Guilt is a powerful, monumental waste of emotion.
Have you ever seen a squirrel act guilty? Or a cat, cow, hamster, turtle, guinea pig, chinchilla, horse, zebra, hawk, eagle, vulture, snake, fish etc? I bet you haven’t. Guilt is a human emotion, although we unfortunately can teach it to some of our devoted pets. According to the dictionary, guilt is a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation.
Legally, guilt is breaking the laws of the society in which you live. Sun Bear used to tell people guilt was a powerful, monumental waste of emotion. From my experience with guilt (and, believe me, I have plenty!), his definition is the most accurate. This is not to say that some people don’t break laws, do wrong things, or fail to fulfill obligations. But these are not the actions that cause the kind of guilt on which I have wasted untold hours and caused myself far too much misery. No, the really powerful, wasteful guilt is the kind in which we torture ourselves about things for which we really are not responsible, or things over which we have no real control.
For most of us guilt sufferers this started when adults told us as children that our behavior could cause terrible things to happen. Examples abound but some classics are that what we do or don’t do will cause illnesses of all kinds, nervous breakdowns, death, starvation in parts of the world, dead relatives to rotate in graves, suffering of many kinds, warts, blindness and the neighbors to think badly of our families. As kids we believe these ridiculous statements and change our behavior in the way that hypothetically will ward off these terrible catastrophes. The adults have accomplished their mission of changing our behavior. They also have planted the guilt seeds that can continue to grow in us throughout our lives.
How different would your life be without whichever kinds of guilt you have allowed to blossom in you? What could you do with the emotions you no longer wasted? Maybe make yourself happy, or follow your own dream or vision, or do things for others because you really wanted to do them. If you are willing to weed out your guilt trips, the possibilities for using this energy in a more positive way are endless. It is not easy to give up guilt. The roots go deep within us. Sometimes I could even make myself feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Guilt is that insidious. But it is possible to let go of at least some of this wasteful emotion.
The best way to begin is to face it head on with some questions that may help you to determine you are feeling guilty and find other ways you can feel. The next time you find yourself in the grip of guilt ask yourself:
What am I really feeling right now? Am I lonely, angry, sad, or fearful?
Am I believing something simply because someone now or in the past told me it is true?
Is feeling guilty helping myself or the situation?
Have I committed a wrong? If so, how can I remedy it?
Have I dropped the ball on an obligation? If yes, do I want to fulfill it now?
Do I want to continue in this guilt induced pity party or do I want to do something that will help make my life happier and more fulfilling?
If after answering these questions guilt is still gripping you, take a walk and watch a bird, squirrel or other critter. Maybe even hug a tree. Being in nature and realizing you are a part of it can help to show you a different and better way to be.