This post is not about slamming doors, but about guilt carrying. If you still feel guilty about long ago stuff, you are not alone. I am with you. I am a guilt carrier and poorly handled guilt erodes emotional health what others call emotional intelligence.
The guilt I carry forward about the few doors I have slammed serves as a good example of useless or inappropriate guilt carrying. I can count on the fingers of both hands the people I have shut the doors on. Most were men who had me on a pedestal, and who I dated briefly only to reject. They may not even remember me, but my guilt lingers. If I think of people I have hurt, they are among those who come to mind, but it is an inappropriate guilt.
This study relates Guilt to depression
Here’s the quote that sort of defines me, “The people who had previously been depressed were less able to coordinate brain regions to become indignant when they were wronged.”
I have not been diagnosed with depression, but the black pit has held me prisoner several times during my life. However, the article made me wonder more about blaming and accepting blame when blamed. Blamers create guilt carriers and guilt carriers seem to find blamers.
STAYING STRONG TIPS
There is a bit of a joke in my giving you tips about letting go of guilt when in a blaming/guilt dance, for I haven’t mastered letting go of guilt: I follow the lead of the blamers in my life very well. Still some things help me gain some control, so I won’t let my guilt stop me from spewing out the tips. Here they are:
- Accept your imperfections are part of the hand you have been dealt. You play the cards as best you can, but your genetic make-up, your life experiences, and the voices of authority that surround you play their part. These were things you didn’t and don’t control, so some of your guilt is misplaced.
- Recognize guilt is signal that your are violating your moral code.
- Realize guilt carriers often have an overly rigid moral code. Sometimes that is part of a brain that signals “take care” if things aren’t “Just right.” Sometimes it is being raised in a religion that fosters excessive guilt. Sometimes it is living with at least one powerful blamer. My parents were not blamers, but my mother’s mother was. Moreover, my mother’s family were what the AA people call a bunch of drunks. My mother was not, but she was the one always trying to rescue and them being yelled at because you can’t rescue drunks.
- Do a moral code reality check. Kindness is the basis of my moral code. In fact, it is the essence of most of the world’s teachings about being a good person. Mainly, I go astray by expecting I can always be kind.
- A rating scale helps me beat back guilt. I rate guilt on a kindness versus cruel scale. Five is physically harming someone on purpose; four is physically harming someone without intent; three is hurting someone emotionally on purpose, two is hurting someone emotionally without intent, and one would be doing no harm. Clearly, my rejection of the wannabe suitors was a two.
- If there is reason to feel guilt, you need to stop the offending behavior and make an amends.
- By dating my suitors, I was leading them on and that was cruel. My rejection stopped the behavior. Moreover, the hurt was fairly low level. .
- If you stop the behavior, particularly if the hurt is at a low-level, and the guilt goes on, the problem is in you. My guilt is my problem. Three strategies help:
- One: Distraction. It works with kids and it will work for guilt carriers. Instead of thinking about what makes me guilty; I think about something pleasant.
- Two: Speaking against the guilt. Calming self-talk is a useful skill to develop for all negative feelings. The stronger the negative feeling, the more assertive your calming self talk needs to be and the more you need to practice it regularly.
- Three strengthening forgiveness skills. Review the 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises and pay particular attention to the Forgiveness Exercise
As I pointed out in the beginning, I haven’t mastered letting go of my guilt, but I get better at it each day and that is good enough.
If you know someone who will feel supported by finding this post in their mailbox, share it. Three people will benefit. The person you shared it with, me, and you. Kindness circles back. Thank you.
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