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February 6, 2024

Let’s talk about feeling guilty - that nasty, miserable, nagging feeling that we are so often trying desperately to avoid.  Feeling guilty usually (but not exclusively) shows up in a lose-lose kind of way.  For example, if you’re busy working late on a project, you feel guilty that you’re not at home with your family and if you’re home relaxing with family, you feel guilty that you’re not working.  Sound familiar?

We often get mixed up thinking that in order to stop feeling guilty, we need to take action like come home earlier or go back into the office.  But really that is not the cure, because feeling guilty is the disease.  Feeling guilty comes from thinking there is something wrong with us, that there is some perfect way to be that we don’t live up to, which is all based on an impossible standard.  If you take the example above, how can you both work late and have a relaxing night with your family at home?  You can’t.  It's time to play a different game when you realize you are playing an unwinnable one.  

Let’s get back to where we started.  Guilt is the disease.  Our argument is that guilt is devolved anger.  Anger is typically experienced in some form of “I don’t like _____.”  When we don’t allow ourselves to feel our anger, it will devolve into many different things.  Some common examples are hostility, boredom, guilt, self-deprecation, and judgmentalness.  When we’re unwilling to feel angry, we often turn that “I don’t like'' back onto ourselves with some form of “I should be better.”  So instead of feeling angry at the impossible standard of being an extraordinary employee/parent, available at all hours, we’ll act as though the standard is reasonable and we’re just not good enough to meet it.

The next time you are feeling guilty, consider asking yourself who or what (past, present, or future) you are angry at.  Oftentimes we can spot anger when we begin to question if the thing we are guilty about is actually filled with shoulds from what we think others are expecting from us.  This usually relates to times in our lives when we were told “how to be” and what “the right way” to do things was.  We don’t know about you, but we don’t like being told how to think, feel, and act.

To curing guilt instead of running from it

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Since 1978 Workability has been helping individuals and organizations integrate who they are with what they do. Our greatest performances, relationships, and contributions are dependent on our authentic expression of who we are.

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