Henry J asked in Social SciencePsychology · 1 decade ago

Why am I feeling guilty again for things that I did 20 years ago?

As a teenager, I went through a stage that ended up with me getting into trouble with the law. I got caught, served the sentance, and as a result changed my behaviour very much for the better.

Since then I have led a responsible and happy life. I do not want to trivialise my past actions, but they were hardly the most serious acts of criminal behaviour and did not cause suffering to other people.

Now, 20 years later, feelings of guilt about what I did have returned, along with nightmares in which I did not reform but continued down the path that I was heading and getting very much worse.

Why might this be?

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  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hi there,

    You've partly answered you're own question. You said "When I was a teenager".

    Teenagers cannot be expected to behave perfectly or develop into adults without making mistakes. Making mistakes and finding what is wrong, right or what works for you is part of being a teenager - a big part!

    It sounds like you learned from your mistakes and took your punishment on the chin so well done for that.

    I think you should be proud of yourself for getting your act together and leaving your mistakes behind you.

    What you're experiencing are "Anxiety Dreams". They usually surface when there is some problem in your life. However the problem could be something completely different to what you are dreaming about. Your sub conscience just uses this past painful event to let you know there is something you need to deal with now. For example when I have problems in my life I have a recurring dream where all my teeth fall out but my problems aren't related to my teeth. When I have this dream I know that something else in my life needs attention.

    I would concentrate on working out if there is anything else that is bothering you and dealing with that, your teenage errors are ancient history now.

    Sometimes we need to be reminded how lucky we are, and your anxiety dreams seem to be giving you a reality check and saying to you. Be grateful that you got it right because the alternative would have been horrendous.

    We all make mistakes in life but consider this. Will thinking about something that happened twenty years ago and worrying about it help you today? You've got to agree that it won't.

    Focus on any problems you may have now and deal with them and I'm sure that your anxiety dreams will stop

    Good luck mate

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Has there been any major change in your life recently? Death of someone close? Do you have kids now? Any number of things can trigger you.

    It's likely you should find a therapist to talk to. You might be suffering from depression, which could easily cause you to re-hash your past actions in a very unfavorable way. You might have some type of post-traumatic stress disorder from your time spent in prison. Most people who survive prison and don't keep being a criminal, I would have to imagine would be haunted forever by their time in prison. Just like being in war and shooting people does to our military men and women. You see things we should never have to see. Are forced to do things no one should have to do. And in a normal, functional mind, these things trouble us.

    Be glad that your mind and your conscience are still working. They are telling you that what you did in the past was not acceptable behavior. That part is a huge positive that you should really be thankful for.

    Now it's time to heal yourself. If you are religious, perhaps you have a clergyperson you could speak with. If not, find a psychologist. It seems that you have been unable to truly forgive yourself for your past actions. If you've really been living a clean life for the past 20 years, you've long since earned the right to forgive yourself.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I am not a professional psychologist, but I have wrestled with my demons as we all have. I will tell you some things to help you out, but please don't take my advice as from a professional.

    First of all, having a conscience is a good thing, so if you are having mixed emotions about something you feel you shouldn’t have done in the past, then that is just your healthy conscience at work, and that is something (in my opinion) you should think of as a good thing. The not so good thing is the nightmares.

    The first thing that helped me was to remember that there is nothing you can do to change things you have done in the past. The event and what you did is not something you can change, but you can still make reparations for it.

    If you hurt people in the past, it is never too late to apologize, and make any reparations that person may feel is necessary, but most of the time a simple, sincere apology is all that is needed, or maybe a thoughtful gift. Most times, as long as the person was not brutally injured, or had to endure years of torment, they are willing to accept your apology and put it behind them, especially because we have all done things in our youth we regret.

    Face to Face apologies are not always as effective as a card or a gift sent in the mail. You see, apologies are not just for the benefit of the person whom you have offended or hurt. They are also for your benefit. An apology will help you resolve a rift between you and another person, and be at peace with a past action, and the memory of that action.

    Once you are at peace with a past action, you can then move on. The way to move on is just that, move on. You will have to continually remind yourself not to dwell on those memories in a negative way. The power of positive thinking is very strong. Think of it as taking an old pair of worn out, muddy sneakers that you have kicked around for the past few years, and you scrub them, wash them, putt on new laces, etc. They almost look new, and you might even want to put them on again and wear them because they are broken in, and so comfortable.

    It’s the same concept with memories. Turn a negative into a positive, it is possible. Remember, you are in control of your own state of mind, and if you choose to make a negative memory into a positive one, then that is something you have the power to do, and hopefully your nightmares will go away.

  • 1 decade ago

    Own it !, just tell the world what it was that you did and get it off your chest....I'll bet it haunts you because you really haven't told the whole story and purged it from your heart.

    " The truth shall set you free" It is my belief that if you just spit it out and be done with it, the way you did this little deed, you'll be free of the guilt slumped over your shoulders thats weighing you down. Once it's out, it's done, the same way you paid for your mistake and grew up. Stop beating yourself up. You can't undo what has been done, but you can strive to never let it happen again.

    Source(s): Been there.
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  • 1 decade ago

    Possibly because you were an adolescent then and now an adult.

    Adults think differently than teens, they have more of a sense of mortality and develop a more rigid conscience (hopefully)

    I think most would look back think YIKES at stuff done, but at the time

    think it wasnt such a big deal

    Also, it could be a delayed reaction

  • Crissy
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    Something or some one has triggered these feelings in you. Did someone in your family or someone you know throw the past up in your face? If they did, just write it off as ignorance and tell yourself "That was 20 years ago. That part of my life is LONG GONE, and i can never go back and change it, so im not going to stress and worry myself to death over something that was eons ago."

  • 1 decade ago

    It's natural that things will come up again from the past. I know one thing if you confess your sins to God he will forgive you and NEVER remember them again, the Bible says this. This is just a way that the enemy trys to discourage us, he will throw thoughts at you to try and make you unhappy, you can't go ahead if you keep going back.

  • 1 decade ago

    Difficult to interpret your dream for you. Perhaps you have recently done or thought something that you feel is not up to your ethical standards. Do some soul searching and see if there is something else that you feel less than ethical about.

  • 1 decade ago

    You need to atone for the past. Confess, do a good deed, talk it over, hug it out... but move on and stop dwelling on this.

  • 1 decade ago

    My grandmother used to tell me that her mind was usually on things that happened years ago, rather on things that happened yesterday. I think it happens with people that way. But you have atoned for those things. You need to forgive yourself. That is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. Good Luck!!!

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