Sometimes, there’s nothing more gut-wrenching than feeling guilty over hurting someone you love.
Or having regret over things you should have done or said, but didn’t.
It’s gut wrenching because you hate the idea that your child, your parent, your family member, or your partner is suffering because of your choices.
You tell yourself that you certainly weren’t intending to be hurtful. You were just defending yourself, venting your frustrations, or doing what you thought you had to—in the moment.
But it backfired…
And now you wish you could turn back time and do it differently.
Or consider the consequences of your actions more seriously before you went ahead with what you did.
But you can’t.
You hate suffering through guilt and remorse, so you figure you’ll alter your behavior so there’s nothing to feel guilty or regretful about in the future.
But you do so in a way that only stifles you and makes you self-conscious. You don’t want to be rude or hurtful, so you go into social situations second guessing yourself, remaining quiet when you have something you want to say, or feeling anxious.
Guilt, remorse, regret, self doubt…
You wish you could find a way to eliminate these feelings from your life altogether. Is it even possible?
If can relate, you’re going to want to keep reading, because I’m going to reveal how you can use these gut-wrenching emotions to make positive, healing choices for yourself and others, so that you can free yourself from repeating the same mistakes and suffering with guilt, remorse, or shame.
Let me begin by examining the difference between guilt and remorse, and why that difference matters…
Guilt and remorse may FEEL the same in your gut (heavy, yucky, painful), but they’re NOT the same.
While “guilt” and “remorse” have the same definition in the Encarta World English dictionary, when it comes to the way your subconscious works, they have totally different meanings.
Not only that, but one emotion has the capacity to heal and transform your life because it leads you to change your behavior, while the other keeps you stuck in self deprecation.
Guilt is the feeling that you feel when you judge yourself for having done something that you believe is wrong. Your internal dialogue can sound like this:
I can’t believe I binged again. What a weak jerk I am.
I’m such a bad parent. I just can’t seem to control my kids.
I know that I should visit my mother more. I’m really a bad daughter.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t get angry anymore. I must really be crazy for losing my temper again.
There is no excuse for coming home drunk, again. I’m just a rotten person.
You hope that by judging yourself and feeling guilty, you can have control over not doing it again. Of course, this never works since behavior changes when your intent changes, not when you are judging yourself.
What I mean by that is you won’t automatically start doing things differently just because you’re shaming yourself or feeling guilty.
You’re not going to start eating healthier and losing weight just because you beat yourself up about it.
You’re not going to become a better parent by berating yourself every time they anger or disappoint you.
You’re not going to have a closer relationship with your mom by worrying about how often you visit.
You get the picture.
Remorse, on the other hand, is what you feel when you deeply and genuinely regret a choice you made, and you know that you will never make that choice again. This means that:
Remorse indicates that a major change has taken place within you—you have shifted your intent from controlling a situation or another person to learning about yourself.
Guilt, on the other hand, is always an indication that the wounded self is in charge, trying to control the outcome of things with self judgment.
The wounded self is that subconscious part of you that carries the deeply painful feelings of self doubt and low self worth originating in childhood.
Our parents or caregivers did or said something, and we interpreted it as rejection, abandonment, or loss of love. It didn’t necessarily have to be overt abuse. Maybe we were told to be quiet, stop crying, or go to our room, and it led us to conclude that our feelings and needs were unimportant, or that we don’t matter.
This creates a “wound” inside our ego.
When the wounded self is in charge, it attempts to control the outcome, or how another person perceives us. With the wounded self in charge, we are in the mindset of control, and not in the mindset of learning, growing, or healing.
Guilt is also an indicator that no true behavior change is imminent, because no change of heart has occurred. How often have you known people to say “I’m sorry,” only to keep doing the same thing over and over?
“I’m sorry I lied.”
“I’m sorry that I hit you.”
“I’m sorry that I had an affair.”
“I’m sorry that I gambled away our money.”
“I’m sorry I got drunk and made a fool of myself.”
It is just a manipulation to control another person. It can clear the conscience so that the offender can feel free to commit the unloving act again, having received the desired forgiveness.
A person incapable of feeling remorse may be labeled a sociopath or a psychopath (now called antisocial personality disorder). Such a person may frequently express guilt as a form of control, but due to feeling deeply entitled to do whatever he or she chooses, feels no remorse.
Remorse, on the other hand, is a deep and powerful feeling and creates deep and powerful change.
Guilt indicates that we are off course in our thinking—out of alignment with our true self, whereas remorse brings us back into alignment with the truth of who we are.
Remorse can be a tool for real change and lasting relief from guilt, but that requires that you open yourself up to curiosity and learning, first.
How can you do that? I’m glad you asked…
Here’s something the feelings of guilt, remorse, and regret have in common: they’re painful and unpleasant.
They can cause you to lose sleep, they can drain your energy, or cause you to have a persistent knot in your stomach. They can sap you of any bit of happiness and cheer you may otherwise be feeling.
It’s understandable that you’d prefer not to have to feel these things ever again.
But here’s the thing: you don’t really want to “cure” yourself of these feelings if that means denying them, distracting yourself from them, or stuffing them down.
When you deny, distract, or stuff your feelings down, you’re just making things worse for yourself. It can lead to addictions, unwanted habits, anxiety, anger, depression, and dysfunctional patterns of behavior.
The way to “cure” yourself of the painful feelings of guilt and regret is to be willing to learn from these feelings, and do what it takes to take loving care of yourself.
Doing this will lead you to redeem yourself by changing your behavior in the future, so you’ll have less reason to feel guilt or remorse in the first place.
Most people don’t have a lot of experience with using painful feelings as a means to learn about themselves. Instead, they deny, distract, or numb themselves from those feelings with blame, regret, and addictions.
That’s why I co-developed a process called Inner Bonding in 1984, along with my friend and colleague, Dr. Erika Chopich.
Inner Bonding helps you identify and face the full range of your painful feelings, get underneath the false beliefs creating those feelings, and take action to be loving to yourself.
Inner Bonding is a process that gives you inner peace and self assurance, so you’re not going through life in a fog of guilt, anxiety, shame, and regret.
This process is what my eBook, Thriving At Last, is all about.
Thriving At Last will help you in 6 simple steps:
Step 1: You’ll learn to uncover the core source of your emotional conflict and pain.
Step 2: You’ll get strategies for opening your body, mind, and soul to learning about your core (true) self.
Step 3: You’ll learn how to dialogue with your core self to go deeper into why you keep repeating unwanted patterns.
Step 4: You’ll discover the specific action you must take on your own behalf in order to heal and transform yourself and your relationships.
Step 5: You’ll commit to taking action.
Step 6: You’ll learn to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan of action.
Plus, you’ll get self-evaluation questionnaires and reflections at the end of each chapter, so the process becomes practical, not just theoretical.
In other words, you’ll learn it by actually doing it.
Download your copy of Thriving At Last in a matter of minutes here:Download Now
Guilt and regret are powerful and painful emotions, but they can serve a good purpose. They can show you the way to redemption and forgiveness, if you know how to “use” these emotions for your benefit.
I’m privileged to be able to show you how.
P.S. What should you do if you don’t like someone, and you feel terrible around them, but you feel guilty about cutting them out of your life?
In Thriving At Last, in the “Common Challenges” chapter, I reveal what I think is in your highest good in this kind of situation, which may surprise you:Read About It