Guilt permeates through us, holds us down, grasps our neck. It is a heavy weight in the pit of our stomach, pulling us through life. Feet scuffing along as we traipse through slush and mud, where it’s all dark and the night is cold. Guilt keeps us hidden and afraid to speak out and speak up. It holds us in its hands, waiting for its chance to have us in its hold once and for all. It results in us moving slowly, slothfully, and always questioning our every move. At no point does it step aside to let us past, instead it holds out its hands and pushes us back towards where we came.
Guilt reminds us over and over again that we did something wrong. It points its finger in our face accusingly and says ‘You did it!’ ‘You are responsible’. And away we scamper into the dark. Away from its overbearing shadow.
‘We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against our values and find they don’t match up’ Brené Brown (Daring Greatly).
But what if this feeling of guilt is so deeply ingrained in our mind and body that we feel guilty for everything, all the time? If this is you, you’ll notice yourself blaming yourself for everything.
‘Why did I do that?’
‘It’s my fault’
‘It’s my responsibility’
‘I’ve done something wrong’. Now how am I going to fix it?’
However, when this occurs you end up taking the blame for every single thing in life until all of a sudden you are responsible for life itself. Not only this, you will notice that from this place you start apologising for things you haven’t even done in an effort to alleviate the guilt, when all this results in is a deep resentment towards those you’ve apologised to once you realise you haven’t actually done anything wrong. And so the cycle goes on.
In this case, guilt is so deeply ingrained in your consciousness that it is a habit; you do it without even knowing you’re doing it. Joe Dispenza talks about this in ‘Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself’ when he says
‘Every time you think a guilty thought, you’ve signalled your body to produce the specific chemicals that make up the feeling of guilt. You’ve done this so often that your cells are swimming in a sea of guilt chemicals.’
While you don’t want to be walking through life plagued with ongoing guilt, it has become something you feel unconsciously and your body perceives it as being pleasurable, on some minor level, familiar, and normal.
Dispenza notes that when this occurs our cells have, in fact, become desensitized to the feeling of guilt and over time they need a stronger and stronger hit of guilt to get the same effect.
It may of course be that you are very aware of this pattern and you’ve said to yourself on more than one occasion ‘Today, I won’t feel guilty.’ Unfortunately, the body is so programmed to feel guilt it slips back into the old habitual ways without you even knowing it.
Here are 5 Steps to Help you Let Go of Guilt for Good
1. Be curious about guilt
Firstly, it is important to ask yourself what guilt means to you. Be curious about guilt.
Where do you feel it in the body?
What are you telling yourself?
What are some of the stories you have about guilt?
Notice where it has come from. There might be very early experiences in your life that you continue to bring up in your current reality. If this is the case it is important to acknowledge these moments and to recognise that they are in your past. Feel the feelings that come up in your body, recognise them and be open to letting them go (for more on letting go read here).
2. What do you want to feel instead?
Next, ask yourself this ‘if I wasn’t feeling guilty, what would I be feeling instead?’
There are a whole range of emotions and feelings that you can choose from to embody and practice.
When contemplating this you might come up with emotions such as trust, worthiness, self-compassion, acceptance, love, calm and so on. On a day to day basis, how do you want to be feeling?
3. Embody your new state of being
Sit quietly for a few minutes every morning and practice embodying your new states. It may be a feeling that you are not used to. Visualise what it could feel like to be in this state. Imagine what you would be doing. Notice the things you see around you as you close your eyes.
Ask yourself ‘What does a [insert state here] person do?’ and mentally list all the things that would be possible when in that state. Feel the feelings associated with it and if you have to imagine someone you know who seems to experience this, take yourself into their body right now and be that person. Do everything in your mind to imagine, visualise, and thus, be that new state of being.
4. I am …
Repeat the phrases ‘I am [insert state here]’ over and over in your mind.
‘I am are two of the most powerful words. For what you put after them shapes your reality.’ Dr. Wayne Dyer (The power of I am)
Whatever you choose to tell yourself you will become. Language and mindset are powerful. If you have the power to tell yourself that you are not good enough or that you are guilty, you also have the power to tell yourself the opposite. If you choose to focus on what you do have you are more inclined to move towards this on an unconscious level and to bring more of that into your life.
5. Manifest a new state
Doing these steps each day will strengthen your mind and body connection and in doing so you are learning to manifest a state of being that was initially probably quite foreign to you. Over time, when you notice your old pattern coming into play, pause and come back to your new state. If you have been practicing it daily, over time the neural pathway in your mind will strengthen and realign to form a new thought pattern and, consequently, behaviour. You have now created a new reality.
The beauty of this technique is that you can do this with any emotion, learning new ways of being that aren’t reliant on your external environment.
Let me know in the comments below if guilt is something you relate to and commit to giving this a try. My experience with clients is that every person experiences guilt in some capacity, it’s just how we relate to it that matters.