Often when people feel guilt, you’re able to notice that you’ve  made a choice that doesn’t quite align with how you want to behave in life. For example, if you plan to take your dogs on a walk in the morning, but sleep in instead, you might feel some guilt.  Your moral code is telling you that your dogs are important to you and that they need a walk before a long day at home. If you’re able to take into consideration why you’ve experienced guilt and then let it go, that’s normal guilt. If it escalates to thinking that you’re terrible dog owner, that your dogs have an awful life, they deserve someone better, and other obsessive thoughts that intensify the low-key guilt you felt in the beginning, that’s excessive guilt.

Excessive guilt is associated with concerns such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, eating disorders, shame, and perfectionism. Not only is it unpleasant to experience, but it can also have quite the impact on our self worth, confidence, and personal growth. When we spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over mistakes and feeling guilty, it impacts how we interact with others and what risks we are willing to take in life. If we know that making a mistake means we’ll feel awful, we start to avoid people and situations that may create guilt. We may pull away from people or things we love or become intense people pleasers.

 As I mentioned earlier, many people who struggle with excessive guilt often “perceive” that they’ve done something wrong. This could be as simple as seeing their partner in a bad mood and automatically assuming they have done something to make their partner unhappy. See how that can result in some people-pleasing behaviors? What have I done? How can I make it better? If the guilt doesn’t fit the situation, there often isn’t an answer of how to make it better.

Excessive guilt leads to anxiety and self-deprecation. Anxiety and self-deprecation may lead to a loss of motivation and feeling of hopelessness or an intense desire to make things “right” and do everything correctly. Either way, it sets you up to fail. If someone takes responsibility for others and has unrealistic expectations for themselves, they will find themselves back in excessive guilt when it inevitably does not work out. On the other hand, feelings of hopelessness, poor self-esteem, and lack of motivation also tend to fuel feelings of guilt. Both become a never-ending cycle of unpleasant emotions.

Although the description of a never-ending cycle seems a bit dreary, there is good news. It’s actually a cycle we can interrupt and change. We don’t have to live with excessive guilt all of our lives. By reframing the way we think and address ourselves, others, and problems we can change our reactions and emotions. We’ll talk more about that in a later post, but if guilt is controlling your life, don’t hesitate to reach out for help!

Therapy can help, give us a call 801-699-6161.

How to find a therapist in Salt Lake City

How to find a therapist in Salt Lake City

You live in SLC and you start to look for a therapist, but you want to find the best therapist for your needs. How do you do this?

This is a common question that surfaces when you are considering going to therapy or helping to find a provider for your loved one.  Fears surface about having to share your story, admit that you are struggling, and hold the hope that this will even help. You know that what you’ve been doing isn’t working and the last thing you want to do with your time is to try out multiple people in order to catch traction.

So let’s start there, what constitutes a good fit for therapy?  While this can vary, the short answer is you want to pinpoint two key factors:

First step: Evaluate if this therapist has the skill set to help you better cope with your struggles. 

You are probably wondering, especially if you’ve not been in therapy before, how you’d know this before your first appointment.  So, if you had to sum up your reasons for attending therapy in 2 sentences what would your answer be? The words in those sentences are you guideposts to finding someone who has training and expertise in these areas.  If you are still unsure, which categories to choose from, here are a few ideas: what issues from my past that show up in my current relationship or daily life. The answer(s) may be things such as worry and anxiety, self loathing and depression, feeling checked out or disconnected, unhealthy relationship with food, alcohol, exercise, etc.  

Once you have narrowed down the category, you want to search for providers in your area with that speciality.  While therapists and counselors can see individuals with a wide variety of life issues or mental health diagnosis, we feel that often times a specialist can be your best bet.  We think it’s similar to how we select a doctor, if our symptoms are mild or undetermined we see a primary care doctor who knows a lot about lots of things.  

However, if we know are symptoms are targeted, such as a significant knee injury, we seek out specialty care or our primary care doctor directs us to someone who has a skill set that will render specific interventions yielding a faster and more targeted outcomes.   

There are different modalities and treatment approaches for certain mental health concerns, you can read about those prior to searching for a therapist, or you can ask the therapist you contact to explain their treatment approach to you when you call to inquire more about services and give a brief explanation of what’s bringing you into therapy at this time (this is a normal part of the process before a first appointment is established). Sound clinicians should let you know if what you need isn’t in their wheelhouse, and should also point you in a direction that will be. 

Second Step: Explore if there is a connection with your therapist and if their approach works for you.

Just like a doctor’s personality and bedside manner varies, so does the personality and therapy style of mental health providers.  We view this connection as more vital with therapy than with a medical provider, because while you may not dig the bedside manner of my medical team, their expertise can often still serve you without causing too emotional distress.

A therapist however, is the person you’re sharing your pain points and feelings with, and how that interaction goes is vital to feeling emotionally safe, understood, and able to receive feedback.  Let’s face it, in life there are personality styles that just work better for us than others, so let the same rules apply here- trust your gut and if the connection isn’t working for you, move on and find someone with whom you can connect.  

You may know in the first session if the connection is there or not, or it may take you a few times to get comfortable with therapy and then re-asses.  Even if you are working with someone for awhile, and concerns arise It’s okay to pivot. We want your needs to be met and for you to have a positive experience and outcome (even though sometimes dealing with your feelings can be hard by nature). Don’t hesitate to speak up and talk this out with your therapist.  Yes, with your therapist. 

Most people want to shy away from discussing concerns about therapy with their therapist, but a good clinician will welcome the feedback. They should be able to help you look at the concerns, address the workable ones such as shifting the pace, modification of their style, or more clearly define your goals and realistic outcomes.  They should also be able to help you get clarity if they just aren’t the right person for you at this time, this happens now and again for all therapists. If you decide you want to try someone else, your therapist can help direct you towards a provider with a different skill set, approach, or personality style that may be a more effective fit. 

The goal in therapy is for you to find the support and tools you need to move forward in creating the life you want or coping with the life moments you’ve been dealt that are really difficult right now.  So connection and skill set in a therapist truly matter.  

We have different therapists at Inside Wellness to cover the needs of the SLC community. If you want to explore how therapy can help you, contact us and we will help you determine the best fit for your needs.

Click here or call 801-699-6161 to book your first appointment with a therapist in our SLC office today

Is there more to rest than guilt?


When you think about taking a moment to rest, you feel guilty and worry that you might be lazy. There are better ways to spend your time, and honestly, you have a hard time relaxing anyway. But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking that it might be nice and you’ve been pretty stressed lately. Now you’re caught between two warring sides and unsure what to do. What if you rest, and it’s a waste of time that leaves you feeling worse? But what if you could rest, guilt free, with the knowledge that in some ways, you are being productive?

With busy schedules and high expectations for achievement, rest seems to be at the very bottom of our long to-do lists, if it even makes it on there at all. To clarify,  I’m not talking about sleep (which is also super important but just not the subject today) but the art of doing nothing. Relaxing. Taking time to ourselves. Chilling out.

I often hear these phrases associated with guilt and some less than desirable adjectives such as, lazy and selfish. In our society that is always plugged-in and ready to go, we feel like we need to be too. If we aren’t being productive, we’re failing in some way.

But what if rest is essential to our well-being and our ability to be our best selves? I certainly think there is an argument to be found for not worrying about being productive, and finding peace in doing nothing, but that’s for another time. Today, all we have to wrap our brains around is the idea that rest might be productive.

Let’s take a look at some benefits of rest:

  • Reduces stress : This is a big deal, because we know that  stress can take a serious toll on our bodies and health. People with high levels of stress are at a higher risk of anxiety, depression, the use of poor coping skills (substance use, for example),  digestive problems, headaches, and poor sleep. Chronic stress has also been linked to things like heart disease and a decrease in immune system functioning. Unfortunately, that’s not even the whole list of possible concerns. As a side note to anyone who got stressed reading that, know that not all stress is bad and it’s normal to have some amount of stress in our lives, it’s just important that we manage it!

  • Improves emotional well-being: There are two parts to this one. First, We’re much better at managing our emotions when we’re feeling balanced and rested. When we push ourselves to constantly be going and achieving, we tend to get frazzled and eventually, pretty dang tired. It’s so much harder to be our pleasant selves when we’re exhausted. Secondly, on top of being able to manage our emotions better, we just feel better. When we’ve taken the time to relax and unwind our mood is better overall.

  • Improves our relationships: When we’re running on empty, we’re less patient with those around us. We might feel resentful of helping others or take our frustrations out on the people we love most. However, if we’ve taken the time to invest in ourselves by resting, we become much more prepared to engage with the people around us in a positive and happy manner.

  • Body recuperates from physical activity: Any exercise or physical activity that we do needs to be balanced with rest. Exercise puts stress on our body and rest gives the body the time it needs to replenish and rebuild. Without rest, we’re more likely to suffer from injuries. Not to mention, our bodies just don’t feel as well. They may be tired, achey, and painful.

  • Leads to creativity: Sometimes I hear people say “I’m not creative,” but I think we all have creativity inside of us! When we have downtime, it allows our mind to wander and think of new things. Maybe this creativity comes in the form of a beautiful piece of artwork or maybe it’s a solution to a problem that you have been struggling to solve. Either way, our mind can come up with some pretty awesome stuff when it has time to be still.

  • Increases productivity: Okay, so for those of you worried about being productive all the time - did you know that you will actually be much more productive at your tasks if you’re well rested? When we haven’t taken time to recharge, we’re less effective at getting things done. Our brains and body become lethargic, it’s like trying to do everything through a fog. You’ll actually get things done faster and do it better if you give yourself some free-time!

So that’s a pretty impressive list. To sum it up, rest helps us feel good and improves our ability to function in our day-to-day lives. We’re able to do things we love with less effort and increased efficacy, our health improves, and our relationships likely benefit given that we’re able to regulate our emotions and have energy to think of others.  

Despite all this evidence, sometimes taking time for ourselves feels impossible. It’s hard to sit-back and enjoy some down-time when we’re feeling guilty and telling ourselves we “should” be doing something else more productive. And if we aren’t being productive, others might think we’re lazy or self-indulgent

But here’s the thing: When we don’t take time to relax, we tend to become the thing we’re so scared of being in the first place. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we’re exhausted and overworked we’re more likely to be irritable and resentful, our work quality decreases, and overall, we feel crappy. We’re less engaged in life and spend more time thinking about what has to be done. We actually enjoy life more when we take time for a little R&R. Crazy, right?!

So, is rest productive? To me, the evidence strongly points to a firm yes. And if that’s the case, I’m here to challenge anyone who struggles with taking time to rest, to reframe how you think about it. “Rest is productive. By taking time for myself I will be better at everything else I do.”Maybe the next step is to enjoy downtime without thinking of it in terms of being productive, but for now, reframing is a great place to start!

Contact us here to speak with us and find out how one of our therapists can help you find rest without the guilt.