October 6, 2015

Why Guilt is a Useless Emotion.


When you are relaxing at home, do you feel guilty for not working? When you are working late, do you feel guilty for not being home with your family?

Most of us are riddled with guilt in subtle little ways we don’t even notice.

Now, when I say “guilt” I don’t mean: “I cheated on my boyfriend and I shouldn’t have done that.”

The flavor of guilt I’m talking about is more of an attachment to the notion of “should”-“I shoud be there doing that, instead of here doing this.”

Guilt can become the annoying song stuck on repeat in our minds. Over time this can become debilitating and paralyzing. When we’re stuck in this loop, it feels like the guilt is an important reminder of our many responsibilities. But the reality is, guilt is doing just the opposite—it’s keeping us chained to mediocrity and robbing us of being in the present moment.

Guilt is a useless emotion, and it keeps us from stepping into our full potential.

Think of guilt as that annoying “friend” from middle school who has just stuck around long past their welcome. But we don’t break off the friendship, because hanging with this person becomes kind of a habit. That’s what guilt is—a habit. And we’re used to practicing it, even though it ultimately doesn’t benefit us in any way.

So the next time you hear the voice of guilt start to sing its repetitive song, stop the record player. Remind yourself that you don’t need to waste your time and energy swimming around in this flavor of self-sabotage. Take a breath, and say out loud, “I choose to give myself permission to be fully here and fully now.”

If you have that permission from yourself, then what is there to feel guilty about?

If you don’t have any visceral experience of what it feels like to permit yourself to be fully present, then I’d recommend getting a meditation practice, and I’d recommend doing it soon. If you do have a meditation practice, and the guilt is still creeping up, here is something to try when it starts to happen—remind yourself that guilt is a useless emotion, and practice the technique below. I call it: “Come to Your Senses.”

How to Practice the “Come to Your Senses” technique:

1. Settle down into your least excited state of awareness.

2. Take a breath, then another, and on each breath focus on a different one of your five senses.

3. Hear what you’re hearing.

4. Feel what you’re feeling.

5. See what you’re seeing.

6. Taste what you’re tasting.

7. Smell what you’re smelling.

8. Keep moving through your senses with each breath.

This will have the effect of jettisoning you into your right brain and into the right now. And the truth is, if you can get into your right brain and the right now, then you’re fine—you’re drowning in abundance. So forgive yourself for whatever you’re feeling guilty about, and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can.

Give yourself permission to be fully here and fully now, because being present is a much more useful habit than swimming in guilt.



Sorry, Not Sorry: How to Break your Apology Addiction.


Author: Emily Fletcher

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/karriiiiii

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Emily Fletcher