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Monday, December 29, 2008

Guilt is a Killjoy - By Isabella Kratz

"I'm never gonna dance again guilty feet have got no rhythm though it's easy to pretend I know you're not a fool" by George Michael (Careless Whisper)

It's true that when I feel guilty, I can't dance. I feel immobilised, going over and over the same events in my mind, driving myself insane over something I've done. There are many reasons to feel guilty: saying or doing the wrong thing, hurting someone's feelings or reputation, cheating, yelling at our spouse or kids, spending too much money...

Someone might not approve of our actions, so we feel bad for days or weeks, obsessing about what we've done and what the other person is thinking of us. We do this even though we had no intention to inflict harm on this person. Most people don't deliberately hurt others. They make mistakes. We all do, because it's our human nature, and if we were perfect, we wouldn't be here. I look back and say, "How could I have done that?" Sometimes my ego doesn't want to admit that I've done something wrong, so I try to cover up my errors, and justify myself. Sometimes I get angry because I feel guilty. But this only aggravates the situation... What's the best course of action when we're plagued with guilt?

Actually, some degree of guilt is healthy, as we need to realise when we've made a mistake, in order to learn from it and make amends.

Psychopaths notoriously don't feel any remorse for the dreadful crimes they committed, so they never gain any insight into their behaviour. But most of us are able to put ourselves in other people's shoes, and feel compassion for them. We're willing to improve ourselves. A sincere apology, and an offer to compensate the person if necessary, is often all we need to do. If the person we've injured doesn't want to accept this, there's nothing else we can do. Then it becomes this person's problem, not ours. The best way to repair a mistake is not to repeat it. Dwelling on it won't help. I can't go back in time, and I can't rewrite history. I can only focus on what I'm doing now, and make the best possible choices in the present moment.

My intentions are often good, but the result is not always what I expect. For instance, if I advise a friend who experiences marital problems, this may backfire, as my friend could blame me for making a decision like leaving her husband. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", but this doesn't mean I have to stop being active, out of fear of doing something inappropriate...

After all, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. Guilt keeps you stuck in the past, as you don't have the power to erase what you've done. Stop punishing yourself. You have the power to change, and you can do it, by putting all your energy into the present moment. Forgive yourself and say to yourself: "I am a good person". Guilt is a killjoy, and if you want to find your rhythm and dance again, you need to put it behind you once and for all.

Isabella KratzIsabella Kratz is a writer, registered nurse, and mother of six. She recently published a book, "It's Easy to Be Happy", available at Her ... ...