Why Do I Feel Guilty?

guilt flyers

guilt flyers (Photo credit: bpp198)

Admittedly there are times when you should feel guilty.  For instance, if you cause harm to another person, take something that does not belong to you, or lie about something to get your own way, you should feel guilty because you have done wrong.  But this is not the guilt that plagues you, that guilt is understandable as the cause is easily identified.   Rather, the guilt that plagues you is an almost constant annoying feeling which continually questions your character, motives, thoughts, actions, and feelings in nearly every circumstance no matter how insignificant.

It becomes this voice in your head challenging you, criticizing you, critiquing you, and condemning you far beyond the expectations of others.  And yet it is the fear of not meeting those expectations that ultimately drives the intensity of your guilt to a heightened level of discouragement, detachment, and depression.  If this describes you, then know that you are not alone but there are some reasons for why you feel this way and how you can make it stop.

Who does the voice remind you of?  This is the first question to ask yourself when you feel guilty.  If the voice is your conscience identifying some harm, hurt, or damage you have done to yourself or others, then confess the wrong and seek forgiveness.  If instead the voice reminds you of your mother, father, grandparent, teacher, or preacher, then recall the previous time you have heard this voice.  Perhaps you were a teen and told that only bad girls call boys first or you were five and told that only bad boys talked back to an adult.  Whatever the event, identify it and ask if you still agree with their belief system.  As an adult you can make these decisions for yourself now and do not have to carry over the beliefs of the influential people in your life just because they said things were a certain way.  One of the reasons for feeling guilty could be that you are still holding onto beliefs that you no longer agree with as an adult just because they come from someone you love.  You are not abandoning a person just because you no longer agree with them; rather you are abandoning a belief.

What is the voice really saying?  For instance, does the voice use a lot of “you should have”, “you ought to”, “you must”, or “you have to”?  These key words are indicators that there is an unmet expectation either you have placed on yourself or someone else has placed on you.  Expectations can come in all forms such as the goal to complete a project within a certain time frame, the desire to “out-do” yourself and exceed other’s expectations, or a hope to please someone by your actions.  If you did not get the response that you wanted: the person was not overly impressed, you did not get the recognition you hoped for, or the project was not completed, then your response could be intense feelings of guilt.  Setting reasonable expectations is the key to disarming this guilty feeling and more importantly learning to be satisfied with a job well done because you believe that it is well done is even better.

Why are you listening to the voice?  One of the hardest areas of discipline is not physical but mental.  If you have identified the voice as coming from someone else and now see that the voice is setting unrealistic expectations, then why do you continue to listen?  While you are responsible for your own actions, beliefs, thoughts and even emotions on occasion, you are not responsible for other people’s actions, beliefs, thoughts and emotions.  Everyone is responsible for themselves just as you are responsible for yourself.  Trying to take responsibility for others will exhaust you and leave you frustrated as your efforts did not help the other person to move on but created an unnecessary dependency.  Your feelings of guilt in this case appear because the very person you were trying to help has not improved but has gotten worse and you feel guilty for their irresponsible behavior.  Stop rescuing others, there is only one Savior and it is not you.

Some cultures and religions more than others encourage feelings of guilt as a way to cause you to conform to their arbitrary standards.  But this is not the way of Jesus.  He did not use guilt to motivate change, rather He used love.  And that precisely is the cure for excessive guilt: love.  The definition of love is taken from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  Love and guilt are not the same thing; rather love can be used to conquer and overcome feelings of guilt.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Curse of the Overly Responsible Person

It is such a huge burden when you are the only responsible person in the room.  Why can’t everyone around you just see how much work you have to do all day long?  If only this person would do this and that person would do that then everything would be fine.  But no, instead you have to do this and that because no one else will do it and it must be done.  While doing everyone else’s work is tiring and can provoke you to anger, secretly you actually enjoy being the person who gets it all done.  After all, if this person did this and that person did that then how can you be admired for all the extra work you do?

The curse of being overly responsible is that without irresponsible people around, how can you be overly responsible?  This means that at some level you actually get satisfaction from being overly responsible or you would not keep doing it.  So, what does it mean to be overly responsible?  It means that you take on more responsibility for things or people to the point of excluding others from taking on their own responsibility.  This exclusion sometimes comes if the form of criticism for how a task was accomplished.  For instance, say you were at a budget meeting where everyone was to analyze their own areas and then present suggestions at a meeting.  You may not like the manner in which one person chooses to complete the task claiming that it is insufficient.  Instead of teaching them how to do the task, you find it easier to “just to it myself so that it is done right”.  This is overly responsible behavior and you are driving everyone around you crazy.  So what can you do?

Stop taking on other’s tasks.  No matter how hard this is, you must stop doing things for other people just because it is “easier”, they won’t do it “right”, or you are just trying to “help”.  Pretending to “help” someone out by doing something for them when they are responsible for doing it is NOT helping either them or you.  The only thing you accomplish by “helping” is creating an unnecessary and unhealthy dependency which ultimately only serves to feed your ego.  Your ego likes to be “needed” because that is where you get your self-worth from but this is not healthy.  A positive self-worth comes from understanding your value in Christ not comparing your value to that of another person.

Stop comparing yourself to others.  At a much deeper level, when you take on another person’s tasks you are saying that you are better than them.  Being better or being more responsible than others sets you apart from the crowd and allows you to stand out but this is not servant leadership, rather it is self-motivated leadership.  Everyone has their own journey to follow, in their own time.  By insisting that a person be at the same level as you, you are really saying that you know better where they should be rather than allowing them to follow their own journey.   Sometimes, a person has to suffer the consequences of their own decision in order to make better decisions going forward.

Stop saving others.  There is only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and you are not it.  By focusing on other people’s issues, you steal energy away from caring for yourself and then begin to see this process as a sacrifice you make for them.  The problem is that the sacrifice has already been made in Christ and He doesn’t need you to sacrifice yourself for others.  Rather you need to offer your life as a living sacrifice to Him.  Jesus will save them.  You can pray, encourage, guide, teach, and love but you are NOT to save them.  This is why you become angry when someone does not appreciate your “help” because you are really trying to “save” them and it isn’t working.

There is a small verse in Galatians 6:5, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct”.  You are responsible for your conduct and you will receive the rewards or consequences of your behavior.  Others are responsible for their conduct and they will receive the rewards or consequences of their behavior.  Being overly responsible is not being godly; it is trying to take the place of God in the life of others.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Vows, foolishness, guilt, mercy, freedom: What do these things have in common?

Vows, foolishness, guilt, mercy, freedom: What do these things have in common?.

via Vows, foolishness, guilt, mercy, freedom: What do these things have in common?.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Feel Guilty Over Everything

You have met the guilty type: the person who feels bad over things they have no control over, the person who takes responsibility for other’s mistakes, or the person who can’t seem to rest because there is so much to do.  Yes, you have met this person and they may be staring back at you in the mirror.  Frequently thoughts such as “I should not have”, “I can’t believe I did this”, “I feel so bad”, or “I wish I could” plague their mind as they actually believe that everyone else thinks this way too.  These thoughts often paralyze them into hours or days of inactivity or worse senseless busyness.  But there is a better way.

The third stage of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development is Initiative vs. Guilt which occurs during the delicate years of four to six.  Taking initiative is the ability to formulate a plan, an idea, or a scheme and then begin the process.  It does not necessarily mean completing it however, this is a different stage of development.  Guilt is an emotion where a person feels responsible, takes blame, feels shame or remorse for something that has happened.  Although, it does not necessarily mean that the person committed the action.

The Psychology.  These years are associated with the preschool and kindergarten years for a child when they either learn to take initiative or to feel guilty when they don’t.  During this time, they are very interactive with play usually creating some type of random game or imaginary scenario to reenact.  If a child is allowed the freedom to play their own game or be imaginative without criticism, they learn to take initiative.  If not, they feel guilty because their idea was not good enough or was done the wrong way.

The Child.  As the child progresses, if they have learned to take initiative they will naturally take responsibility in other areas of their life as well.  They will want to learn and become more involved in their own basic care such as learning to cook (easy things), hygiene, academics, and sports.  If they have not learned to take initiative, they may be uncharacteristically shy about trying new things without constant approval from others, they may be afraid to share ideas for fear of criticism, and often refuse any leadership opportunities.

The Adult.  An adult who has learned to take initiative will handle change relatively well with an ability to formulate new plans as needed.  They have learned to manage themselves and maintain a sense of self-control.  However, the adult plagued by thoughts of guilt often takes on too much responsibility to mask their irresponsibility in other areas of their life.  They constantly feel bad for others and try to “help” others even to their own detriment.  Sadly, they are more than willing to subordinate their plans to others because their plan is never good enough.

The Cure.  Recognizing the guilty thoughts and calling it guilt is half of the battle.  The other half is counter-acting the thoughts with truth.  For instance, if a person feels guilty because they got a promotion over a coworker, they need to stop and recognize that they are not responsible for the decision, a manager is.  Moreover, perhaps the reality is that the guilty person, not the coworker, actually works harder and does deserve a promotion.  As long as the guilty person did not jeopardize their coworker’s chance at the promotion, there is nothing to feel guilty over.

The only time God uses guilt is to convict us of a sin.  All of the other times a person feels guilty, they are actually taking on more than their responsibility and risking their health and welfare in the process.  Realizing that Jesus Christ already bore the price for sin and He has already taken on the responsibility, eliminates the need for anyone to take on the sins of others.  Instead, the guilty adult must learn to shed the unnecessary guilt and begin to take initiative for the things they are responsible for handling.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Struggle With Intimacy

Have you met a person who only allows you to know so much before they push you away for no real reason?  Just when you thought you were getting close, they seem to pull back to the beginning of the relationship refusing to go any deeper.  If you challenge them on it, you will be met with such resistance and denial that in the end you might start to believe you are crazy.  Well, you are not.

Interestingly enough, a person who struggles with intimacy can be married, single, divorced, widowed, have children, have friends, be involved in a church or their community.  They can look like the most involved active fun person to be around but in reality it is all a front to keep you at arms’ length.  Erik Erikson’s sixth psychosocial stage of development is Intimacy vs. Isolation which occurs during the ages of eighteen to mid-thirties.  During this time period a person usually explores the idea of being intimate with another person but marriage is not necessarily an indicator if they have learned true intimacy.

The Psychology.  All of the psychosocial stages naturally build on each other just like steps on a staircase as each positive trait that is reached helps to support the positive outcome of the next.  But in the case of this stage, it is strangely essential that all of the other stages have positive outcomes for a person to reach true intimacy.  Some people do not want a positive outcome, preferring to mistrust another person over trusting them, and instead are more satisfied with isolation instead of intimacy.  The cost of intimacy in this example would mean they have to trust another person and this cost is too high of a price to pay.  So they pull back in any relationship that requires them to trust another person.

True Intimacy.  Intimacy and sex are not the same thing.  Intimacy is when you can be completely transparent before another person in your thoughts, actions, emotions and beliefs.  Even though you may have a fear of rejection, abandonment, shame, guilt, doubt, or insecurity, you are still willing to set the fear aside because intimacy is more valuable than the fear.  Contrary to many beliefs, the ability to give intimacy is not dependent on the other person’s response or character; rather it is dependent on the heart of the person giving it.  Sex is designed to be a reflection of that intimacy, a special act that you reserve only for your most intimate partner.

True Isolation.  In contrast, isolation is the choice to separate, segregate or seclude oneself from others.  Usually this decision is born out of fear from a traumatic experience either they personally encountered or one that they witnessed.  The likely result is that the traumatic experience also created a negative result from the corresponding psychosocial stage thus reinforcing the belief that isolation is preferable to intimacy.  For instance a child who is molested during the psychosocial stage of Initiative vs. Guilt feels guilty for the molestation even though they are not responsible for the act.  This guilt as an adult tells them they are not worthy of intimate relationships and therefore should prefer isolation because it is the safer option.  A person can still get married and have children even when they have chosen isolation over intimacy but the closeness or attachment is never developed.

The Cure.  So how can a person who has chosen isolation learn to be intimate?  They must want it enough to process whatever trauma they experienced or witnessed and be willing to heal from the past.  They cannot do this for another person; rather it must be a choice they make for themselves because they value intimacy over isolation.  A relationship with God is very helpful during this process as learning to be intimate with your Creator is foundational to learning to be intimate with others.  Strangely enough, it is actually easier to be intimate with your Creator over another person because He created you and knows you already.  Thus it requires less work on your part because you are already transparent to Him.

Once the foundation of intimacy has been laid with your Creator, the healing process can begin and intimacy can be learned.  It is quite a relief to live your life with someone for whom you do not have to pretend to be anything but what you.  Again, your willingness to be intimate is not dependent on their response, but rather it is a gift that you freely give.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Surviving the Emotional Side of Bankruptcy

Emotion

Emotion (Photo credit: rexquisite)

The decision to file for either a business or personal bankruptcy is difficult enough.  While you may have prepared yourself for the short-term and long-term financial consequences for the decision, most likely the emotional consequences have yet to be addressed.  Each person is different and for some the emotional reactions are less than others but for the most part, each walks through the different stages although not necessarily in any particular order.  By being aware of the emotional stages to the bankruptcy and learning to cope effectively you can begin to heal from the storm of bankruptcy.

Shock – Is this really happening?  This is the most immediate reaction to the reality of filing for bankruptcy and usually lasts for a couple of weeks.  It is similar to a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car; you feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, and insecure about the decision you made.  Worse, some your past decisions are what contributed to this moment so you are reluctant to trust even yourself to make the simplest of decisions in the moment.  Shock fades as the reality of your situation sets in and some minor decisions are able to be made.

Guilt – What have I done?  Recalling past mistakes over and over for the point of learning from them is useful but when the recalling turns into beating yourself up, it becomes destructive.  Feelings of guilt over poor decisions in the past seem to flood your thinking and can be too much to handle at times.   Being aware of your mistakes and learning from them is different from agonizing over them.  What is done is already done, now is not the time to beat yourself up over the past, rather begin to look forward to the new possibilities.

Shame – What will others think?  Friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors might be able to find out about your bankruptcy.  However, you are under no obligation to tell anyone about your bankruptcy unless it is asked for on an application to a job, rental agreement, loan or other legal binding document.  Everyone does not need to know about your financial situation; this includes friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors and talking about it to everyone is not necessarily helpful.  Your financial situation is your private business and should only be disclosed if required or agreed upon with your spouse.  Instead find a confidant, a counselor, a long-term friend, or your spouse to discuss and vent your feelings of frustration, but try to keep the discussion to just one or two persons.

Anxiety – What will I do now?  The pounding in your chest, difficulty breathing, racing heart rate, stomach indigestion, nausea, sweaty palms, dizzy feeling, chills or hot flashes are indications of intense anxiety.  Anytime you feel out of control, overcome by fear of things that you were never afraid of before, or as if things are happening to someone else and not you, it is likely that you are experiencing anxiety.  Just identifying anxiety as anxiety sometimes reduces the intensity while understanding that the root of the anxiety is the bankruptcy and not you losing your mind.

Anger – Whose fault is this?  There is a tendency to blame others for the bankruptcy and in some cases this is entirely true.  Economic factors such as loss of a job due to reorganization, loss of business, or decreased value in a home are for the most part outside of your control.  Taking anger out on the economy, politicians, or your dog will not improve your condition, it will only make it worse because it distracts you from the things you can control.  The same is true for blaming your spouse for the bankruptcy; all that accomplishes is to add to the increased tension in a marriage and could result in permanent separation.

Depression – Why does everything seem so hard?  At some point all the other emotions seem to fade and you are overcome by an intense sadness that may result in a desire to be alone, crying over unexpected events, disinterest in things you previously enjoyed, moodiness, loss of energy, insomnia, indecisiveness, decreased sex drive, or sudden weight gain/loss.  Situational depression under these circumstances is normal.  There are times in our life when we will naturally have great peaks of excitement such as falling in love or the birth of a child followed by great valleys of sadness such as losing a loved one or as in this case filing for bankruptcy.  Understanding the cause of your depression is half of the battle, not allowing it to take over your life is the other half.

The emotions you may experience after filing for bankruptcy may catch you off guard and can vary in intensity over a period of one to two years.  In many ways, filing for bankruptcy is similar to a death because recovery from bankruptcy requires a commitment to die to past spending mistakes and expectations for the future.  Look for the article titled, “Now What: Recovering from the Negative Emotions of Bankruptcy”.

For more information, watch this YouTube video: 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.