Hello, and welcome to The Pursuit of Identity & Purpose channel; I am your host, The Real Charles Browne. (This article has been edited from the original transcript for clarity and grammar.)
And today, I want to talk to you about Guilt and Regret.
This is the first in a series of posts, the top ten most frequently asked questions I hear in my practice helping others in their pursuit of Identity and Purpose.
So with that, let’s get right into it, so concerning guilt and regret, let’s say that some guilt is good, and some regret is good. It means you’re a compassionate person who feels remorse or bad about having made mistakes in your life.
Good Guilt and Regret
So on some level, if you harm an innocent person or, through inaction, refuse to help someone that you could have easily helped, it’s probably very healthy that you feel a little bit of guilt, a little bit of regret for not taking action or for taking the wrong actions in those circumstances.
It gets dangerous when you have too much guilt, become obsessive, and exercise a lot of self-abuse. When you keep yourself in a suffering state, that limits you. It also limits your ability to live a fulfilled life and your ability to help others and impact other lives around you.
Not Feeling Guilt or Regret?
The far extreme, of course, is when you feel no guilt and no remorse whatsoever which makes you a sociopath, when you don’t have any regard for the consequences of your action or inaction, so that’s kind of the scale of what we’re talking about, the spectrum of what we’re talking about when it comes to feeling regret, feeling remorse and guilt,
What I want to talk about is that middle area. That unhealthy spectrum of guilt, which is too much, obsessing over your past, causing yourself to do a great deal of suffering, feeling that you aren’t adequate or you aren’t good enough, you don’t deserve anything because of the mistakes that you made in the past.
Let me clarify a few important points I usually discuss with my clients. Firstly, it’s crucial to acknowledge that you gave your utmost effort at that particular moment unless you intentionally intended to harm someone. If you did cause harm intentionally, it’s unlikely that you would be experiencing intense feelings of guilt.
Maybe it was a bad day. Maybe you were tired, or you were anxious. Perhaps you just had some stressful stuff going on in your life, but at that moment, you broke down, made a bad choice, and now you feel guilty about it.
So first and foremost, ensure you reflect on that situation through a lens of reality and not emotion. Consider the situation and see if there’s a way to cut yourself a little bit of slack and say, “You know what, I did my very best in that situation. It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, but I tried my hardest”.
Ignorance vs. Stupidity
The other technique I would tell you to try is recognizing that you didn’t know what you didn’t know. I have personally experienced a few instances where I reflect upon and feel regretful. Upon reflection, I recognize that I made decisions or choices that had negative consequences for me. However, it’s important to acknowledge that, at the time, I didn’t possess all the information or awareness of other factors at play. Perhaps the other person involved had issues or circumstances that I was unaware of when I made the decision. Now, looking back, I regret my choice and feel guilty about it.
However, during that period, I had to make a decision based on the knowledge I had at that time. When new information emerges, it can certainly make you feel remorseful, but it’s important to give yourself some leeway and acknowledge that you couldn’t have known what you didn’t know back then.
When Bad Things Don’t Happen
If you continue to experience guilt regarding a particular situation, another aspect to consider is the notion of survivor’s guilt, which is commonly associated with feelings of guilt for simply surviving. However, survivor’s guilt does not solely pertain to surviving a life-threatening situation or a catastrophe.
In reality, you may experience survivor’s guilt for not being laid off while others were; you may feel guilty for having fewer remaining relationships within your circle of friends, or you may even feel guilty for achieving success in certain areas of your life that others close to you were unable to attain.
You have to accept that it’s perfectly okay for you to have success and to have survived a certain situation that others didn’t and not feel guilty for that.
When Guilt and Regret Get Out of Your Control
The next level I would have you consider is things beyond your control. So when making emotional decisions, maybe we don’t recognize that there was nothing else we could have done. Perhaps during that crucial moment, you believed you had a choice, but in reality, numerous circumstances beyond your control could have influenced your reaction or response to the situation. It’s possible that there was an element completely outside of your control. This is an aspect worth contemplating.
Give Yourself a Break
The next thing I would tell you to do is to go easy on yourself. Many of my clients frequently struggle with guilt, regret, or shame stemming from not meeting certain standards. The truth is, those standards were never truly their own, to begin with. They were often unrealistic expectations imposed upon them by their parents, boss, sibling, or spouse.
It’s essential to take a moment and understand how your identity and purpose factor into living a fulfilling life. This involves recognizing and accepting your standards rather than trying to live up to external expectations.
What Matters to You
So if you’re feeling guilt and regret and shame around something that you did or something that you didn’t do, for example, something you didn’t achieve, stop for a second to think about how important that goal was to you or was it more important for someone else and you feel guilty for not meeting their standards.
Engaging in such behavior is highly risky, as it can trap you in a never-ending cycle of revisiting a situation repeatedly. You may believe that you are not competent enough, that you should have exerted more effort, or that there might have been alternative actions you could have taken. Stop for a minute and don’t just look at your action but your action in the context of the expected standard. Did you set that standard, or did someone else?
I want to share with you in kind of that same vein you have to accept that it is perfectly okay to protect yourself and protect your rights. If you are experiencing guilt or shame regarding something you did in the past, but you took those actions to safeguard yourself, your rights, or your values, it is important to pause and grant yourself some respite. Each one of us has the right to uphold our own set of values and protect them through the choices we make. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.
So that’s it; those are the big hitters. If you’re feeling a lot of recurring and obsessive guilt, regret, or shame, I hope this helps. I hope you make some breakthroughs and progress on that.
In conclusion, if you seek personalized guidance and support on matters of Identity and Purpose, I invite you to take the next step and book a Strategy Call with Charles. During this call, we can delve deeper into your specific concerns, explore potential strategies, and work towards unlocking your true potential.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain valuable insights and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Visit http://therealcharlesbrowne.com/ to schedule your Strategy Call today. Take the proactive step towards living a more fulfilled and purpose-driven life.