Hoping for a Better Past

A client recently told me, "I shouldn't have let it get this bad."

I said, "What do you mean?"

My client said, "I should have taken care of this crap a ways back."

I said, "You're saying that you should have been and done something other than you were and did? But that's not possible. It's not what happened. You're hoping for a better past. No wonder you're feeling miserable."

My client cried. But they weren't miserable tears. He seemed relieved, like the weight of the guilt had dropped off. I think his guilt clutter was heavier than the clutter of the stuff itself.

Many of my clients feel shameful about their clutter. It's hard to watch someone hurt themselves that way. That's why I try and treat the whole thing as a clutter situation that has happened to them, and ask what can we do about it. 

It find it also helps to take a deeper look at the mechanics of guilt and shame. Shame and guilt makes us feel like, "I'm the worst because I wasn't other than what I was." It's as if in that moment, you calmly and clearly had a number of possibilities laid out in front of you, and like an idiot you purposefully chose the one that sucked the most. What good can come from this?

I try to get my clients off of their dependency on guilt. It becomes a drug that a lot of us get addicted to as a way to try and make ourselves change for the better. Punishment is seen as inspiration. I try and get them to drop the guilt, and switch it out for self-kindness.

If I find myself looking back in shame, it helps to look back to that time of the "shameful" event and investigate the details. I'll ask, "Was I tired? What were my hormones like? What were the events of the day before this happened? Did I get sleep the night before? Was I sick? Had I just recovered from something? Had I received any bad news that day? What was I like back then? What kind of influence did I have from friends and society?" I know that no event is isolated. What we do is influenced by innumerable factors. I try to think of the ones I can. When I do this, then it becomes apparent to me that whatever I did is what I did. It removes the crippling guilt.