Happiness requires making positive choices for ourselves. We all have things in our life that make us happy, when we allow ourselves to choose/have those things. So the question isn’t: “how can I be happy no matter what I choose?” rather, the question is: “what is in the way of choosing the things that make me happy?”
For many HSP’s, that something that is in the way is guilt. Guilt that what you want is burdening someone else, guilt that what you want may somehow interfere with someone else’s happiness. Most of the time though, such guilt is completely misplaced and comes from a dramatically large sense of (over)responsibility. My good self-care practices don’t get in the way of anyone else’s – theoretically speaking- but that doesn’t mean some people might not take offense anyway and blame me for not spending my time the way they want me to.
When we make feel-good choices about our own lives, we are acting from a place of lightness, expansiveness. There’s enough of that to go around for everyone. Yet, we all need to make our own happy choices for ourselves. In many ways, happy choices are incredibly unsophisticated. You don’t need a harvard degree to make happy choices. In fact, children are incredibly good at picking what truly suits them, even if it’s “just” rainbow-coloured socks.
Growing up however comes with an incredibly large set of “things to consider”. It seems like, you can’t “just make happy choices”.
Correction, we can still make choices from that childlike unsophisticated place, but we need to have an awareness of our personal list of inner things that get in the way.
One of those inner things is guilt.
While there is – apparently- such a thing as guilty pleasure, I can’t remember ever having been able to feel both guilt and pleasure at the same time. Perhaps it works if you have just a tiny bit of guilt over doing something. If your inner pool of guilt is big enough though, it will overshadow whatever pleasure there is in choosing something that also makes you feel guilty. Somehow, the guilt always wins.
I think that’s why many of us, instead of making happy choices, actually make guilt-avoiding choices. It can be tempting to think that by avoiding what makes us feel guilty, we will end up being happy. Yet, since guilt often attaches itself precisely to those things that we actually want to be/do/have for ourself, avoiding guilt actually means avoiding the things that make us happy.
It’s as if the receptors of your pleasure docking area have been blocked from receiving pleasure, because all the receptor spaces are occupied by guilt. To put it in chakra terms: if you lower belly, sakral chakra area is consumed with guilt, then that guilt will get triggered everytime you contemplate doing, having or being something that would make you feel good -if only you didn’t feel so guilty about it already.
Now, there is a seemingly obvious and simple way out of this whole mess, and that is to focus on what makes other people happy and enjoy their sense of joy with them (this works “especially well” for empaths). This is the “I’m happy when you’re happy” self-sacrificial do-gooder complex. At first glance, it seems to be the perfect solution. By focusing on what other people want, you can avoid your own guilt triggers. In some inner-twisted-logic-way it may even seem like you are making strides paying off a debt: that if you deny yourself enough, eventually the guilt will fade completely.
The reality is though that the guilt stays exactly where it is. It’s an emotion. It’s not keeping track of how many good deeds you’ve accomplished. It’s not going to disappear at midnight. It’s not open to bartering. It’s simply there.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how the guilt got there.toxic people out there who have the strange but compelling talent to make you feel guilty for such basic human unavoidable things as needing to breathe and having to eat. You know some of those people, right? They seem to have magic fingers that just plant the seeds of guilt right inside you while they speak.
So before you get too serious about your own guilt, do a little back-tracking. How many of those people have you been exposed to, and for how long? Could some of that guilt come from there? If it does, it’s no point trying to pay your dues. You don’t have a debt. As real and solid as that guilt feels, it’s “fake”: meaning, it looks, feels and acts like guilt, but when you look closer, there really isn’t anything that you should feel guilty for.
Does that make the guilt magically disappear? Err, no, unfortunately. Fake guilt is like fake money, it circulates anyway. You can still “pay” with it. Yet, because it’s fake, it needs to be taken out of circulation. In the case of money, that’s the police’s job. In the case of guilt, that’s your job.
In taking guilt out of circulation, it’s important to pick a practice that addresses the emotion directly. Emotions are energy, and they can be released from the body. There are many ways and many tools to help you do so, yet the most important aspect of that is that you need to work with guilt on the feeling -level, and not on the “talking about it level”.
Guilt has a “thoughts” level for sure (I’m not good enough, I have to try harder, I have to make others happy etc). Yet, oftentimes, that is not the root of it. So in whichever practice you choose, don’t avoid connecting with the dark and heavy feeling of guilt itself. You can’t clear it out by avoiding it (you also can’t clear it out by wallowing in it, so there is a balance to be struck for sure).
One helpful such tool that works for many people is EFT, and since there are many different EFT video’s on youtube (that take you through clearing processes for particular issues) I did a quick search and found this excellent video on clearing guilt. It touches upon many of the things in this article. If you’re not familiar with EFT: just follow along, tapping on different parts of your body. You can speak the words out loud, in your head, or just listen intently, it all works.