We’ve been meaning to talk about guilt for some time now.
Guilt is a feeling that is familiar to most of us – some more than others of course. And it’s something that comes up in our own lives, and with clients.
But can it be a good thing to experience guilty feelings?
Well…yes and no.
On the positive side, guilt can be a way of keeping ourselves in check, a moral compass if you will. It alerts us to the possibility that our behaviour is poor, unkind, even cruel or abusive.
Guilt is our gut-check, the internal compass that lets us know it is time to make amends.
But what if we feel guilt even when we’ve done nothing technically wrong?
What if we are so accustomed to feeling guilty that we don’t even check to see if it’s the correct feeling for the situation?
The list of potential “Guilt Trips” we can take ourselves on is endless:
- Do you feel guilty saying “no”?
- Do you feel guilty when you eat something you enjoy? ( How can eating be ‘wrong??!’)
- Do you feel guilty that you are at work while your children are in the care of your partner or a paid childcare service?
- Do you feel guilty if you choose what to have for dinner instead of going with your partner’s choice?
- Do you feel guilty asking for what you want for your birthday?
- Do you feel guilty if you’re feeling sad on a night out with your friends?
- Do you feel guilty asking for even the smallest of favors?
- Do you feel guilty if you are sexually attracted to someone other than your partner?
- Do you feel guilty at the thought of asking your partner for something sexually pleasurable?
We think ‘Toxic Guilt’ should come with a health warning!
Guilt keeps us in VICTIM MODE. For example, after getting a sub-par meal, we might say to ourselves ‘Oh I couldn’t complain to the staff about that… I’d feel so GUILTY!’ Telling ourselves we’d feel guilty allows us to dodge responsibility – and keeps us stuck well within our dubious ‘Comfort Zone’.
Guilt keeps us stuck. It causes us to do things we don’t really want to – or not do things we might enjoy – for fear of imagined rejection or judgement. By allowing guilt to go unchecked in our lives, we cheat ourselves out of reaching our potential, and we miss opportunities for joy and fulfillment.
For us, the simplest way to erase unnecessary guilt from our lives is to ask ourselves the question:
“Have I just done something that’s actually wrong?”
If we haven’ t, then our guilt is undeserved, unnecessary and pointless. There is no learning to be gained from it. Just pain. So we can choose to let it go.
Side note: We would benefit from identifying what we are REALLY FEELING in these situations. Maybe it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s shame. Maybe it’s fear. Whatever it is, it is NOT guilt.
What better time than now to end this tradition of guilt. Instead, let’s start a new tradition of responsibility and self-care.
Imagine the freedom?!!
With guilt-free love,