Guilt: What Is It and How Do You Get Rid of It?

For years and years, my Mom has had a saying that she shares at appropriate moments: “No guilt!” 

But what is guilt, anyway? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

I looked to Wikipedia, and the definition of guilt there says: “Guilt is a moral emotion that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that they have compromised their own standards of conduct or have violated universal moral standards and bear significant responsibility for that violation.”

That could be a good thing. In its proper context, guilt can alert us when we’ve relaxed our standards in a way that doesn’t line up with our own ideals.

But what about when we get enmeshed in guilt, in an unhealthy way? In my experience, guilt comes up when I haven’t done something that I didn’t really want to do anyway.

In the context of the Law of Attraction, unpleasant emotions point to places where we’re out of alignment with our higher self, the wiser part of us that resides primarily in the non-physical. In this sense, maybe it simply wasn’t in my best interest to do whatever the thing was, and guilt illustrates that plainly.

One friend of mine says that guilt was used by her family as essentially a form of emotional blackmail. Her parents manipulated her to do what they wanted by imposing feelings of guilt on her, which makes her especially sensitive to it to this day.

I feel like guilt is entwined with a lack of self-worth. If we’re doubting our own ability to know what’s best for us, we become much more susceptible to what others want us to do.

This explains why guilt is often associated with patriarchal, dogmatic religions. The dogma tells us how we “should” behave. When our own intuition leads us in a different direction, we feel guilty about following our desires. In that context, guilt is meant to stop us in our tracks. It keeps us from following our bliss.

How do you rid yourself of unhealthy guilt? One of the ways I’ve done this is to get really clear about my own values, desires, and priorities. Establishing boundaries is also key.

Over time, I’ve focused on releasing things in my life that feel like obligations. For me, it’s especially potent around volunteering and helping others. When I know that I’m being of service in ways that use my gifts and feel good to me, it’s easier to say no to the invitations or requests that don’t light me up.

The other thing that has helped is cultivating love and trust for myself. When I feel solidly connected to my higher self, I can relax and trust that I will know the best course of action. When someone else tries to tell me what I “should” be doing, I can listen and then feel into it. If it doesn’t resonate, then I have an easier time letting it go, without feelings of guilt.

My Mom’s “no guilt!” reminder has helped me remember that I have my own access to inner wisdom. Rather than doing things because I feel guilty if I don’t, or repressing the guilt, I can see it for what it is and release it. This has helped me to thrive, and to give back to the community more consistently.

Guilt is an emotion, and can be processed and let go just like sorrow or anger. Clinging to guilt, and letting it grow into shame and self-criticism, is a waste of your time. 

Unhealthy guilt keeps you feeling – and playing – small. It takes you away from following your callings and sharing your gifts. That’s what the world really needs from you.

What’s your experience with unhealthy guilt? Is it something that you’re ready to release? How will you do so?

Tell me what you think!

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