We have all experienced the feeling of guilt at some time in our lives. Guilt can seem to be imposed on us from a multitude of sources: friends, family, co-workers and bosses. The list goes on. However, the reality is that the crippling and destructive feelings of guilt aren’t dumped on us by others, they are actually generated from within ourselves.
Most people believe that guilt is simply a single emotion in the human spectrum of emotions. If that were the case, guilt wouldn’t be nearly as powerful as it is. The truth, is that guilt is often the byproduct of the combination of an emotion such as anger, hurt, sadness or fear and an action or lack of an action.
You see, guilt doesn’t exist until you DO or DON’T DO something specific.
For example: You may feel a lot of guilt if you get very angry and say or do hurtful things to someone. In this case, guilt is a residual effect of the emotion of anger and the act of being hurtful to someone else.
Another example: A family member does or says something that hurts your feelings. As a result, you decide to skip their birthday party or special event. This makes you feel guilty for not attending. In this case, guilt is the compounded effect of the emotion of hurt and lack of action of attending the birthday party.
As a result, guilt is often something we carry with us for long periods of time and it can, in some cases, create an entire false narrative about how we view ourselves and others. Why?
Because, typically, we have an emotion and it passes. We “get over it” or move on to another emotion and experience. We’re literally wired to do so. It’s part of our subconscious program for mental stability and survival.
However, when there is guilt involved, it’s not so easy. Guilt causes us to relive the emotion that created the action, or lack of action and the fallout or result of both. We relive it over and over and over again in our minds. This creates a deeply embedded subconscious root in regard to this type of experience. That root then influences similar experiences, relationships and the value we place on ourselves as we continue our lives.
The key to releasing guilt and allowing yourself a clean mental slate is in the awareness of where it came from and the ability to forgive yourself and others, in order to move forward.
The following Awareness Exercise can help you sort through, learn from and release the heavy burden of guilt. Take some time to really give thought to this exercise and write those thoughts down on paper. The act of writing thoughts on paper actually engages both the conscious and subconscious mind. This allows you to make changes and set new, positive patterns much more easily.
Take a few moments to close your eyes and gain an awareness about your relationship with the emotions of hurt and guilt. How often have you experienced guilt? How far back in your lifetime can you remember experiencing feelings of guilt
What types of experiences or events cause these emotions for you?
Are there specific people or circumstances attached to them?
Do you notice any patterns or similarities in your experiences of guilt?
- Close your eyes and take in 3 deep breaths.
- Imagine that you can go back in time, to the action or lack of action that has caused your lingering feelings of guilt. Picture yourself doing this in your mind. Once there, imagine that you can talk to yourself and anyone else involved in the experience. Speak words of forgiveness to yourself and anyone else involved.
- Next, imagine that you can encourage your past self to act differently. To act in the way that you wish you would have in that moment.
- See it play out in your imagination. Imagine it in as much detail as possible.
- Lastly, thank your past self for allowing you to learn this lesson. Take a deep breath and open your eyes.
- Notice how you feel about that experience as you think about it now.
- Write about how you feel and what you experienced.
Some experiences and feelings of guilt can be harder to clear than others. That’s okay! Start with the Awareness Exercise and, if you need additional help, seek a hypnotherapy session to clear the slate for good.
Lisa Arbuckle CCHt, RMT
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