Dealing with Guilt, part 2
| March 4, 2020 6:19 PM
Last week I wrote how guilt can affect your life. This week I will discuss how to manage guilt.
How do I overcome guilt?
The ways to overcome guilt are as numerous as the individuals who feel guilty.
You first may want to consider the help of a therapist. The act of discussing your feelings out loud may be an important step towards self-forgiveness.
When you share your “wrongdoing” with another person, you will see that what you did (or thought or felt) was not so horrible. Just make sure you trust the person with whom you are sharing.
You may find you need to work on other issues before you are able to forgive yourself. If your self esteem is low, you may want to work on that before you believe you are worthy of forgiveness.
If you are depressed you need to seek proper treatment. Perfectionism and the need to be in control may be major blocks in trying to overcome guilt, so you may have to learn to let go of these tendencies first.
You may not know why you are feeling guilty. Journaling may be a useful tool in the process. Once you have found the cause, consider why you cannot forgive yourself.
What will it take to forgive yourself? Does feeling guilty serve a purpose for you?
Ultimately, you will learn making mistakes is an important part of life. Mistakes are tools for learning.
When you think about the cause of your guilt, consider what you have learned from it. If you feel you haven’t learned anything, what can you learn now? If someone else made the same mistake, what would you tell them?
James and Constance Messina suggest the following techniques:
- Recognize the role guilt is playing in your life by choosing a current problem. What did I do to make this problem worse for myself? How much guilt do I feel abut this problem? How much does the guilt I experience exaggerate or exacerbate my problem?
- Redefine your problem with the absence of guilt as an issue. How insurmountable is the problem?
Does this problem have more than one solution? Can others and myself experience satisfaction, comfort and resolution with a minimum of debilitating guilt?
Is it my problem or another(s)? Am I taking on another’s responsibility? If the problem is really someone else’s, give the problem back to the person to solve and deal with.
- What fears are blocking me at this moment from taking the steps I need for resolution? What are the irrational beliefs behind these fears? Refute the irrational beliefs written in last week’s article.
Initiate a program of self-affirmation.
Affirm for yourself that:
- You deserve to solve this problem.
- You deserve to be good to yourself.
- You deserve to have others be good to you, too!
Use an imagery scenario with “guilt” as an object you packaged in a nice box. It is brought to a mountain top and thrown off a cliff for good.
You probably will not overcome guilt in a day. If you have a tendency towards guilt, imagine your life without guilt.
Imagine how you’d feel about yourself if you didn’t regret your mistakes. Practice letting go. Practice acceptance.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist practicing in Thompson Falls.