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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

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Relaxation for Children

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Meadow Relaxation

Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

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“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

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Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

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When Needs Come Into Conflict

What to Do When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

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Lies You Were Told

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Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

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PsychNotes March 2016

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March 3, 2016       

Importance of Guilt vs. Irrational Guilt

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
As a psychologist and writer I sometimes fail to be aware of who my audience is. I think this is a problem of psychological writing in general (especially on the internet). For instance, I might be writing with a particular group of people in mind without recognizing the impact on others who might be reading the information. This is a particular problem with guilt, blame, and responsibility.

Due to this tendency in psychological writing, many people believe that psychology exonerates people from wrong-doing: “It's not my fault—I have an addiction!” or “I can't change my life because I have depression.” This is furthest from the truth. Psychological principles have always incorporated the importance of taking responsibility for your life.

However, sometimes I am writing about irrational guilt and blame and I make statements to the effect of: “You don't need to feel guilty—you haven't done anything wrong.” Irrational guilt is when someone with an anxiety or depressive disorder takes excessive responsibility for everything that occurs. They might feel guilty for saying “No, I don't have the time to do that” to someone's request. Or, someone blames herself for having been raped or molested. In those situations, therapy may focus on getting rid of the irrational emotion.

However, guilt is generally an important emotion. When a person feels that twinge of guilt in their gut it means they need to evaluate their behavior. They need to assess whether the behavior was appropriate, and if not, how it can be corrected.

This process may be a little more difficult for people with depression or anxiety because they need to also determine whether the emotion of guilt is excessive and irrational. Although a person may not be to blame for the things that have happened to them or for having mental illness, it is still necessary to take responsibility for how they choose to live their lives. First, though, they may need to get rid of the guilt and self-blame so as to see more clearly how to create a better life.

But, for most people, that icky feeling of guilt is meant to help us function better as a cohesive community. It helps us to be aware of our behavior, to take responsibility for mistakes and to make improvements. It allows us to be more empathetic and compassionate which leads to better relationships and cooperation.


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