Guilt Processing Machine
My wife has had a project and a half on during recent weeks. She has designed and created a new kitchen for our home which has just been completed. It is a very old fashioned style which we both love and I really do like our new kitchen, I must say.
We have a fancy new washing machine too. it is virtually silent. It is amazing that we can pile the washing into it, set it off to do its work and it cannot be heard, even if you are in the same room. marvellous stuff!
Why oh why am I showcasing my washing machine today?
Allow me to digress a teeny bit first and all will become clear.
Many of my clients come to see me because they cannot let go of guilt and it really is what I would describe as a destructive emotion… To use a term coined by the Dalai Lama himself…
Guilt is described by many schools of thought as a pervasive, destructive feeling of having to meet a high expectation or standard. What’s more, guilt is a mechanism that when running riot, controls a person’s behaviour! It starts to dictate things! It comes from the conscience, which defines the difference between right and wrong.
I know I mention it fairly often, but I was raised on the Sci-Fi comedy TV series Red Dwarf and the ship’s droid (named Kryten) in the series, has his ‘guilt chip’ removed for one episode and he behaved in hilarious ways when he was totally guilt-free! Can you imagine how you’d behave if you never ever felt guilty and knew you’d never feel guilty?
Many people learn to acknowledge their feelings, and learn what I’ll call ‘appropriate guilt.’ I cannot believe that I have such a phrase written here. By appropriate guilt, I am talking about a level whereby it is functioning to our benefit. It could also be seen as other appropriate behaviours and could be renamed – sense of right and wrong, correct expectation etc, etc.
I have worked with many people from very orthodox religious backgrounds and they have felt guilt from doing all manner of things that most of us take for granted as a daily activity, though I hasten to add that this is not true of all religions and all people… Please do not email me complaining that I referred to religion as guilt-inducing… I can remember being sat in midnight mass one Christmas as a youngster feeling really bad about my ‘original sin’ I was told I had!
I work with many people that have an extreme sense of guilt. Let me tell you about it… Debilitating guilt is usually caused by prolonged moral anxiety that is a vicious cycle. The guilt cycle starts with shame, which turns into anger. The anger creates anxiety, which brings in more guilt. This endless cycle establishes negative self-accusation, self-loathing, and unhappiness. In debilitating guilt there is no relief, even through punishment, making amends, self- punishment, or self-deprivation. Debilitating guilt is expressed in the mind, the body, and through actions. The mind reacts to guilt with negative self-talk and negative emotions such as sadness, disappointment, or anxiety. The body manifests debilitating guilt by showing symptoms of stress and fatigue. The stress and fatigue result in headaches, nervous disorders, and illness. Am I painting a worrying enough picture for you?
Most people’s usual actions or responses stemming from this debilitating guilt can include avoiding the guilt, overcompensating for the guilt, or losing control altogether… Agghh.
By changing the approach to guilt using self-respect, forgiveness, kindness, and love, guilt can be placed in its proper perspective… Imagine taking the feelings and thoughts and emotions and perspectives and chucking them into a washing machine, letting them tumble around, be cleaned and thoroughly scrubbed… Then when taken out, a new perspective is aroused and developed… You’re seeing the relevance of my earlier washing machine link now, aren’t you? I know, I know, what a tenuous link…
And that is what I am sharing with you here. A way to process and let go of unwanted guilt!