First, a shout out to one of my beautiful clients for inspiring this post, as I know it will be SUPER useful.
They were dealing with guilt in the last two coaching sessions we had, so they got to understand it at a much deeper level.
And for me, awareness and understanding, precede a breakthrough to a new level of life potential.
But before we go any further…
How are you with the guilt thing?
Are you guilty of doing the ‘guilt thing’ on a semi-regular basis?
Unless you are a Saint, I am guessing ‘maybe’.
Today I want to talk about the upsides and downsides of GUILT and how best to work with it.
On (Sir) Dr David Hawkins, Map of Consciousness, the consciousness of “Guilt” is the second lowest, only above shame.
Which means the topic of guilt is definitely worth exploring.
So let’s get to it.
Why do we feel guilt or guilty?
Mostly we feel guilty because we (think or feel) ‘did something wrong’.
Very often our interpretation of what is “wrong” is untrue, half-true or not very useful.
There are definitely times when it is VERY CLEAR we screwed up royally and as a result we feel the emotions we attribute to guilt (or shame at its worst).
However, a lot of times, we over-exaggerate a circumstance, and give it a meaning, which makes us out to be a ‘bad’ person, and as a result we feel the feeling.
So it is alright to feel guilt as an emotion passing through us – which is feedback something might need to be done – but it is what we do with that feeling that is the difference maker.
The other thing to note is that ‘doing the guilty’ thing can also be a learned behaviour by a parent (for example), which then operates at a subconscious level.
In this case, there is definitely work to be done, because if it is unconscious, it is unlikely to help us learn, grow, and positively utilise the emotion intentionally.
So recognise that doing guilt can actually be a habit, at an unconscious level, that does not serve you.
And I keep saying “doing” guilt as it is mostly a learned behaviour, as opposed to a genetic trait or who you are.
Next let’s look at the good and bad and go from there.
The upsides of the emotional feeling of guilt
99/100 there is an upside of our bodies responses to life.
In the case of guilt, and the emotional feeling of guilt, it can be a great thing.
It says: “Hey doofus, that was probably not a great idea.”
Noting our level of self-love, self-awareness, and self-kindness influences the language and tone of our internal self-talk and the depth of the feeling, as much as the level of the “bad” thing you did.
Your brain, via emotions, is alerting you to the idea that something is out of balance.
Out of balance with your values, conscience, belief systems and interpretation of the event.
Now we just need to DO something to fix it, mitigate it, make amends, etc.. It might be asking for forgiveness, changing a behaviour or habit, providing compensation, doing self-reflection and correction, getting professional help, etc..
However, the upsides are best achieved if you are dealing with “reality” as opposed to subconscious beliefs or patterns or misinterpretation of the situation.
Guilt is useful, when you are stimulated by the emotion to observe and understand “TRUTH” and then acting consciously, courageously, curiously, compassionately, and creatively on a SOLUTION (and yes that is a lot of “C’s”, but they are all powerhouses).
Conscious application of feedback is always where the magic is at.
The other great feedback mechanism of guilt is it can highlight our weaknesses, bad habits, laziness, complacency, and lack of higher virtues.
Again, once we are AWARE, we can do something about it, and it shifts the energy and emotional feeling of guilt.
It is like finding a hole in a rubber tube.
Once you locate it, you can do something about it – i.e. FIX IT!!
The primary downside of ‘feeling guilty’
If the tap of ‘feeling guilty’ is left running for too long it is a TOTAL energy drainer, and keeps you in survival mode.
Since survival mode and creativity don’t hang out together, if you are buried in guilt, it is very hard to creatively find empowering solutions to move beyond it.
Doing guilt, while standing still (not taking action), is pretty much useless.
Don’t do it.
And this is the primary downside of staying in guilt.
Staying in the emotional feeling of guilt (without action) drains us of energy, joy, fulfillment, peace and life force.
Reasons we might ‘do guilt’
In the conversation with my client, we realised there are situations where someone can do guilt, in order to punish themselves, to somehow compensate for the “bad” thing they believe they did.
They choose to stay in the feeling of guilt – mostly unconsciously – because they have a belief that they “deserve to” and that this will somehow balance the scales.
Again this is most likely unconscious, and will most likely not move them forward positively.
This does not turn guilt into a GROWTH opportunity.
My final practical advice
If you feel guilty do the following:
- Take some breathes, get a higher and broader perspective, and look for the TRUTH and REALITY of the situation.
- Determine if the interpretation and meaning you are giving to your role in the guilt-causing event is TRUE. In my 15-years of helping people with this, disempowering beliefs or poor interpretation is an area where most people cause themselves unnecessary problems.
- Own what is yours, based on Truth (this requires courage).
- Choose what ACTIONS you can take to make amends.
- If guilt remains, look even deeper (e.g. subconscious patterns / beliefs) or seek professional support.
Note also that some people in your life will help you or influence you to stay in guilt, for their own purposes.
Be on the look-out for that too.
Putting it all together
Guilt is a useful emotion if used as spring-board to taking ACTION.
I am well aware taking some actions (to compensate your potential poor choices) can be REALLY HARD.
Remaining STUCK in the emotion of guilt drains energy and life force (not useful).
Get to the TRUTH of the feeling, and work from there.
Get to the TRUE INTERPRETATION of the guilt-causing event and only work from there.
Doing guilt can be a subconscious HABIT (so get help to bust the habit).
Working through guilt raises your consciousness.
My parting words
Our emotions are body systems designed to get our attention, so something can be done.
Part of the art of conscious living is figuring out the message.
Then stepping up into our fullest expression to live it out.
Potential that I KNOW you posses.
So keep learning, growing and shining ever more brightly.
Have a wonderful guilt-free, in love with life, kinda day and week.