If you have studied a bit about guilt, you probably know that it’s not a natural feeling. Guilt doesn’t occur naturally in a human’s mind, it’s a cultural product. Some Asian cultures don’t know anything about it.
When regret goes crazy, it becomes an obsession called guilt.
Regret can be useful since it allows your mind to reprogram itself in order not to make the same mistake twice.
It also has a social function since it sets moral boundaries between people: when you hurt somebody, regret is the shortcut that makes YOU feel bad for behaving badly, it’s therefore an incentive to be a better person.
Guilt on the other hand serves no purpose, it’s more of a mind cancer: instead of helping you in a healthy change process, guilt dooms you and prevents you from moving on.
In the long run, it blocks your own growth.
I’m not a big advocate of guilt, as you can see, having suffered a lot from it, I collected methods to eradicate that mental process.
This article gives clues on how to sabotage guilt. I didn’t title it “how to destroy guilt” or “how to nuke guilt” because it’s not the way to proceed. Guilt can be removed but you have to be patient. Taming guilt is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself though, so I hope the following helps you.
Start by noticing guilt, here’s how you can become aware of it:
if you’re obsessed by something that you did and that you generally consider wrong. If you feel that you are not going to recover your self-esteem, then guilt has started to manifest.
You don’t have to consider guilt like an enemy, consider it the start of a very enriching process of self discovery, and try the following:
Stop identifying with your mistakes
Guilt is like a parasite that feeds on your self-image, that’s why it can be so harmful. Guilt makes you identify with the mistake you made. It will last as long as you reduce yourself to what you did. For instance, if you stole money and feel guilty about it, you become one with the act of steeling, you feel like a thief now, nothing else. This thought usually takes over whatever other qualities you may have.
But let’s be realistic, you are not only a person that made a mistake, you can also be a nice person :)
To start uprooting this obsession, just review the good things you did in your past, don’t forget the little things, like walking the dog. Gradually rebalance the idea you have of yourself by considering facts: don’t deny your mistakes, but keep your good actions in mind.
In a guilt crisis, you’ll be tempted to retrieve from others: the pain and the shame being too strong.
Retrieving for short periods of time (a few hours) can be useful to take a rest.
Other than that, isolating yourself will just harm you more, because you’ll be tempted to ruminate dark thoughts. Mingle with others, even though it hurts, others will force you change your idea of yourself, they will force you to play different roles: the father, the husband, the friend, the child…In short they will get you out of the limiting idea that you are only a person that screwed up, one day.
Don’t negotiate with guilt
Guilt is a thought process. It often presents itself as mental debate, like a court of law in your mind with the accused (you) vs the judge (your set of values). Usually you’ll be tempted to negotiate and justify yourself in this schizophrenic argument.
Don’t waste your time running that pattern, even though it seems like an inner dialogue, it’s not, it’s a dead-end and you’ll always charge yourself guilty in this process.
When you see that your mind start chattering on why and how you made a mistake and you’re just brooding guilty feelings, focus on something else.
The best approach is to help someone or take exercise.
Guilt doesn’t fix the past
There is this common belief that guilt will wash your sins.
Guilt doesn’t wash anything, it screws you up.
Be very clear on the fact that guilt doesn’t help the persons you have harmed. At all. It doesn’t “purify” you of anything either.
Guilt is simply a faulty process in your mind, it makes you extremely weak. If you want to pay back for what you did, then you need to recover from guilt first, become strong again and contribute by helping around you.
You can’t “stop guilt”, since it’s a powerful motion, but you can stop feeding it and watch it die out. Patience is required. The trick is not to interact with guilt. Just quarantine this process in your mind, while remaining aware of it.
Time will suffocate guilt slowly. You can trust time, it won’t fail you, just be patient.
One last thing: During your recovery from guilt, it is advisable to stay away from people who like to refer to the cause of your guilt.
This period of guilt will actually help you tell apart your real friends from your frenemies.
Real friends will be there if you want to talk about what makes you suffer, the other will just feed on your suffering and pour salt on your wound.
Needless to suggest whom you should avoid.
I wish you the best: a lot of creativity and stamina to go through the process of guilt, remain confident that you’ll be way smarter after this ordeal.
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