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I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.
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Free yourself from clinging guilt

Chacma Baboon Baby Clinging to it's Mother

The best thing that can happen to lesser candidates during an election is for the head of the ticket to have long coattails. When presidents take office by decisive numbers, senators and congressional representatives, state governors and legislators, even local officeholders from the same party can ride those coattails straight into office.

But for those of us just going about our daily routines, hangers-on can be a drag. We think we’ve tossed off the negatives in our lives, but they didn’t fall as far as we’d hoped. They’re right behind us, clinging desperately, and weighing us down as we try to achieve our goals of success, peace, and happiness.

One of the biggest drags on our future is guilt over the past. Take these steps to address the guilts that won’t let go …

1. Take a quick inventory. Many of us live so long with nagging guilts, we forget what we did to cause such remorse in the first place. Start coming to terms with your feelings by writing down the sources of your self-reproach. Grab a sheet of paper and list everything you’ve done that still has you steeping in regret. Once you’ve made the list, put the items in chronological order, listing your approximate age at the time each incident occurred. Then beside each item briefly describe how the situation was resolved. If the situation remains unresolved, leave the space blank.

2. Develop some perspective. Review the list, concentrating first on those things that happened when you were a young child. Think of the children you know now who are near the age you were then. Would you have the same high expectations of them to handle the same situation that you have of your younger self? When we think back on mistakes made long ago, we often view them with the knowledge and experience we have today. But those tools weren’t available to us then. If you wouldn’t berate a child you love today for making the same mistake, how can you berate yourself? Draw a line through everything on your list that happened before you were old enough to make responsible decisions.

3. Examine your resolutions. Now review the remaining items on your list. Circle those items beside which you’ve summarized a resolution. Take a moment to study each resolution, asking these three questions:

•Was the situation resolved to your satisfaction?

•Did you do all you could to resolve the situation? Most of the things we anguish over are behind us. Either they’ve been resolved but we insist on continuing to carry the guilt. Or they can’t be resolved and we refuse to accept reality and let them go. You’ll probably find that your list has few, if any, items you can still address. If you find something to do, then do it … and be done with it. And mark it off your list. Lift the weight of old guilts from your shoulders. When you feel them settling back into place, take out your list and remind yourself these items have been checked off and no longer have a place in your life.

•Can you do anything more to resolve the situation? Now move onto the last items on your list—those that remain unresolved. Repeat the final two questions asked in step 3. Did you do all you could to resolve the situation? Can you do anything more? Leave items on the list only if you can think of more you can do to resolve them.

If your answer to the first question was yes, mark through the item. If your answer to the first question was no, but the answer to your second question was yes, mark through the item. Leave this item on the list only if the situation remains unresolved and if you can think of something more you can do to resolve it.

4. Examine unfinished business. Now move onto the last items on your list—those that remain unresolved. Repeat the final two questions in step 3. Did you do all you could to resolve the situation? Can you do anything more? Leave items on the list only if you can think of more you can do to resolve them.

5. Take the initiative. Most of the things we anguish over are behind us. Either they’ve been resolved but we insist on continuing to carry the guilt. Or they can’t be resolved and we refuse to accept reality and let them go. You’ll probably find that your list has few, if any, items you can still address. If you find something to do, then do it … and be done with it. And mark it off your list. Lift the weight of old guilts from your shoulders. When you feel them settling back into place, take out your list and remind yourself these items have been checked off and no longer have a place in your life.

 

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