Articles and exercises

An action way to handle guilt

Are you just fed up with having those guilty feelings? You know they are not helping but they just keep coming back and preventing you from moving on. As we all know we carry feelings and memories in our bodies as well as in our brains and nervous system. You only have to look at the body posture of the person who is suffering from guilt. We even have sayings that confirm what is being experienced, we say they are “weighed down with guilt” or “carrying guilt”. So why do we put ourselves through this? Well because feeling guilty can make us feel better in some way as it gives us a sense of atonement for the indiscretions.


Unfortunately it doesn’t help anyone neither ourselves nor other people. It doesn’t change anything. In fact in relationships guilt acts as a barrier to any healing process. Partly this is because the guilty person is living in the past. Whatever the act or indiscretion was, it is in the past, it happened and cannot be changed. Once we can accept whatever it was that happened, without guilt or judgement, and we are able to be in the present, we are then in a much better position to make positive changes, such as repairing relationships.


The following exercise will enable you to experience what it is like to shed those guilty feelings. Once you have been there your mind and body will prefer to be free of the negative guilty feelings and you will find that it is much easier to drop them for good. Well here is one way that I have found to be successful in dumping that guilt.


First identify a place where you can go for a minimum of an hours walk in the countryside. Choose a pleasant walk through rocks and woodland where a few extra rocks left behind would make no difference.
You will need a small to medium rucksack. Fill the rucksack with rocks and stones of various sizes until you can still carry it but so that it will be pretty heavy and uncomfortable if carried for any length of time. Don't think about how many stones you put in the rucksack or what they may represent. Be spontaneous and your unconscious mind will do the rest.


Go out to your starting point for the walk and put on the rucksack. This is your guilt sack. On your back are all those guilty secrets both large and small that have nagged at you over the years. Now begin your walk. Walk mindfully, being very much aware of your body and how the sack feels. Take some time to truly experience the weight of all that guilt. When it feels right take out one or more stones. Name them, take your time, the symbolism will come to you, they are the reason for some guilty feelings that you are carrying.

Now place them down by the path saying out load how you do not need to carry this any longer. Say it directly to the symbolic stones e.g. “I don’t need this…………guilt anymore and I am leaving here.” Put your rucksack back on and move on feeling the difference in weight. Keep repeating this each time you feel ready to let go of more guilt. Feel how your load gets lighter and lighter until you have got rid of all the stones. If for any reason you find you have trouble letting go, name those stones and why you need to hang on to them. You can always came again another day to leave more guilt behind. You will find that you have just the right amount of stones to represent the guilt you are carrying.


That’s it, done! Now get on with your life, be in the moment. You may well find that your relationships change in a positive way from now on.