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If you are troubled by unwanted feelings of guilt, here’s an exercise that can help. It is part of my soon-to-be-released online course How to be Free of Guilt.

Do this exercise reflectively, over time, by asking yourself the questions implied in each step and then simply letting your mind mull it over in the background.

Accept any responses you get as pieces to a puzzle. They are just information, nothing more. Avoid judgement, excuses, blame, explanations or any thoughts of action resulting from any insights you gain. This is a reflective exercise, that’s all; there’s nothing to do, yet.

Step one

Take a little time to examine your guilty feelings from an observing perspective (looking at them rather than simply feeling them). See this post for an explanation of how to do this.

Step two

Be curious about the triggers for your for the unwanted feelings. Are these triggers predominantly people-related (a specific person, type of person) or situational (a set of circumstances)?

Step 3

Can you discern any PATTERNS? These are repetitive behavioural cycles or interactions that either trigger or keep the feelings alive. Things that you or others DO are easier to change or avoid, and can be much more effectively tackled than if you start trying to change or avoid feelings directly.

Step 4

Once you have identified a pattern you can change your part of it. It’s generally a waste of time to try and change the other person’s behaviour by tackling it directly, and will often make things worse. By contrast, changing your actions and reactions will often result in them changing or stopping what they are doing.

Step 5

Make mischief and have fun! Experiment by being unpredictable, scramble the patterns, and vary your responses to the triggers. These can be minor shifts rather than dramatic gestures. Such patterns are usually self-maintaining; when you begin to interrupt them you’ll break the cycle. Altering your patterns works best when it is subtle.

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