Thursday, September 8, 2011

One minute to let go of guilt

Hey, busy person! Have you got a minute? Forgo that last quick click over to Facebook, and let's spend that minute on something a little longer-lasting.

Step one in today's plan is to go read back over my post about one-minute forgiveness. Letting go of guilt is really about self-forgiveness and self-acceptance. I know, not an easy task, but let's at least get started practicing. It comes with time.

Again, we're going to find a comfortable spot, even if it's your office chair with the door closed and the lights dimmed. Give this the room and respect that it deserves. A minute of guilt reduction might make your day go by easier. I know for a fact that it won't hurt.

Breathe. So simple. Such a key to so many things that we do for ourselves. Your breathing helps to center you - it helps to bring you back to where you started from. Simple, slow breathing, the soft beating of your heart, the quiet... relax into this. Sometimes I visualize the aftermath of an explosion, or a fireworks display - watch as you inhale and all of those scattered bits come back to you, make you whole and centered again.

Letting go of guilt is an act of self acceptance. Guilt is rooted in our comparison of ourselves to a perfect ideal - we're punishing ourselves for doing something wrong. Guilt runs deep, and most of us are trained to do this from a very early age. Guilt is well-modeled in many families as a way to modify behavior. We internalize it and use it against ourselves.

Find that little point of guilt - let's start small! - and notice it. Observe it. Describe it. Look at it without judgment. "I see that I am guilty about yelling at my child when I dropped her off at school." Nothing beyond that. No "why did I do that?" No "that was shitty." Just the simple observation of the fact that you feel guilty.

Now the fun part. That act that you feel guilty about? It's over. It is now out of your control. If you want to, you can apologize for it some time in the future. You can resolve to never do it again (hey, you're human - in all likelihood, you'll do it again. Accept that!). But, in this moment, in this breath, you can forgive yourself. You can accept your humanity and your imperfection. And you can LET IT GO. Visualize, if you'd like. That guilt can be a stone that has been warmed too long in the sun, and it's burning your fingers. Put it down. Holding it tightly is not doing you any good. Put it down and let it cool. Accept it as it is. Flood it with love for its natural beauty. Direct that love at yourself. You're human. You're beautiful. And in this moment, you accept and forgive yourself, because in this moment that is your only task.

Forgiveness, you'll find, is often something more easily practiced on others than on oneself. This is the way we're built. Self-compassion is frowned upon in many ways. With a little practice, though, we can reveal that oppressive social training for what it is, and we can relieve ourselves of some of the unnecessary burdens we carry. Accepting responsibility can be a very positive thing. Punishing ourselves for doing something "wrong," long after the fact - not so much.

Try this, more than once. And, if you miss a day, try not to feel too guilty about it. :)


  1. Very useful -- thank you! It almost reminds me of a type of Buddhist meditation I used to do (and ought to start doing again -- hm, I think I feel guilty about it. Oops!) ;)

  2. This blog rocks my socks. Thanks for writing.

  3. I find it interesting that this gets posted on the day when I find out that someone was using a tissue of half-truths and outright lies in my name to try to attack my boss and her business.

    I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you to find that I'm the kind of person who is wounded more by the thought that something of my doing (even taken out of context and "supported" by outright lies) is used to hurt those I care about than if it were used to hurt me directly.

    Guess what I just spent the past few minutes doing? My cat finally decided he should come help, he gets worried when I cry.

  4. I just wrote you that DM on Twitter, and then was like, oh I should pop in on DrJ's blog...Then I read the guilt post and felt the lightbulb go on! The universe is totally vibing on my being today! It feels so good to know that. Thank you very much for your DM, because I might not have otherwise looked at your blog today. So glad I did!

  5. I just want to let you know that this helped. Really helped. Thank you.

  6. I'm so glad this helped. Thanks for telling me!