Guilt Could Be The Result Of This Brain Function

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“Every man is guilty of the good he didn’t do,” spoke Voltaire. We can all be found guilty of something. Many men who have lived with a chemical dependency on drugs and alcohol have found themselves involved in crimes which they were tried and found guilty for. Others have committed crimes which are not punished by law. We have stolen time, we have broken promises, we have betrayed trust, we have lied and manipulated, we have done things we wish we didn’t do.

Guilt is a motivating force in life- for better or for worse. Guilt can be a positive motivator. When guilt is healthy and appropriate we learn from guilt through mental and physical cues. We might feel a sudden thought of “that was wrong” accompanied by a quick pang in the stomach or the chest. Instantaneously we are made aware that our actions had alternatives and we chose poorly. Recovery teaches us to become aware of our indiscretions and promptly make amends where necessary. Resolved and relieved, we move forward in our lives having gained critical wisdom.

There are other times in which guilt is not instructive but is damaging, punishing, and unrelenting. This is the kind of guilt that feels as though it will never be resolved, we will never be relieved of it and that whatever lesson there might be- we simply aren’t getting it. Toxic guilt can follow us for a lifetime and until we find a way to let it go, it can run our lives. Until we can forgive ourselves for the way we have hurt others, we will be punished by toxic guilt ongoing.

We act against our inherent humanity when we hurt ourselves and others. It is possible that this knowledge is what creates the greatest guilt of all. We know better, but we do not do better. Research published in Nature Neuroscience found “…that the human brain is wired to discourage us from hurting other people for our own gain,” reports Inverse.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol rewires the brain in a way that defies normal operations. Addiction overrides natural and normal functions of guilt and negative consequence, not so much encouraging us to hurt other people or ourselves but convincing us that the consequences of doing so aren’t as important as getting and staying intoxicated.


Tree House Recovery is a men’s treatment program in Portland, Oregon, offering men the journey of finding freedom from addiction. Creating a sustainable recovery through sustainable change, our programs help men revolutionize their life through total transformation of mind, body, and spirit. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474

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