The Guilt Trap

I love my life! This week I had a conversation about guilt on more than one occasion. It has been a long time since I have had this conversation.  I can remember many times in my past that I had been guilt ridden. In fact, there was so much guilt it was like I was caught in a trap! How about you? Do you find yourself in the “ guilt trap” ?

So what is guilt?

“Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation.[1] It is closely related to the concept of remorse.” ( Wickipedia)

Note guilt is a cognitive or emotional experience.  That means that thinking is a big part of it and where do we have more control in our total behavior? Our control is in our thinking and acting.  You see, in my past, I had a ton of limiting beliefs that I inherited from adults in my life and imposing guilt was a behavior used in an attempt to control me.

Guilt is one of those emotions that we can easily use to express that we are feeling sorry for a behavior we chose without having to say I’m sorry.

“Very simply, guilt can be defined as the feeling of self-condemnation that we experience after we do something we think is wrong.”

                                                                              Jerry Jampolsky MD

For what purpose does it serve us to self-condemn? Does this derail our self-esteem, self-worth and confidence?

There are a couple of areas I think about here. If you have done something that goes against what you value, you have violated one of your own quality world pictures and you are responsible for that. But what if you have done something that violates another’s value or belief. There are some things to think about. Do you agree with that belief? Is it you belief or does it belong to someone else.

None of this matters really. If you are choosing guilt, it may be that you are trying to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do and you are doing it mainly to please someone else. This is external control again.

Think about it. If you feel remorse for a behavior you have chosen why not admit you were in the wrong. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness and move on. It sounds simple but remember the alternative is to remain stuck.

Guilt is a wasted emotion designed to keep us stuck!

We have a choice!

Maureen has been teaching this ideas for over 35 years. She is a Senior Faculty Member with William Glasser International, A Licensed Counselling Therapist and Certified Personal and Executive Coach.