How a Guilt Quilt is Built, Part 2

Read: How a Guilt Quilt is Built, Part 1

Using last month's suggestions, when you build your awareness of how guilt actively plays a part in your life, you start the process of change. This first step is very much like conscious meditation, where you still feel all the emotions in your body and see all the thoughts in your mind, but you try to remain emotionally unattached to them as they swirl around and through you. You still experience them, but you actually see them as separate from you.

Questioning the guilt as it occurs is the start of the shift of the balance of power. Right now, the guilt holds power over you. Yet as you start to question it, it loses some of its grip on you. You become encouraged that it has lost some of its strength, and you feel like you can take the next step in lessening its power over you even more.

Now I want you to think about all the answers that came to you asking "Why", every time you felt the guilt. How much of it was repetitive and even mindless? How many times were you unable to even answer that simple question? You can see how you have accepted the guilt without ever really thinking about it before.

The next step is to see how your thoughts translate into behavior. Watch and keep track of what you say and do as a result of the guilt. Do you lose your sense of self as you try to make amends for what you perceive as a wrong? You can start to regain this sense of self by watching how you respond to the guilty feelings in you. If you lose awareness of what is happening in you, then gently remind yourself to pay attention as soon as you do remember.

You are waking up to what has previously been an automatic process. Be diligent in increasing this awareness of yourself whenever you can. Watch how in all areas of your life your emotions motivate you to think and act in a certain way. This significantly increases your level of self-honesty and awareness, where you can observe how you act without judging yourself.

The next thing to address is how you judge yourself when you feel guilty. Guilt tells you that you are bad in some way. What does it say to you? Be clear about the message you hear about yourself. If, at first, you don't hear any actual words, pay attention to how you feel.

Do you cringe internally? Can you feel a part of yourself shrink inside? Can you feel the fear wash through you? Do you hope that somebody else won't catch your 'transgression'? By observing how the emotions ripple through you, you can catch some of your body's subconscious responses. Then there will be the self-dialogue, all intended to remind you of how bad of a person you are.

That must be stopped and you can it with a simple, yet very effective technique. When the self dialogue goes south, say the word "stop" in your mind or out loud. If the thoughts persist, increase the intensity of the word "Stop", until you are louder than the thoughts. If you need to, in your mind, yell "STOP" as loudly as you can to make the mind pay attention. Picture a big red stop sign in your mind as an alternative.

In the beginning, follow the cessation of what your mind has been telling you with the simple words "I am a good person". It does not matter if you believe it or not, you are training your mind to respond to a different stimulus. If different positive phrases come to mind, use those as well, but be careful that the mind doesn't trick you into thoughts that once again are not positive.

For those that are brave or on those days and occasions where you feel like you can do more, tell yourself " I love you". This can be one of the hardest exercises for a guilt-ridden person. An even bigger challenge is to look in a mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself. Do what you can, when you feel you can do it. Yet, having said that, push yourself a bit or your fear and guilt will take the upper hand again.

Now go to the diary that you kept about your thoughts and answers to the questions "Why". Even if you have not kept a diary, you can do this for any thought that comes up that you want to change. Any thought that makes you feel bad about yourself is one that you need to consider changing. Eventually you will address all negative thoughts, but for now focus on the guilt related ones or ones that feel like you can counter to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Next to each entry in your diary, write down an opposite thought to what you have written or observed about yourself. Make it a positive statement. If you have difficulties with this part, think of a person that you admire and think of what positive words you would say to them if they said that negative thing about themselves. Now say it about you.

This step creates great discomfort in the beginning. It does not matter if you think it is true or not, you must make yourself say it. The best way to work through the discomfort is to repeat the positive statement about yourself over and over until it loses its charge. Eventually you will be able to add new positive statements much more easily.

This process is about rediscovering your self worth. Do you remember being a child and having moments of self-confidence that just seemed right and natural? Where everything was right in your little world until an adult came into the picture and gave you a message that caused you to question yourself and feel bad about who you were and the choices you made. It still exists inside every one of us and it is your innocence. The work you are doing is intended to uncover and replace all the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that you were given that create hurt for you.

Your parents did the best they could in teaching you about life. Yet most parents really did not understand themselves, so how could they teach and give you messages about yourself that created a natural self-love? That was practically unheard of in the past and certainly not practiced in most families. Even in loving families, negative messages were inadvertently passed on to children by the most innocent of statements. Now, as adults, how we perceive what is being said has the most impact on us, not what the speaker intends.

It is in the most recent generations that the concept of personal growth has grown and become mainstream. We have the knowledge and ability to question what we have learned about ourselves and the tools are becoming more readily available to change that. Please try the tools that I have given you.

Even the smallest of changes creates big ripples in your life. One last thought that I want to leave my readers with is that whenever you do make personal changes, it disrupts the patterns of behavior that you have with the people around you, which you may or may not be aware of.

Sometimes the changes are seamless and go unnoticed, but more often then not, when you make a change in yourself, the people around you become uncomfortable as you are exhibiting a new behavior that they don't know how to respond to. Most people are subconsciously afraid of the unknown and react by becoming defensive, which can either be in the form of defense of offense to protect them from what they don't know.

The way to deal with the ruffles caused by your changes is to believe in yourself and understand the source of their reactions. The phrase "riding out the storm" is appropriate here. Be patient, allow the other person time to adapt to the new you and come to the conclusion that they are safe and that nothing is threatened.

Most of this happens subconsciously, so by understanding what happens, you can get through it easier. Have faith in yourself. Make your emotional health your number one priority, a state of being that is innocent yet wise and spontaneous yet conscious. Your happiness comes from how you see yourself and how you treat yourself.

Give loving yourself a try.

Ewa Schwarz

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