Guilt and Hoarding
For many hoarders and people with too much clutter, guilt is an old, familiar companion. Many people can’t even remember a time when they did not feel guilty about their situation, their life, and the choices they make. Feeling guilty stinks. And it doesn’t exactly help you make meaningful progress with your stuff. In fact, if you’re trying to declutter because of guilt, I’m guessing you’re not having much success.
So let’s tear apart guilt and figure out how to get rid of it.
Guilt Says You’ve Done Something Wrong
Guilt tells you that you’ve done something wrong. It says you’ve committed some sort of action that you shouldn’t have. But is this true?!!!? Think about your guilt, and then ask yourself “What did I DO?” Is it possible that you can’t think of something specific? Does the guilt just kind of hover in the air around you, but isn’t actually based on any concrete fact?
Many people were raised surrounded by this concept of guilt. As children, they were led to believe that they had done something wrong and should feel guilty about it. OR if they hadn’t done anything wrong, they would soon, so they should just feel guilty anyways. Is this you? Just because this is part of your background doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Please, take a minute to talk to the memory of that little child and tell yourself the truth: You didn’t do anything wrong! You were trying your best to do the right thing, and I love you for that!
Guilt is an Emotion
Guilt is an emotion or a feeling. It can be pretty powerful, especially if you’ve been practicing feeling guilty for a long time. But it is a feeling, not a fact. Feeling guilty does not mean you are guilty of doing something wrong. Feelings are important, but negative feelings do not need to rule your life. This is where some simple strategies can give you freedom from guilt and other negative emotions that you don’t want anymore:
- Pay attention to your feelings. Whenever it occurs to you, ask ‘what am I feeling right now?’
- When your feeling is negative, make a conscious choice to stop the feeling. Don’t worry if this doesn’t immediately change how you feel! It’s a process, but choosing to stop is a really important step that will help you begin to change.
- Provide a fact and say it out loud if you can. In the case of guilt, it may be the phrase ‘I did not do anything wrong’. Normally I don’t suggest using a negative as a fact. But since guilt suggests that you have done something wrong, it’s important to correct this.
- Focus on a healing thought. Mine is always ‘I love myself.’ You don’t have to actually feel loving when you say it. Just keep saying it. The feelings will come eventually!
Here’s something really important about feelings: Your thoughts can change your feelings. You are not stuck with your feelings! Use your incredibly powerful mind to focus on good, true, thoughts and your feelings will begin to shift!
Guilt About the Past
OK, so what if you really did screw up in the past and you feel guilty about it? Whatever you did in the past, it was your best effort at the time to meet your needs.
That’s worth repeating! Whatever you did in the past, it was your best effort at the time to meet your needs.
It doesn’t mean it worked. Maybe you shut people you loved out of your life because you thought it would protect you from more pain. Maybe you maxed out your credit cards shopping because it helped to fill the emptiness inside of you. Maybe you stayed in bed and surrounded yourself with books because you didn’t know how to cope with life. All those things were attempts to meet your needs. Choosing to accept that is important.
Of course, if your past actions didn’t work for you, you don’t need to repeat them. But you also don’t need to keep feeling guilty, either.
Today you get to choose what action you will take to try and meet your needs. We’ll talk more about meeting needs in future blogs. But for now, take the steps to stop feeling guilty, and then choose one active thing to do today that you think will be good for you.
If you have any insights, please share them in the comments!