When Guilt Is Good (And When It Isn’t)

Dr. Laurie Santos had renowned life coach and author Valorie Burton on her podcast to talk about guilt and how to deal with it.

Burton explains how guilt feels like a debt that we owe. We feel compelled to pay something back. Sometimes it’s warranted, and sometimes it’s not.

She uses a “PEEL” strategy to look closer and figure out what action to take next. You may find this as useful as I did – take a look.

P: peel back the guilt trigger
E: examine the thought
E: exchange any lies for truths
L: list your supporting evidence

Here’s an example:

Your boss (or mom, or partner, or kid, or…) says, “why can’t you get this done on time?” And you feel the pang. You know the one.

P: peel back to under the statement that is triggered the feeling. You are here. Sit for a minute and take a breath.
E: examine the question. It is asked to you, about a task, and the timing of its completion.
E: exchange any lies for truths. Is the task reasonable? What about the timeline? How about the expectation?
L: list out how are you addressing each category

The result of the PEEL strategy is to determine if the guilt is “true” (yeah, I was slacking) or “false” (now wait a second, why are you trying to mess with me).

False guilt is dirty pool. True guilt is a chance to be a better person. Know how to spot them both. And avoid false guilt like the plague, because its a killer.

I highly recommend this full interview, “When guilt is good… and when it’s not” on The Happiness Lab podcast.

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