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GuiltI know so many people live with this bullshit emotion as I have, and I don’t wish it on anyone.  Mothers can be particularly prone to it, women in particular are prone to it, and plenty of men are burdened by it too, and this is something I believe is in our culture and needs to change.

The idea of giving up guilt might concern you if you equate it with having a conscience.  It’s not the same thing, so relax.  You don’t need guilt to be guided by your moral compass.  It is not a requirement.  Really.

Guilt, I was taught in my NLP training, is not a natural emotion, it’s a man made one.  It serves no useful purpose.  Again, separate it from empathy, from caring, from knowing right from wrong.  We can have all those useful things without the guilt.  If you’ve stepped on someone’s toe, you’ll say sorry.  If you’ve clipped someone’s car in the car park, you’ll pay your insurance excess.  If you know you’ve done the wrong thing, you’ll make amends or at least stop doing it.  Guilt will not help you with this.  Empathy will.

The good news is, if you experience guilt, you’re probably not a sociopath.  A sociopath may be able to express moral outrage, a part of the projection behaviour they utilise to avoid facing what they cannot face about themselves, as they may skilfully portray themselves as a victim, but this doesn’t mean they actually experience the feeling of empathy, and they are certainly not bothered by guilt.  But becoming a sociopath is not the answer is it.

To let go of this silly habit of feeling habitually guilty, we need to love and value ourselves.  We need to stop focussing on perceived failures, all the things we think we should have done, and focus much more on all we have done and are doing in our lives which is good, which is worthy of valuing.  So many of us tend to diminish our achievements or not even recognize them.

As well as that we can value and love ourselves simply for existing, being deserving of love and happiness and peace just as anyone else is, well anyone else who has found the way to allow those things into their lives. I assure you that anyone who knowingly causes harm to others does not experience those things. 

If I asked you what you achieved in the last week, would you find it easier to list the things you think you could have done but didn’t, or to list the many things you did achieve.  Have you expressed love to your children, your partner, your parents, your close friends, your pets, anyone?  Have you kept any appointments, prepared any meals, done any washing, any errands, made any calls, written any emails, dressed yourself, anything?

Have you coped with stress, anxiety or depression and managed to do what you really needed to do anyway?  Some days we need to give ourselves credit for just hanging in there.

If you have kids, you probably do way more each week than you realise.  Why not try making a list and see how much you can think of, big or small.  Have you run them to appointments, school, parties, work, play dates?  Have you fed them?  Have you loved them?  Have you washed their clothes?  So you forgot a school notice or haven’t sewed a button on or whatever.  There is no need to beat yourself up about it.  You’re doing the best you can. 

Of course, if you know you’re not well, whether physically or emotionally, and you have any concern for your kids as a result of this, ask for help. There may be way more help available to you than you realise.  But guilt doesn’t help. Did you get that?  Asking for help is useful, guilt isn’t.  Be kind to yourself.

Yes, be kind to yourself emotionally.  Treat yourself the way you would treat others (I’m assuming you’re a good person, and not the aforementioned sociopath).  Notice how you talk to yourself, and whether it is kind, helpful, loving.

We need to be emotionally well and healthy in order to be of service to others.  There is a reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first when you fly on an aeroplane.  You’re no good to anyone if you’re not able to function yourself.  You need to love yourself in order to be able to love others and to be able to accept love from others.

When we go around feeling guilty much of the time, we tend to invite criticism from others, which reinforces the guilt.  This sucks, and is another reason we need to love and respect ourselves so that we are setting the right example to others about how to treat us.  Lay off putting yourself down, criticising yourself and pointing out your supposed faults – to others as well as to yourself.  We all respond better to noticing the positive and downplaying the negative.

Feeling guilty as a default setting and therefore naturally attracting criticism and judgement from others is a cycle we can break.  Quit defending yourself, justifying yourself, apologising un-necessarily (you know, unless you step on someone’s toe etc).  Excuse yourself from the conversation if necessary, and talk yourself up big when you’re alone, focussing on as much positiveness as you can think of (try hard, there’s always more).

I’m reminded now of a commercial aimed at women where various scenes were acted out where women naturally apologised for absolutely no good reason, for passing someone in a lift, for asking a question in a meeting etc.  Then they replayed each scene without the apology and it was so much better to watch.  We have it drummed into us.  Don’t take up too much space, don’t bother anyone by existing.  It’s bullshit and it’s time we stopped doing it.

Guilt?  Nup.  Time we started saying no to that.  Pause.  Decline.

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