7 Ways to Work Through Guilt
If you’re feeling a lack of energy – not uncommon for women with a lot on their shoulders today – it’s quite possible that guilt is the cause. But you can work with it and even turn it into something useful.
What have you felt or do you feel guilty about?
It’s best to answer this question in writing. To make it easier for you, here are examples of other people’s answers:
- For not being able to relieve my clients, for being powerless to help them quickly (I’m a psychologist).
- For not having time for the child, yelling at everyone.
- For not being able to help family/friends.
- Not doing enough.
- I felt guilty for not being willing to sacrifice my health for my relatives.
- For being able to take care of everyone in the best way possible, I don’t know exactly how.
- Guilt for not having time to do everything I’m supposed to do, for not meeting the expectations of my loved ones.
- Instead of getting a new profession (which is very necessary and which I was going for before the crisis), I was baking pies and lying on the couch.
- For having grand plans and doing nothing.
- Guilt that someone else has problems around while I live happily ever after.
- Guilt for being irritable and angry at my husband.
- Guilt for eating too much.
I should have…
Based on the answer to the first question, what did you owe or not owe? What was the expectation that you violated? What should have been the state and behavior in which you would not have felt guilty? In short, how should you have functioned? What to do/what not to do?
Try writing it outright, let it look delusional – it doesn’t matter. For example, if you realize you should have been superhuman, then write it that way: “I should have been superwoman so I wouldn’t feel guilty.”
- Joyfully learning, cleaning up, developing 28 hours a day. And there was nothing to crack up about. Twat.
- To be a support to clients in any stardom, even if I myself am dying; to take care of a child in any of my states.
- To work successfully and do many other things that many people manage, not superhumans at all.
- To continue to study with my teacher, or at least to study on my own.
- To be a support and a pillar, to bring comfort to an anxious partner, showing that I am there for him or her.
- Better to be prepared: more financial reserve to build up just in case.
- Be super calm and balanced.
- Do the best I can and deal with stress quickly and without work consequences.
- Study every day and gulp down new knowledge by the ton.
- Have lots of resources to listen to loved ones, to give them lots of time, not to buy myself anything, but to help people with money. To keep the kids busy more. Not to be afraid, not to be cowardly.
- Keep yourself in good physical shape.
- Feeling a lot of grief because my plans didn’t materialize as planned, and not having the right to rejoice in any other stability.
- Holding on, being superhuman and not feeling strong emotions. I have no right to be super smart, wise, and prudent, and I have no right to be happy about anything else.
There are often many descriptions in the responses that look like hyper-violence: for example, “I should have always… never… regardless of any condition or any correction.” In short, such a peculiar code of the moral neurotic: “I must always be successful in all my endeavors.
This is the direct path to guilt. The problem is that it’s hard for us not to have these expectations, because society and family put them into us, and then we continued to put them into ourselves.
I hope you’ve thought through your answers and seen that your expectations of yourself and others’ expectations of you are excessive. Surely this understanding will help someone adjust them a bit.
Who was expecting this from you?
Evaluate whose expectations are these? Yours or someone else’s? Who was expecting this from you? How familiar is the feeling of not living up to expectations? Are you expecting this from yourself, or was it once expected of you? Or is it still expected of you? For example, “I was supposed to be superhuman”-whose expectation is that? A rough breakdown of expectations can be 50-50: theirs and someone else’s equally.
It may turn out that these expectations are internalized, i.e. internalized in childhood without criticism. Internalization is a psychological mechanism in which we take someone else’s rule without evaluation. Whether it is good or bad, we will take it anyway, and it will live in us as a pattern of behavior, as an instruction for our actions. While we are small, we need support to develop and grow, and other people’s rules are good support, especially if they come from loved ones. This is how internalized expectations arise.
Three ways to forgive yourself
If these are your expectations, then this is the story of your Inner Critic or the clingy cape of the superhero. Maybe if you can forgive yourself for not being a superhero in a sparkly cape, not being all-powerful and not in control of everything, you will feel better.
Try to forgive yourself. I don’t know if you can do it, but I want to emphasize that we are always operating at the limit of our abilities, even when we think we’re not. At the limit of our abilities, of our knowledge, of our skills.
And in every moment, we do the best we can. And it’s not our fault that it often looks bad. It means that this is what it is, our best, and it can hurt for that, but I’m sure you can still try to forgive yourself.
We are all human beings, and a crisis is extreme. It is normal not to be able to act like a superhuman, even if outside the crisis you were like a superhuman. And even more so if you weren’t like that even outside the crisis.
How do you forgive yourself? Sometimes it helps to imagine that a close friend or your child is in your place. We often have more mercy for others than for ourselves, and we wouldn’t blame others for the same thing. We easily agree to support them.
To practice this technique, you can imagine yourself as a soccer player who has missed the ball three times and not scored a single goal. This player has two coaches.
One begins to say, “Well, why are you like that, how can you be like that in general, you are stupid, not prepared, you can’t do anything, go, I don’t even want to waste time on you”.
And the other one says: “Oh, you tried so hard, it was probably your best shot, no problem, do you want me to train with you? Come here on Wednesday, we’ll work out, I’ll see what you can’t do.
What kind of coach do you think will help you get better results as a player? As a rule, everyone says, “Of course, the second one!” Then the next important question is, “What kind of coach are you to yourself? How do you treat yourself?”
The second mechanism for forgiveness is to compare ourselves to others. Our experience is in many ways universal. If something happens to you, it also happens to others. There is nothing unique about the processes you experience. And the emotion of guilt, and the reason we feel it in a crisis, is not unique either. If someone else can forgive themselves, so can you.
The third mechanism of forgiveness: you are the only version of yourself, and no one has as good a reason to be kinder to you as you/yourself do. More often than not, no one needs to be. So it’s better to try to be the first kinder person to yourself in your own universe. Come on, be brave!
That’s if I…
What else helps you work with guilt? Take away the subjunctive mood. Instead of thinking “I should have…,” “I wish I had…,” or “I wish I hadn’t…,” try thinking “Next time I’ll do things differently.”
That’s a great technique. The thing is, people with guilt often think in the subjunctive mood, but you shouldn’t do that in any way. And if you catch yourself doing it, stop immediately and convert to the phrase, “Next time I’ll…” And that’s it. No subjunctive moods, categorically.
How to Turn Guilt Into Gratitude
Let’s try to turn guilt into something positive. But what is it? I suggest we turn it into gratitude.
What you wrote/thought in your answer to the first question (what you feel guilty about), how can it be reworded so that the phrase contains gratitude instead of guilt?
For example, how do you reword the phrase “I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to organize everything, clean everything up, learn something” into gratitude?
“I’m thankful to not have to do all this because nothing in my life has been ruined. I’m thankful that I didn’t have the urgent need to do it all, because it was just my desires, and thankful that I didn’t demand it of myself.
Or, for example, you reacted sharply and you feel guilty for snapping at someone. The gratitude could be, “Thank you to them (who you snapped at) for staying with me, being merciful to me, and being kind, even though I can be unstable and lose control of my emotions and actions.
Another example: you have guilt for not being superhuman, and gratitude might look like, “Thank you that I’m not superhuman, because that would probably be a very strange and difficult life.”
And one last example: guilt over your child growing up like a weed. Gratitude: “Thank you, child, for not going crazy, independent, good for you, you can let go of control and no tragedy will happen. Thank you to me that I didn’t torture my child to death with my expectations, I survive as best I can, and I let the child go and stay out of his way with my processes.
The technique of turning the emotion of guilt into gratitude is based on the fact that gratitude is a very positive and energetically charged feeling. Try it, you’ll love it!
If you’re not getting the right restructuring of phrases, ask for advice from seasoned reformulators, and you’ll definitely get help.
How to get rid of guilt.
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All people feel guilty from time to time. Although this feeling often leads to positive changes, it often becomes a cause of self-destruction and a waste of energy and brings unnecessary stress into one’s life. This article will help you understand how you can deal with guilt in order to get rid of it completely or at least partially.
Think about whether you really have to feel guilt right now. Guilt is a manifestation of the restlessness of the mind, and in some cases it is appropriate. If, after long reflection, you come to the conclusion that you were wrong and that you should feel guilty now, think about how you can rectify the situation. Act, and this will allow you to avoid another feeling that often manifests along with feelings of guilt: shame.
Sort out your feelings. Try to analyze all of your feelings and emotions to see if you really feel guilty. Guilt comes to us when we think about past events, while anxiety is about the present or the future. If you are experiencing anxiety, learn to relax.
“I let the dog off the leash and he got hit by a car. I feel guilty because the dog died and we all loved him.”
- “I can’t give the dog back, but I can apologize to my parents. I will make a conclusion from this situation.”
- “I will make arrangements to retake the exam and prepare for it. I will do everything in my power to successfully close the session.”
- “We can get back together with Masha, but it will be a temporary solution because I don’t feel happy with her, and we’ll go back to where we started. I could try to appease her, but that would only make things worse. I’ve run through all my options. There’s nothing I can do to make it right somehow.”
- “From now on, I will always keep animals on a leash on my walk.”
- “From now on, I will always prepare for exams so I won’t risk my place at university.”
- “Masha was too dependent on me. I won’t date girls like that anymore, because it will end badly.”
If you still feel guilty, tell yourself that the feeling is inappropriate and unproductive. For example: “I did everything I could to make things right. My guilt can no longer have any positive consequences.”
Move on with your life. Don’t focus on the negative and banish the bad thoughts-they cause shame and self-loathing. Acknowledge that no one is perfect and that all people make mistakes, but you won’t make that mistake again. Get busy doing things that make you enjoy life and love yourself, as well as things that allow you to do good things. Think about the mistake that once caused guilt and allowed you to change for the better.