I just don’t understand why I feel so guilty!
When was the last time you felt confused over your own guilty feelings?
When was the last time you were overwhelmed with guilt even though you were just trying to do the right thing for yourself or someone you love?
The truth is guilt is an emotional full body experience that nearly every human being can relate to. I say nearly because I’ve met a few people who wouldn’t even know how to spell the word much less feel guilty.
But when you have an alcoholic mother who you’re trying to help get sober, or a younger sibling you’re trying to protect from an alcoholic parent or a sibling with a terrifying drug habit that you’re trying to protect yourself from – guilt can show up and cause you to second guess your best and most loving intentions.
In response we’re left asking why. Why do I feel so damn guilty when I was only trying to do the right thing?
To be totally honest with you, I’ve never had much luck answering why but after some research I’ve discovered a science supported strategy to help work through guilt – especially if you feel you’ve done someone wrong or hurt someone with a decision you’ve made or boundary you’ve set.
As David A. Bednar once said,
Guilt is to the spirit what pain is to the body.
And the more we know about how to deal with it the better.
After you’re done reading, I’d love to hear from you.
In the comment section, tell me something you feel guilty for. It can be about anything. And then after you share, complete this phrase – I am willing to forgive myself for______.
It may feel awkward to practice this exercise, especially if you’re a pro at beating yourself up, but every big change begins with the smallest steps. And this is your chance to take that first teeny, tiny step right now.
Remember your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
Thank you for all you bring to this community each and every week.
Until Next Tuesday,
Here’s The Low Down
According to research published by the National Center For Biotechnology Information, the practice of self-forgiveness helps decrease feelings of guilt over time.
Here’s What The Study Looked Like
Ph.D researchers: Michael Scherer, Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Joshua N. Hook and Kathryn L. Campana studied the impact that a self-forgiveness intervention would have on easing guilt of a sample of people going through routine treatment for alcoholism.
Just so you know, this study focused on several other factors but for our purposes we’re going to zero in on the guilt findings. For more on the overall study, click here.
The participants were split into two groups. One group continued with treatment as usual while the other group was assigned a four-hour self-forgiveness intervention that took place over three consecutive weeks.
Here’s What The Study Revealed
The self-forgiveness intervention group when compared to the treatment as usual group, reported reduced feelings of guilt over time.
And not only that but participants in the self-forgiveness intervention group also reported that feeling less guilt helped reduce the urge to drink, when drinking was used as a coping mechanism.
What Does This Mean For You?
In my experience, guilt never shows up to a party alone. In addition to the heavy feeling, there’s also quite a bit of verbal self-flagellation that happens.
For example, when I stray from my usual diet and indulge in a fat piece of peanut butter chocolate cake (like I did just a few days ago) I feel so guilty about it that I beat myself up for it for hours and hours.
And this of course only keeps that guilty feeling alive. But with self-forgiveness, according to the study we just discussed, that guilty feeling I struggle with may grow less intense over time.
Here’s How To Put This Idea Into Action
The only way to know if a self-forgiveness practice will work for you is to give the idea a try.
The next time you feel guilty about something you said or did, instead of beating yourself up over it, try self-forgiveness. Replace that nasty self-talk by completing a statement like – I am willing to forgive myself for_________________.
And if you find that you are truly struggling with the idea of self-forgiveness in the face of intense guilty feelings, think about how you would console a best friend or someone you really care about if they came to you struggling with the same issue. What would you say to them? What would you say to help give them a new perspective? Or if you can’t think of someone, think about a pet you have. Next, see what happens when you extend that same kindness and care to yourself.
I know this is so much easier said than done but it won’t get any easier if you never try.
And remember, this isn’t something that you can try just once. Change will happen over a period of time with consistent effort.
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