Set yourself free from the shackles of guilt
“I was always fraught with guilt, and it’s such a waste of an emotion. It keeps you out of the moment of being where you are.” – Kyra Sedgwick
Have you ever felt guilt? What a silly question. Of course you have. We all have, (except the Ted Bundies amongst us!) It is a natural human response.
But hold on, what does it even mean? To feel guilt … what exactly is that guilt someone feels? It is certainly not a thing, it’s not something you can weigh or inspect under a magnifying glass or listen to. Yet you are fully capable of feeling “it”. You, as a human being, are capable of feeling guilty. It is more like a verb or an adverb than a noun. It is something you do, an activity you engage in. So let us explore this activity a bit further.
Guilt has two faces
Think about it this way. There is a good natural response. Two children, a boy and a girl, are playing. The boy hits the girl. She starts crying. Empathy kicks in. The boy feels the girl’s feelings. Is sorry that he hurt her. Wants to comfort her. Perhaps wants to regain her trust and fellowship. This sort of guilt, born out of empathy and emanating from the person himself, is a good and healthy, a natural and self-correcting response. Motivating people to unwrong the wrongs, to avoid them in the future, to mend relationships. This is good guilt; this is something you want to be able to feel even though it may not always be pleasant. This is something that is extremely valuable for a human being.
But then there is the perverted guilt. Often induced by people who like to control people. People peddling the idea that if you don’t sacrifice yourself for something other than yourself, then you are evil, bad, egoistic. People who cannot deal with their own feelings of guilt, so they make someone else feel them. People who are unhappy with their situation and want to manipulate you into submission and servitude. And they are masters of guilting, they have often spent years and decades perfecting their skills. The right words, the right tone of voice, the right glare of disapproval. And sometimes it doesn’t even help that you realise what they are doing – you still react by producing feelings of guilt.
“Oh, just go out and enjoy yourself, don’t worry about me, laying here, sick and alone with noone to take care of me.”
And this is perhaps one of the most important things to realise about guilt. The popular definition of the word claims that guilt is an emotion you get when you have violated a moral standard you subscribe to. But indeed: the standard may be a standard someone else subscribes to.
To separate your own feelings from those of others is dealt with more in depth in NLP, but if you lack such a background a very good start is to simply ask a question: “are these my feelings for this situation, or did someone else “give” them to me?”
And moreover – “violated a moral standard you subscribe to” – makes it sound as if feelings were a rational process. Sort of: “Oh yes, according to the standards which I subscribe to, today I made three transgressions. Now it is time for me to feel guilt – guilt with intensity five for ten minutes” Of course it is not like that.
If you doubt this, just start answering the question truthfully: which standards have you violated recently without feeling a single microgram of guilt.
Now the danger with guilt is that it becomes an unproductive festering feeling poisoning your life and draining your vitality. On a smaller or a larger scale. Then what do you do?
Come back to yourself
You spend some time catching up with yourself. You sit down and do nothing else, but invite the feelings into your presence. Chances are this is exactly what you have been avoiding doing. Instead of welcoming these messages from your soul you have pushed them away, perhaps tried to intellectualize about them. And this is not so strange. Important messages are not necessarily pleasant, especially if you don’t want to listen to them. But now you do. Now you listen to your feelings.
Perhaps they will urge you to take action, perhaps they will nudge you to ask forgiveness, perhaps they just want to express themselves through you, perhaps they want you to let the feeling of repentance flow. Whatever they want, and whatever they are, welcome them and do your best to understand yourself, to understand your soul, your heart, your conscience. And also: explain to your conscience, the consequences of the guilt. Sometimes parts of our souls get so wrapped up in doing their thing that they lose track of the larger picture.
This is of course not a 3-step process with a guaranteed outcome. No one can predict the outcome of honest dialogue, even with oneself. And a process like redemption is not predictable. But too often we treat ourselves harshly, just brushing ourselves aside. But actually taking the time to listen to your soul’s intentions, to feel the concerns of your heart, and to explain to yourself the consequences of your reactions, is the reestablishment of that deeper and healing connection with yourself.
With this in mind, may I invite you to start today or any day with just observing and gauging the situations you find yourself in during the week, where you would normally feel guilty, and see how you can re-frame them, and use/see them differently, by doing the following: allow the sensation of guilt to happen, and when it does, acknowledge it and breathe into it, whilst listening to the real message beyond the labelled sensation.
And if you’d like to learn proven strategies that can help you take your game to a whole new level, and start living a guilt free and a more fulfilled life, join us in Belgrade in May and June, in Brussels from mid June to mid July and the U.S. from mid July to mid August for our unique and transformational trainings! More info at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our website about NLP in Brussels
Sending you oceans of love,
Lidija & Thomas