3 Ways to Manage Your Guilt
Guilt. The useless emotion that takes up 5 hours of our week; according to Psychology Today.
Why does this rule so much of our time though?
It's taught at an early age
Some of us may have grown up in homes where guilt was the norm. Either it was something taught to you directly (think religious guilt or a tool for discipline) or passively (witnessing your mother's guilt rituals).
The root of guilt is comfort. It's actually taught to us as a coping mechanism. As defined by the website Explorable, "Simply put, coping is an activity we do to seek and apply solutions to stressful situations or problems that emerge because of our stressors."
Now why in the world would I suggest it's comforting?
Because it's a familiar feeling that we understand. Comfort doesn't necessarily mean good for you. Look at overeating and binge drinking, also common coping mechanisms that we believe will comfort us when in fact they amplify our stressors.
The root of our guilt
While guilt can put you into a self-loathing spiral, what is the root of the emotion? It's usually 1 of 3 emotions.
Guilt for something you did - Running over your dad with a golf cart is a great example. I did this when I was 8 and still feel bad about it. (I got the gas and break mixed up)
Guilt for not doing something that you want to do - A good one in this category is the the working vs stay at home mom. Both sides of the fence feel guilt for not doing what the other is.
Guilt for not doing enough to help others - think of that friend that lost a job or someone with a drinking problem. You wish you could do more for these people.
These aren't easy, but they are powerful if you embrace them.
Say I'm sorry - Potentially the hardest action but the most effective, simply saying I'm sorry to the person you wronged (or felt you didn't do enough to help) is a great step off the guilt train. You may learn your guilt is completely unfounded.
Examine why - If you're feeling guilty for not doing something examine your feelings. Is the guilt from societal norms or your own version of what a "successful" person "should" be doing? Do you feel successful and happy without the task in your life? If the answer to this last question is yes then LET IT GO! If the answer is no, start it! (I can help)
Create a ceremony - Write down your guilty feelings then tear up the paper and burn it. Or, write your guilt on balloons and release them in the sky.
No, I haven't lost my mind, this really does work. Owning your happiness on your terms is a beautiful thing and learning to let go of your guilt is the most magnificent thing of all.