In my coaching practice, I encounter a lot of clients who have trouble letting go of guilt. They beat themselves up relentlessly for something they should’ve done or something they wish they hadn’t done. It weighs heavily on them, and they know that this guilt isn’t serving them, but they feel a sense of responsibility to keep carrying their burdens. After all, what kind of horrible, soulless, conscience-less person doesn’t feel guilty about their past “mistakes”?
Me. That’s who. And I don’t consider myself horrible, soulless or devoid of a conscience. I’ve simply learned how to let go of my guilt, to adopt a perspective that feels better and to forgive myself. And in today’s blog post, I hope to pass that point of view on to you. If, however, you are currently enjoying your self-flagellation (statistically speaking, at least a few of you are bound to be into that. I’m not judging. Just saying…), then by all means, flagellate away. The rest of you should listen up, though. This is important stuff.
In order to demonstrate what guilt is and how to overcome it, I’m going to tell you a little story (because I’m entertaining that way. See? Not a horrible person).
Lucy is feeling guilty. She has two daughters, both of whom have relationship issues and can’t seem to either attract decent guys or hang on to them for very long. They both have obvious self-esteem issues when it comes to men. Lucy, as mothers do, blames herself. She figures that she somehow created her children’s low self-esteem and that if she’d just been able to make her own marriage work instead of going through an ugly divorce when the girls were little, they’d both be happily married now.
Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s break down exactly what is causing Lucy’s guilt:
Lucy got divorced twenty years ago. Her husband and she were having screaming fights, often while their two daughters were in the next room and undoubtedly able to hear every word. Insults were hurled with a hateful vengeance that would’ve made Attila the Hun blush, and on a couple of occasions the violence even turned physical, with a vase being thrown across the room and a fist going through a wall. Lucy and her husband had finally ended it and the divorce had been ugly. At the time, Lucy knew that she had to get herself and her girls out of this ugly situation. But years later, she wonders if she did the right thing.
You’ve heard of beer goggles, right? This is the phenomenon used to describe the direct correlation between the amount of beer consumed vs. the attractiveness of the opposite sex. In short, the more beer you’ve chugged, the hotter you and everyone around you seems to get.
Well, I’d like to introduce you to “Hindsight goggles”. As time goes by, our memories become, shall we say, selective, or fuzzy. We tend to block out certain details and our memories morph into whatever we need them to be to support our current beliefs. That means that if you’re inclined to beat up on yourself, your past memories are going to remodel themselves in order to support your guilt. You start to look at the past with hindsight goggles, minimizing the severity and pain of the situation and suddenly seeing options that weren’t there at the time.
As Lucy puts on her hindsight goggles and looks back on her “failed” marriage (in quotes, because it’s not a failure to get a divorce), she may well conveniently gloss over just how volatile her fights with her ex were. She may forget just how much she suffered, how hopeless and trapped she felt, how angry and afraid she was so much of the time, how she cried herself to sleep in the spare bedroom most nights. She may not recall how, when she finally made the decision to leave, she felt a sense of relief that nearly knocked her off her feet. She may not remember how afraid she was for her girls, how controlling her ex husband was, and how she’d feared at the time that her ex’s behavior would scar the girls for life.
No, seen through her hindsight goggles, Lucy can only see that she left what might’ve been a repairable relationship and therefore somehow doomed her girls to be single forever. Bring on the pain.
Seeing options that weren’t there
Guilt is usually created when we look back on a situation and see options that either weren’t there, or to which we had no access at the time. It’s easy to look back on a situation with the benefit of our current perspective and knowledge. Lucy’s husband was an alcoholic. If only she’d gotten him into treatment, the marriage could’ve been saved and everything would’ve been rosy. But she had obviously been too weak and/or too stupid to get her husband the treatment he needed and like a bad, bad wife, simply ended the marriage. Where’s a good lynch mob when you need one?
Only, there are several major issues with Lucy’s guilt ridden recollection of these past events:
- She didn’t know that her husband was an alcoholic until they’d been divorced for several years. She just thought he drank a lot.
- Even if she had known, her husband never would’ve consented to treatment at that time. In fact, his willingness to undergo rehab several years later was in no small part due to the fact that he’d lost his family. He had to go through his journey on his own, at his own pace, in order to be ready to release his pain. Her leaving may have actually saved him.
- Looking back, she sees the option of reconciliation. The fact that she had tried again and again to make the marriage work before finally, and only after having exhausted every option she could think of, deciding to leave, has gotten blocked out by the hindsight goggles. But the truth is that the option of making it work was no longer on the table when she left.
Lucy is feeling guilty for not choosing options that weren’t actually there at the time.
Options that were there but which she couldn’t see
Lucy also feels guilty because she now feels that she should’ve gotten her girls into therapy after the divorce, but didn’t. She has had some therapy herself over the years and knows the value of it. If only she’d insisted that her daughters see a counselor of some kind, then she’d be surrounded by happy grandchildren now. Instead, she’s created two unhappy spinsters who will probably die alone. And it’s all her fault. Let the whipping begin.
Again, there’s just one teensy problem with Lucy’s reasoning: When she got her divorce, the idea of therapy wasn’t wide spread. It was something you did only if you were insane, or at least completely unable to function in normal society, and not something considered ok for “normal” people. In short, the idea of therapy hadn’t even occurred to Lucy at the time, and if someone had suggested it, she would’ve declined for fear of scarring her girls for life, either from having been psychoanalyzed by some Freudian weirdo into becoming stippers or from having the stigma of “needing therapy” attached to them.
The truth is that the option of therapy, as Lucy is aware of it today, simply didn’t exist for her back then. Certainly, there were counselors that could’ve helped both her and her daughters, but Lucy hadn’t known that then. She is judging herself using her current perspective, one that contains a great deal more information and experience than she had access to twenty+ years ago.
She should’ve known better
Lucy’s guilt is based on a false concept – that she should’ve known better. But that presupposes that she saw all the options she now sees, had all the information she has now and then made the decision she made anyway. She didn’t.
She made the best and possibly only decision she could, given the information and perspective she had at the time. She believes that the options she had were:
- Stay and tough it out and find a way to make it work
- Leave and get her girls lots of therapy
- Flee into the night like a weak little girl.
When in fact, the options at the time were:
- Stay and allow her girls to grow up being afraid of men and feeling like victims, with one or both of them possibly running away in their teens to become strippers. Years of living with an alcoholic, who would’ve never sought treatment by the way, would’ve taken their toll on Lucy, leaving her a shell of her former self. Instead of getting a job and eventually becoming regional manager and being a strong role model for her daughters, she would’ve most likely wiled her days away hiding in the kitchen, secretly smoking out the window and trying to avoid triggering her husband’s temper.
- Have the courage to finally leave and get her girls into a safer, more stable environment.
Lucy is feeling guilty for not choosing options that, in all honesty, simply weren’t there at the time.
What are you feeling guilty about?
Whenever you’re feeling guilty, ask yourself these questions:
Given the information and perspective that you had then, did you make the best choice you had access to?
Given your emotional state you were in at the time, were you able to see a better option to the one you took?
Chances are, if you’re feeling guilty, you are looking through your hindsight goggles and beating yourself up for not choosing an option that, to you, was not on the table. Perhaps the option didn’t exist. Perhaps it did, but you were not aware of it. Perhaps you were aware of it, but it simply wasn’t a valid choice for you, given your point of view and/or emotional state at the time.
In every case, when you’re feeling guilty, you are being grossly unfair to yourself. And no, it doesn’t matter how bad what you did was. Even if you hurt someone, I still maintain that given the point of view you had, whatever you chose to do seemed like the best option for you at the time. Remember that people will do horrible things to escape their pain. In every instance (and I have yet to encounter one that this isn’t true for), you did the best you could, no matter how harebrained, illogical or “weak” that choice seems now. You cannot judge your past self using today’s perspective. All you can do is to do the best you can in each moment.
You didn’t make a mistake. You did what you thought was right at that very moment. The mistake would be to let past actions, which you can no longer change, dictate how you feel right now – the only thing you do actually have control over.
Do you suffer from guilt? Has this post helped you to gain a better feeling perspective? Have you, personally, found freedom from guilt? Share your stories in the comments!
Hello Melody, I know you are busy with other things; but I just wanted to say thanks for writing this article. I have been carrying alot of guilt over these past 4 years. Long story short, I let the best thing that ever happen to me walk out of my life and never even made a attempt to try get back with her(Not even a phone call). Now that I know what is important, it is already too late. I know this is my journey that I have to walk, but just am really sad that i had to lose her in order learn what I have now.
I read ur article about guilt and found it to be very helpful. Years ago I went through a manic episode where I was very reckless in my behavior. It led me to get involved with the wife of a friend. At the time I knew what I was doing was wrong, but at the time I was just so happy to be with that person that I was selfish and couldn’t stop seeing them. We remain together but now I spend most of my time feeling so guilty about it that I don’t enjoy life anymore and our relationship is poor. I really want to move on from this guilt and have a useful life, but guilt is so powerful it seems.
Thank you for this post. I came across it randomly and I find it very helpful.
My “problem” is trivial, but has been causing me a ridiculous amount of anguish. I feel guilty about my college career/degree. I started as a Biology major because I intended to become a scientist (molecular biologist). However in 2nd year, I was going through a tough time with my classes. Out of desperation, I dropped my Biology major to finish my college degree in International Studies. While I enjoyed the remainder of my studies, now as a recent graduate I feel incredibly guilty for giving up on my science degree. In spite of my previous struggles, I still love science and wish I could have become a scientist. I feel like I let down everyone like my professors who believed in me, and my parents who are both scientists. I am also constantly berated for my now “useless” degree, and it makes me feel ashamed and weak. I went to university on a scholarship and feel bad for wasting gov’t/taxpayer money on a liberal arts degree that is considered useless by society. I feel like a total failure. Wish I could get over this feeling but it is hard to let it go!
Nice article, easy to understand logic behind how to forgive ourselves, unfortunately it’s not so easy. I don’t consider myself bad person, in fact I always try to be there for others. Recently I have been under huge pressure from work and wasn’t thinking clearly (not trying to justify what I did although it might seem like I am) and made an error of judgment. I have spoken to couple of friends who, like you, are being supportive and are telling me to learn from mistake and forgive myself. Unfortunately they are only two who know about my mistake and who are encouraging me not to fess up to the person who I wronged. Now I am unable to forgive myself and move on. How can I forgive myself if the person who I wronged has no idea and I can’t ask them to forgive me? I know from your other article that you wrote we not necessary need other persons forgiveness to forgive ourself, but how? I simply can’t see it working. Any suggestions??
It’s a bit difficult to give advice that wasn’t already covered in this post without knowing the particulars. Ask yourself: Why is this thing you did so horrible? Why are you beating up on yourself so severely? What does it say about you to you that you did this thing? Is that true? Are you truly a horrible person, for example, because you made a mistake?
If you can’t let go of guilt, you are generally taking the consequences to extremes in your mind. It’s helpful to dissect how you truly feel and reign that back in. Become more realistic about the damage you’ve done. Unfortunately, without having a conversation with you, I wouldn’t be able to offer any more specific advice than that.
Thank you so much for this information. I have felt deep guilt and remorse for decisions I made over 20 years ago that have reduced me to terrible grief and sorrow, off and on, during that time.
But this article has opened my eyes and really helped me to see that the decisions I made were the best at the time, because everything looks different in hindsight! The hindsight goggles have been a permanent fixture in my mind whenever I think of the things I have done that have caused me so much guilt and sorry.
Now I know why I have been bashing myself up for all these years. I’m going to go and read your article on regret now, because, as you say, guilt and regret go hand in hand.
One question I would ask though. Now that I have this clarity and can see why I have felt so much guilt, will it automatically disappear or is there some way to release it permanently? Knowing how toxic such negative emotions can be to the body, is there some form of ritual that can release this toxin?
I’m so glad this post was helpful to you. There’s no ritual that I can give you generically (there are healing visualizations you can do to forgive yourself, but the process of explaining that is too lengthy to describe here. I’ve made a note to write more about it later). The main key is that you practice these new, better feeling thoughts. When you find yourself beating up on yourself, stop and take a moment to remember your insight – you did the best you could at the time. You might have to repeat that a few times. You’ll get opportunities to do so, negative thoughts that still need to be released will pop up until they’re gone. It never all hits at once. That would be incredibly uncomfortable. You get a chance to do it bit by bit. Practice that new vibration and before you know it, no more negative thoughts about this incident will remain. And neither will the guilt. 🙂
The post was amazing. It provided me a starting point to think over to let go of my tremendous guilt and starting from scratch.
Perhaps you put in a great deal of time and effort to read people’s stories and respond to them, so I thought of sharing my story.
I got diagnosed with ADHD. I had difficulty understanding instructions, so had to give up my software development job. Had a short stint in business, but that didn’t work out. I changed my field, got into a completely different field and doing good now.
All these I have been full of guilt over what I could have done and how people cheated on me, taking advantage of me. I will definitely work on the points mentioned in the post. I am extremely thankful to you for the post and helping me out.
Thanks for sharing! I strongly suggest that you go into my archives and find my post on ADD. I think it will bring you some clarity. 🙂
Amazing post. You know, Melody, I don’t feel guilty. At most, just a wee bit, before I pull myself up and realize I couldn’t have done better, given the situation and the circumstances. As you said, hindsight goggles can really freak one out and we can go on and on for eternity if we choose to. What I do struggle with once in a while is blaming myself, thinking I could have prevented something. In a weird way, when I do that, I find it easier to tackle because it is now in my hands to get over and move on. Does that make sense? Blaming someone else, even if it is deserving, is so much harder to handle.
But overall, I am grateful that feeling guilty for prolonged periods is just not in my mental makeup. So maybe I feel guilty I had three slices of “death by chocolate” instead of one or .. for that matter, none. I can however work it off, I hope. 😀 Life is too short to waste feeling guilty. I do know someone who would benefit like crazy from this post, though!
Happy shiny puppy hugs. Love you. Vidya
That’s so brilliant. I’m glad you don’t feel guilty. I no longer do, either, and it’s just so freeing. I grew up Catholic, so guilt was instilled in me from birth, lol. So, if I can overcome it, anyone can. You’re so right: Life is too short to waste it on feeling guilty. Yay!
Huge guilt-free, chocolately hugs!
Hey Melody, great piece, I found it helpful.. But can’t seem to move on. I’m struggling with guilt of huge proportions. I said some awful things to my mum the last time I saw her. It was 3months of hell, mum went to hospital randomly after suffering frm headaches and they found a brain tumour and operated straight away. She wasn’t the same after tht and didn’t come out of hospital, she would struggle putting sentences together and was really restricted with what she could do, although she was concious. I never knew everytime I said gd bye whether thtd b the last time and I kinda wish it was because I would feel peace tht I left things on gd terms. But one day when I felt really intrusive thoughts, I said things to her that it was if I didn’t love her and tried to block all my ways out of that, like trying to explain away the reasons why I’m visiting her anyway. We didn’t have a bad relationship at all, in fact I was a mummy’s boy and our attachment was strong. This tragic thing happened when I was 18 and I lost my dad also, just 3months later. I’m 25 now and I still carry this guilt with me everyday, it blocks me frm really being myself, I lose weight and I feel the worst! But I can’t find a way to forgive myself and i don’t know what my motivation for saying that nasty nasty stuff was, apart from my mind was racing thinking of every worse outcome I could leave it in and I gave in and said those things aloud. Some of this stuff felt true though and I think she would see it that way. I never got the time to find out or apologise, she died the next day. I miss my parents terribly. Please could you offer any words of advice to lift this burden from me and move on.
I can’t tell you exactly why you said those things. But I can tell you that you were expressing some real pain and it was imperative that you do so before your mom passed. She was there for you to work through it. She held on until you did. And when she’d participated in that event, as she wanted to (from a spiritual level), she was free to transition.
Nothing went wrong here. You didn’t hurt her and she has completely forgiven you. This was a message to you, and if you understand that you were expressing something, that what you were expressing was something you need to let go of, then you can begin the work to do that. Your guilt over hurting your mom has shut that process down. There’s work for you to do, but it has more to do with what your mom was helping you to release than how that happened.
She was in on that game. She did it willingly. And now, she just wants you to be happy. Whatever you addressed that day is keeping you from that happiness. It was really important that you see it. Your mom gave you a gift by triggering you in some way. Look for what was triggered, what feelings came up as you snapped at her. What was said. Think about that, and if you can’t figure it out, get some help with it.
Stop torturing yourself, my sweet, and understand that your mom is still very much around. You can’t feel her when you’re in grief and pain but she’s there. Even just from the little bit I can connect with you here, I can feel her shining all around you, supporting you. Let go of the guilt and look for the gift.
I hope that helped.
Thank you ever so much for taking the time and reading my post,
I do feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel..just knowing that someone has listened and give a totally impartial response to my problem has really helped me.
I totally agree with what you’ve said and the options available to me,I do not know how this will turn out but I feel a little less trapped already..and for the first time in weeks I’ve had a spring in my stride.
I’m making every minute with my children count and having as much fun as possible with them as my wife is still threatening to leave.
But whatever happens I think it will be for the best.
Thanks once again
You’re so very welcome Dave! I’m glad my words could help a little. Keep focusing on scenarios that make you feel better. 🙂
Huge happy shiny puppy hugs to you and your family.
Hi I’ve read all the posts and they all make sense to me,
My problem is I’m stuck in a marriage that no longer works,we have two lovely children and the thought of being away from them terifies me,my wife is what can only be described as an emotional bully,she knows that the thought of my children growing up without their dad is the last thing I want,we can’t argue! If I do then it’s got to escalate so far that she threatens to leave or she wants me to leave,Im a fairly quiet bloke anyway but feel really oppressed,then she wonders why I don’t talk much!she makes me feel like I’m trapped with no way out..id like our marriage to work but weve tried so many times to patch things up that ive got no more energy to invest in it.it doesn’t help that I’m quite old fashioned really and value marriage and the vows I took.I always said that ill only ever get married once.
I think I know what I need to do,but I can’t bring myself to do it…I’ll feel as though I’d be taking the easy option and I’d abandoned my children and left them to a life with an aggressive and bullying mother,if I’m there at least I know that I can stick up for them.
I grew up without my biological father and never knew him until I was 21.
I was no angel when I was growing up and didn’t always treat the girlfriends I had with the respect that I should have,I had a bit of a wandering eye!
Maybe it’s that guilt that’s making me think that this is what I deserve, I don’t know!
Someone else’s perspective on my situation might help.
Hey Mixed up Dad,
I get that you value your vows and I don’t want to tell you what to believe on that, but I’ve got some questions for you. Try to answer honestly (you don’t have to write your answers here, you can just do this for yourself).
Are you happy?
Do you believe that God is more interested in you keeping your vows no matter what than you being happy?
If there is no way for you and your wife to be happy in this marriage, and I’m not saying that there isn’t, do you believe that God would want you to stay?
Do you believe an unhappy marriage is a good thing for your kids to see?
I’m not trying to talk you into divorce, but much of your feeling of being trapped is because you don’t see leaving as an option. By making it an option in your mind, even if it’s one you choose not to exercise, you can feel less trapped. If it’s your choice to stay, that’s one thing. If you don’t believe you can leave, that’s another.
You are choosing to stay, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. But why? Because you want to protect your children. You think the only options available here are 1.) Stay and protect them from their bullying mom and 2.) Leave and leave them exposed to their bullying mom.
But how about this: 3.) Leave and get happy, and provide your kids with the balance of seeing what happiness and kindness look like. Then, they’ll have two extremes to work with and they won’t be influenced by your fear or trapped feelings but by your freedom and joy.
Or this: 4.) Stay and line up with the feelings of freedom and happiness and joy, causing you to be inaccessible to your wife unless she’s in that vicinity. You may even influence her to better feelings so the need for bullying will stop.
The bottom line here is that right now, you need your wife to change so that you can feel better. But that will never work. You can feel better right now, and then, that will elicit a different version of your wife. She may leave, if she cannot rise up to meet you, but you can shape that experience too. You don’t have to lose your kids or stop being a role model for them. But you can protect them with your energy much better than you can with your mere physical presence.
I’m not implying that any of this will be easy. You’re right in the middle of a volatile situation. Shifting your energy in the midst of that will be hard. But it can be done. The key is to practice as much as you can when you’re NOT around your wife and not being triggered.
If you’d like more support, I do offer coaching. By connecting with you, I could also connect with your wife and give you more insights into what’s really going on with her. That could easily cause you to trigger her less, diffusing the situation quite a bit.
But either way, this is not punishment for how you treated women in the past. It doesn’t work that way. You deserve to be happy. So does your wife. And so do your kids. And the fact that you’re reaching out here means that you’re coming to understand that. You’re no longer willing to put up with being unhappy. You may not quite yet know how to shift out of this, but you’ve taken the first big step: realizing that you don’t like where you’re at and that there must be something better. 🙂
After reading your article, i did look back on stuff i am guilty about and analyzed my options given my emotional state. Yeah i did the best i could at that time. and you are so correct in saying..you cannot judge past things with your present perspective. All one can do is to be best at each moment and learn from past instances and move on.
Thanks a lot, though, i dont know whether such a positive impact on me will last long or not.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. The impact can last as long as you don’t start beating up on yourself again. You feel better because you shifted your perspective. Focus on and practice those new thoughts and the feeling will last. 🙂
Thank you for your wonderful blog where you try to make freaking sense and really connect with yourself and with people.
Right now I am in my late twenties and been the past few months trough a personal journey of awareness and de-blocking all the defense mechanisms that now I know that only served me for a brief relief and denial only to move forward without taking the necessary recovery steps. I see this awareness as a result of an unconscious force of pasts events coming to surface.
One of my few struggles has been guilt. I have a sister who is ten years older than me. Incredibly smart and talented and her career made her move away far away from our country of origin. Our parents made the best they could in our education. Even our mother who was several times verbal and physically abusive twards us (first my sister and the me, when I entered adolescence). By the time my sister was the abused one (only after at the age 17 to go to college and escaped all this), I was seven. I saw all things from a child point of view. That time, my sister seemed distant, didn’t want to play with me, had nervous rants and all that seemed to me like she was the weird and deserved that. There were times that I thought teasing her was a funny game. That time I tried to be mommy’s princesse as a way to not become like her – because it scared the hell out of me. Nowadays, I still have some memories of me as a child crying and standing between her and our mother (who by the way, has evolved, feel lots of guilt, even though it’s hard for her to talk about, and her caring and loving self is on the surface… she really became very supportive emotionally and in contact with her true self). I also have a particular flashback where I tell my sister that she can do whatever pranks she wants in our house (in a weekend away from college) and lay the blame on me, to compensate her.
There are lots of more emotionally complex moments. But I’m writing to you because I’ve read this post today, right after the one related to your point on religion (I actually share many of your views with you).
It was a nice coincidence since during this personal period of awareness and de-toxing, I have realised so many things… Yesterday, before I went to bed, I found myself praying to bring her the happiness she is in need, not only because I care and love her and her happiness makes me smile. But also because this patterns cause suffering, not only in me but in her – who I believe is the one who is suffering the most, and in a self inflicted way… She still nowadays reminds me in our e-mails (when I react to something that she points about my personality that is exagerated) and says that if she feels ressentment or doesn’t understant or apreciate something I say and doesn’t express right ahead her feelings (only months or years after), I should know, since she cattered to me during my childhood and adolescence (remember she moved out to college at the age of 17)…
I went trough some problems that were very similar to hers. I never wished them, or wanted them, some were unfair and out of my control. But I think somehow my mind conformed me to that and a small part of me kind of “enjoyed it” because there was a divine justice because of me being a bratt to my sister. And in time we bonded over that. Now as adults, when I can see that she might exagerate some of the bad memories as a away to assert some identity and some de-responsabilization of her behaviour that is hurtful. I think she is also full of guilt (that is beyond my understanding) and also has trouble in forgiveness. The fact that she is an immigrant for 14 years enhance all that.
As an adult she is a very atractive, confident in her academic skills, interesting woman. But with me, for instance, when we are on the beach she says things like “here you are with your elegant body, and with your fat cow sister”. She also points things that I’ve experienced and she never did at the time (first adolescent love, passionate (?) relationships that last more than 4 months). Even though, she has had a life full of experiences, and I’m still learning to life my life at it’s fullest and letting go of limiting beliefs… I think also that a small part of my love for her and wishing happiness is based on guilt. I realized also trough my personal meditation and a “letting go” attitude, that everytime I have experience some glimpse happiness that my sister never had, I feel guilty. I’m happy that I’ve come to this conclusion (because know I can deal with it a pursue my path for a better well being), but I would like some insight…
Do you have any advice on this particular case?
Thank you so much for your attention…
Lots of love.
Well, it’s clear that your sister is quite jealous of you (not in an ugly way, but in a way that makes her sad). She may think that your life was easier than hers, that she missed out on a lot of things because of the way you both grew up. She clearly has some self-esteem issues and when she compares herself to you, in her mind, she loses. There’s not much that you can do about that directly. You can tell her how pretty she is, etc., but if she can’t hear you, she can’t hear you.
You are feeling guilty about things that you did as a child – about not being more sensitive, or not reacting the way a perfect and enlightened adult would. Do you think you had the ability to react that way back then? Or is it more likely that you were doing the best that you could. You are judging your past self through the eyes of your current understanding. But would it really have been possible for a child to see what was really going on and then react in such a way that it would soothe all of those involved? How much responsibility do you wan to heap onto this child? That’s more than anyone could do!
Of course you were a brat sometimes! All kids are at times. You were in a situation that made you feel powerless to different degrees and you did your best to react to that. So sometimes, you lashed out. At others, you subjugated yourself and did all you could to try and make those around you happy. You decided that their happiness was worth more than yours. Neither of those perspectives felt very good and neither was healthy, but you had to experience both in order to find your balance.
And your sister did the same thing, in her own way. You both experienced the same events, but in your own, unique ways. So you reacted slightly differently.
Keep letting go of your guilt. And when you speak with your sister, don’t look at her pain. Don’t give your energy to that version of her. Give your energy to Who She Really Is. Focus on the things that she’s happy about and what it’s like when she smiles, when she displays confidence. This will help her find her way to those feelings in more and bigger ways. And while you’re at it, do the same for yourself. 🙂
I hope that was helpful. Thank your for sharing so generously of yourself here.
Thank you! That helped me clear my head and reassuring that I will be more relaxed when any “agressiveness” come and more enlightened if she confides some of her feelings of sadness.