Take any activity that you feel you “should” have done but have not managed to accomplish. Does it feel good to think about? It usually doesn’t matter if that thing is difficult to do or not. Or if it is something good or bad. Anything that is charged with a bad conscience feels awkward.
Feeling guilty for something you should have done?
The solution is both simple and difficult.
- Do what you should have done and the discomfort will go away.
- If you do not want or need to do that thing you have a bad conscience for: let go of all thoughts of it.
Note! Letting go of something does not mean that you just don’t think about it. Letting go means you stop caring. For real. All bad conscience is gone. All frustration. All discomfort. You feel happy. Free. Relieved.
If you’ve just pushed your thoughts away, you do not feel that way. Then the discomfort remains, even if it is less uncomfortable during the time that you manage to push it away.
So what do you do with the guilt that remains even if you do not really want or have to do that thing that gives a bad conscience?
Yours or someone else’s values?
Some of the things that rub us the wrong way and give us a bad conscience are things we do not even want to do. These are things we do because someone else thinks they are important. In other words, we go against our own values to satisfy someone else’s needs. Or maybe to live up to society’s expectations. These things will always feel heavy.
Think a little about who it is that thinks this particular thing is important. Is it you? Why is it important?
Does anyone else think it is important? If so, does it matter to you what that person thinks?
In that case: can, or do you want to, do that thing despite the resistance you feel? If the answer is “yes” to that question, you need to change your attitude. This thing will obviously not disappear from your life. How can you make it less unpleasant to think about? Can you, for example, remind yourself that you do it because “…” (fill in the blank with whatever is relevant to you). Instead of going into the feeling of discomfort? Or try to think that you actually want to. Not that you should. When you change the wording, you often change the feeling as well.
Do not want to but feel discomfort anyway!
You know what you think and have decided that this thing is not important to you, but still can not shake off the feeling of discomfort? Then it’s high time you prioritize your own well-being! Why do you allow other people’s opinions to be more important than your own?
Are you disturbed by your thoughts?
You have decided, know what you think and what you want but… your brain does not leave you alone!
The brain is a great asset in many ways, but it has one major drawback. What it is absolutely best at is repeating and rationalizing old information. If you have taught it a task, it can soon do it more or less on autopilot, which is both smart and practical. The downside, however, is that it tends to get stuck in old habitual thoughts. It believes that it saves energy when it helps by delivering the same thoughts as you have thought many times before. A bit like when you constantly get the wrong things up when you try to write a new word on your cell phone. It helpfully changes to the wrong old words both once and twice with its “automatic correction”. Just because you (or sometimes someone else) usually write that other word. It does not recognize the new word and therefore believes that it is “wrong”.
So when you want to think new thoughts about something you have already thought about a lot, the brain can cause a fair amount of problems. Here are some tricks to get around it.
Try to think of your brain as a child who wants to help you, but does not really know what is the best way to do it. It is eager and willing to work, but sometimes on the COMPLETELY wrong track. Not because it’s stupid or wants to misbehave. Simply because it does not know better.
So instead of getting angry at your brain/yourself when old habitual thoughts pop up: try to think of the thoughts as if they come from a little 5-year-old trying to be involved and helpful. An example: you and a 5-year-old are going to make meringues and before you know it, the child has cracked all the eggs in a bowl and started beating. Because a 5-year-old may not know that you are supposed to divide the eggs when making meringue. It’s just super happy that it knows the eggs are going to be beaten! It does not make mistakes to be mean, it just wants to help. Preferably as fast as possible. Just the like the brain the 5-year-old likes to act fast.
So what do you need to do next time you bake? Maybe give the 5-year-old a little more instructions before you start? Exactly! You can give your brain instructions!! For example: today I want to think about things that make me feel good. Can you give me some thoughts like that, please? No, not that thought. Do you have anything else?
It actually works surprisingly well.
Then, of course, it is fantastic to practice to slow the brain down. Because it can actually learn that too. If it is stimulated all the time, it learns that you want it to go at full speed. If you slow down, it can learn to take it slow. It just needs some time to adjust.