Guilt is the thief of life
Posted on 19th July 2023 at 07:18
We were struck the other day by how much guilt there seems to be in our lives these days. While it’s always been there to a greater or lesser extent, levels seem to have ratcheted up significantly in the last few years, for entirely understandable – albeit often far from logical – reasons. And it would probably be best if we avoided that particular rabbit hole for the time being…
Perhaps you’ve felt it, but never had the time – or inclination (!) – to think any more about it. Or, simply accepted the vague feeling of discontentment or apprehension as just “the way things are” and got on with your life.
So, what on earth is going on and why has guilt become so prevalent these days?
The reason why guilt is such a powerful emotion is very simple. It’s an easy and effective method of control, whether we’re aware of what’s happening or not. Not only does it “press our buttons”, so making us easy to manipulate, but is closely linked to our fears. Particularly those basic ones relating to survival. Of being thrown out from the safety of our tribe or family, alone into the cold wide world. Or, to put it in more modern terms, it’s all about the fear of rejection, of not being loved and accepted.
However, guilt isn’t just a tool – for want of a better word (!) – used by those around us. In our personal lives, by family or friends. Or at work. It’s also a very powerful one used in the wider world by those in government or some other position of perceived authority. And, we’re sure you can come up with plenty of examples of your own in all those categories (!).
Sometimes it’s very obvious, particularly in our “nearest and dearest”. We’re sure you know exactly who they are AND their favourite ways of doing this. Other times, less so, but the underlying “threat” is still there and our buttons pressed.
In the wider world, it tends to be much more subtle but, ironically, goes much deeper. Bypassing guilt and going straight to our fears. You only have to look at some of the government and public health messages of recent years, to see this in practice…
Sadly, guilt isn’t only something others do to us. Just as often – if not more so – we use it on ourselves. As a stick to beat ourselves up with. Or, more accurately, we allow the Little Monster in our Heads to do so. Making our lives much more complicated and stressful than they need be. Not to mention involving people – or things – we would prefer not to have in our lives.
So, where are we going with this?
The first – and most important – thing is to be aware of when this may be happening in your life, whether being done by others or to yourself. Noticing that feeling which means your buttons are being pressed. After all, you can’t do anything about it, if you haven’t realised what’s going on. Stopping for a moment and taking a deep breath, so you don’t get pulled into the usual – and automatic – response.
And, there’s one little word that often gives things away. Should. It’s ALWAYS a sign that you really don’t want to do – or be involved with – whatever or whomever it is. Of someone else’s agenda or desires, not yours. If you’d like a quick reminder about why it’s so important to notice this little word, click here.
There’s also something else to be aware of and, again, a trap that’s all too easy to fall into. What assumptions are you making about the situation and people involved, not forgetting what may be expected of you?
As someone so wisely said, assumptions made an ASS out of U and ME. So, take a closer look at what is ACTUALLY happening, not what you may think is happening, particularly where it’s taking you straight back to a previous event laden with lots of negative energy. For a reminder about the ASS in assumptions (!) click here.
Then, having taken yourself off autopilot and on to manual, it’s time to remember there’s only one person in charge of your life. And what you do – or don’t – do. You. No one else. So, give whatever it is some thought. Whether you really want to do it and, if so, how you do it.
If – and it’s a big IF – you decide to do it, then do so voluntarily and with positive energy. In this way, everyone benefits. After all, no one wants a dose of negative energy, whether on the doing or receiving end. Again, for a quick reminder why the energy you put into anything is so important, click here.
Don’t forget that no one has the right to judge you or the decisions you make. NO ONE. You may want to read that simple sentence over a few times and mull it over too… Equally, the same applies to you not judging anyone else too (!). We are all in charge of our own lives and it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for them and the choices we make. Life is all about choices and, again, for a quick reminder why choices are so important click here.
One final thought before we finish for today. Whatever happens in your life – positive and less so (!) – is sent to help you. It’s just up to you to decide to use whatever happens positively. So, rather than beating yourself up when you realise where guilt has been “pressing your buttons”, using it to decide to do things differently in future. Both to yourself and those around you. If you need a reminder why the “glass half full” approach always works, click here.
There’s so much more we could say on this topic, but that’s probably more than enough to get you thinking...
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
P.S. If you wondered where the title of today’s post came from, it’s a very wise quote from Anthony Hopkins, the Actor.
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