Dealing with Guilt - Saying No
Although guilt is not one of the primary feelings (anger, fear, sadness, and joy), it is so pervasive in our culture that it needs some primary treatment. Guilt is a mixture of both fear and anger and acts like an internal smokescreen. It allows us to feel bad about something but prevents us from seeing alternatives and doing anything effective to change the situation.
Regina reports that when she was a regular cigarette smoker she always felt guilty about her habit. She remembers how smokers would often admit to one another, I hate myself for doing this. I should stop." This little "confession of sins" became almost a ritual that punished and absolved her all in one step. She was then guilt free - until the next nicotine urge struck.
Guilt is rampant among those who have been trained (often since birth) to feel "not OK" about themselves. Guilt usually covers up anger about all the "shoulds" they have swallowed that can never be adequately digested; all the demanding and disapproving parental voices, both within and without, that can never be silenced. Those who are preoccupied with guilt miss the opportunity to constructively channel the energy of their rage into actually alleviating or solving the problem. It is much more comfortable to keep one's familiar misery and perpetuate the cycle of self-depreciation than it is to risk the unknowns that come with being effective and powerful.
Learning to say no and stand one's ground, rather than overadapting to others, is a good starting point in breaking guilt patterns. The next steps include telling the truth about our anger, admitting our fears, and refusing to perpetuate negative self-talk that keeps "not-OKness" alive.