Guilt: hero or villain?
Unresolved or excessive guilt
will foil your growth plans!
When we don't healthily manage our guilt, it becomes something that disconnects us from our true selves and our best futures. This can be a massive emotional energy drain. Losing positive perceptions of ourselves and our destiny will dismantle any hope for change and growth.
It's not only the initial wrong doing and hurt but rather the ongoing cycles of hurt, guilt, and avoidance / aggression that persist. So what may seem innocuous, slowly builds up levels that become toxic.
And what about guilt-tripping? We may have good intentions to 'help' those we care about change their ways but all it does is foster resentment, superficiality, perfunctoriness, and general decline in the relationship. All which deplete energy and motivation for true, meaningful change.
How should we deal with guilt so that it doesn't inhibit our forward development and continues to have a positive effect?
Here are a few suggestions:
Get more and deeper explanations and examples with Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch.
- Render effective apologies: 6 ingredients
- acknowledge we violated expectations
- Clear statement of apology
- Request for forgiveness
- Validate other person’s feelings
- Offer atonement
- Acknowledge we violated expectations
- Exercise self-forgiveness
- Know that this will increase our ability to enjoy life and also decrease guilt and needs to avoid those we’ve harmed.
- A process that begins with a decision that we’ve beat self up enough and we will make emotional effort to work through it.
- First, take full responsibility and give honest accounting of wrong doing; explicitly acknowledge wrongdoing and impact on those we’ve harmed.
- For next steps / exercises, pick up Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch.
- Reengage in life
- Remind ourselves of the many reasons why it’s important to move forward. (This may be difficult if we suffer from low self-esteem which I'll talk about in a few weeks.)
- For sufferers of survivor guilt: Unfair to mourn so long; loved one would’ve wanted me to move on.
- For sufferers of separation guilt: Taking care of myself (with fulfillment and joy) enables me to care even more for others.
- For sufferers of disloyalty guilt: Letting others dictate my life means they’re leading 2 lives - not fair.
Guilt can be a hero and motivate you to make significant, highly worthwhile change. But don't let it become something that will wreak havoc in your life. It has a specific, limited function - to help us right wrongs - effectively and equitably; guilt is not intended to be an entity stagnating our growth and development.
We all make mistakes and fail in diverse and numerous ways. It is challenging to have a healthy relationship with guilt yet it's essential if we are to continue evolving and maturing to be revolutionary agents of positive change.
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