Stop Feeding Into Guilt, A Useless Emotion

I remember with crystal clear clarity (not to mention joy and gratitude) the year I quit guilt. I gave it up cold turkey. And my life changed drastically. Years of beating myself up for my shortcomings, mistakes, and failures were erased in the moment I fully understood just how useless guilt is.

What IS Guilt?

Guilt is an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have violated a moral standard.”

To understand where your guilt comes from, you must first revisit your personal values and core beliefs. You may be holding on to outdated programs that no longer serve you as an adult. You may be giving your power away to a belief system that no longer applies to your life.

You need to identify who and what defined the moral standards you believe apply to you, as well as what constitutes a violation. Even more important, is to understand – within the framework of your belief system – how you ought to be making amends for these perceived violations.

Is there room for Recovery? Repentance? Redemption?

And if there is, then why are you still beating yourself up over something you can remedy? { Tweet This }


What if guilt isn’t real?

I have a crazy outlandish question for you. What if guilt isn’t even real? What if you continually punish yourself emotionally for these crimes you’ve committed (via human nature), and there was no use at all for the self loathing?

Interesting, isn’t it?

I want you to consider something for a moment. If you are incarnated on this planet right now, what is the point? Do you have a purpose, a mission? Or are you wandering aimlessly? Do you believe you can mess up your own life to the point that you can never get it back on track? What does that even mean? What if the purpose to living in these human bodies is to gain experience?

Follow me on this one… if you are simply here to gain experience, then wouldn’t it also be safe to say that you can’t do it wrong?

Did you hear that – you can’t do life wrong!

Life – it’s yours for the taking. Your choices are yours for the making. You can’t do it wrong – and I want to show you how you can eliminate guilt from your life for good.

Guilt is overrated, outdated, and useless

Last Century Woman Exploring Her GuiltWith every choice you’ve made and action you’ve taken that you believe has been ‘wrong’, you have subjected yourself to an onslaught of self-loathing, self-judgment, self-punishment.

Guilt eats at you, sometimes for years, equating to the heaviest of burdens.

No matter what you believe, if you are religious or not, there is absolutely no way any form of unconditionally loving Divinity would set humanity up for such long-term punishment. Guilt serves no purpose but to make the individual miserable. It does not promote any kind of health or well-being, doesn’t help you progress closer to your goals – it simply keeps you feeling down in the dumps for a very, very long time.

From my perspective, this is counter-intuitive and counter-productive to our mission of gaining wisdom and experience.

 

Four Steps to Conquer Guilt for Good

1. Look at the consequences of your choice.

Every time you have a choice to make or an action to take, look at what the consequences are. You are intelligent and capable of making your own decisions, with the key here being that you pay careful attention to the consequences.

Understand that you have free will and you get to choose… it’s helpful to be aware of the cause and effect involved with your decision. In fact, some choices seem less appealing when we recognize what they may cost.

2. Pay the consequences.

Next, pay the consequence for the choice you made, the action you took…. ONE time. This is essential for you to understand. You do not beat yourself up repeatedly, you face the consequence, that you already knew would be applicable, and that is that.

There is no room for long-term self-punishing pity parties.

3. Learn a lesson.

Learn the inherent lesson in this experience. In every situation, we are gifted with the opportunity to learn. Look back on the guilt you currently carry, and see if you can release it by acknowledging how much wisdom you’ve gained from that particular choice and subsequent consequence.

4. Move on.

Move on with your life. If you ever have the opportunity to make this same choice again, you are better equipped to make a decision. Follow the same process. Continually.

Key Points:

  • You can’t do this wrong, you are here to learn, to grow, to gain experience and wisdom.
  • Understand consequences of your choices and be willing to pay them before you take action.
  • Pay the consequences for your choice ONE time.
  • Learn the lesson inherent in the experience.
  • Move on.
Challenge: Ponder the guilt in your life. Where did it come from? How long has it been there? How has it served you? Can you fathom that guilt is a useless emotion?

 

Homework: 
  1. Answer each of the questions – you may want to start a journal or a blog to reflect on your journey.
  2. Share your thoughts with us! (Leave a comment, make a post in the Facebook Group, or even shout out on Twitter!)
  3. Deeply contemplate how you can apply these four steps to your life. Can you give up guilt?

I look forward to a discussion on the topic of guilt!  

With mucho a latte of love and respect,

Janet Louise Stephenson signature
Your Transformation Tour Guide

p.s. Do you know where you get stuck on your path to Self Awareness? Take the Why Am I Stuck?’ Quiz and find out.

 

PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION TOUR (1)

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12 Responses

  1. Greta Boris
    | Reply

    We have to get you and Sinnary together. Her post was all about being motivated by guilt. I guess it’s all about balance.

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Thanks for the heads up, Greta. I read her article, and it is very interesting to see how we both viewed the topic of guilt. I think she was talking about the ‘should be doing this’ voices in the head, and I’m talking about the kind of guilt that consumes people with self-loathing. There’s just no room for the second kind. :)

  2. Komar
    | Reply

    You make some very good points here, guilt can eat at you and there is a time to move on, but it’s about finding the right balance. I wouldn’t disregard guilt entirely, it has its uses. It can motivate you to fix what you did wrong, without the feeling of guilt there may be little reason to try. The existence of the emotion can help motivate you to do better in the first place, as often part of wanting to get things right is knowing of the consequences of getting things wrong. Knowing that guilt would be waiting for you can play a part in spurring you not only to work harder, but also to work in the right way.

    Here’s an article which says that feeling guilty can actually help to make you a better boss. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20257373

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Komar. I respect your opinion, but I daresay that a desire to learn from a ‘mistake’ can be fuel enough for some to attempt to remedy the situation. Guilt, in my opinion, should never be the motivator… though, I do agree with you that when you are aware of consequences and you know that guilt is a potentiality for you, you might not make that particular choice.

    • Hrvoje Butkovic
      | Reply

      A very interesting article. I think it’s important to understand the context of the research that the article describes because it is not stated explicitly, and it does limit the findings.

      The four questions used by Taya Cohen and her colleagues to measure guilt proneness are applicable to people who might choose to harm others if they thought that no one was watching. For these people, guilt might indeed be a useful emotion, because it would discourage them from harming others in situations where they may be tempted to do so. Fear of hell can play the same corrective role.

      Unfortunately, like fear of hell, guilt comes with baggage – it can have a paralysing effect, and it can torment us long after our actions have been forgotten by the people whom they harmed. Fortunately, guilt is not the only motivator for ethical action. By adopting a different belief/value system, it is possible to ditch guilt altogether and still strive to act ethically in every situation. The advantage of doing this is that one gets to keep the motivational benefits of guilt while avoiding the suffering that it causes.

      In a nutshell, I disagree with the blog post that guilt is a useless emotion in general, but I do agree that we would be better off rendering it as such.

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  7. Sarah Marie
    | Reply

    another fabulous reason to not feel guilty: free will is an illusion. every decision you make, while it feels like you’re in control, is actually already made for you based on your history and how your subconscious processes the information around you.

    that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use guilt as a moral compass and rectify wrongs or change behaviors, what it does mean is that your mistakes are exactly that: mistakes. they’re not wrong. you’re not a terrible person. you don’t have to beat yourself up over your mistakes or wrong turns. you are subject to your subconscious and previous behavioral patterns :D GO SCIENCE!

    fabulous neuroscientist and spirituality enthusiast Sam Harris explains it so well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRIcbsRXQ0o

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah! It’s interesting – I listened to Sam Harris’s take on “free will” and I’m not inclined to agree with him on all his points. Some of them are like comparing apples to oranges – for example, when he asks you to think of someone, and someone pops in your mind, he is calling that a manufactured thought. You didn’t necessarily use your “free will” to think it… It doesn’t seem to equate to the circumstance where an individual is facing a choice, debating on their options, and then moving forward.

      Another note – he is considering Free Will to be the notion that we are the authors of our thoughts and our choices. And you’ve called it “control”. What if Free Will is not the authorship, but the function of the choosing? And if that is true, then, by all means, you will make the choices

      based on your history and how your subconscious processes the information around you.

      And that’s good enough for me. :) Especially when you consider that we, as a species, and as individuals can continue to evolve our own processes, and expand our own subconscious awareness … through means such as hypnosis, etc.

      We totally agree on this: Your mistakes are exactly that mistakes.

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