Feeling Guilty About What You Are And What You Aren’t Doing? Try this.

I’ve noticed a lot of guilt knocking about how we “should” be feeling and what we “should” be doing with our time.  There’s guilt about being productive when others can’t be, there’s guilt about not being productive when others seem to be. There’s guilt about feeling anxious and stressed, there’s guilt about feeling good. 

And the thing is that a lot of guilt is a sign that your emotions aren’t really flowing how they need to.  The system I use to navigate emotion (that’s helped me experience this lockdown (largely) peacefully and with sparkles of joy) is Karla McLaren’s.  Now one of the biggest learnings from her is that the emotion we’re REALLY talking about is shame.  And nature intended shame to be a GOOD thing for us.  In Karla’s system, guilt is more of a statement of fact – you’re either guilty and you did wrong, or you’re not guilty and you didn’t do wrong.  Shame is the emotion that comes up when you do wrong.  

You want to have some kind of internal message system that tells you when you’ve done something dangerous or hurtful to someone else, don’t you?  Shame is your conscience and in its healthy, flowing state.  It will warn you before you’re about to do something that could be dangerous or hurtful to either you or someone else. 

So why does shame feel so bad?

The trouble with shame is that it’s been weaponised as a way to control people’s behaviour.  And often when someone wants to control your behaviour, it’s because you’re doing something that is unconsciously taking them out of their comfort zone and reminding them of what they’re not doing.  For example, it’s so easy for new entrepreneurs and spiritual practitioners to experience being shamed by people who feel uncomfortable about the changes they’re making.  On some level, it reminds them that they’re not making those changes for whatever reason, so they’ll use shame as a weapon to try and stop you making them uncomfortable.

The crucial difference between healthy and unhealthy shame is that the healthy one is created from the inside out in response to your behaviour and actions.  The unhealthy one is created from the outside in in response to unconscious fears, pain or discomfort that another person is trying to avoid.  It’s easier to try and make someone else feel bad for my discomfort than it is to have the courage to connect with the source of my discomfort and heal it.  

Last summer, I took a deep dive with unhealthy shame using Karla’s method in her book “The Language of Emotions” to clear it out of my body, mind and energy system.  Man, was it painful!!!😖  But on the other side of riding that pain and discomfort was a profound peace.  😌

It means that now when I spot shame coming up, I’m able to let the emotion work with my thinking and ask the key question:

“Am I genuinely doing something that could hurt me or someone else, or is this just a conditioned response to doing something different?”

You don’t need to have done that deep shame detox to check in with shame. If you’re not being productive and feeling shame, ask yourself if you are genuinely hurting yourself or someone else?  I strongly doubt it.  

If you’re feeling happy and joyful while others are feeling a rainbow of emotion, are you genuinely hurting yourself or them?  Not unless you’re trying to force them to feel the same as you when they’re in a different emotional space right now. 

So go easy on yourself.  Every single person is having a unique experience of this unprecedented event.  Whatever your unique experience of it is, you’re doing fabulously.  


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