Guilt and shame are poisonous.
That’s it, that’s the advice.
For as long as I can remember my mum has been someone that feels emotions in the moment, processes them, and then leaves them in the past where they (rightfully) belong. This is something she has tried to instil in my siblings and me, and whilst my brother and sister seem to have got the hang of it, I’m still finding it tricky.
I am someone who holds onto feelings by nature. It’s what landed me in my crisis in the summer. I am, frankly, unable to bat people’s emotions back to them and drop my own when they no longer serve me. I cling to them, bottle them up and hoard them until they boil over and I land myself right in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
My emotional nemesis is guilt.
There are very few things I don’t feel guilty about. When I was working full time, I would feel guilty about: saying no, saying yes, taking sick days, not taking sick days, asking for help, not asking for help, talking to my boss and not talking to my boss. I’ve felt guilty about asking my parents and friends for help, and about telling them I’m struggling. I’ve felt guilty about putting stress on my family when I’m ill. All of these guilty feelings are served with a big dollop of shame, too.
But those emotions are poisonous. Guilt and shame do nobody any good. If you do something wrong, you can feel remorse and apologise, but how does feeling guilty and ashamed help, anyone? Wallowing in the negativity of it all doesn’t fix the problem - it just chips away at you for months and even years until it’s completely taken over and you haven’t realised. And sometimes, sometimes, you haven’t even done anything wrong. Feeling guilty about being sick makes you sicker. Feeling guilty about asking for help means you never grow or move forward.
My mum always tells me to leave the guilt behind, to brush shame off my shoulders. I haven’t been able to do that for nearly 27 years, but as time ticks on and I wade through the waters of recovery, I’m finding that not only is it healthy to rid myself of these emotions, but it’s vital.
What do guys think? How do you feel about guilt and shame? What are poisonous emotions in your eyes?