Jump Off The Guilt Train

[3-Minute Read + Activity] This is the easy 10-minute journaling technique I use to stop feeling guilty and sacrificing my own needs for others.

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How I jump off the guit train

This is the technique I use to stop feeling guilty and sacrificing my own needs for others.

PHOTO: Long Nose and Short Nose enjoyed the hay while I pondered my to-doing.

This morning, I kicked into my usual post-holiday routine of writing to-do lists. It’s a curious ritual of wishful thinking, established decades ago. I don’t think it has ever born fruit in the form of boosted productivity, but I insist on doing it anyway.

This time I started writing the to-do list at 3 am as I stumbled in the pitch dark to the toilet. I chalked up a mental note, ‘Must get a new night lamp’. After stubbing my toe on the coffee table on the way back to bed, I couldn’t get back to sleep.

In the dark, my brain started to-doing on the big-ticket items.

I drifted to sleep at some stage, but I don’t know if I to-do’d for a few minutes or hours.

After breakfast, I sat at my desk with the full intention of writing out the list from 3 am. My pen was within a breath of touching paper when the chatty voice in my head chimed in.

Why the heck do you keep doing this to yourself? Why do you want so much?

The inner critic had made a fair call for once; none of the stuff churning in my head was necessary.

I got up from my desk and wandered outside. My want versus need dilemma irritated me. I know I have a terrible habit of taking on too much, and I could see the future playing itself out. I’d start with great enthusiasm, kid myself I could manage it all, then drop all the plates I have spinning in the air sometime around June.

I decided to walk down to the stables to check on our sick cow. Long Nose has an infected rear, left hoof. It has remained unresolved for weeks, despite ongoing veterinary care. I wanted to check on her and Short Nose, her calf.

I fetched Long Nose a bucket of molasses-coated grain, and three biscuits of hay and sat close to her as she snorted and munched. Her feeding was rhythmic and purposeful. Animals know what’s good for them. Long Nose wasn’t hungry, but instinct told her the enriched food would aid her recovery. While Long Nose ate, I got back to pondering my to-doing.

I projected the word ‘want’ onto the big screen in my mind. Dark and ugly letters appeared that blurred to dirty grey at the edges. As I looked at the letters on the screen, feelings of guilt rose from deep within my gut.

It would take a lifetime to analyse why I feel guilty about wanting. I suspect the headline causes would be fem-guilt, equating wanting with greed, and Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Guilt is the second-lowest state of consciousness, according to Dr David Hawkins. Shame is the lowest. Guilt is intense and destructive because it pushes humans into a place of inaction or negative reaction. It triggers us to behave in a counter-productive way.

At that moment, while Long Nose chewed chaff, the penny dropped on my to-doing behaviour. Guilt permeates the word ‘want’ triggering me to write stupidly long to-do lists. It pushes me into overwhelm and procrastination. Truncating timelines, which makes everything urgent, is another way I self-inflict mental terrorism. I do it because deep down in my unconscious mind, I believe that getting what I want will make me a bad person.

With the problem clear, the world seemed lighter. I patted Long Nose on the head and wandered back to the cottage to start wiping out the want-guilt.

How I removed the want-guilt

I first accepted that it existed. I then connected the word ‘want’ with a more productive emotion using these three steps.

  1. I chose an emotion higher up Hawkins Scale of Consciousness, e.g. ‘love’.
  2. I picked one of my projects and wrote a heading in my journal using the following format – [Project] is an act of [emotion], e.g. Renovating the cottage is an act of love.
  3. I then used Stream of Consciousness journaling to explore the thoughts and ideas that flowed.

I immediately felt calmer and focused when I did this 10-minute activity. It generated a very motivating vision of our ideal home life, some components of which are easy to do now.

I’ll revisit what I’ve written whenever I feel the hankering to write a stupidly long to-do list or am overwhelmed and demotivated.

IMAGE: Dr David Hawkins Levels of Consciousness overlaid with the Go-Getter’s Compass Achiever Archetypes.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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