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Published on December 10, 2019

How to Stop Feeling Guilty and Move on from the Past

How to Stop Feeling Guilty and Move on from the Past

Despite being of a negative nature, guilt ought to be used as a sign or a motivator for improving emotional intelligence and mental health. However, it shouldn’t be used as a motivation tactic.[1]

Guilt, triggered as a biochemical reaction of an event with bad outcome, is a negative mental energy (negative emotion), a repetitive feeling of having a bad conscience about having done something wrong or not having done something.

Consequently, there is an inner conflict that impacts self-worth, leaving a feeling of insecurity which results in lack of control over actions. Remorse follows as a result which leads to inward self-punishment that has humiliating effects on the mental health like, anxiety, doubt and complex of inferiority. It’s no wonder that one’s self-confidence is destroyed when guilt cannot be handled properly.

Obviously, we want to prevent this and learn how to not feel guilty but let guilt trigger a call for righteous action and self-improvement. In this article, we will apply 4 steps and practice to turn guilt into a positive outcome, understanding its dynamic structure as an emotion and get the knowledge of how to not feel guilty ever again.

No matter how many statistics or researches we’re going to read about the different types of guilt that have been classified, and which type of guilt we feel, nothing can help the fact that the guilt has to be faced and dealt with — because its feeling is present (but not entirely real).

The feeling of guilt must be approached with the idea of reducing the pressure of the anxiety and uncertainty created through the big question “What have I done?”

Let’s approach it right away and investigate deeper into that knowledge.

Step 1: Put Guilt Where It Belongs

You probably wonder “How long it takes to get rid of the guilt? The answer is: it can be a lifetime or only a minute – it’s a matter of understanding the origin and the nature of guilt, and your decision about the approach of dealing with it.

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The approach begins by understanding the fact that the origin of guilt belongs to the past. Each time we feel guilt, we reactivate a memory of a dead event. For example, let’s say you are in a peaceful state of mind where all of a sudden, someone blames you about a thing you have (or haven’t) done some while ago. Immediately, there is (inflicted) guilt; confusion or frustration you feel.

Since the origin of guilt lies in the past, we want to handle the past to our advantage and not stay in it. Because when we do, we feed the dead event (making it alive and present) inflaming the feeling of guilt constantly. Guilt affects us physically and mentally and invites confusion and suffering to our presence.

The first step for how to not feel guilty is to:

  • Leave the guilt to the origin of the event – in the past.
  • Act consciously and constructively – in the present.

This will lift off pressure and enable you to investigate and resolve your guilt. You must act from a neutral position with a clear mind, unclouded by any emotions.

Picture this: A building is burning and you run to save your life. On your way out, you try to save as many people as possible. You have run passed more than twenty people but saved only one. You are still running, not thinking or feeling guilty about the ones you couldn’t save.

You see, you don’t get stuck in the past creating an emotion that is of no use at that moment, but stay present without inflicting guilt on you and focus on moving forward constructively to repair whatever possible. Occupy yourself with present priorities!

But what happens if there is the acknowledgement of direct actual wrongdoing caused? How to not feel guilty then?

Step 2: Improve the Skill of Acceptance

Relax, there is no person in this world that hasn’t suffered or dealt with guilt. Life consist of making mistakes and as a result of a committed mistake, guilt is an ingredient of life.

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When you’re conscious of the wrongdoing, the event still stays in the past, it is irreversible and you can put the feeling behind you by:

  • Accepting your guilt and the fact that you can handle it. Although the event and the cause are irreversible, its effect is temporary and you have the power to change it.
  • Expressing will and courage to repair the wrongdoing – firstly, to yourself, and secondly, to the parties affected by the event.

Don’t get intimidated about not possessing a heroic capacity of courage, that’s not needed here. We know that there is a lack of courage in society today, but that little courage to put the guilt behind you and focus on reparation and self-improvement, that much you have.

Acting this way will amplify your courage and you will be able to notice a sense of worth within. Instantly your suffering will cease to exist! You’re still conscious of the guilt but don’t suffer from it anymore. You’re on your way to repair and improve things and become the “better version of yourself”. Alone, this is a great achievement and an act of fulfillment.

Occupying yourself with the search for the right action will motivate you to find out what to do and how to do it.

And what to do when the guilt is self-inflicted?

Step 3: Improve Emotional Intelligence

So many times we have failed at things and felt guilty, and so many times we’ve made others feel guilty. But most of the times, many of us impose guilt on ourselves for no objective reason. The more we impose guilt on ourselves, the more we disconnect from our emotional intelligence, and fail to understand the signals of our emotions and that of other people around us.[2]

Therefore, it is inevitable to understand guilt as a sign for practicing acceptance and behavior improvement in order to improve emotional intelligence. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming emotionally incompetent.

After a meditation seminar in Switzerland back in 2011, one of my clients said to me that she feels guilty about the global warming and deeply concerned about saving the planet. She was already living a holistic life but still wondered how to make her lifestyle even more eco-friendlier.

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I recommended her to travel to a poor country and see the difference between cultures and lifestyles. She decided not to go because of the high CO2 emissions caused by the airplanes she would fly with. On top of that, she resigned from driving to work, taking the train instead which added more hours and hustle in transporting herself. She suffered badly from self-inflicted, inappropriate guilt from things she wasn’t personally responsible for. Her internal conflicts made her feel helpless.

A specific meditation on guilt which I prepared for her, helped her focus on activities in her domain of responsibilities. There she worked diligently achieving real positive outcome and her internal conflicts about the global warming came to an end. She managed to use guilt as motivator to focus on her health and achieve emotional stability. That made her realize that her actions are worthwhile and later got involved in charitable and ecological projects for poor countries.

Most of us are confronted with similar situations in life from which we impose guilt on ourselves without ever inquiring if we are really accountable for any of that guilt. I urge you to accept your position, tune in deeply within your feelings (more effective if practicing deep breathing exercises) and inquire to find out where you made a mistake.

This way, you’ll be able to balance your emotions and improve your emotional intelligence.

Step 4: Choose How You Want to Feel

This is the most important step. How can you deal with strong unresolved guilt?

The sense of unresolved guilt doesn’t mean you have to carry it with you, let alone leave to disrupt other aspects of your life. No matter how intense your guilt, it’s still in the past and its mere existence must not be a reason for self-punishment.

Even if it can’t be repaired, it can be repaid. Offer yourself to repay the wrongdoing in any way possible. That is an act of courage and self-acceptance. This act alone, for which you have the freedom to choose it at any time, will make you feel great, honest, loyal and righteous. No one can take that opportunity away from you.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

As a Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl understood and chose not to succumb to the negative forces imposed on him.

Use your freedom and the opportunity to shift from the emotion of guilt to the driving desire of achieving a positive outcome and feel the way you want to feel. In such a case, guilt can be one of the greatest life-teachers.

Your Freedom to Choose Your Attitude

Remember, the inability to manage guilt is a hindrance for your emotional growth and it damages your mental health. Choose an attitude of an achiever in your particular set of circumstances. Awaken the dormant potential within you which will show you the solution and bestow you with inner peace.

Love yourself and use your guilt to grow magnificently together with your inner freedom. I would recommend you to use this simple and proven breathing technique:

Inhale gently – saying “This guilt and my inner freedom motivate me to find solutions…

Exhale gently – saying “…so all guilt fades away.”

The immense effect of inhalation and exhalation is so immediate that when you apply it seriously and absolutely, the feeling of guilt ceases to exist. Realize that you are worthy and capable of repairing your wrongdoing no matter what it takes.

Turn guilt into courage and be present with a vision for doing something worthwhile again. I salute the spirit in you!

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More About Freeing Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Jean Gerber via unsplash.com

Reference

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Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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