How to shed guilt and shame.
Guilt is a toxic, self defeating, and energy sucking emotion. Most people live years carrying baggage around, baggage consisting of things they did or didn’t do that they were not proud of and felt they shouldn’t have done.
Working in private practice, I would see hundreds of people a month drag their baggage in the form of guilt. Their spines would be a mess, their posture stooped forward and loads of tension in their lower neck and upper back. These are classic signs of being guilt ridden for years.
Redefining, guilt is something that you feel you shouldn’t have done in the past. You don’t see a point, purpose, or any upsides to what you did. You ultimately feel you did more harm than good, and with that lopsided perspective, you carry this burden around of a self-defeating energy.
Allow me to show you how to balance your perspective in 5 steps so you can release the guilt, see the order, and move on with life so you don’t carry the burdens of your past actions any longer. For this exercise you will need a piece of paper and a pen.
1) Make a list
First you want to write down a laundry list of things you feel guilty about. Start from age 0-10, then 10-20, then 20-30 and so on. Make a big list. From this list, you pick one guilt ridden moment that you are going to work on. Once you have that one you picked, make that the headline and draw a line down the centre of your paper with one side heading reading “downsides” and the other side of the line reading “upsides”
2) Identify the downsides
Begin by writing what you see as the downsides to your actions. There will be numerous ones, as your mind has stacked and associated many drawbacks and negatives to your actions/inactions, things you did or didn’t do. Unload your mind of all the associations of people you feel were hurt or impacted by you.
3) Identify the upsides
Now in contrast, on the other side of the paper, write the upsides to your actions. Now I know this may seem difficult, but if you spend some quiet time reflecting on who you feel was impacted negatively, there will be positives that came of your actions. You are just not used to looking for them, so the exercise at the beginning will seem quite reflexive such as “there are no upsides or positives”. That is incorrect. There are. Keep looking and take some time to truly focus and listen quietly inside yourself. A simple example to illustrate this would be if you yelled at your spouse and felt guilt, what were the upsides? They saw you express emotion, saw a different side of you, got to see your frustration, got to empathize with what you were suffering with, got to support you in your distress, got to connect with each other, got to make up with passionate love making etc….
4) Stay persistent- Shed guilt
It’s easier to give up on this exercise than it is to breakthrough. Challenge yourself to come up with as many upsides as there is downsides. This will equilibrate the mind, open the heart, and you will release the burden and energy from your nervous system. It will renew and recycle stored energy throughout your body to revitalize and clear to new levels. If you have 20 downsides, work hard to match with 20 upsides. This will take mental fortitude to break through the barriers of the mind.
5) Experience Gratitude
Anything you can’t say thank you for is baggage. So it is important that you get to a point where you are grateful and can say thank you for your actions you previously felt guilty about. When you can have gratitude for what you’ve done, guilt is no longer the prime emotion, and you can move forward with more grace and ease.
Best foot forward,
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