On and off in my life, I’ve wrestled with the feelings of guilt. Guilt, especially when self imposed, is a dangerous emotion that can get you hurt. However, learning how to deal with guilt, offers us valuable insight into the way we think, and perceive ourselves and our lives.
Even though this is a difficult retrospect for me to share, at the same time I believe it to be of utmost importance. You and I may not have identical experiences, but I believe the underlying truths to be the same. Here is my story.
I think of myself as a responsible person. I’ve always wanted to be a good father, husband and a son. I wanted to give deserved attention to my family’s outings, soccer games and birthday parties. To eagerly participate in mutual plans and activities.
Another part of me however, has always longed for more esoteric and spiritual pursuits. I don’t necessarily mean living in a cave in the Himalayas, but you get the idea. Unfortunately, a family life does not always support or encourage this lifestyle.
So here I was, torn between my responsibilities to the family, and to myself. Often I caught myself feeling frustrated or resentful by the pull of these two seemingly opposing forces. This internal conflict was the origin of the guilt I was experiencing.
The guilt lasted for a while and was a source of considerable stress in my life. I knew that I wasn’t going to make any serious progress until I learned to deal with it. Clearly, my life was what it was, and it wasn’t going to change any time soon. But what I could change, was my outlook on life.
1. Is your Guilt Real?
When dealing with guilt, it’s important to identify if the guilt you’re experiencing is real or not. Unsubstantiated guilt is self induced. In other words, it comes directly out of your own perception or imagination. If it’s unsubstantiated, you’ve got to move on, to forgiving yourself.
If however, your guilt arises from real issues, the only true way of dealing with it, is to make it right. Ask yourself if you have any control over the situation. Is your motivation malicious or underhanded? Are you responsible for initiating the problems?
2. Making it Right
Making it right, simply means doing whatever it takes to eliminate the underlying issue causing the guilt. Depending on what it may be, communicate, change your actions, and apologize. It’s critical to work through this to eliminate the guilt.
No relationship can survive without basic communication. If for some reason you are not able to communicate in person, write your apologizes and your feelings down, and read them out loud to yourself. Become aware why you are experiencing the guilt. Next, you must learn to forgive yourself.
3. Forgiving Yourself
In my case, the guilt was not substantiated. I had to accept my life the way it was. It was not wrong for me to be inspired by higher causes. It was completely normal to want to follow my heart to spiritual calling. It was also not wrong to give myself to the family I love.
I had to stop struggling, and accept both realities. Accept myself and my feelings the way they were. To allow myself to remain true to myself without the punishment of guilt. To forgive myself for my thoughts. After all, I am only human.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. But in my case, I found that no matter how challenging it was to combine the different paths, all were equally important and deserving of my attention. I learned to be in harmony with each one, to make room for each in my schedule, and in my heart.
Most importantly, I learned that when I am fully present in each and every moment, the overall process is substantially enhanced. And that each facet of my life can and does complement the other. All are correspondingly valuable, to offer me the most rewarding experience possible. The human experience, that is.
Live well. Vlad