2 Powerful techniques to deal with Guilt, Regret and Shame. Can NLP help unhelpful emotions?

A dog looking guilty. Representing our need to deal with guilt

There are various ways to deal with guilt, regret or shame. In particular, 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. Feeling guilt for doing something, or failing to do something, seems inevitable and can cause us great unhappiness and pain. If you can deal with guilt, you can move on.

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 the future. The only useful purpose of guilt is to teach us to make better choices in the future.

Will that stop you feeling guilty? Probably not. So ultimately, other than learning a lesson or two, there is no ongoing value to feeling guilt. It becomes a waste of emotional energy. Worse still, guilt can get in the way of a good relationship, reduce your self-esteem and make you feel stuck.

Can Timeline Therapy help deal with guilt?

The thing about feeling guilty is that it is always related to the past. 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 can last until the situation is forgotten, or until something happens that means you don’t feel guilty any more.

In Timeline Therapy we deal with guilt and other negative emotions by imagining travelling back over our lives. When we reach an event that happened that led to the negative emotion we re-experience it. This is done in a ‘disassociated’ way that means you don’t experience the emotion as much as you would otherwise.

Once you have travelled to the emotional experience that led to the guilt you can establish the learnings that it is giving you, and then release the emotion.

This is Timeline Therapy in a nutshell, though it is much more than that. In order to make it more effective I always employ NLP questioning techniques that help to loosen the emotion first. Even that experience can be empowering.

NLP questions to help deal with guilt

So now you know that guilt has no purpose for you, maybe you can ask yourself these questions. You can start to deal with guilt effectively yourself.

  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?

If you found this article helpful, you may also be interested in reading about how NLP can be used for anxiety

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

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