Speak and let go
Emotions have great purpose. Each one comes to visit with information for our greater good. Anger asks for closer attention to be paid and boundaries to be made. Fear means we are approaching a limit and further exploration needs to take place to find if this limit serves or must be broken for growth and freedom. Joy is a smiling heart expanding into it self to give us a baseline for true expression of who we are and what we stand for. Guilt is a warning sign for navigating after a mistake takes place.
Guilt is important and helps up stay in line with our values and moral compass. However, it is only meant to be felt briefly. Only long enough for a change to be made and maybe an apology to take place. If the mistake is used to learn from then it has great value. There is no need for the quilt to persist after action is taken.
Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is related to our behaviors. We feel guilt about what we did. Once we change the behavior then we feel better. Shame feels deeper and darker and is based on self. We feel shame about who we are. Shame wants to us to hide and be very small. Excessive guilt can morph into shame if it isn’t dealt with. Shame is something we all experience and very rarely talk about. Author, researcher and college professor, Dr. Brene Brown studies shame and she has found that shame can not exist when empathy is present. Therefore, if you share your shame with a trusted confidant or health care professional the shame begins to dissipate. Similarly if you bring empathy and understanding to your own shame through your inner dialog the same happens.
Guilt and shame don’t feel good. They are emotions just like all the rest. Keeping them secret or ruminating on them only strengthen their power over you. If you have done something you’re not proud of and feel guilty about it, check in with yourself and see where your behavior misaligns with your values. Then simply don’t do it again. If you experience shame and struggle with feeling bad about who you are consider talking about this; holding it inside only tethers it down. Take your power back by ending the silence.
Bridgette DeBoer M.A., is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, marriage and family therapist. She can be reached at 450-6632.