The feeling of guilt is unpleasant – and it’s meant to be! It had an evolutionary purpose so that we would literally feel bad when we did ‘bad’ things. It stops us doing them again – and helps us to make amends to those we may have hurt or upset. But false guilt has a habit of hanging around no matter what we do!
Whether it’s forgetting a birthday, someone taking something we said the wrong way, saying “no” to a friend or loved one or perhaps losing our temper with someone who didn’t deserve it: Sometimes we feel guilt that is waaaaaaaay out of proportion with what we said or did – and sometimes we feel guilty about things that, frankly, we shouldn’t feel guilt about at all (like saying no and putting ourselves first!). And when that guilty feeling doesn’t go away when we apologise or make amends – you may be dealing with FALSE guilt. See our article on How to Tell The Difference between True and False Guilt.
I know. The feeling of guilt is so unpleasant we just want it to stop. So we may try to block the feeling by playing the situation over (and over) in our minds analysing, justifying what we did or didn’t do. Or we might go shopping, have a glass or three of wine, have endless conversations with friends or pretend we’re just fine. In short we tend to do EVERYTHING BUT face and deal with the guilt-feeling. And while this can work for a while, eventually our inner critic pops up again, reminds us of what we SHOULD have done, how thoughtless and selfish we are (fill in your own judgement here) and the cycle starts all over again.
So, how DO you get rid of UNREASONABLE or FALSE GUILT?
Well, here is a Simple and Heartfelt 5 Step Process to Get Rid of Unreasonable or False Guilt for Good:
- Step 1: ALLOWING. This may seem counter-intuitive, but ALLOW yourself to face and FEEL the guilty feelings. OWN what you are feeling and see it for what it is – it’s just a feeling. It may feel awful but it can’t actually hurt you. Top Tip: Remember that just because you feel something, does not make it true…
- STEP 2: WHAT IS THE TRUTH? Acknowledge and FACE what REALLY happened. Imagine you’re a reporter writing a completely neutral view of the situation. What would an UNbiased observer say about the situation? Ditch your critic and take in a balanced view of the situation.
- STEP 3: HOW ARE WE BEING MANIPULATED and BLAMED? Whether it’s our own mind, a societal pressure or obligations from other people in our lives, NOTICE what is underneath. Is there something else simmering under the guilt feeling? Where are you unnecessarily blaming yourself? WHO is blaming you – your inner critic, a friend or loved one, a societal expectation, all three? What are they saying to you? Is it reasonable?
- STEP 4: DECIDE TO FORGIVE and have COMPASSION for yourself and anyone involved. Life is complicated enough – all any of us really wants is to be happy, to feel loved, appreciated and like we belong. Some people (ourselves included!) go about it in a strange way sometimes, but we’re all doing the best we can in that moment.
- STEP 5: ACCEPT the situation AS IT IS. Without trying to change ourselves, others or wishing anything was different, just ALLOW and surrender to what IS. This is a hard step – and cannot be forced, but usually comes naturally once we forgive and have true compassion for ourselves and the others involved.
I would really recommend you journal or write this exercise out – because when we put pen to paper it’s much easier. Writing forces us to use the logical left hemisphere of our brain helping us connect with different parts of ourselves and see a more balanced truth.
We really CAN’T please all of the people all of the time. And if we burn ourselves out doing what everyone else wants when do we get time for us? When do we get to put our needs or our own families first? EACH and EVERY ADULT is responsible for their OWN happiness – so take care of YOU, and DITCH the false guilt!
And to wrap-up, here’s a strange-sounding, but
powerful tip you may want to ponder:
Make choices WITH the feeling of GUILT and NOT BECAUSE of it…
If you liked this article about how to deal with unreasonable or false guilt, you may also like:
- How to Tell The Difference between True and False Guilt!
- 5 Minute Fix: 3 Simple Steps to Cope With Stress When You’re Under Pressure
- A Simple 3 Step Model to Deal With Difficult Feelings and Emotions
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