What do you do when that little niggly negative and potentially destructive inner voice says to you, “You should have…..” or “You shouldn’t have….” or “You ought to….” ? Here are five suggestions, tried and tested:
1. Carry out a quick inner check on why you are feeling guilty. Have you genuinely hurt someone, or done something wrong? If so, then apologise, make amends and move on. What’s done is done. We’ve all, often unintentionally, hurt someone. Feeling guilty can be your opportunity to learn what led you to make the mistake and how not to repeat that behaviour. Apologising costs nothing, and goes a long way to repairing relationships. Word of warning: you have to mean it when apologising, otherwise it becomes counter-productive!
2. Examine your feelings carefully. You feel guilty because you think you did something wrong. Did you actually do something? Or is this guilty feeling just your perspective on a situation? Can you see or feel evidence of harm? If so, then refer to tip no. 1. If not, maybe you can consign that feeling to the bin right now, or refer to tip no.
3. Do something to change the feeling. If you feel guilty about something you feel you have left undone, then address that. If it’s something you’re putting off, then hello procrastination! It’s not really guilt that you’re feeling. Attack that task, with the help of a friend or colleague if you can; support can be very valuable, and you can repay the favour at some point too.
4. Write it down. Writing the issue down, and reading it back to yourself often helps you to make more sense of why you feel the way you do. This applies not just to guilty feelings, but other negative feelings, and positive ones too! Read what you’ve written. Decide what you want to do and take action.
5. Decide what you want. It’s ok to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. If you can choose to feel your guilty feeling, to listen to that negative inner voice for 10 minutes, it follows that you can also choose to stop, and decide to feel differently. Acknowledge your feelings, accept them, then help yourself to move on by doing something that distracts you: make a movement, a sound, create a visual image, real or imagined. In NLP, we call this breaking state. It works.
There are many other useful techniques your life coach can suggest. Just talking it over with someone is a great first step. And start by following some great advice someone once gave to me: don’t “should” on yourself.