Positive Guilt

No matter how beneficial, the emotion of guilt is uncomfortable.

For instance, when you’ve done something you wish you hadn’t or said something you wish you didn’t or when you didn’t do or say something you wish you had. The feeling of guilt rises within and it’s everything you can do to stay in your body.

It’s that feeling in your chest, throat or heart, the inability to focus on anything except what happened, the endless looping of the event and how you wish you would have handled it differently—been less reactive or more compassionate.

In some ways, guilt keeps you true to yourself, in line with your personal moral code. It lets you know when you’ve veered off-track from how you want to show up in the world.

However, guilt can be tricky.

There’s a side to guilt that isn’t often openly discussed but is vital for you to recognize when you’re making positive changes in your life.

Breaking old patterns, putting boundaries in place and deciding to take care of yourself in a new way can also generate feelings of guilt. For instance, when you stop taking responsibility for other people’s behavior, you start to recognize your worth and autonomy.

As important as it is to rest, rejuvenate, care and take time for yourself if you’re used to placing all of your attention on others, it’s pretty much a guarantee you will feel guilty when you start to make changes.

Those feelings can trick you into believing you’re doing something wrong. But you’re not. You’re building a muscle – the muscle of listening to yourself, choosing connection based on authenticity instead of attachment out of fear of abandonment. Powerful stuff.

And the good news is, every time you break a pattern and take a different action that supports your well-being, that muscle gets a little bit stronger. And then stronger again. You see that while you’re uncomfortable, you don’t die. Soon, you hear a different voice from within, and it feels good.

When you take care of others’ needs instead of your own or don’t allow the powerful voice inside you to emerge, it’s easy to feel resentment. When you allow your authentic feelings and thoughts to be heard, you can feel guilt. I heard it from Gabor Mate, who heard it from a therapist. “When there’s a choice between resentment and guilt, choose guilt. Resentment is soul suicide.” I’ll add that guilt is a guidepost.

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