Finding time is much more than a matter of schedules and to do lists. Sometimes optimizing your time requires some inner housecleaning.
That’s because you are at your most efficient and effective when you have full access to your energy. To give yourself that access, though, you might need to poke around some areas that have become overgrown with distortions.
Step back and think about it: Are there any strands of guilt that stubbornly spoil your pleasure and waste your time, despite your best efforts?
When guilt is deeply entrenched, there’s nothing like exploring its “root system” to help you dig it out. One powerful way to look at that root system and defuse your guilt is to let yourself hear what guilt sounds like for you. Try asking yourself the following 5 questions and then listening to the answers that come from your Critical Voice (your guilt-engendering voice).
Exercise: Give Your Guilt a Voice (But Not a Vote!) Encourage your Critical Voice to speak up. Don’t censor it; and definitely don’t buy into its messages. Just observe. Later you’ll be able to use the insights to help you respond assertively to your guilt messages.
1. What does your Critical Voice say you “should” have done?
2. What images does this voice conjure up to punish you with?
3. What outcomes does it threaten you with?
4. What feelings come up when your Critical Voice tries to control you? Is there a sequence?
5. How do you feel when you stick up for yourself?
Chances are, you learned something new from stopping to ask these questions and listen to the answers.
In the next step, you can use the answers as a blueprint to address key issues squarely. For example, let’s say you’ve decided that you want to cut back on volunteer work. Here’s a sampling of some potential answers your Critical Voice might give, working with that scenario:
1. Your Critical Voice says you’re letting everyone down, and that your needs should come last.
2. You’re flooded with images of people’s angry, disappointed faces, and you imagine their words of reproach.
3. Furthermore, this harsh inner voice threatens that no one will understand or accept you.
4. You shrink in response to this familiar lecture, one you often endured as a child. But then you feel angry at this bullying!
5. At first you feel afraid, but when you remind yourself that now is different, you feel a wave of relief. You know that honoring your needs is your responsibility, while trying to earn others’ approval puts you off-balance and pulls you off-track. Your confidence returns. You know that you’ll do what makes sense in this moment.
Uprooting guilt takes time: often it’s hidden under layers of denial. But denial gradually gives way as you commit to facing things head-on. Taking it a step at a time, asking the right questions, grounding yourself and realigning your priorities will reduce guilt to a faint shadow that fades in the light.
Remember: guilt is yours. That’s the good news. It means that, whenever you choose, you can defuse your guilt and reclaim your power!
© Copyright 2011 Paula Eder, Ph.D.