A series “Elevated Chat” of writings, articles, insights and musings from Dr. Michael G Millett
and the archives of Elevated Therapy International
Letting Go Of Guilt & Shame
We all have things we feel guilty about when we look back at our lives. Letting friends and family down, kindness never shared, being mean, being selfish – and the rest. However, many people have false and needless guilt and shame. We therefore need to distinguish between taking responsibility for our own actions in a healthy way, and people-pleasing to fulfill out martyrdom which is very unhealthy of course.
These ‘False’ guilts are those wretched feelings of doing something wrong that you don’t intend to stop, and having the guilt makes you still a good person because you feel the guilt for doing it ! Very damaging.
At the end of the day, we need to take responsibility and stop being sorry and come to own our decision.
Life is all about making decisions and taking risks, and remembering what doesn’t work is critical in our attempt to find out what does.
Guilt can also be a way of hiding one’s real feelings.
An example of this is: Not wanting to visit an elderly sick relative because you don’t particularly like them as they show little affection, and they are always negative and critical.
Relationships with family and friends are often full of guilt, but often this is because we do not look at the reality of the relationship. Accept the reality of the situation !
So, either visit them and don’t complain about it, or don’t visit and acknowledge why.
Picking up Guilt
Acquired guilt is unnecessary guilt, often learned from parents, siblings, teachers and friends, and instilled in you, whether consciously or unconsciously. Developing yourself means tracing every guilt-inducing thought back to its origin, and deciding whether you agree with it or not.
If you don’t agree with it – then STOP feeling guilty about it, and let it go !
Go back to your childhood and remember the main messages from it and the adults who prescribed them.
What do they really mean and why were you given these instructions, and messages ? Likely there was a positive intention behind many of these instructions and messages to make you a better person, but perhaps some of them might have been unconscious attempts to manipulate, control or suppress your individuality, and prevent you from expressing the REAL you ? If you felt free from shame or guilt, how would you perceive the issue then ?
People with their own insecurities are very good at making others feel guilty.
You might even be hiding behind this now as a shield that cushions you from spending time on yourself positively, and preventing you from becoming a more complete person ?? Be honest with yourself, do you feel a victim, or are you clear about your responsibilities to the other people in your life ?
The following are common thought patterns where letting go of guilt and shame remains an issue:
- I am responsible for the positive and negative situations that affect my family.
- I must not tell anyone about what happened to me in the past.
- The bad things that happened to me when I was a child are my fault.
- I care deeply what other people think of me.
- It is not OK for me to do nothing and relax.
- I am responsible for my husband’s (mother’s, father’s, wife’s, child’s, partner’s) happiness.
Think about something that makes you feel guilty, and ask yourself the question: Why do I feel guilty ?
Is your guilt about putting yourself first ? Is it about having time to yourself and just relaxing ?
So often, we are conditioned from childhood to never put ourselves first nor have personal ‘time out’ for ourselves.
If you feel guilt in these areas, set aside some time each day to either do nothing, or do something ‘light` and pleasurable for yourself – or both ! Perhaps, by resting and relaxing.
You may well feel unhappy about it at first, but continue doing it regularly.
Stop worrying about the things you have to do. You will find you use your time more productively if you allow yourself some ‘ME’ time regularly.
It is very important to acknowledge that your own needs are important, and you have the right to be nice to yourself without feeling guilty. This is the most fundamental requirement of good health and wellbeing.
You are not betraying anyone by enjoying your own life. This will help you enormously in life in feeling positive, and happier, and more at ease with your true self – and other people !
In moving forward – you also need to occupy your mind with future thinking, and make time to make good things happen, and not dwell on past events. Forgive and accept yourself as you are, and decrease your sense of obligation to please others. All this will make your world a less guilty place as well.
What are the fears and irrational beliefs that have prevented you from letting go of guilt until this point ?
Guilt is anger directed at ourselves. ~ Peter McWilliams