5 Ways to Release your Guilty Conscience
Surprisingly the burden of guilt can wreak havoc on our daily life. Whilst it might seem natural for you to feel guilty about certain actions, this subconscious emotion can quickly spiral into an overwhelming cycle, burdening your mind and creating a sense of constant unease. After all, if you didn’t feel guilty about an action, something you ate, drank, said, thought; would that mean that you didn’t care? My guess is that you’ve come across this information because you’re a deeply caring and sensitive person, someone who values harmony and dislikes causing distress to others. Your empathetic nature drives you to prioritise the well-being of those around you, ensuring everyone is okay and at peace. So, if something you say or do tips the balance, I know it affects you. I too was this person once.
At a deeper level, if you have perpetual feelings of guilt, it can indicate unresolved internal conflicts, unresolved past mistakes or a fear of disappointing others. It often becomes a cycle where guilt reinforces negative self-beliefs which then makes it difficult to break the pattern. Addressing the deeper meaning of why you have a guilty conscience involves exploring these underlying issues, practicing self-compassion and learning to accept yourself for being human and perfectly imperfect.
The Cycle of Self-Blame
The other day you said a comment to someone and walked away thinking over in your mind “oh why did I say that” “what must they be thinking” “I hope I didn’t upset them”, “I’m so annoyed with myself”.
At it’s deepest core these constant feelings of guilt can indicate unresolved emotional stress and self-perception issues and for some people, it reflects a deep-seated struggle with self-worth and self-acceptance. People who have a persistent guilty conscience often hold themselves to impossibly high standards, expecting perfection in every aspect of their lives. When they inevitably fall short of these unrealistic expectations, they experience guilt and shame as a result. These intense feelings can be rooted in childhood experiences, societal pressures or past traumas. Guilty feelings also stem from a need for external validation, where we can often tie our value to the opinions of others, or wanting to gain their approval.
Indeed, you’d have to be a psychopath to not feel ANY guilt or remorse and it’s completely healthy to have feelings of guilt as that’s what makes us human. However, it becomes a problem if you find yourself stuck in a relentless loop of overthinking or ruminating over past actions and behaviours which can eventually lead to depressive episodes, anxiety and inner frustration.
So how can you break the pattern of feeling constant guilt?
Breaking the pattern of feeling constant guilt or a having a guilty conscience involves a mindful process of self-reflection, self-compassion, and reframing one’s mindset.
Here are some tips on how you can whip those guilty thoughts into more productive and useful thinking patterns:
1. Switch the Internal Representation in your Mind: When you find yourself re-playing a certain situation and feeling a sense of guilt or unease, close your eyes and play the scenario in your mind but change something in the picture. Make it funny, so if it involves a person, imagine you are talking to Mickey Mouse or any other fictitious character that you can think of. Then make the cartoon character smaller and smaller until they completely disappear!
2. Reprogramme Your Thoughts: If you are feeling guilty about something you did, reflect on something positive about the action so you can see the situation differently. For instance if you are feeling guilty about eating or drinking something, or perhaps you made a purchase on impulse and now feel awful about it, change the relationship to it and look at the positive aspect; For example if you had a piece of chocolate, tell yourself it’s ok and that it tasted amazing, know that you really enjoyed the moment and give yourself permission to enjoy that experience. All the time you waste wishing you could change the past builds up more negative energy and makes you want to repeat the same pattern again.
3. Self-compassion is key in order for you to move on and should be done as often as possible. What or who do you need to forgive? You may often relate forgiveness as something that involves others, however it’s equally important to be compassionate and forgive yourself. The relief you get from simply letting go of your personal affliction is extremely powerful and the more you do this, the better you will get at it. When you carry around burdens, you are only punishing yourself and that will just make you feel worse.
4. Picture a Blank Canvass: Wherever you are in the world there’s always time to stop and clear your mind. The easiest way to do this is to think of a blank canvas. Close your eyes and imagine that you are looking at a blank page or canvas. Notice the thoughts that come in and gently let them go with love. All the time you do this, you are exercising your conscious muscle. When you’re completely in the present, your thoughts don’t exist. It gets better with practice!
5. Write stuff out: It’s good practice to express your feelings and write stuff out. Maybe you’ve betrayed someone, hurt someone or said something you feel bad about. Expressing your feelings through writing is a really good way to off-load your mental weight. I started writing diaries when I was very young and I’m certain that’s what kept me grounded throughout my younger years. In addition, for many years I’ve been a big advocate of affirmations and positive statements because they gently reprogram your mind. Writing stuff out is extremely powerful and has worked very well with my clients, but also it’s a really good way of releasing your fears, worries, concerns, issues etc. Offload onto paper and then put it in a place where you can forget about it. Your body will always want to release feelings of negativity and these manifest themselves through stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, and constant worrying. If you can write out your “stuff” it’s like having a good spring clean!
6. Use this Rapid Anxiety Relief REM Tool: In this FREE 3 Part Video Series I guide people through how to use REM as a super powerful anxiety relief tool. Moreover, this tool proves highly effective in alleviating guilt, managing stressful feelings and anxiety so I thought you might like to know about it.
Be mindful that when you ruminate over something you said in the past, you are wasting your personal energy and more time could be focused in the present, being more productive with your thinking and feeling more positive as a result.
Although I’ve shared some helpful tips, sometimes we need a little help in freeing ourselves from persistent negative thought patterns, if you’d like to have a chat, fill out the form below or book a free 30 minute discovery call <3