Part of my ‘journey’ was (and still is) about setting fewer ‘rules’ and being more spontaneous. So, this morning I was reading about guilt – and found it so helpful that I decided to spontaneously share my learnings about guilt with you right away!
I don’t know about you, but one of my struggles with understanding guilt has always been that even though it feels ‘bad’ I can see there’s a NEED for guilt in the human species. And yet guilt seems so unnecessarily prevalent in our society – show me a mother who doesn’t feel (often crippling) guilt…
So, there are apparently two types of guilt; 1) REASONABLE GUILT and 2) UNREASONABLE GUILT
REASONABLE GUILT comes from a lack of internal integrity – we stepped away from our own truth and did something clearly ‘wrong’ in our own mind. When we feel reasonable or appropriate guilt we return to balance through facing it and making amends. Reasonable guilt leads us to confront ourselves, resolve the matter as best we can and move on. It’s a mature response that leads us to our own learning and accountability.
UNREASONABLE GUILT however is a learned response - it is triggered by something external to us - an outside demand we could not or did not meet. Unreasonable or neurotic guilt is about BLAME and originates from fear. When we feel unreasonable guilt, making amends does not resolve our guilty feelings, we self-judge and end up going round in circles, suffering unproductive pain.
So, WHY does unreasonable guilt hang around? Because we’re avoiding something. Perhaps we’re avoiding losing someone’s approval or love or we’re avoiding feeling angry at someone or perhaps we put our needs above someone else’s. And then there’s the long shot – perhaps there’ s something big we don’t want to face (like our partner no longer loves us), so we find ways to blame ourselves for their behaviour and feel guilty about that rather than face the truth. OK, so the last one is pretty deep, but it does happen.
So, how do you know it’s UNREASONABLE GUILT? Well, if you feel ANY of these:
- You feel limited – like there is only one course of action
- You feel stuck or trapped
- You don’t feel fully responsible or accountable
- You’re protecting someone else’s feelings
- You’ve apologised, made amends and yet you STILL feel guilty
- You feel to BLAME and on some level, perhaps you feel the need to be punished
Whereas with REASONABLE GUILT:
- You know exactly why you feel this way – it’s clear cut
- You feel responsible and accountable
- It’s resolved by stopping the behaviour, facing it and taking relevant and appropriate amending action
- We acknowledge and affirm our entire cycle of actions from beginning to end – leading to learning, self-forgiveness and ultimately higher self-esteem.
So, what do you do when you’re feeling UNREASONABLE GUILT?
- ALLOW the guilt, stop fighting it!
- NOTICE what the guilt is covering up. What are you avoiding facing?
Journal or write about it if it helps.
- Acknowledge and FACE WHATEVER is there
This takes courage but is SO worth it!
- ACCEPT the situation AS IT IS
Forgive and have compassion for yourself and anyone involved…
When it comes to UNREASONABLE guilt ONLY (because we NEED reasonable guilt), use this quote to help you:
“Make choices WITH guilt, not because of it” David Richo
All too often we think because we FEEL guilty – it must be true, we are a bad person. But guilt is JUST A THOUGHT – and not reality. If you can separate these two – and face your thoughts – you are well on your way!
Let me know how you get on – as always we LOVE to hear what you are thinking
just comment and leave a reply below!