In an earlier blog, I discussed guilt and shame, two emotions that can have a place in our panoply of emotions, but that are too often guilty of causing festering, agonizing pain over time.
Let’s look at how to address guilt and shame, and how banishing these feelings can lighten your mood and give you a vigorous new lease on life.
As we said earlier, guilt is a feeling of remorse over something we’ve done that causes others pain. Guilt that lingers tends to dampen your mood, increase your anxiety and hamper your ability to fully participate in a joyful life. Guilt can be useful if it motivates you in a positive, action-oriented direction.
If you’ve done ill to another person, guilt is often the first step in setting things aright, by its ceaseless poking and prodding at your conscience. Guilt can thus be a motivator that helps you make things right with the wronged party, and you can go on.
It’s when guilt concerns situations most often in the past, over which you have little to no control, that guilt becomes troublesome.
Guilt consumes tremendous amounts of your mental energy reserves. The process of learning to let go of inappropriate, unproductive guilt can be a long one, but it’s a necessary process. To begin:
- Determine if you actually do need to make any form of amends, or is your guilt self-inflicted over things you had no control over? If so, refer back to this post.
- Ask yourself if there is anything that you can do reasonably to make amends in the present for the situation without creating more pain. To deal with guilt effectively, you must work in the here and now!
If you do have the ability to address a guilt causing situation, try to write down what you can do. Don’t judge yourself as you get ideas out onto paper (or the computer). Hush your inner critic; and let your thoughts flow.
You needn’t ramp up by starting small. What’s the biggest, best thing you can do to get rid of that guilt, right now? Certainly, if small steps are required, take them! But if you’re carrying a burden of guilt that could be relieved by offering a sincere, heartfelt apology, by all means—go for it!
By doing this, you are setting yourself free from unnecessary rumination and dealing effectively with a situation or feeling that you can resolve right now.