I've heard it said time and again within the Self Help community. "Feeling guilty is wasted energy," or "Don't waste your time feeling guilty." OK. Fine. I get it, but given the advice, how are we supposed to let guilt go? How are we supposed to move on from such an intense, at times debilitating, emotion?
You can learn a lot from guilt. Guilt likes to settle in for a visit when we need to learn a lesson. We have done, or are doing something that is not the best for ourselves, or those around us. Something is broken and needs to be fixed.
Repairing a mistake in behavior is one of the most empowering experiences. Once the lesson is learned, choices change and, consequently, life changes. Guilt is an emergency flare on the path of Personal Growth. It lets us know something is wrong and brings us in for the details.
I know what it feels like to come out of a period of poor choices and feel extremely guilty for how I behaved, in retrospect. This is when you have to be gentle and truly accept that you are human; flawed and amazing.
So, guilt is easy. Really. Simply:
1. Establish whether you're feeling guilty for growth, or if you're feeling guilty because you're being hard on yourself.
2. If you can grow through making amends or changing your behavior, then this is the "teaching guilt" which you should embrace and grow from. Figure out what's really making you feel guilty or ashamed, fix it and watch your life transform.
3. If the guilt is part of past mistakes, that you have been holding on to, or perceived mistakes (like when mothers first return to work after having a baby), it's time stop the self-blame and give your self-esteem a break. You can literally "should" yourself into depression and self harm if you don't let it go and accept that you are human and will never be perfect.