“And though guilt and shame are incredibly painful feelings, they’re far better felt and released than left smoldering inside. When you feel shame, guilt, sadness – or any other painful emotion – congratulate yourself!” ~Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD (Dodging Energy Vampires)
If you’ve ever laid awake at night, not able to sleep, because of your thoughts and emotions running a rollercoaster through your mind, this is for you.
Some people are incapable of feeling guilt or remorse. This is a small percentage of people. Psychologists would call them “borderline personality disorders” or “narcissists.” And like with most classifications of people, it’s not black and white either. It’s more like a continuum. Some people are worse than others. On one hand you have your serial killers, and on the other hand, you have an emotionally distant spouse.
Most of us do feel guilt, remorse, shame, and other “negative” emotions. And I think this is at the crux of “monkey-mind,” when you can’t shut off your thoughts when you’re trying to relax at night.
The funny thing is – the people who suffer the most from negative emotions tend to deserve the negativity least.
Guilt serves a purpose to help us analyze our actions. So do that: by doing (X, Y, or Z) did I (intentionally or unintentionally) hurt anyone? Usually, the answer is “no.”
I’ll give you an example. As a mom, I feel guilty all the time about leaving my kids with a babysitter. So, to do this technique, I need to ask myself is anyone getting hurt? Answer: no. Everyone’s fine.
People who are made to feel shame about their sexuality: did they hurt anyone from being who they are? Probably not… Remember, we’re not counting true sexual deviants like rapists or pedophiles who would fall into the category of not feeling shame or remorse for wrongful actions.
So, here’s what to do when your mind is being taken over with negative emotions: pat yourself on the back.
“Gosh, Nicole, you’re so freakin’ good at feeling guilty! Congratulations! Nobody does it quite like you.”
I realize it may sound a little sarcastic, but that’s not the intent of this exercise. This is done in an honest way. To heal from guilt or shame, you need to honor yourself. Think about what you’ve done honorably. It’s a start at least.
Another avenue to healing shame and guilt is humor. I’ll give you another example: have you ever watched celebrity mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel? The basis of it is that the celebrity reads out loud something rude that someone on Twitter wrote about them. Most of the responses are hilarious, and I think the overall purpose of the segment is to use humor to take some of the bite out of those rude comments people post.
So, try congratulating yourself the next time you catch yourself in a mental spiral. Let me know in the comments how it goes.