Do you feel guilty for reading this?
Shouldn't you be doing something else? For someone else? How can you be so selfish?
At around 3 years old I had a single, working Mum. I would play-up and make it very difficult for her to leave me in the care of my Nan or babysitter. At the weekends, she would go out of her way to reimburse me for her absence, spending as much time as she could with me, treating me with gifts, fast-food and sweets.
There is such a thing as overcompensating.
Food as reward is whole other blog-post but, looking back, I do recognise that Mum was displaying guilt. Guilt for being a single-parent - feeling like she had to compensate me for the dramatic tears I cried whenever she left to start her work day.
If you're invited on a guilt trip, you don't have to go.
Do others make you feel guilty sometimes? Some know how to press the exact buttons to trigger an emotional response, a cash payment, a sense of shame.
An old work colleague of mine used to say:
'People will only make you feel how you let them.'
Their words and actions are triggering a part of you that holds history and shame. For example, I was brought up to eat everything on my plate because there were people worse off than me, it was wasteful not to and food cost money which didn't come easy. The result was me force-feeding myself many an oversized meal well into adulthood. I didn't want to feel guilty.
Were you programmed to have a scarcity mindset? Constantly told by others that there isn't enough to go around and for you to have something, someone else has to go without? That it's all or nothing?
Apparently, humans are the only species that experience guilt. We could sweep it aside and say that it's just not a useful emotion, that feeling guilty doesn't benefit anyone. But, actually, it can. Any form of emotional discomfort is telling us something. It's the opportunity for breakthrough. What is the guilt trying to teach us?
During a recent coaching session, I invited the group to take part in a gratitude practice. One of the participants asked for guidance on what to do when, your gratitude triggers guilt for knowing that other people are suffering more than you.
I suggested that it was an opportunity to look at what about being content in our current situation is triggering the guilt. Is it because we don't feel worthy? That we feel we don't actually deserve to be happy or enjoy our human experience. This belief will be deep-rooted, a story we pick up about ourselves very early on which we continue to carry. Guilt is a gateway to changing that. By noticing when it comes up and what thoughts it generates, we can start to get a sense of what's really behind it.
What about the situation is making you feel guilty?
What about the situation is useful to take forward?
Make guilt useful.
If you witness the suffering of others and it compels you to do something, excellent, positive action is world-changing. However, before you enter somebody else's situation just check-in with yourself. Is this a knee-jerk reaction of guilt and you wanting to make yourself feel better? If guilt is at play, ask yourself:
How can the guilt be turned into compassion?
Being of service to others is a beautiful intention as long as you have the resources (time, money, energy) available to share because, as much as we like to influence the happiness of others, we are ultimately only responsible for our own.
There, I've said it. Guilty as charged.
Wishing Only Love,
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