How NOT to Let Guilt Destroy You!
If you struggle with feeling guilt because others are hurting or for any actions before or after divorce, this episode is for you.
If you struggle with feeling guilt because others are hurting or for any actions before or after divorce, this episode is for you.
Have you carried the weight of guilt since your divorce? Does it feel like an anchor to the past? Or perhaps something you don’t want to let go of because you believe it keeps you accountable?
In today’s episode I am sharing five questions to ask yourself to help you shift the beliefs that create feelings of guilt inside of you.
So if you struggle with feeling guilt because others are hurting or for any actions that you’ve taken, this episode is for you.
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You’re listening to the returned to you podcast episode number 12
Do you ever feel like you’re carrying a bag of Boulders uphill I don’t walk. And you can’t understand why. So often after divorce we carry the weight of our emotions. And perhaps one of the heaviest weights to carry is guilt. I decided to do this episode for you this week after receiving a question from a member in my community. And she asked me how do I let go of the guilt of hurting my children Because Of the divorce
I hear this question so much that it’s actually one of the core modules of my return to you program. If you don’t know what my signature returned to you program is you can learn all about it on my website at ww.w. Diana Johnson coaching. Com
One of The modules of 10-week program is called forgiving you. And we work through releasing the feelings of guilt and regret. I could have chosen so many emotions for that pillar but I hear this so often that I knew it needed to be a part of the program. And of course because I know that guilt can work like an anchor to the past. that needs to be released to move forward.
So in today’s episode I will share with you five questions to ask yourself to help you shift the programming that’s creating the guilt inside of you. Questions are so powerful for shifting a train of thought that creates an emotion. So often we go and look for more information. If knowledge alone was all we needed, there wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of self-help books, youtube channels, and self-help professionals. Knowledge alone doesn’t change you. Releasing the programming that creates the emotions, that’s what makes the difference. Insights, realizations and change happens inside of you. And asking questions is a powerful technique to make that happen. So if you are experiencing feelings of guilt since your divorce… And that could be guilt over anything, this episode is for you. So grab a pen and a piece of paper because we have some questions to answer… stay tuned
OK we’re just going to start the questions off with a bang… And the first question is do I actually have something to feel guilty about? So if you do have a piece of paper I’d love for you to write that down and look at it.
Do I actually have something to feel guilty about?
This may seem like an obvious question but it’s important. So often we believe our feelings without question. Here’s what I mean by this… Just because you feel guilty doesn’t automatically mean you did wrong. Or that you are guilty of something. We are not our feelings. Our thoughts of how we should and shouldn’t act, create our feelings of guilt. And unfortunately our culture conditions women to believe many things that create guilt. Beliefs like: we can’t put ourselves first; we have to be responsible for everybody else’s feelings; we are the perfect mothers; we have to keep it all together, we can’t do what’s right for ourselves if it impacts someone else. And on and on.
So as you’re answering the question do I actually have something to feel guilty, for I’d love for you to consider this. If your daughter, mother, sister or best friend, was in the exact same situation as you when you made the decision you’re feeling guilty about…. would you believe she had something to feel guilty for.
If you say yes I think she should feel guilty for that. Follow that up with the question do you believe she deserves to continue to carry the guilt? And then put yourself in place of her. If you don’t think she should be guilt for that situation, why are you the exception.
If you believe she would have the right to make that decision, is it just as possible that you had a right to choose what’s best for your journey. So often we take on the journey of other people. And what I mean is if other people are affected by our decisions we take that on like we are the person who controls the journey they are supposed to be on. When we can never know what another person‘s journey is supposed to be. And that even includes our children.
I’m sure my mother and father experienced guilt from their divorce when I was eight years old. But for me, it was actually the greatest gift. And even though the journey was painful that very pain gave me the opportunity to develop qualities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So my parents experiencing guilt about my journey is pointless. Because in hindsight I was grateful for the exact journey I went on.
So as you answer this first question, you cannot absolutely know that those affected by your decision was not supposed to be on this journey. Not everything we tell ourselves is true. But the more we repeat it, the more we believe it. And when we believe it we feel the emotions of it whether it’s true or not.
Ok, question #2, will I choose to accept responsibility? And does responsibility have to mean blame?
Okay this second question is two questions in one but they’re very important together.
Isn’t it true that when we take responsibility for something we also take blame. Being hard on ourselves becomes part of the package. But it doesn’t have to.
So assuming after question 1 you still decide that you have something to feel guilty about. Now you can ask yourself, can I choose to take responsibility without taking blame. Taking responsibility just means, not making excuses or blaming other people. It’s about not pushing it away or pretending to be okay with your actions.
And the most important part, and at the same time, not taking blame.
The freedom to move forward will come from self acceptance, not self judgement.
Is it possible to take responsibility without beating yourself up? I’d love for you to consider, what it costs you when you beat yourself up?
Because it actually changes nothing. It serves no purpose. And even if it was something that you never want to choose again, you take the lesson and drop the pain. Unfortunately, guilt is a way that we punish ourselves for our behavior. We don’t punish other people we love in the same way. We have the ability to let other people off the hook when we really love them. We don’t ask them to carry the weight of any pain for our benefit because they made a certain choice in their life. I invite you to have that same standard kindness and love for you. I want you to love you that much.
You have two choices one you can continue to keep yourself on the hook. Or you can let yourself off the hook and learn the lesson. And move forward. If someone else a child that you love dearly made a mistake would you want her to carry that for the rest of your life? Or would you want her to learn and move forward. We let people off the hook every single day. So if you decide yes it is appropriate for me to feel this guilt right now. You can allow yourself to feel it with grace. Meaning you acknowledged it but you don’t beat yourself up about it. But here is the key how do you determine the appropriateness of how long you should keep it? how will you know when it is time to let it go? Or do you plan to keep it all your life? What do you believe needs to happen before you can choose to take the lesson and to drop the guilt?
Ok question 3 is an important one. Can I absolutely know it was the wrong decision and that I would change it if I could?
I understand if you’re feeling guilty, you may just want to go back in time and change what happened. However I would love for you to reflect on this. If you could go back and change only your part in the situation, can you know your life would be better? Or can you know at least that you would have the same opportunity that you do now to create the future that you want? Because if you made that decision that you’re now feeling guilty about there was a reason. It was what you thought was best at the time.
But here’s what happens after. When we start believing we have something to feel guilty about, our mind only shows us proof of that. It’s job is to prove itself right. So I’d love for you to instead take an opportunity to see what else is possible. If you feel guilty about it does that mean you would go back and not do it? And go back to the life that you had and forget about the reason why you made those decisions in the past. And if you still say yes, can you know for certain that undoing it would be the best choice for you. Isn’t it true, you can’t truly know what’s best for your journey or for the journey of the other people involved. What if everything is as it should be? What if the guilt is from a story in your mind that everything and everyone would be better had you not made the decision that you did.
Here is an example. For women that I work with that feel guilty for leaving the marriage. Yes other people were hurt. But every one of those women made that decision because it is best for them. And they knew in the long run they knew it was best for the other people involved.
Often when we feel guilt we forget the reason why it was the right decision in the first place. So asking these questions is to help you see that you did what you thought was best. Sometimes our actions hurt other people. That doesn’t mean those decisions were the wrong ones.
Because at the end of the day, you get to decide which story you argue for. As I talked about earlier, we can’t say for sure what the journey of other’s is supposed to be. And you carrying the guilt for it, doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t make others hurt less. It doesn’t change your past but it can change your future.
Does this guilt serve any purpose?
Alright, question four is, does this guilt serve any purpose?
Now you have probably already realized that guilt does not serve you. However, write down on paper and explore this answer deeper.
I will share with you my experience from working with hundreds of divorced women. Many of whom experienced guilt.
Studies have shown that guilt actually does have a physical weight in your body. And that weight is like carrying a bag of boulders uphill on a walk. . So just picture those big boulders in a knapsack on your back. And they all have the word guilt on them. It weighs you down, it slows you down from moving forward, but it serves no other purpose.
And as you may already know guilt has not been proven to change future behavior. So you can drop the weight, drop that heavy bag of boulders, and still get the lesson. You know, if you wanted to choose differently next time you don’t need guilt to make that happen.
So If it serves no purpose isn’t it much more important to remember that carrying is costing you. Meaning how it’s affecting your ability to move forward.
In my experience what guilts costs us is it keeps us tied to the past. For most women, it keeps them beating themselves up. It subconsciously prevents them from moving forward. If they move forward they believe it means they are okay with what they did. That hurting the children was OK or hurting other people was OK. They hold tighter to the guilt so they prove to themselves they are not ok with that happened.
Ok here’s an example without too much emotional relevance so it’s easier to accept. Have you ever been on a diet and you had a moment of weakness and started to dive into a box of chocolates or a big bag of chips. And then you felt that little twinge of guilt in your belly. It’s because you did something that you promised yourself you wouldn’t. That guilt was created not by the promise but by the thought that you shouldn’t have had the chocolates. That you shouldn’t have broken that promise to yourself. But you were quickly able to let that guilt go. you don’t carry it for the rest of the week because you know the chocolate is gone it’s already done and over. And feeling guilty about it beyond that initial twinge of guilt will serve no purpose so you just move on. It is the same with all guilt.
Now if you’re thinking but my actions has much more impact than breaking my diet. I understand how that would feel so much different. However this example is to show you That your ability to choose to release guilt because it serves no purpose, is the exact same thing. The guilt didn’t undo what happened so you easily let it go. The only thing that needs to happen is for your subconscious to see guilt doesn’t change the past so it actually serves no purpose.m
And secondly… most importantly, letting go of guilt does not mean anything. Other than choosing self-love. Here’s what I mean by that. You didn’t have to negotiate with yourself to release the guilt of eating the chocolate or breaking your diet. Because you didn’t believe that would mean you are a bad person. Or that you didn’t care about the consequences. So it was pretty simple. There was no fight in your mind about whether or not you can release the guilt for what you had done. But when it comes to actions that affect other people we have this fight in our mind about what it would mean if we didn’t feel guilty.
Most women I work with believes guilt serves the purpose of keeping our behaviour and check. But the truth is our morals and our values can do that. You don’t need the emotion of guilt to help you do that. So I’ve worked with women who stayed in their marriage that was very unhealthy and cause a lot of pain for them and their children. I’ve worked with women in abusive marriages or those that knew their spouse was cheating. But they stayed because of the guilt of hurting either their children or their spouse. And here’s the thing with that. they stayed for so long so they wouldn’t hurt other people. And then when they finally leave they take the guilt with them as a punishment for their decision to leave. This is so critical… They didn’t want to hurt others but there aren’t fully able to be the best version of themselves, the reason why they left, when they are carrying that weight of guilt. So they left because they were very unhappy or in a very unhealthy relationship. And then the guilt is punishing themselves for making the decision to live a better life. And the guilt itself is holding them back from the living that better life. So what was the purpose of leaving. If you take the guilt with you.
Do you have a friend that every time you tell them you did something they give you reasons that shouldn’t have? You know, they tell you after the fact? I do have a friend like that. Every time I call her with news. And I mean good news about a change I make in my life, she tells me her opinion about it. If I already made the decision, I am not calling for advise or opinion. Because it’s already a done deal. Like when you buy a house and your friend says, you shouldn’t have bought that house in this market.
When you are holding guilt, you are that friend who gives the opinion after the fact. You’re giving an opinion all day in the back of your mind about what you should’ve done differently. And it’s truly a mute point because it’s done. Here’s the more empowering choice: you can assess what to do differently next time based on what I’ve learned and release the guilt.
What am I getting from holding on to the guilt?
Alright so at this point you may be thinking if it doesn’t serve a purpose then why do I keep holding it. Why do I keep feeling it. And that brings me to our final question. Which is: what am I getting from holding this guilt? Here’s the thing, if our logical brain says we don’t want to feel guilt and we are ready to let go of it, but we continue to carry it there’s a reason. And it’s usually because we’re getting something from it.
And you may be thinking hey I’m not choosing to hold onto this Guild. I know. But subconsciously we resist letting go of guilt because it means something to us. This is why even though the logical brain is on board to let guilt go after listening to the podcast to this point, but you can’t. What you’re getting from holding it is usually that final piece of resistance for letting it go. So I invite you to explore any reason you could resist letting it go. We usually resist letting go of an emotion because of what we believe that would mean.
Having lost someone that I love to Suicide, I have experienced that feeling guilt. However, when it happened, I had done subconscious reprogramming work around feelings of guilt about my divorce. So my initial reaction to my loved one’s suicide was did I do enough, did I tell him I loved him enough, did I notice the signs. anyone who has experienced the suicide of a loved one will know the guilt that I’m talking about. With the work I had done, I was able to see I showed him love the best way I knew how and I was there for him in the best way I knew how at that time . And because I also knew the guilt would not bring him back I was able to release it. But here is why I’m telling you this in the context of the question what am I getting from holding to guilt. If I believed the guilt proved my love for him I would resist letting it go. If I believed that no longer feeling guilty about my relationship with him meant I didn’t love him enough and I would not release it. It’s the same thing with the women who come to me feeling guilty about their children’s pain. what they’re getting from holding the guild is proving that they love their children and that they care that their children are hurting. But the emotion of guilt in and of itself is not required for you or anyone to prove your love. Guilt is not needed to show you care about how others are affected by your behaviour.
So what could be a reason for you to resist letting go of guilt? Whatever the reason is I invite you have to poke holes in it. Like for the mothers who feel guilty that their children are hurting. What is proof that the guilt itself doesn’t determine whether or not they care about their children. there are many women whose children are hurting and they deeply care that their children are hurting. But they don’t feel guilty for their choice to leave. Because they know that they made the right decision based on what they knew at that time. If we needed a guilt to prove our love you wouldn’t find any women out there with children who don’t feel guilty.. Or if we needed guilt to prove our morals and values you wouldn’t find women with morals and values who didn’t feel guilty for making choices that hurt others.
So when you consider releasing guilt do you have any of these questions… does mean I’m a bad person; does mean I don’t care about the people who were hurt by; does it mean I’m not taking responsibility. If you say yes I’m afraid it means all of those things. I would love for you to consider again that person you love. Would you think they didn’t care or they were a bad person because they allowed themselves to release the guilt. If not, you don’t need to make it mean that about you either. You have a choice. Your mind will believe anything you repeat to it.
now if you’re thinking, does this mean I can do whatever I want because I can just not feel guilty about it. Of course not but our guilt doesn’t determine how we behave. Our morals and values too. And even if that feeling of guilt initially helps keep us in check, it still doesn’t serve us to carry it long after the situation is over.
Ok to close this episode,
can dropping the guilt simply mean that you love yourself Enough to let yourself off the hook for something you cannot change. And that you cannot absolutely know is true shouldn’t have happened..
self love is a choice is the choice that you have to make in every minute of every day. And holding guilt isn’t an act of self love. So maybe letting go of the guilt, dropping that bag of boulders that’s weighing you down and holding you back is simply nothing more than an act of self love. And it doesn’t mean anything more.