Monday, August 20, 2012

Good Guilt, Bad Guilt - No Guilt?

While attending Education Week at BYU, there was a specific class that resonated with me as a mother.  The class was focused on overcoming negative emotions, called: "Living After the Manner of Happiness," by psychotherapist Steven Eastmond.

The class was about the most commonly labeled negative emotion - "guilt."  Eastmond spoke of his many patients that said they felt "guilty" for not being able to raise their children the way they planned, or felt "guilty" they forgot a special occasion and hurt a loved one, or "guilty" for acting against their personal beliefs and moral compass.  Of course, guilt is an understandable emotion when someone has acted against their value system, but, many times, we are driven to feelings of guilt because of mistakes.

Since everyone makes mistakes, Eastmond suggested to ask yourself, "have I done something that should produce guilt?"  As parents (especially as mothers), our choices affect our children, and personally, there are many nights I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep from feelings of guilt for my mistakes: things I should be doing better or more of, and frustrations I struggle with.

Eastmond then suggested that instead of using this overused (and abused) emotional label, we replace the word "guilt" with another word (such as sadness, regret, disappointed, etc), enabling us to deal with that emotion (get some sleep), and then, let it go.  Studies have shown that inducing self-related negative emotions have such profounds effects on individuals that they can even produce negative health conditions!

If we can remember to not compare ourselves to others (everyone has weaknesses/problems, some are just more visible than others), if we are doing the best we can and doing everything possible to rectify the mistake or problem, then we need to learn to let go of the guilt.  Instead of dwelling on a self-deprecating past, look at your potential and who you can become.  This produces a happier individual, a healthier view of yourself and of life, and gives us the motivation to better ourselves.

To wake up unburdened, excited for a messy breakfast with a happy baby that can't wait to spend any day with you.


  1. Well said, Jen. Don't you just love hearing something that once heard, you realize you probably already knew it, they just articulated it. They m
    ade it clear and suddenly obvious. So glad you got to go to a few classes...never enough, but a great way to spend some time.
    Love you pretty girl,

  2. I have felt that "guilt" by having to work and be away from my son. I always thought I would be home with him. I also compare myself to others( its one of my main weaknesses). Blogging doesn't help because I see how other people are living, but I loved this post and would love to go to a class like this.

  3. We all have it at some ways I think it is good to have because it helps us want to do better. I think it is great to channel it into something that can be worked through, like disappointed and then do something about it. Great post. And you as usual are so cute!