Transformational Talk ... a column by Penelope Young Andrade
Do You Know How Beneficial it is to Feel Guilty?
October 02, 2017 -Penelope Y. Andrade
Do you know how beneficial it is to feel guilty? Like most, you’ve probably struggled plenty with guilt…but it’s been toxic guilt! That’s when you feel guilty for healthy behaviors (like sexual feelings/ fantasies, masturbating, feeling sad/mad/scared, having needs, saying no, etc.) There’s no value in that.
Beneficial guilt is when you’ve behaved in ways that don’t reflect your core values – when you’ve let yourself or others down for real…and you feel bad/uncomfortable/squirmy. The challenge is to allow remorseful guilt for shortcomings without collapsing into self-hate or self-punishment.
Here’s the tip: First, see how willing and able you are to forgive yourself…for anything. Check whether your expectations for yourself are realistic and humane. This is crucial. You cannot benefit from healthy guilt if noticing true failings leads to imagining yourself at the gates of Hell. If you are not able to be merciful to yourself, consider getting professional help… from a counselor/pastor/therapist.
Once you can treat yourself as tenderly as you would a friend or loved one, you are ready to feel how guilt lands, moves, and leaves your body. Safely held by self-compassion, you can now feel the pressure in your torso as guilt grabs your attention. Breathe into that tight band around your chest. Remember, as with any embodied experience, this discomfort is temporary. Tears may arise…allow them. Sobbing is good.
The reason you feel guilty is because you are a good person. Guilt is your soul’s clarion call for integrity and right action. Now is the time to re-up, to reinstate your commitment to living your values. Do that…and let this guilt go.