Feelings of guilt are a common experience. We may experience guilt on the job when we make a mistake, fail to meet expectations, or make a decision that has unintended outcomes. In our personal lives, we can feel guilty about our behavior in relationships and our daily choices. People often recognize the presence of guilt in “could of, would of, should of, and if only” type thoughts. If you, a co-worker, or a loved one is experiencing guilt, here are five ideas that may be useful to you
1. Be curious.
Get interested about the guilty feeling. Try not to judge, avoid, or numb the feeling. Instead, be curious, open, and inquisitive. A curious approach may give you understanding about the guilt and direction on how to honor/address the feeling.
2. Reasoning with guilt is reasonable (to a point).
Review facts, information, and notions that counter the guilt narrative. What is the evidence that contradicts the guilt? If the feeling of guilt is resistant to reason, continue to hold the information without pressuring yourself or another to believe the information. Pressuring guilt to change could add to the guilt (“I shouldn’t feel guilty”) or be perceived as emotionally invalidating.
3. Learn from the experience.
Sometimes, the presence of guilt indicates a discrepancy between our actions/behavior and what we view as our preferred way of being. When we act in a manner that differs from our values, beliefs, or morals, feeling guilty can draw our attention to what we need to learn and do differently in the future. In other words, guilt can act as a teacher.
4. Offer amends.
At times, feelings of guilt exist because we did something that we believe was wrong. If one believes they are wrong or have made a mistake, it can be healing to apologize for the perceived wrong.
5. Is it really guilt or is it shame?
If you or another feels guilty frequently, it could be that the issue is not guilt but shame. Shame can be thought of as an acquired belief system about one’s worth and value. Shame may manifest in notions like “I am only worthy if…” Guilt is situational and transient. If you think shame is the issue, it may be useful to explore additional resources such as meeting with a psychotherapist/counselor or to seek out self-help.
How can Keynote Music Therapy help you or your clients explore and tend to emotions? Visit us at www.keynotemn.com to find out more. Keynote Music Therapy proudly serves organizations and individuals in the Minneapolis/St. Paul/Twin Cities area.