Are you locked up in guilt jail? A lot of of people have expressed feelings of guilt lately. Or insisted that someone else should feel guilty. Feeling guilty doesn't help anything much, though. It breeds resentment. It locks you up in guilt jail for an indefinite sentence -- with no release guaranteed.
Here are some observations about the toxic nature of guilt (gleaned from decades of exploring this over-rated, painful emotion) to aid and abet your escape. Do you hold any of these limiting beliefs?
Myths about guilt:
- If I didn't feel guilty, I would be a monster. I doubt that you are a monster, but if you are, feeling guilty will not un-monster you. It will just make you feel bad.
- If I didn't feel guilty, I wouldn't change (whatever it is you feel guilty about). Desire is the strongest motivation for change. You probably really want to change something already if you are willing to feel that awful guilt just on the chance it might help you. Instead of stoking the hell fires of guilt, focus on what you want instead.
- Feeling guilty shows I care. This in another cart before the horse situation. You have to care first in order to know when to feel guilty. Skip the guilt and nurture the care.
- If I can make you feel guilty, you'll do what I want. This rarely works. First, you can't really make someone else feel guilty. You can only discover what they will feel guilty about and give them an unhealthy dose of it to swallow. Second, they may give up or give in but they will resent the heck out of you for it.The price of induced guilt is way to high for the minimal, short-lived gains it promises but rarely delivers.
- It, he or she, makes me feel guilty. All guilt is self-imposed. You have to agree to it or it won't work.
- Feeling guilty is how we know right from wrong. The old cart first scenario. Awareness of wrongdoing only takes a moment, but some people incarcerate themselves in guilt jail for years. Finding another way and acting on it is the real work.The punitive approach of self-induced guilt demoralises rather than strengthening your chances for changing something you want to be different.
- Feeling guilty is how you pay for hurting someone. I would really like to know who came up with the idea that pain pays for pain. Wars and prisons testify to society's faith in that life extinguishing contract, but look at the results. There has to be a better way. I believe it would transform our world if we could banish that myth. Inflicting pain only creates more pain. Can you imagine a world committed to finding a creative, compassionate solutions to problems? What a paradise we would live in without guilt and punishment as moral guides.
Some questions that have helped people breakout from guilt jail. Each question follows the answer to the one before it.
- What do you feel guilty about? Identify and clarify.
- Why do you feel guilty about that?
- Do you believe that?
- If you answer yes, why do you believe that?
- What are you concerned would happen if you did not feel guilty?
- Do you believe that (your answer)?
- What are you concerned would happen if you did not believe that?
Instead of guilt, I recommend happiness and desire. Make amends when you can. Be kind. Be happy. Do you dare to breakout from guilt jail?
With guilt-free love,