Embracing Guilt

All too often whenever I’m experiencing the feeling of guilt for having made a mistake or for having even willingly done something that I know is counter to my own good and the good of others, I immediately try to ‘sorry’ myself to death. I go into this spiral of repentance and trying to figure out how I’m going to make up for whatever mistake I made or whatever penitence I need to pay. I can become so determined to get rid of the bad feeling and remorse so quickly that often times I don’t actually allow myself to feel what I naturally NEED to feel in order to process the situation.

I’ve written and spoken many times about our need to NOT hide from the emotions we are feeling, negative or positive, but to embrace them. To allow them to hit us with their full force. This does several things that raise the quality of our lives.

One, it allows us to experience life fully, in the moment. When we hide or run from our emotions and feelings, or spend our time trying to work around them, we are cheating ourselves from the opportunity to know what it is to be human. To know what it is to feel in the center of our being. Remember, we cannot mitigate our negative feelings without mitigating our positive ones as well. So to the level with which we don’t allow ourselves to feel disappointment, anger, or sadness, we also negate the ability to feel love, joy, or satisfaction to that same level. This my friends, will lead to a very one dimensional, flat-lined life. Feel it!

Two, it allows you to be as truly sorry or repentant as you need to be. Let’s say you have made a mistake that has actually hurt somebody emotionally or even physically. Or maybe just hurt yourself emotionally or physically. If you try to skip over the remorse and get right to the apology, it will be empty. You’ll know it and they will know it. But if you allow yourself to completely feel the remorse until you realize the extent to which you are sorry, your apology and how you make up for it will absolutely be genuine, authentic, and enough. However, we must walk the fine line between shaming ourselves (this is bad) and truly allowing the feelings to run their course. Don’t shame yourself to try to feel worse or talk yourself into feeling better. Just sit back, be aware, and experience what you are feeling.

Maybe you will realize that you aren’t sorry and that even though you thought you should feel bad, you don’t. Or maybe you will realize that even though no one else thinks you did anything wrong, you are aware that you crossed a line within your own moral code.

Third and finally, embracing our emotions allows us the chance to take advantage of the opportunity to love ourselves. What? If you are having some feelings of remorse or regret, you are immediately facing an opportunity to not only allow those feelings to hit you, but to remind yourself in tangible ways, that even though you made a mistake and hurt yourself or someone else, you still love yourself and accept yourself just the way you are. And I’m serious about this one. Why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to love yourself and care for yourself?

After embracing your feeling of guilt and owning it, and you've been careful not to ride the wave of shame, then you are in a great place to move forward.  Maybe it's an apology.  Maybe it's not.  Maybe you're sorry.  Maybe you're not.  What is it that you're feeling?  That will determine your way forward.  Truly and in an authentic way.


"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness."  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy."  ~Jim Rohn

"Guilt is anger directed at ourselves - at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others - at what they did or did not do." ~Peter McWilliams

Embrace the Uncomfortable

There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t allow myself to feel uncomfortable.  If I was in a particular situation I didn’t want to be in, I would lie to myself and try to convince myself that everything was ok, or I would simply come up with an excuse and bow out.  In fact when I was a child I would constantly try to get out of going to school because being at school just made me uncomfortable.  Or if there was a relationship in which I felt the other person wasn’t satisfied with me, instead of allowing myself to sit with those feelings, I would go to great lengths as soon as humanly possible to try to mend the perceived rift.  I just didn’t think I could cope with feeling uncomfortable. This was extremely dangerous for me.  Over the years I found myself doing all kinds of things that were self-destructive, just so that I wouldn’t feel things like loneliness, heart ache, dissatisfaction, anger, fear, shame, ____________, etc.  Slowly over time I began to lose all sight of who I was, what I wanted, and how I could live into my purpose.  This unwillingness to sit with any awkward feelings was one of the main reasons I ended up spending years in a downward spiral trying to hide in substance abuse and dysfunctional relationships.  Fortunately when I hit rock bottom, I had people to turn to.

After cleaning up and getting some clarity, I eventually began to realize that my addiction wasn’t to cocaine.  My addiction was to not feeling uncomfortable and going to any length in order to hide from any and all dissatisfaction.  As I’ve said before, the problem with trying to negate what some consider negative emotions is that you end up negating all emotions.  We can’t just selectively turn off part of our emotions and expect to feel the others.  So when you shut out feelings like anger, sadness, discomfort, you also shut out joy, elation, satisfaction, etc.  But there is another way.

It is the way of courage.  It is the way of hope.  It is the way of allowing yourself to fully feel any and all emotions.  Brene Brown, in ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ details the power and the benefits of allowing yourself to be fully present with all of your feelings.  This takes some practice and isn’t something that just happens over night.  It takes constant reminders and the courage when we begin to feel uncomfortable to not shut down.

One thing that helps is to ask questions.  Why does this situation always make me feel uncomfortable.  What is the precise emotion I am feeling that makes me want to run or hide?  Why do I think that person is unhappy with me?  Are they really?  Does it really matter?  Sitting with these questions will yield answers.  These answers won’t come from the external world… they will come from deep within you.

The more comfortable you can grow so that you can sit with the uncomfortable in your life, the better quality of life you will have.  Things won’t sneak up on you as much.  You’ll recognize what triggers you and sends you for a loop before it actually locks you into the roller coaster and launches onto the tracks.

So what does trigger you?  What emotions do you avoid?  How often do you lie to yourself and say ‘nothings really wrong’? Once you’ve sat with those negative feelings long enough, they lose the power over you that they once had.  You’ll find yourself able to make clear decisions based on who you are and what you want, as opposed to making decisions based on how to avoid feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

So sit with it.  Sit with it all.  What once felt impossible to deal with will seem like a very little problem indeed.