In less than two weeks, I will be heading to California for 10 days to visit friends and participate in a week long retreat at The Chopra Center. You would think that I would be giddy with excitement, right? While I do feel that way for the most part, I have to admit that I feel a tiny bit uneasy and selfish for leaving my family.
I said a “tiny” bit, which is a huge improvement over how I would have processed this opportunity in my mind years ago. Ever since I became a mother and a wife, guilt has been my constant companion. It would creep in for even the seemingly little stuff like not spending enough time with my daughter, getting impatient with my husband, buying the wrong milk, or sitting down to read for pleasure. The list went on and on. Just about anything could (and often would) result in the heavy feeling of irresponsibility.
Guilt is a universal emotion that we all feel. Some of us do a better job at processing it more healthfully. After therapy, working with a coach, a lot work on myself and a lot of study on how the mind works, I now see guilt for what it is: a useless emotion that often keeps us stuck in a negative spin cycle. We hang on to it as a way of punishing ourselves for a past mistake and we often allow it to sabotage our happiness because we feel we don’t deserve it.
In some cases, guilt can be positive and may call you to change your behavior and/or reexamine your priorities. But after you have taken positive, practical steps, the lingering guilt becomes toxic and can suck the life force out of you.
The best way I have found to counter the toxicity of guilt is to ask “how is this feeling serving me?” If there is not a productive reason and no further action is required on my part, then the next question is “how can I find peace and joy in this moment?”
As for my trip, I have no productive reason to feel guilty. My husband and daughter will be more than fine without me. My mother-in-law is coming to support and spend time with her son and granddaughter. The three of them will totally enjoy the time together.
And for myself, I will get to nurture a long-distance friendship and learn some new skills at my retreat to be a better coach/yoga teacher/mother/wife/person. With that you better bet that I will bask in gratitude for this opportunity, know that I deserve it and will savor every moment. No guilt, all pleasure.
Should you find guilt affecting your happiness and vitality, please know life is meant to be enjoyed. The two questions above may benefit you. If you need further support, I am happy to work with you on seeing your situation with less judgement and a whole lot more clarity and love. Let's set up a free discovery call to work through the blocks that prevent you from finding more joy.