For the month of May, it has been my goal to tackle the topics of some of the most difficult emotions that we face. I thought it would be easier than it has been. Quite honestly, I’ve had to dig for the “best of the worst”, so to speak.
It’s true that I could just pick one emotion per week to carry me for years in terms of mining for content. But what fun would that be? It would get old quickly. For me and for you.
It would be too easy.
I’ve had to consider what’s hardest, or what feels very damn difficult…okay, the most suffocating of all emotions I can think of and a place that I’ve spent way too much time.
Guilt, remorse, regret for all of the bad things I’ve said or done.
Of course, there are all of the things I wish I had said or done layered on top.
And as I challenge myself to grow as a coach as and a better human; as I challenge others to do to the work, I find it hard to identify the usefulness of this particular emotion.
What good is it, really? Beyond proving that you’re not a psychopath because you feel remorse for your actions that may or may not have been as offensive as you perceive…what’s the freaking purpose of carrying that weight?
After all, that’s what we do with guilt, don’t we? Beat the shit out of ourselves with it.
Or we might even try to manipulate others into feeling guilt which is projecting another shitty emotion onto someone else. Why?
I’m not sure, exactly. I didn’t want to research this topic. Instead, I simply wanted to draw on my own experiences and values and present this to you to ponder along with me.
What’s the point of it?
Certainly it originates from the values we were taught as children. If there is/was influence from a church, that’s an added bonus that comes with assurances that you will feel bad for what you’ve done. There may even be doctrines that define just how bad you should feel. For example, Catholics have confession for just this occasion. Go sit with your priest and tell him all of the bad shit and then you’ll be absolved with a prescription for the number of Hail Marys you should recite.
Yes, being Catholic was something I dabbled in for a minute when I was in my twenties. I didn’t find it appealing, to be honest, but I don’t regret giving it a whirl.
I lump regret in with guilt because for me personally, I feel they are closely tied. We regret the things we did/didn’t do or say because we feel guilty about some part of it.
Where I struggle is with the spirit of allowing all emotions to be. To feel them all the way through. To acknowledge them, to feel the physical sensations that accompany them so that you can release them, be free of them, and move on about the business of living your precious life.
Because there is no heavier weight for me than the one of guilt, perhaps some part of me feels as if I deserve to carry it around for a very long time.
Almost like my own personal penance.
Yet I also believe that it isn’t useful to carry that weight. What does it accomplish?
Especially if you are in the habit of numbing or distracting from the painful parts of life, hanging on to a dead weight does nothing but keep you in the depths of your cycle.
Think about it: “I deserve to feel shitty because I’ve done shitty things, yet I hate this feeling, so yet me find a way to numb it. ”
Yeah, that’s not useful at all.
I really and truly am coming to understand that this one in particular is an emotion that we need to face head on, deal with it right away, do whatever we feel we need to do (apologize, offer amends), and then let that shit go. Don’t give those thoughts another minute of your time.
Ultimately, you did what you did and you said what you said. You are a human. You make mistakes. That is exactly what you can tell yourself, too. When those thoughts creep back into your head (I wish I hadn’t…) and they will, you say:
I hear you. Okay, so I made a bad decision in the moment. I took this action. I don’t feel great about having done it, but what the hell good will it do me to continue to dwell on it??
I’m not exaggerating when I say some of us have carried our burdens for years.
There is no upside to your self-inflicted penance. Zero. Zilch.
I don’t care if it happened last year, last week, or in the last hour.
Sit down. Write about it if you have to, and offer yourself love, compassion, and forgiveness for having made a mistake. Do this first. You can’t offer these things to anyone else until you can do it for yourself.
You are 100% worthy of giving yourself the gift of letting go of the errors of your past. After all, failures and mistakes are simply life lessons.
You can even (I know it will feel like a stretch, but try it sometime) feel gratitude for having had the lesson. We don’t often repeat our mistakes, but sometimes it takes more than one attempt to master something new.
As Michael A. Singer writes in The Untethered Soul:
Do not doubt your ability to remove the root cause of the disturbance inside of you. It really can go away. You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life. You want to be free of this.
You are not the pain you feel…
You are human.
You are worthy.
Now, let that shit go.
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