Part Two: Find your Guilt. Where is it coming from?
If we’re going to find a healthy way to cope with this negative feeling the first thing we have to do is find your guilt. Once we know where it’s coming from, we can start to meaningfully tackle the problem. We will see why and how it is holding us back from doing the things we want to do.
In the last post we started out by looking at what guilt is and how the potential for guilty feelings holds us back from living the life we want to live. If you missed the last post you might want to take a look at it. In order to break through and start making some serious progress, we have to learn to let go of the guilt. That’s what we’re going to look at today.
Step One: Find Your Guilt
The logical first step in learning to cope with any negative feelings is to find it; to figure out where it’s coming from. It’s obvious, isn’t it? If you don’t know exactly what you feel guilty about, you can’t come up with a plan to work through it and hopefully let it go. Of course that’s easier said than done. This step requires us to really look at ourselves and admit things that I’m sure we would prefer not to admit.
It’s important that you’re committed to discovering what’s holding you back and what you may be feeling guilty about. You’ll have to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s not going to be easy. It is however going to be helpful, eye-opening, and very productive.
Find a way to make this process work for you. I’m not a fan of having a tangible record of my negative feelings, especially things that make me feel guilty. Every time I’m working through a self-help book and it asks me to make a list or write something down, I do it in my head. Likely a product of growing up with a mother who liked reading my diary, I don’t write anything down that I wouldn’t want someone to read.
It’s no secret writing has certain advantages such as making things real and holding you accountable. But, in my mind it’s better to go through the exercises in my head than not at all. I’m totally ok with you doing that if it’s what works for you.
Step Two: Self Reflection
Am I the only one who feels vulnerable at the meer mention of those words. It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror – not my favorite pastime. But self-reflection is a necessary if we’re going to figure out where our guilt is coming from and find a way to neutralize it.
Start by giving yourself some time to think. This is harder than it sounds. There are always a readily available distraction, a way to procrastinate if this isn’t made a priority. I’ll think about it after I finish cleaning the kitchen. It’s hard to hear yourself think sometimes, isn’t it? It’s also easier to stay busy and keep plugging away than it is to stop and take some time to reflect. Especially if that reflection is going to bring up some feelings we would prefer to ignore.
Commit to reflecting on your guilt. Find a quiet place, somewhere free of distractions. Get comfortable and let your mind wander. This is your chance to think about what you want to accomplish and what’s holding you back. Take stock of your feelings. Notice which thoughts or actions start making you feel uncomfortable. This doesn’t have to be guilt necessarily, guilt can disguise itself as man things. But, negative feelings are always worth further exploration. You might find some steps toward your goal make you feel a bit sick to your stomach.
For me it’s knowing I’ll have to take a chance and leave my job in order to truly give myself a shot at success. What if I can’t do it? I’m risking our financial security on my dream. That’s where a lot of my guilt comes from. What happens if I’m not successful?
Rationally, I know that when the money I’ve set aside starts to run out, I’ll find a job again. I’m employable, it won’t be all that hard. But what if… I’m feeling guilty about a worst case scenario. Given, there’s a good chance I won’t achieve my dream, of course there is. But even if that happens it’s not going to be the end of the world.
What’s holding you back?
Step Three: Journal
If you’re like me, this isn’t going to happen in a physical journal. I’m not very honest when I have to write things down. It’s always in the back of my mind that what I write down might by seen by someone else.
Nonetheless, journaling is a great way to gather and process your thoughts. Grab a notebook, open up your word processor, or get a new journal and start to write your thoughts down. Writing your feelings and goals down can be very therapeutic. It forces you to focus and organize your thought processes. It also gives you something to come back to and read later in the day or a bit down the road. Sometimes it’s nice to look back and see how far you’ve come.
If you think journaling could be beneficial to you give it a try. Write down what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling about it.
Step Four: Deal with your guilt going forward
Last but not least, it’s important to realize that this will be an ongoing process. New feelings of guilt will pop up from time to time. Be on the lookout for them so you can address them right away. Again, journaling is a great tool for this. At the very least, be aware and listen to your mind and thoughts going forward.
After reading this post, were you able to find your guilt? Did you shed some light on it? Are you ready to let those negative, guilty, feelings go for good?