Guilt – The Useless Emotion
There are two sides to the emotion of guilt. On the one side we learn to wield it heavily to get what we want but on the other side it works against us. It can and often does immobilize and prevent us from making changes that allow us to move forward. In short, feeling guilty gets you nothing in return!
And on both sides of that coin, it can also be a bully. For example, we all have had a parent or friend guilt us into doing or not doing something even when we knew we were being guilted. That is the same as being bullied. But we often let that same emotion bully us into believing that we can never be rid of whatever it is that is dragging us down. And in regard to the past, it is simply a waste of time to lament over things that previously happened which are the source of guilt.
Why is it a waste you ask? Because until a time machine is actually invented and you can physically go back and change whatever it is you wish to change, lamenting what you cannot change is mute. All we can do is use the information we have gleamed from that regret and guilt to make changes going forward.
Let me give you a few examples:
- The death of a loved one: feeling guilty that you didn't say I love you.
- Childrearing: missing an important milestone or wishing you had employed a different form of discipline or childrearing itself.
- Careers: wishing you had received a different degree.
- Family planning: wishing you had chosen to have children.
How might you use those past regrets and guilt going forward:
Using the above examples:
- You cannot tell a deceased loved one to their face that you love them, but you can certainly say the words out loud. There is power and energy in the spoken word. Tell someone else how you wished you had said I love you to the deceased before they died. Make a point of telling those people you love and who are alive right now that you love them.
- You might not be able to change how you raised your children but you can share with them your regrets and why it bothers you so badly. If you see them making the same mistakes with their children, help them. Tell and show them how they can do things differently. Share your experiences and be involved.
- If I have learned one thing in life, it is that you are never too old to learn. Really hate your career? Start an on-line course, go back to night school and engage in what interests you. Reach out to the people you know, ask for help, find a mentor, even call in a favor. Find and engage in a hobby that speaks to your real wants and desires.
- If you wanted a family but it never happened for whatever reasons there are so many alternatives. Fostering and adopting can seem like a lot of work but as with any kind of love, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. And don't forget about mentoring programs, tutoring and donating time to local children's organizations.
Guilt - while it can be a troublesome emotion, whether it is used against us or we use it against ourselves, it can also be an incredible resource of learning if we take the regrets that come from that guilt and apply them to our lives moving forward. We might not be able to change the past, but we can certainly take an active part in using the past to shape our futures.