Today we’re going to talk about guilt and self-forgiveness. Basically there are two forms of guilt. Healthy guilt – or when you feel remorse for something that you did or said or felt – and maladaptive guilt which is guilt that doesn’t serve any positive rationale, but instead eats you up from the inside. For example, survivor’s guilt, a fairly common kind of guilt, is maladaptive. I’ll also offer my own seven steps to self-forgiveness. For many, especially for those who struggle with depression already, self-forgiveness can be a struggle.
Please know this episode may be triggering for those of you who’ve been through a difficult experience and listen with caution and care.
Here are those seven steps:
- You choose or want to do the work of forgiving yourself. That means you don’t wallow in blame, but you also take your share of the responsibility.
- Look at your past and see if you were constantly blamed (you were the “black sheep”) or if you weren’t guided to take responsibility (you were never in the wrong). Either end of the spectrum could be paralyzing
- Seek a therapist’s help or talk to a trusted friend to shed light on this dynamic. Acknowledge how you could be repeating the pattern.
- With this new perspective, write out what your mistake was. Did you see that it was a mistake and make it anyway, or did you not realize it was?
- Ask yourself, “If someone I cared about made this mistake, would I treat them the same way I’m treating myself?” Have self-compassion.
- Visualize and write out what it would be like for you to forgive yourself – to take responsibility but not to wallow.
- Do something constructive. Make amends if possible. And move on.
The voicemail for today isn’t meant to create any kind of political or spiritual furor. So please recognize that. But the poignancy of this listener’s question rang very true to me – and that is, “What am I supposed to do when my therapist seemed to understand and have compassion for what I shared with him, but I later learn has very strong opinions about the rightness and wrongness of that choice?” The topic happens to be abortion – but the process, not the content, is why I’m responding. It’s about experiencing a betrayal of trust by your therapist.
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SelfWork Episode on survivor’s guilt in Episode 240
You can hear more about forgiveness and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.
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