Guilt says “I Did Something Bad.”
Guilt is a feeling that you did something wrong. Guilt comes to you from your conscience, which tells you that you are not living up to your values. Guilt says, “I did something bad. I was wrong. I must pay.” Guilt is about actions that have hurt yourself or others. It is situation specific and related to your misbehavior. Your guilt then sets about to punish you. The guilt serves as personal punishment for the undesirable behavior. Guilty feelings can be helpful in the sense that they help us to put on the brakes on behaviors we would regret later.
Sometimes you will hang on to guilt long after the situation has passed. Hang-on guilt remains because you do not know how to release it. Guilt for acts committed in childhood can cause a reservoir of negative emotions to be stored in the body resulting in curbing of healthy assertive behavior. This kind of guilt is sometimes at the bottom of co-dependency.
There is another type of unhealthy guilt where we feel that we are the cause of something not because of wrongdoing but because of underlying feelings of worthlessness. This pseudo-guilt inadvertently is passed down in families when a parent acted like a martyr (Why did I get such a child? You will be the death of me.) or used discipline techniques of shaming and blaming the child (You are stupid. Dummy!) The child, being vulnerable, absorbs the negative energy of the abuser and internalizes the negative labels as being true. (I am dumb because my father called me dumb when I knocked the glass of milk over.)