Guilt, regret and shame: can NLP help you deal with unhelpful emotions?

Dealing with guilt, regret or shame using NLP or Timeline Therapy can be very helpful in enabling you to move on in life.

All of us, at one time or another, have had moments where we have made choices that we have later had cause to regret. Guilt for doing something, or failing to do something seems inevitable and can cause us great unhappiness and pain.

How does feeling guilt serve us?

Some may say guilt is there to teach us to make better choices. You can certainly notice the behaviour or action that led to your feeling guilty, and guard against it in future.

Will that stop you feeling guilty? Probably not. So ultimately, other than perhaps learning a lesson or two, there is no ongoing value to feeling guilt. It is a waste of emotional energy. Worse still, guilt can get in the way of a good relationship.

The thing about feeling guilty is that it is always related to the past, or the future. That is why Timeline Therapy can be so powerful in dealing with guilt. Before an event happens, you can’t feel guilty about it. After it happens the guilt lasts until the situation is forgotten, or until something happens that means you don’t feel guilty any more.

Questions to ask about your guilty feelings

So now you know that guilt has no purpose for you, You can ask yourself these questions to try and deal with the guilt.

  1. Are you imagining what the other person is feeling?  How do you know they are feeling that way?
  2. Are they feeling it all the time, or did they feel it for just a short time? Has your guilt long outlasted the pain you feel you caused?
  3. Can you make it right, or apologise? Either to their face, or just by writing down your apology privately? This can give you some sense of closure.
  4. What is the purpose of feeling guilty?  Is it because you have done something that is wrong? Or is it because your action has resulted in another person feeling negative emotion?  Are you the cause of them feeling that way, or are they?
  5. What are the values that you had that led to you feeling guilty when you didn’t live them? – What was important about feeling guilty?
  6. What is the value that you were trying to fulfill by making the choice that led to you feeling guilty? What was important about the action you took (or failed to take)?
  7. Is there a new value could you now choose to live by that can help you make better choices in the future?

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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