This week I was interviewed on a telesummit that dealt with the pain of divorce.
At the end of the call, I answered a few questions and later recognized a common theme in the questions was “I feel so guilty.”
Guilt, if it really is guilt, is a useful emotion. It has exactly ONE use: to show us what we value.
One of the callers said she was feeling guilty about her divorce and wanted to make sure that she had made the right choice for her children.
When a parent feels guilt about how a choice they’ve made might affect their children, it is usually because they have a strong value around being a good parent…which could show up as a desire to create the right environment for them, the desire to have happy children, or the desire to be a strong person who can provide a sense of safety, or support, or, or, or…the list goes on and on depending on that person’s core values, and what “being a good parent” means to them.
And when we can suss out our values by connecting WHY we feel guilt in any given situation, we can move forward with determining how we can still fulfill that value even in the midst of whatever we are going through.
If you were the parent in the imagined scenario above, how could you show up as a “good parent” even in the midst of divorce? How could you help your children have an experience of happiness – even in the midst of divorce? What could you do to show your sense of strength, to provide a safe space, etc?
There is surely a myriad of ways to fulfill your core values even in the midst of [fill in the blank]…because your core values are attached to WHO you are, and you are here to BE that person.
But, and here is where the confusion comes in, sometimes when I hear the word “guilt“, I intuitively get a strong sense that the underlying feeling is really “shame“. And unlike guilt, shame is not very useful at all.
Guilt is when we feel bad about something we did.
Shame is when we feel bad about who we are.
Read that again!
Sometimes when I hear, “I feel so bad about choosing divorce because I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing for my children” (guilt), the unspoken piece is “I feel bad because my marriage failed and that must mean I’m not a good enough wife, mother, person.” (shame)
Nothing could be further from the truth. You are good enough, and you are enough, period. The very fact that you feel guilty is evidence that you have a strong value connected to something that if highlighted you could take pride in (in this example…being a good parent.)
You do not have to feel ashamed. Everything you have experienced up until this moment has been part of your unique journey, and yes, we experience pain in life.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
Guilt can cause us pain, until we are willing to recognize that it is connected to a value we have, then we can course correct and move forward by finding ways to fulfill that value. It can be a powerful tool of self-discovery.
Shame, on the other hand, causes suffering because it is directly connected, ALWAYS, to the thought that we are not good enough. Suffering is optional. You are good enough. Choose to believe it.
Love & Magic,
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