Guilt Free Living
I have been experimenting this past couple of weeks with listening to the emotion of guilt as a warning light. I have noticed that I feel guilty when I don’t do what feels right to me and I feel guilty when I don’t live up to what I perceive to be other people’s expectations. This difference was highlighted and clarified more as I read the book – Journey Through The Guilt Trip – by Lee Lam who talks about guilt that moves and guilt that glues.
Guilt that moves
When I listen, the guilt that is triggered because it doesn’t feel right for me is, as Lee suggests, guilt that moves. I am moved to take action to correct things. This is because the guilt is a result of my own core values or as she refers to them as my personal code being broken.
In effect I have broken the rules by which I have consciously or unconsciously decided to live my life by.
When I break my own rules I feel guilty but it goes as soon as I do something to correct it. Knowing this has made so much sense of why my clients and I have much more guilt free living once we know what we want and more importantly what we need to work, learn and live at our best both independently and with others. The whole process is a way of updating and reviewing our own beliefs and rules and examining the story we tell ourselves to ensure we are in effect living by our own code of conduct.
Being someone that likes others to be happy and often adapted and accommodated my needs to please others, I have found massive benefit from taking the time to unpack the rules one by one and closely examine them to be sure they are my rules; the ones that I truly believe in and that I want to live by. Checking I created them for me opposed to acquired in the attempt to gain approval or keep others happy.
Sometimes the rule was from me, but a much younger version of me that did not know what I know now and so I was able to update or even delete the rules that no longer serve me.
One such rule was my fair rule. I was raised by a mother who wanted things to be fair. Her own childhood had felt incredibly unfair and she didn’t want any of her children to feel that. So the word fair was used a lot and we each got the same amount of money for birthday or Christmas spent on us, we got to go on the same number of school trips etc and yet I grew up often feeling things were unfair. My logical brain was literally expecting everything to be the same, but of course as children we were all different and needed different things at different times. My Dad was in the Navy and so my mum was one person ‘trying’ to keep everyone happy. (I wonder where I got that belief from :-))
When I examined this belief further it formed part of many of my rules and therefore impacted many of my decisions and triggered emotions when the rule was seemingly broken.
Fair had been developed to mean ‘the same’ as I have updated it the definition of fair is that each person gets the opportunity to have what they need and want in any one moment. The biggest thing I had to let go of (ditch) was the sense that I was responsible for providing it. I learned that I could often provide the space and conditions and it was their responsibility to make it happen.
Since adopting this updated rule, so much has changed and it is definitely contributing towards guilt free living.
I now say to people I have a strong fair rule so it is important to me that you speak up if anything I do or say seems unfair. It is important we can discuss it and find a resolution as it won’t be my intention. It could simply be that our understanding of fair will be different and we need to calibrate and collaborate to gain a common understanding.
The time when it hurts the most is when I get feedback and discover that I have broken my own definition of fair. I hate that feeling of deep shame and yet that moment of shame passes when I allow it to and I can choose to learn from it and be better next time.
Guilt that glues
Lee refers to guilt that glues being external guilt, so it is generated from something or someone externally. Lee also talks about other people ‘making’ us feel guilty and whilst blaming others for our emotional state didn’t sit comfortably with me, I do recognise that some people knowingly or unknowingly will do or say things that do trigger a feeling of guilt in me. And that they might do this because that is a proven way that works to get what they want. This is always my opportunity to be curious and ask questions of myself and or them to ascertain what is their need and how can they get that met and I still have what I need too.
Sometimes the puppy eyes, sigh or even sulking is their way of saying one of their needs are not being met or it is an emotional reaction to the change I am now imposing on them due to my decision. When left that emotion often passes and they are okay.
My default used to be to accommodate their needs (which were usually assumed rather than clarified). I would change my mind and my plans which unknowingly was unfair on me and overtime could build up as frustration and resentment.
Learning to acknowledge their needs and express mine has given me freedom to be me more of the time and with more people. And those that I cannot be myself with I now choose to spend less time with.
All of this was and is achieved by changing the way you listen to yourself and your reaction to the responses around you.
Listening to how you react internally to what you hear and see externally.
Noticing how you compare your insides with other people’s outsides.
Learning to listen to the story your critic is telling and deciding if that story serves you to live your best life.
Listening without judgement and or assumption and being aware of your own wants, desires, patterns and triggers means that you can have more clarity and confidence in yourself and your behaviour. You can decide to tell a story that serves you.
What is your story?
What is the story you tell about you and your life?
Is that the story that you want to become our legacy?
If not then coaching can help you listen to and recreate a story that serves.
If you have no idea what coaching is book a call to experience the process so that you can make an informed decision if this is the vehicle for change that works for you. Click here to book a call
Check this video out with the author of Journey Through a Guilt Trip
Founder of Step by Step Listening, Sheryl Andrews has always been keen to create space where other people felt safe to speak their truth no matter what that was. She is well known for her ability to motivate, manage and mentor others through change and loves nothing more than helping others feel heard understood and of value by training them in the art of non-judgmental listening and practical ways to turn overwhelm and frustration into a clarity and confidence.
At Step by Step Listening we are not always the right support and sometimes the first step is understanding what you want; what you don’t want and what kind of resource or support you need right now.
Our goal is to leave you with clarity and confidence in yourself, your decision and your next best step for now.
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