How To Deal With Guilt & Empower Yourself Without Shame

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What is guilt, and why do you experience it when you mess up or make a mistake?

More importantly, do you know how to deal with guilt when you experience it?

Guilt is feeling ashamed, whether the humiliation is justified or not. We've all been shamed for something.

Even if your “misdeeds” may seem comical when you look back on their original setting, the self-punishing effects of guilt can stifle you for years to come.

Feeling guilt or shame is a dreadful sensation no one wants to experience.

RELATED: 3 Ways To Stop Feeling Guilty (Cause It's Making You Feel Crappy For No Reason)

Learning how to deal with guilt and shame can be empowering.

You can learn the difference between suffering over your past mistakes and using them to empower yourself for change.

For example, Gloria is a woman in her 20s who recalls the first time she was shamed.

When she was only four years old, her six-year-old playmate took her behind the house and exposed himself to her. Her mother was in such hysterics, that the neighbors came over to calm her down while they ignored Gloria.

This is the first time she recalls ever feeling guilt and shame, and it lasted with her well into her adult years.

Guilt is not a healthy motivator, nor is it a relationship tool.

In fact, many times guilt is narcissistic, self-centered, and presumptuous.

It can lead you to agree to things you would otherwise not want — including relationships — or even ruin otherwise enjoyable situations or connections with the people you love.

Guilt can also make you feel responsible for someone else's feelings. Instead of relating to someone, you end up "projecting" your beliefs on them.

Each situation where you're experiencing guilt could be handled better by looking at the facts before making the distorted conjecture that fits with your view of the world.

If you do this, you'll often find you leap blindly into a guilt reaction. You may even end up jumping to conclusions that are not there.

Guilt stops healthy communication. 

Guilt and shame keeps you from opening painful topics for discussion.

Ultimately, you can't heal your wounds and upsets when shame is involved, because you can't have a healthy conversation about it.

There are many things in your life that can cause guilt and shame.

So how do you keep these things from destroying your happiness? Let’s try an exercise...

Think of all the many different kinds of guilt and how you can alleviate them. Ask yourself the following questions...

RELATED: 8 Ways To Stop Living In The Past So You Can Move On With Your Life

Religious beliefs: "Does my religion make me feel guilty about enjoying life? If so, how can I balance my spiritual life with my worldly life and feel OK?"

Sexual guilt: "Do I feel guilty about enjoying sex? Do I think sex is dirty, evil, or unhealthy? Do I fear getting caught in the act? How can I remove these guilt barriers?"

Procrastination: "Do I feel so guilty about postponing what I have to do daily, that I end up procrastinating even more? How do I get out of this vicious cycle?"

Another exercise in alleviating guilt is to write down everything that makes you feel guilty and what is causing guilty feelings.

I feel guilty about eating chocolate, which I love. And the guilt stems from a fear that my teeth will rot and I'll gain weight, or my skin will break out in pimples.

So, I get rid of the guilt by eating chocolate in moderation. I allow myself one piece of chocolate a day, and maybe two or three pieces over the weekend.

By telling myself it’s OK to eat some chocolate, the guilt goes away. And you know what? By getting rid of the guilt, I actually crave the chocolate less.

Turning guilt into a tool for empowerment is indeed your golden challenge.

The more you can get rid of excess-baggage guilt and shame, the more you will be ready to find your everlasting love.

Always look for the most pragmatic solution to any situation that causes you guilt.

For instance, if you feel guilty about saying "no" to people, think of the unpleasant consequences of saying "yes" if you don’t mean it.

Also, try reversing your guilt patterns. If someone asks you to do a favor, don’t say OK out of guilt.

Stop the guilt feeling right then and there. You don’t have to feel it.

You can instead respond by saying, “I’d like to help you out, but I’m very busy right now. Is there someone else who can help you, instead?”

Guilt is manageable.

You don’t have to go through life letting other people put their guilt on you; don’t give them the satisfaction.

Pity people who have to manipulate that way, but don’t respond to them in kind. You can empower yourself more by showing love and sensitivity to the “guilt trippers,” rather than letting them entrap you with their needs.

A large part of empowering yourself and your partner in a relationship is to open up about that old guilt.

Sometimes, partners even feel guilty when there’s nothing to feel guilty about! Having a conversation about these issues can help you not only heal, but grow closer than ever before.

And remember, anything can be negotiated.

Let’s say you feel guilty about not having enough sex with your mate. Then talk about it and work out a doable solution.

The time you waste feeling guilty could be spent making spontaneous love!

RELATED: 6 Steps To Stop Feeling Guilty & Set Yourself Free

Dr. Ava Cadell is an author, clinical sexologist, sex counselor, founder of Loveology University, and president of the American College of Sexologists International. Her mission is to empower people to overcome sexual guilt and shame so they can enjoy the benefits of healthy, sexual relationships.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.