How to deal with Guilt
Have you ever felt heavy in your heart, and a nagging reminder from the inside that tells you to slow down as you have been committing mistakes? It could be a realization of a mistake committed, yet often it is an emotional state where you perceive that you are wrong. Guilt is an unseen and undetectable feeling from the outside but it weighs down the feelings and spirits of the person who is carrying it. It is not always possible to find a logical explanation to its antecedents.
Nevertheless, the consequences of bearing guilt in the mind make it an essential area to work upon if we wish to liberate and elevate our inner self.
Here are a few things that would be useful:
- Find the reason
If you are sensing a general feeling of guilt, and want to come out, first you need to go deeper into it. Find the real reason. Till then, there can be no way you can rescue yourself. If you find yourself completely lost, confide in a good friend. He could help you to identify the reason.
- Do not look for instant gains
When we take a short-cut for an instant gain, little do we realize that the pleasure will evaporate in a short while. It would be replaced by guilt. One sure way to keep guilt out of our mind is to resist the temptation of taking the easy route as it rarely makes us a better person.
- Look for the pattern
There is nothing more common than the never-ending cycle of ‘doing something- feeling guilty – and then do it again’! Look for the circumstances which allure you to do something for which you will feel guilty afterwards. Think of what you can do to not find yourself in those circumstances. For instance, if speaking rudely in anger makes you feel guilty afterwards; the best thing to do is not speak when angry.
- Break the pattern
By resisting only once you can break the pattern. Though that may test your endurance, it would be worth the effort to try it. You would experience the lightness of having no guilt. This feeling would be very uplifting and motivating. Each time you are faced with a dilemma, resolving would be easy as you can remind yourself of this one time when you were able to go against the urge which otherwise is more powerful.
- It is not a bad thing
The reason you feel guilty is not because you are ‘bad’, but because you are a good person who might have done something not so good. Let it not depress your soul, but rather tell you that there is goodness in your heart and all you need to do is control a few impulses.
Forgive yourself. As humans we can make mistakes. It would be arrogant to expect ourselves to be doing the right things always. It is easier said than done. Hence even before seeking forgiveness from others whom you think you may have hurt, first, forgive yourself.
- Make positive choices
Every morning we get a new day to do better than yesterday, and make a better choice. Our life, our joys and feelings will be a consequence of these choices. Make positive choices, consciously. Live positively.
- Leave the past in the past
In addition to a feeling, guilt is a memory – one that is not pleasant and positive. If you learnt the lesson and committed yourself to never repeat the mistake, guilt should have no place. Leave it in the past.
The following is a very famous Zen story which teaches us a valuable lesson that would give us a perspective on handling guilt:
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk across because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.
In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman?”
The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.
Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside?”
The elder monk smiled at him and told him “I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”
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