Guilt is a rope that wears thin
Your stomach is in knots; you feel anxious, you feel shame either for something you did, something you think you did, or something you didn’t do but are thinking of doing. You might even have felt guilty because you think you could have helped someone more than you actually did or because you think you are better off than others. You may not even know which of the five reasons mentioned above is making you feel guilty, but you do know that knot in your stomach is making you uncomfortable.
At one point or another, most of us have felt guilt in our relationship. Has it happened to you? Were you able to relieve the guilt by offering a sincere, appropriate apology? (now, that’s a topic for another blog…). If you did, great! But, what about when it becomes chronic, and you constantly feel guilty? Perhaps you no longer want to be in your relationship and don’t know how to approach your partner, or you feel the relationship is going too fast and you feel trapped. It could be as simple as you not wanting to participate in an activity you partner loves. You feel bad for letting them down, but you just can’t force yourself to go to one more monster truck show or painting class.
Identifying what type of guilt you’re feeling and where it’s coming from is crucial. Otherwise, it can paralyze you or harm your ability to be authentic, try new things and, in the long run, sabotage your relationship. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to try things you do not want to do if they make you uncomfortable. You know what you like and what you don’t like. As a conscious partner committed to growth, you would have discussed these things with your partner, and they would have done the same and agreed to allow you space, to a certain extent.
You do not need to feel guilty for being who you are. Because guilt is an emotion (a negative one) and emotions are created by thoughts…change the thought, change the emotion. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. This is the thing; your brain loves guilt! You might be surprised to know that guilt can be ADDICTIVE. Neuroscientist Alex Korb’s research showed that in the short term, guilt makes us feel good. Without going too much into the neuroscience of things, you should know that when you feel guilty, the reward centres of your brain are activated. Feeling guilty can make you feel good! No wonder, sometimes, we wallow in feeling guilty. For example, if we know something we do hurts our partner, we feel guilty about it; why do we keep doing it? Wouldn’t it make sense to stop? Or if we really want to continue doing it, and we are honest with ourselves and our partners, why do we still feel guilty?
What can you do about it?
Try to narrow down from where those negative feelings are coming. Once you realize why you feel uncomfortable and guilty, in certain situations, you will be better able to act. Korb also suggests shifting the focus to rewire your brain because the stem portion of your brain is activated by feelings of gratitude and releases the neurotransmitter dopamine (affectionately known as the feel-good hormone). The good thing about this is that you don’t even have to have something for which to be grateful. The mere fact that you are thinking/searching for something to be grateful will activate your brain. So, don't let guilt sabotage your relationship. Change your thoughts and seek gratitude!