Guilt

Past and Future

Life is fast. It seems even faster when we aren’t being present to the now. Many things keep us away from the present moment, however I believe that it’s negative emotions that pull us the hardest.

What do I mean when I say ‘negative emotions’? These are the parts of the human experience that can be the most difficult to work through. Anger, sadness, jealousy, worry, guilt and being judgemental are not enjoyable feelings. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling them, problems arise when we get stuck in feeling them. Which makes it difficult to let go and find brightness in our world.

I believe guilt (wishing we had or had not done something) and anger (wishing that someone else had or had not done something) keep us in the past. While anxiety transports us to a future that may or may not exist. Focusing all that energy on those moments means that what is happening right now is being missed.

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Being present is no easy feat. So where to start?

  •  Awareness – start noticing your thoughts. Once you take up the role of a non-judgemental observer you can learn a lot.
  • Options – once you have the awareness you have options. The next time a negative thought pops into your head you have a choice to make. You can follow it to the past or future, or instead say ‘no thanks’ and stay in the now.
  • Develop – you can start to train your brain to ignore the fear or not to feel overwhelmed by it. These thoughts aren’t necessarily facts and in this present moment, there is nothing to fear.

As the Summer arrives it’s the perfect excuse to sit outside and focus on your breath. Imagine you are on a sun holiday. Most people find it much easier to relax on holidays because they feel like they’ve left the stress of life behind. That’s partly true but in reality the stressors haven’t changed, your perspective has. Starting today try to change your perspective, attempt not to focus on things that have already happened or have yet to happen. Instead learn how you can let go and be present. Maybe grieve, put the past behind you and start fresh. Live your life as if you are on an eternal holiday. Be grateful for each passing second, because unlike many you are here to be a part of it.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” – Ivan Turgenev

Feeling guilty?

Guilt is one of those emotions that can often make us do things we don’t want too. It’s usually paired with ‘I should be doing this’ or ‘I shouldn’t be doing that’.

Letting ourselves be controlled by guilt can lead to feelings of unhappiness. If you’re doing things out of obligation it’s difficult to enjoy yourself. Or if you’re beating yourself up from something that happened in the past it’s impossible to be in the present.

There are many facets of guilt, you can feel guilty because you:

  • Did something wrong
  • Think you did something wrong
  • Didn’t do something that you should have
  • Were told you did something that hurt someone else

This list goes on.

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You’re feeling the way you’re feeling because guilt is linked to shame. Shame is a very difficult and vulnerable space. It’s defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress, caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. Shame is something we find at a young age which means it’s hard to let go of. However, there are things you can do to help you with your guilty conscience.

Wiki How has some suggestions to help you deal with guilt, including recognising if you should be feeling guilty in the first place.

If you have wronged someone then you need to accept that and try to fix what has happened. If that’s not possible then you need to learn from what you did and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you aren’t learning from the behaviour then the guilt will stick. If you want to learn about how to deal with your guilt, there are more tips here.

I also recommend looking at the things you do in your life for you and the things you do out of guilt. Start doing more for you and less for guilt. Don’t go visit your angry father because you feel a duty too. You’re just giving the guilt the power and taking power away from yourself. Why do you deserve to be in pain to make someone else feel better?

It’s important to remember that guilt like every other emotion is a choice, a decision made. Not an easy choice but you are the only one that controls how you react in a situation. Decide you won’t let guilt call the shots anymore and untie that knot in your belly.

“There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” – Bill Watterson