“Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn’t enough and you have to go and get shot or something.” John Lennon

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 – Wikipedia

A spiritual teacher once told me that guilt is a society induced emotion that keeps every one in line. It is a way of molding behaviour to fit in with a particular social norm. We need rules to function as a collective, it is how the system that we function within on earth works, and in most cases it works well. Do we need excessive guilt though?

Have you ever thought about how and why you do or do not do things?

What regulates your behaviour?

Why are you not …..?

Anarchy or Empowerment?

The observation that I would like to encourage today is not an exercise in anarchy, but rather an exercise in self empowerment. All of us know what is right and what is wrong, so do you need to feel guilty about X, Y and Z?

I remember having a revelation as a child. I dropped and broke on of my mothers best crystal glasses. My friend quickly invented a story to say that the dog bumped me and I dropped the glass. This sounded great as responsibility was shifting away from me and landing squarely on the dog! I spent the rest of the afternoon playing, but feeling apprehensive and guilty. By the time my mom got home from work, I blurted out that I had dropped the glass and broken it by accident! The relief was immense!

I was confused that I had told the truth and put myself in the way of a potential hiding, yet felt relieved! I spoke to my mom about it and she said that I had told the truth, so need not fear reprisal or feel guilt.

Reducing Guilt

By reducing our guilt, we can reduce our frustration, our anger and our depression, BUT, that reduction comes with a price. I propose that the more personal responsibility we exercise, the less guilt we should need to experience.

Personal responsibility presumes that you are able to be accountable for your actions. You can not blame another, or defer that responsibility to the collective as and when you see fit!

In a similar vein, this week observe your feelings of guilt.

Where do they come from?

What purpose do they serve?

If you are honest with yourself, do you still need these feelings of guilt?

How would your life be if you took greater personal responsibility?

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Craig Cox is a stress management consultant. He is the owner of Woad Stress management CC and lectures to corporate clients and individuals. Craig is passionate about helping people in business and enhancing their personal lives.

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