Guilt-Regret-Shame! How Powerful Are These In Your Life Now?

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From the last blog I had a reader express interest in me writing about guilt, regrets and how to get over these feelings. These are topics I haven’t written much about in blog form so I am excited to do so. I decided this topic will need to be covered in a series of blogs. For today I want to talk about the difference between guilt, shame and regret. Although they are very closely linked, they each have their own distinction that makes each unique in and of itself.

I know that all of us have experienced the feeling of guilt at some point in our lives, or maybe even daily. So guilt in its simplest form is when we feel bad about a something we did or did not do. It is usually about a behavior; an action we did or didn’t do. Healthy guilt is very appropriate. There are many behaviors that are very appropriate to feel guilty about, such as, stealing money from your parents, or canceling on your girlfriend so you can go out on a date. Guilt is more of a problem when it becomes unhealthy, which I will talk more about next week.

Regrets are very similar to guilt; however, I see regret more as a type of loss. I regret something that I didn’t do that I wish I would have. For example, I regret not going to Suzy and Bob’s wedding. I regret that I never visited my Aunt before she died. Or I regret I didn’t give my kids more of a religious upbringing. So it doesn’t have the same flair as guilt. It is more of a loss feeling. Again, I will go into more detail about this in a future blog, particularly how to sooth ourselves from these regrets. And as I get older I see how thinking about regrets really does occur as you age and is a normal part of the development stages of ageing.

Then there is the nasty shame word. Shame makes guilt and regret very complicated and difficult to overcome. Shame serves no good purpose at all. Shame is when we tell ourselves that we are bad. We are no longer focusing on a behavior or loss. Shame is when you turn into yourself and tell yourself that you are bad, or defective at your core. And as you can imagine or maybe you know how hurtful and often debilitating this is.

So for today I am introducing you to guilt, regret and shame. You may relate to all of these. I look forward to talking more about how we heal and cope with each. Next Monday I will talk about guilt, then regrets then shame. The goal is that each of us can free ourselves as much as possible in this lifetime.

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What’s Up With My Relationship?

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Life is an interesting journey. It seems the older we get the more twists and turns come along. For many of us finding a partner, a mate, has been our main agenda. In our younger years we assumed we would grow up and meet a wonderful mate, get married and live happily ever after! What has happened?
As we all know from the divorce rate, marriages are not doing well. Couples, whether married or not, are having trouble staying together through the many challenges life brings into their relationships. The story we always imagined for ourselves is not reading the way we had hoped.
What is going on? While there is not enough room in this one blog for me to address all aspects of this problem, I will discuss an issue that I believe has a great impact on our relationship’s success or failure. I often say to clients that the two greatest things we do in life are being a partner and/or being parent, yet there is no training required for either. That is amazing!
The only training we usually have is from our family of origin and our past love relationships. I strongly believe one of the best things we can do for our relationship is to become healthier ourselves prior to getting seriously involved with someone. It would be nice if general relationship skills, such how to communicate non-defensively and how to be a good listener were taught in our school systems! They teach sex education, why not teach some basic relationship skills!
So what about those of us who are already in a committed relationship, divorced, or remarried? It is never too late. Often you need to start with yourself. It’s easy to become very discouraged and negative with our significant other. While many of your complaints may be valid, the only person you have control over is you. Check out your expectations. What are they? Where did they come from? Are they realistic? I remember growing up my favorite fairytale was Cinderella! (That really set me up for failure!) Think about the music you listen to and the message it is sending you about love and what it should be like! These culturally imposed suggestions can have a big impact on your expectations in a relationship.
Often we have many of our own unmet needs. Maybe you never felt loved as a child. Maybe you never felt you were good enough for one of your parents? Consciously or unconsciously we often expect our partner to fill our voids. Often they do initially, but fall short down the road. Address the parts that are about you. Become clear on what your responsibility is to heal within yourself, and what aspects of your relationship need improvement. I understand this is often a fine line but, it is one worth exploring before you make a decision about beginning or ending a relationship.

Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk

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The messages you tell yourself are the essence of your self-talk. What is self-talk? Self-talk is the internal conversations you have with yourself. Everyone has this internal dialogue, but not everyone is aware of how he or she is talking to himself or herself. Be aware of your self-talk throughout your day. Try and notice if it is positive or negative. Pay attention to your thoughts.
If your self-talk is negative, it will be disempowering to you. If your self-talk is positive, it will empower you. Too simple? This statement is a true statement, but positive self-talk is not always easy to attain. Changing our internal beliefs takes time. These beliefs weren’t usually created overnight. You have probably had some of these beliefs about yourself for most of your life. So be patient with the process of changing them.
I encourage you to take a moment every hour and notice what you are thinking. Is it positive or negative? Make a mental note and then go on for another hour. The goal here is to help you start paying attention. Most people are not aware of how they are talking to themselves.
A creative and effective way to do this is to use a wristwatch that has an alarm feature. Set the alarm to alert you every hour. Or, use your alarm on your cell phone. The sound of the alarm will be your reminder to check in with your thoughts. Notice if you are being positive or negative. Don’t judge yourself, just notice. This is a great way to help you start paying attention to what you are thinking. As you get used to paying attention to your thoughts, the goal will be to change any negative thought to a positive one.