I am sitting in this cafe about to drink my cappuccino and eat my muffin, but right now there are so many other things that I should be doing.
Instead of writing this post, I should be working on setting up my business for next year, or working on the house, or spending quality time with the kids, or walking on the beach with my wife. In fact, the more I think about it, the more the list seems to grow.
If you feel guilty over things you should be doing or things you have done in the past, it is effectively denying yourself the happiness of the present because of past mistakes.
If you are not the sort of person that would constantly bring up old mistakes of a friend and haunt them with it, then I ask you, why is is ok to do the same to yourself?
I recognise that so far I am really talking about very low level guilt.
This cappuccino is now finished and time has been exhausted which I can never get back however I have been able to get a few words onto the screen and can allow myself to at least feel good about that. In a few hours when my world has moved on I won’t even remember the exchange.
I am going to call this the 6 pound guilt for the simple reason that it seems to be about the amount of weight a person could get rid of themselves if they really wanted to. In the same way we will try and remove this weight in guilt.
The 15 Pound guilt is a different story though. This is the weight that takes months and maybe even a personal trainer (counsellor) to remove. These guilt issues can last for years and can be caused by major underlying personal issues which may have existed as far back as your childhood.
You may feel this type of guilt if you feel that you have not lived up to your parents expectations or your religion uses guilt as a form of moral compass.
If your happiness is constantly being raided and plundered by this heavy guilt this post may help, but professional help may also be required.
But guilt is necessary
Guilt played an important part in our evolution and still does in our development as children.
It taught us that we should work together because our chances or survival are much better as a group rather than alone in the world. So, we built towns to keep us safe and farmed to keep us all fed. It we had all been completely selfish then we would still be scavenging for food and shelter.
Guilt teaches a child that they should not hurt the other children because they would have no one left to play with if they upset all their friends. It also helps them to grow up to be better members of society.
How to deal with guilt
There is a simple model that may assist you in dealing with day to day ‘Present Guilt’ or ‘Historical Guilt’ built over many years
Below is an overview and some examples of these models
Present Guilt Coping Model
I am doing this because …
Instead of …
Because in the long run …
In my situation I am writing this post, instead of all the chores I could be doing because I want to solidify my thoughts, build a knowledge base that I can share with my subscribers, friends and family and because it simply makes me happy to write.
Another example may be
I am scolding my child because they should not have taken the sweets without asking for it and I can teach them a life lesson from this. Instead I could have said nothing. However by doing this I am teaching them that they can not simply take what they want in life without consequences.
Past Guilt Coping Model
I did/said that because…
Instead I wish I
I can’t allow myself to feel bad about this forever
I got angry with my brother and said things I shouldn’t last Christmas because I didn’t feel like he was taking me seriously. Instead I wish I would have taken a moment to calmly talk to him and understand why he was making fun of me. I will make a point to apologies because I can’t allow myself to feel bad about this forever.
Another example may be
I am working in this job because it is the line of work that I am drawn to and am good at. I wish that I could be a doctor like my parent had intended for me however it is simply not what would make me happy. I hope that one day they will accept that because I can’t allow myself to feel bad about this forever.
So Happy Guilt-Free New Year
So if you are contemplating allowing yourself just a little more happiness this year but are worried about all the things you should be doing instead, cut yourself a break, open your mind and enjoy.
Remember you only live once so why live with guilt.
Happiness is a much better choice.