When I feel bad, though, I don't find imposing guilt on myself to be very productive past the first minute and a half. Basically, it indicates, "I feel bad, time to do something about it." So I do something, like SINCERELY apologize and discuss (I added the "SINCERELY" and "discuss" because I feel like many if not most apologies are empty gestures meant to relieve one's own guilt while doing absolutely nothing concrete about the underlying situation), or if it seems like it would be better left be for the time being, I let it go.
The guilt I reject is the guilt that others try to shove off on me. Especially if it's shoved off in any kind of indirect, sneaky, or manipulative manner. Even a direct expression of "you hurt me" can be VERY manipulative if it's done in a public forum. I've had people accuse me of shite in front of a group of friends. I've had people call me out, usually in some indirect fashion, in the middle of an unrelated discussion, on public fora. In both cases I just get an impression that the other party is too weak for a one-on-one confrontation and has to do it surrounded by a bunch of backup droogs. It doesn't dispose me favorably at all. "You hurt me" has to be (a) direct and (b) one-on-one. Additionally, one must always consider the possibility, not only that the harm wasn't meant, but also that it was very MUCH meant and the "harmer" had their reasons for taking the action that made perfect sense to them. Maybe they even contemplated it and weighed the consequences of their actions and DID IT ANYWAY, because that's what the situation called for.
Attempting to impose guilt on one who lacked intent is stupid. Attempting to impose guilt on one who thought through their actions and accepted the consequences is also stupid. People seem to have this blind spot when it comes to their own feelings, like everyone else is supposed to care about them. I am not excluding myself from the category "people" for that last sentence, but I have made great efforts to be less sensitive and to understand WHY people might do and say the stuff they do. If I have been letting a lot of your shit go by for years, because I am accepting you as you are, or trying to, then I am not going to be too caring and sharing when it comes to YOU making a fuss because I "did something." Think about that next time you decide to get oversensitive...
I am thinking about these things because, as I was telling inushnu, gilt seems to be the currency that a lot of women, and even some weakish guys, trade in on a regular basis. Yet it's so rarely effective on one of strong and self-possessed and rationally considering mind that I don't understand why it keeps being traditionally trotted forth. The underlying message of "guilt" is generally, "You stepped on my feelings, or someone else's feelings and you need to recognize more that they are damn important" but it's not expressed in any sort of way that leads to a negotiation, discussion, or conclusion. It's one person having a pity party and indiscriminately flinging bad-vibe-tantrum mud. We need to stop relying on these tired tools for "keeping people in line" that are of no value to anyone over the age of about 5 (I can see guilt having some utility on small children for training the conscience) and deal more with an eye towards actually understanding each other's motivations and, where possible, addressing them directly, one to one.