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Guilt

VanilliVanilli Veteran
edited March 18 in Diet & Habits

Hey guys, does anyone have any advice on how they deal with guilt?

I've done a couple of things that I'm not proud of in life, I try to live with high integrity and always try to be kind and compassionate and to do the right thing, in the past I've got it wrong (and in ways that may have been obvious to some people), I spend hours rehashing and thinking about the things I'm not proud of and going over them (like one or two things, but somehow they seem to outweigh everything else and I put pressure on myself to always live my integrity, I know it's not always possible). I tend to do this almost everyday and it typically lasts for hours. I know it's so unhealthy and it's really hurting me to do it but I have no idea how to stop. I think if I feel like I keep going over it then I can find a way out of it and simultaneously I feel like the guilt and the beating myself up shows me that I'm not that person anymore. I know that this is so unhealthy and that I'm addicted to punishing myself but I don't know how to stop.

Has anyone else struggled with this and does anyone have any advice that they'd kindly share please?

Thank you :)

Comments

  • VanilliVanilli Veteran

    @person said:
    Guilt isn't one of the things I've struggled with so I can't offer anything specific to that. I can give the general advice of using meditation to learn to let go of the stories we tell ourselves. Like you I've had other painful stories about my past that arise again and again to torment me. At some point for me I've just been frustrated with it and decided that ultimately whatever story we tell about ourselves is just a story and a highly biased one at that, I'm sure there are plenty of good things you've done so why doesn't your mind rehash those things over and over again instead? Habit. You don't have to believe everything that you think.

    By meditating you can learn to let go of thought patterns again and again. They keep coming back but you build up a skill that can be applied to more difficult thought patterns. It's like you just notice it and say to yourself I'm sick of it, let it go and it fades away. Do that enough and it loses it's strength until it's gone. It's usually a long term game that takes years but sometimes there are breakthroughs where things happen suddenly.

    Sorry, that's all I have to offer. There probably are some cognitive tricks people use, and that's maybe more what you are looking for so hopefully someone else can offer some.

    Thank you @person, that was so helpful and much appreciated :)!

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    forgive yourself. There is nothing wrong with working through the past, but if you are not making progress and just beat yourself up then some things, we simply never get answers to as far as why or how. We can let it go and forgive ourselves. If someone else had done those things, or done them to you, what would you tell them? We are often so quick to be compassionate and forgiving to others. But not ourselves. We deserve the gift of freedom from carrying guilt as well as anyone we would offer forgiveness to. I would honestly say that perhaps we are unable to completely forgive someone else unless we know what it is to forgive ourselves. How can we tell someone else to be free while we stay in our own cage?

    KeromeCarameltail
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I've read that guilt is backwards looking. Trying to change something that is already past. Remorse is forward looking in that you resolve not to do the things you screwed up in the past. Remorse is positive and something you can rejoice in its presence.

    lobsterpersonkarastiFosdick
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Vanilli said:
    Hey guys, does anyone have any advice on how they deal with guilt?

    https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/dealing-with-guilt-and-shame
    http://m.befriendingourselves.com/Tonglen.html

    Enough already. Breath it all in, love it all out ...

    Keromeperson
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Vanilli

    You may find this short guided meditation by Jack Kornfield helpful...

  • yagryagr Veteran

    Are you certain that it is guilt you are feeling? I ask only because I often confuse guilt and shame.

    Shoshinkarasti[Deleted User]Kaydeekay
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Repetitive bouts of guilt are in the area of punishing oneself, I think. It rarely carries any benefit, and is part of patterns that can make ones life a hell. Instead, these things are often resolved by insight and being accepting of the truths we find.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Can you apologise to the people or person involved? If not, can you find a way to undertake something to balance out what you did . For example, I made a donation to the RSPCA a little while ago to try and amend for some careless and cruel killing of fish and mice I undertook when I was young.

    KundoKaydeekay
  • CarameltailCarameltail UK Veteran
    edited March 18

    You have to love and accept yourself no matter what.
    Sometimes we make mistakes and it's important to accept that.

    I do sometimes think about the past in regret or at least I used to a lot but a lot of the time there was nothing much I could do about it.
    There is no point dwelling over about 'spilt milk' and even if there was something I could do is it worth my time or to the other person. It's ok though to feel like you could have done better sometimes but not to hold it as guilt because that just harms yourself, use what has happened as it as a guide for improvement. Though it's best not to focus too much on this past and focus on the present. Be positive in the moment and constructive. You're never gonna be completely perfect, things just happen sometimes just do your best.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    Guilt is like the second arrow.

    Blame is a waste of time. If there is a problem, fix it. If it can't be fixed, learn and let go.

    personShoshin
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited March 18

    Among the addictions encountered along the way, there is the addiction to worry and the half-hidden conviction that worries will make me a better person. Who would I be without my worries? It's a great way to avoid practice and assert ego.

    None of this is unusual or worth criticizing, but it is worth attending to because, I think, so-called ego is a wily cuss that has no intention of giving up without a fight. So....

    The only thing that seems to put a dent in this scenario is ... just keep on keepin' on. Like any other tableau, it gets boring after a while: If you can't do anything about it and yet you keep trying to do something about it .... well, after a while even you might laugh. Hold it gently in the palm of your hand and let it dance and sing and do its striptease. Over and over and over again -- lookit me! lookit me! lookit me-me-me-me-me!!!!! It's like watching summer re-runs on TV ... over and over and over again until ... until ... until....

    Did you ever notice that there is no way to keep the precepts? You can bust your buttons all you want, chastise all you want, adhere and adore all you want and still every action is a reminder that, well, you're out of your depth. Take a look. The precepts nudge and anyone would be a fool to ignore them, but keep them??? Unlikely at best. Every breath I take is a breath that might have sustained another being, giving him-her-it a better chance at life. But I breathe and, by extension, deprive, and by further extension, kill.

    Now let me get on with being worried about it. What a flop I-I-I-I-I am! If I worry enough, that must prove I am alive and well and healthy and not a mirage at all.

    Patience, courage and doubt are your best allies. Use them. Practice. Eventually, ego tripping will wear out its welcome ... or not.

    Give it a shot. :)

    A soft breeze
    Removes last year's leaves
    From off the path ahead
    As I put away the rake.

    lobsterkarastiKaydeekayFosdick
  • A while back, @Carlita, posted a link to Sutta Readings. They host an audio version of one my favorites: MN 20 - The Removal of Distracting Thoughts. I like to passively listen to it, echoing the words in my head as they’re spoken. You could try that instead of ruminating. If that doesn’t work, try distracting your mind with anything else it enjoys, a movie, a puzzle, whatever. To ruminate for hours is to cultivate ill-will. Distracting yourself from it is kind, compassionate and the right thing to do.

    silverlobsterKeromeShoshin
  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    Just stop beating the crap out of yourself.

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited April 2

    Thank you everyone, your wisdom and advice was much appreciated and very helpful to me. I've decided to let it go, all I can do is be better than yesterday and I intend to be so.

    lobsterSnakeskin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Outstanding @Kaydeekay <3

    Intention, focus and concentration is a great start. Welcome to NewBuddhist.

    KaydeekaySnakeskin
  • ToshTosh Veteran

    @Vanilli said:

    Has anyone else struggled with this and does anyone have any advice that they'd kindly share please?

    Oh, yes, lots and lots of it. I've been a real idiot - massively so - when I was younger.

    I've even abandoned a family and two kids and my behavior was such that even my mother disowned me for ten years, where I didn't even know if she was alive or dead.

    And then there's all the people/organisations that I owed money too.

    And then there's the current Mrs Tosh and step daughter that had to deal with an active alcoholic.

    And there's a brother who I never communicated with.

    A best friend who I put in hospital during a drunken brawl.

    I definitely know how to deal with guilt; I also know guilt is extremely damaging. Regrets are okay and can be useful, but guilt is a killer.

    Could you be more specific about the stuff you're guilty of? I could offer some specific suggestions then.

    Kaydeekay
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited April 6

    @Tosh said:

    @Vanilli said:

    Has anyone else struggled with this and does anyone have any advice that they'd kindly share please?

    Oh, yes, lots and lots of it. I've been a real idiot - massively so - when I was younger.

    I've even abandoned a family and two kids and my behavior was such that even my mother disowned me for ten years, where I didn't even know if she was alive or dead.

    And then there's all the people/organisations that I owed money too.

    And then there's the current Mrs Tosh and step daughter that had to deal with an active alcoholic.

    And there's a brother who I never communicated with.

    A best friend who I put in hospital during a drunken brawl.

    I definitely know how to deal with guilt; I also know guilt is extremely damaging. Regrets are okay and can be useful, but guilt is a killer.

    Could you be more specific about the stuff you're guilty of? I could offer some specific suggestions then.

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest <3. I realise that probably a degree of it is that I have experienced trauma and on some subconscious level I feel that that happened to me because I am 'bad' or wrong in some way. And the 'bad' things I've done are concrete things that I have latched onto, because I can't consciously blame myself for the traumatic things that weren't my fault.

    As an exercise, I'm trying to replay my 'good deeds', like the past volunteering I've done.

    I'm sorry aha, it seems quite petty but thank you for listening and taking the time to share ^_^. It really helped me feel better.

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited April 6

    It's snowing here and I wrote this cheesy poem about how transitory 'we' are and how nature is a mirror of that.

    Snow fall

    Iridescent flurries
    of white cloud
    float on air
    And melt into rooftops with icy kisses
    I am made of snow

    I am nothing and
    I am endless
    Free falling through the air
    Waiting to become one with the ground,
    the air, the sky again
    I am made of snow

    My stories of yesterday
    Tiny powdery flickers of life
    Racing towards the heavy concrete
    Fresh blankets of white wonder
    I lose myself and begin myself again and again
    Every past second forgets itself
    I am made of snow

    The spinning, ever-evolving dreams of snow clouds
    Shatter and break
    And begin over and over
    I am made of snow

    You hold fragmented rememberings
    Like water in the cupped, wrinkled maps of your guarded palms
    But they’ve all past, like a dream
    Your old stories don’t belong to you anymore
    You are made of snow

    ShoshinlobsterSnakeskin
  • ToshTosh Veteran

    @Kaydeekay said:
    As an exercise, I'm trying to replay my 'good deeds', like the past volunteering I've done.

    Why can't you try to amend the situation you feel guilty about? If you've harmed someone, can't you apologise and ask what you can do to rectify the situation?

    Obviously this depends on the type of harm you've done. As an example, a guy I sponsor beat his ex-wife up badly. He didn't go to prison because he was mentally ill and ended up in a mental hospital instead. But he still carried a lot of guilt over this.

    I explained his ex-wife wouldn't want to see him; that it may frighten or traumatise her further, but as an amend he could donate some money to a local women's refuge, thereby transforming something negative, into something positive that helps others.

    But some amends can be done directly. "Can I speak to you? I'm sorry for what I've done. Is there anything I can do to rectify what I've done?"

    It takes courage, but it does work.

    We can't change our pasts, but we can change our relationship with our pasts. It's tough being mindful of the present moment when we're carrying stuff like guilt, or any other negative afflicting emotion.

    And I don't think some stuff can be just 'mediated away'.

    Kaydeekay
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited April 7

    @Tosh said:

    @Kaydeekay said:
    As an exercise, I'm trying to replay my 'good deeds', like the past volunteering I've done.

    Why can't you try to amend the situation you feel guilty about? If you've harmed someone, can't you apologise and ask what you can do to rectify the situation?

    Obviously this depends on the type of harm you've done. As an example, a guy I sponsor beat his ex-wife up badly. He didn't go to prison because he was mentally ill and ended up in a mental hospital instead. But he still carried a lot of guilt over this.

    I explained his ex-wife wouldn't want to see him; that it may frighten or traumatise her further, but as an amend he could donate some money to a local women's refuge, thereby transforming something negative, into something positive that helps others.

    But some amends can be done directly. "Can I speak to you? I'm sorry for what I've done. Is there anything I can do to rectify what I've done?"

    It takes courage, but it does work.

    We can't change our pasts, but we can change our relationship with our pasts. It's tough being mindful of the present moment when we're carrying stuff like guilt, or any other negative afflicting emotion.

    And I don't think some stuff can be just 'mediated away'.

    I agree, but I don't even necessarily think it's anything to be guilty about. I think it's toxic neurotic guilt that has blown the situation out of proportion. Even if I should feel guilty about it, I shouldn't be obsessively going over it and making myself feel terrible a year on.

    It relates back to when I was in a relationship, an ex boyfriend left the country for a few months, I told him while I was away that I was pretty sure I didn't want to be together when he came back and that I wanted to be by myself. While he was away (and we weren't speaking/together in any sense of the word) I became friends with another guy and would spend time chatting to him/texting him in a friendly way - not intimate or flirtatious or anything (because I find male friendships easier). I thought maybe if I spent more time with him then maybe I could have developed romantic feelings for him in the future (and I did when we went for a meal together a couple of months after I parted ways with this other guy). When the ex came back, he surprised me on my birthday and assumed that everything was back to normal/acted like we were still together. I wanted to break it off with him, but he had always been a bit manipulative (unintentionally) and would say things like "I'd be so gutted if you ever left me" (and after we broke up wouldn't leave me alone or accept that I didn't want to be with him). And because I'm quite empathic I found it hard to deal with and was really struggling to break it off with him. Meanwhile I was still friends with the other guy whose company I enjoyed. And it more seems to stem into toxic obsessive guilt/anxiety about whether I'm a terrible person for it, which to me seems more like a psychological issue on my behalf (I was badly physically abused when I was younger for 'misbehaving', which is why I'm also trying to think about whether or not my intense guilt/shame also connects to that). I've figured out that I won't be making any 'one on one' male friends in the future while dating someone, but logically although I feel guilty about it, I don't think rationally objectively like there is much wrong with that situation - but my mind can't seem to let go of it.

    I have thought about speaking to my ex about it, but feel like that may potentially lead to him obsessively thinking about it in a poor me way and I'm a bit angry that he never listened to me when I said I didn't want to be together, which I find kind of manipulative. So I don't particularly want to go that route. I don't think there is anything else I can do about it. I can't go back in time, all I can do is decide to not have male friends that I talk to one on one in the future. And I have changed my male friendships with the new guy I'm dating, so that I have male friends I only talk to in a group setting (bar a very good male friend who I just talk to one a week or so). That is me trying to take control and learn from my past and deal with it in a practical way. What else is there to do?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Tackle the sense of low self-esteem you have which seems to be preventing you from believing and accepting the fact that much as you owe others respect and consideration, you deserve it too, and have a right to participate in something, or not, as the case may be.
    In a relationship where you want to be, you owe it commitment. But if you're doing anything you'd rather not be doing, you owe it to YOURSELF to respect your own desires and act upon them.

    You can't be held responsible for the way others process information. You ARE responsible for the way you communicate your wishes, and the way you treat people; but if your behaviour is compassionate and beyond reproach, it's not your call to mend their broken feelings, or change your stance in order to accommodate them and make them feel better.
    You should never sacrifice your own mental, physical and emotional well-being simply to keep someone else from having to deal with the difficulties they are making for themselves.

    Snakeskin
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited April 7

    @federica said:
    Tackle the sense of low self-esteem you have which seems to be preventing you from believing and accepting the fact that much as you owe others respect and consideration, you deserve it too, and have a right to participate in something, or not, as the case may be.
    In a relationship where you want to be, you owe it commitment. But if you're doing anything you'd rather not be doing, you owe it to YOURSELF to respect your own desires and act upon them.

    You can't be held responsible for the way others process information. You ARE responsible for the way you communicate your wishes, and the way you treat people; but if your behaviour is compassionate and beyond reproach, it's not your call to mend their broken feelings, or change your stance in order to accommodate them and make them feel better.
    You should never sacrifice your own mental, physical and emotional well-being simply to keep someone else from having to deal with the difficulties they are making for themselves.

    Thanks Federica for your straight talking advice. I've struggled with not wanting to 'hurt people's feelings', and sometimes this has meant that I put other people's feelings before my own and have been bad at asserting myself and enforcing boundaries. This is something that I have been working on this year, since that last breakup. I also realized that it was patronising to think that people couldn't deal with the pains that are an inevitable part of life, everyone has their own journey and it is not on me to try to protect them from the pain of me living my life. I know it is also probably to do with fear of reprimand or feeling like my thoughts/feelings/desires weren't worthy or would be wilfully ignored, which I think stemmed from abuse. I guess a learned helplessness but I know I'm the only one that can pick my self up and recover from those effects, by rebuilding a healthier self. I guess on some level I feel like a terrible person and I don't know how rational that is, I've been trying to work on it but it seems so imbedded a lot of the time.

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited April 8

    Would it surprise you to know that you share this 'struggle' with... well, probably every single decent person you know? Ooh yea, welcome to the WWC (The WorldWideClub).

    There's a fine line between 'Selflessness' and 'Doormat'.

    (Oh, by the way, put aside the Buddhist concept of 'Self' and 'Not-Self' for a moment, ok? While a pertinent and extremely valid & notable concept, shelf that for a second... ;) )

    Another way of looking at the difference between 'Selflessness' and 'Doormat', is to consider re-naming them as the two varieties of Compassion (here comes the Buddhist bit):

    Wise Compassion, and Idiot Compassion.

    Wise Compassion supports Independence.
    Idiot Compassion enables (co)Dependence.

    All too often we sacrifice what we'd like to do, in order to facilitate someone else's desires for that moment.
    Because it's kind, considerate, generous and selfless. Yeah, we know that.

    But: examine your motives, in that instant.
    Is it really something that will, either immediately, or in the long-term, be of true benefit? Who's it making feel better, honestly, deep down?

    Sometimes, even if it feels wrong (against character) it's right.
    And sometimes, even if it feels right, it's wrong, because it's still against character.
    Get it?

    It's a tricky one to evaluate, because ultimately, being compassionate is always a little bit about doing the right thing and feeling good about it.
    But if you get that little gut feeling that tells you "Eeew, ugh, damn, I'm putting myself below the fairness line!" then something, somewhere, isn't right.

    Compassion sometimes wears hob-nail boots and administers a swift and firm kick up the ass.
    With Love.

    The trick is not whether to show Compassion. The trick is knowing how to administer it, and do the right thing - for everyone concerned.

    You can read about Self and Not-Self elsewhere and throw that into the mix at your leisure. It's worth a mention, to be sure....
    I'd love to go into that sphere as well but (a) it's contentious and (b) I have some other things to do right now! :D

    Besides, there's more than enough there for you to put your gnashers around and chew over for a while.... ;)

    lobsterVastmindKaydeekaySnakeskin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Kaydeekay said:
    It's snowing here and I wrote this cheesy poem about how transitory 'we' are and how nature is a mirror of that.

    Snow fall

    I enjoyed the poem. <3

    You have expressed important Buddhist ideas.
    The fleeting nature of mind and existence, The perfect flawless present.
    You have taken on board the good advice provided. B)

    Imagine this: Every negative thought, guilty emotional impediment could be covered with pure dharma snow. Then you could offer snow balls to any Buddha to take them to throw at demons when going on hell realm picnics ... yep imaginary Boddhisattas have weird hobbies ...🤪
    Just imagine, every guilt trip can be used to feed the fiery hell realms ... and cool them down ...
    https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/vajrayana/tantra-theory/visualization-practice-in-tantra
    __
    This message sponsored by Lobster Hell Realm Tours - Snow Balls provided o:)

    Kaydeekay
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer

    @federica said:
    Would it surprise you to know that you share this 'struggle' with... well, probably every single decent person you know? Ooh yea, welcome to the WWC (The WorldWideClub).

    There's a fine line between 'Selflessness' and 'Doormat'.

    (Oh, by the way, put aside the Buddhist concept of 'Self' and 'Not-Self' for a moment, ok? While a pertinent and extremely valid & notable concept, shelf that for a second... ;) )

    Another way of looking at the difference between 'Selflessness' and 'Doormat', is to consider re-naming them as the two varieties of Compassion (here comes the Buddhist bit):

    Wise Compassion, and Idiot Compassion.

    Wise Compassion supports Independence.
    Idiot Compassion enables (co)Dependence.

    All too often we sacrifice what we'd like to do, in order to facilitate someone else's desires for that moment.
    Because it's kind, considerate, generous and selfless. Yeah, we know that.

    But: examine your motives, in that instant.
    Is it really something that will, either immediately, or in the long-term, be of true benefit? Who's it making feel better, honestly, deep down?

    Sometimes, even if it feels wrong (against character) it's right.
    And sometimes, even if it feels right, it's wrong, because it's still against character.
    Get it?

    It's a tricky one to evaluate, because ultimately, being compassionate is always a little bit about doing the right thing and feeling good about it.
    But if you get that little gut feeling that tells you "Eeew, ugh, damn, I'm putting myself below the fairness line!" then something, somewhere, isn't right.

    Compassion sometimes wears hob-nail boots and administers a swift and firm kick up the ass.
    With Love.

    The trick is not whether to show Compassion. The trick is knowing how to administer it, and do the right thing - for everyone concerned.

    You can read about Self and Not-Self elsewhere and throw that into the mix at your leisure. It's worth a mention, to be sure....
    I'd love to go into that sphere as well but (a) it's contentious and (b) I have some other things to do right now! :D

    Besides, there's more than enough there for you to put your gnashers around and chew over for a while.... ;)

    Thank you, you have given me a lot of food for thought. I have to keep growing and taking responsibility for myself :).

  • ToshTosh Veteran

    @Kaydeekay said:What else is there to do?

    Not a lot, really. When it comes to our exes, normally the best thing we can do for them is to stay away.

    I have met a few women in A.A. who have asked me to be their sponsor. They say stuff like "I'm a tomboy and never really got on with other women".

    I always refuse to sponsor them because I'm a male and newly sober women really need other women to help and understand them.

    The only thing I can think of is that you could develop a friendship with another female and talk to them about it. It may help you process the guilt and you'll receive better feedback too.

    Kaydeekay
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