Last month I found myself guilty of doing something I often challenge my clients against – I assumed guilt when it wasn’t appropriate. I must laugh finding myself guilty of this mind trap!
Guilt is an emotional response to an action, committed by our Self/hands, that directly causes a problem, a negative disruption, or offensive.
The day I accidentally knocked into my son’s puzzle and it disassembled onto the ground, guilt was appropriate. I messed up. I felt badly. I gave a proper apology and offered to pick up the pieces. Guilt served its purpose and we moved on.
But the day before leaving for a trip, I found myself apologizing, in advance, to my son for going on a brief trip. I assumed guilt about having planned a self-care trip that took me away for two days. Even though he is of age to be alone, and I stocked the fridge with food and supported some dog care tasks, I assumed guilt – implying this action was wrong and causing harm.
I’m grateful he checked me into proper place when he said,
“It’s all good. I’m good. I’m closing the door now, on your guilt.”
We tend to assume guilt, inappropriately, about things such as saying “no” to an invitation, seeing our kids unhappy, or planning something for ourselves. And it’s not only incorrect, but a poor choice for our wellbeing.
Perhaps in these situations, we are improperly labeling the discomfort. Perhaps we’re worried that someone will feel disappointed if we say “no,” or feeling helpless about seeing our kiddo unwell, or uncomfortable prioritizing ourselves.
Further, mislabeling of guilt has consequences. Understand that assuming guilt unnecessarily builds bad body chemistry and poor tendencies.
Let me give you an example:
I’m going to ask you to bring to mind the word, “lemon.” Now, begin to ponder characteristics of a lemon: the color, the dimples in the rind. Imagine cutting this lemon in half and experiencing the citrus smell. Envision squeezing the lemon into a glass to taste its sourness.
Okay, so we’ve just been thinking about a lemon, BUT, do you notice your salivary glands activating imagining the sour taste and citrus smell? If so, you’re experiencing a biochemical reaction to just a word. Let me repeat: you are experiencing a biochemical reaction to a word, that creates an image, that creates a cascade of emotions and biological markers. This is why the appropriate labeling of emotions is important.
Appropriate labeling of emotions is essential. Emotions cause a barrage of chemicals in the body. Guilt floods the system with cortisol, a stress hormone. This experience of stress then becomes wired with actions that are completely appropriate such as saying “no” to an invitation or planning a trip for yourself. This emotional conditioning that triggers a stress response will make it harder to do this appropriate task in the future.
All this to say, inappropriately assuming guilt will never bring relief. In fact, it will wire stress into appropriate tasks.
So, next time you observe guilt do the following:
Reflect on if the guilt is appropriate – is there something that occurred by your actions that caused a disruption?
a. If yes, give a proper apology and attempt to fix the situation.
If no, get clear about the underlying emotion.
a. If fear is at play – find a plan of action; engage in calming endeavors.
b. If sadness is manifesting – consider any mental illusion; seek sweetness, comfort, and love.
c. If anger is present – question the appropriateness of the unfulfilled expectation; cool the body; induce calm; seek joy and wonder.
Let go of the inappropriate guilt.
And if the struggle persists, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have someone assist in correcting the mind by literally closing the door on your inappropriate guilt.