I have been noticing an increased trend in violence, people feeling on the rails, and challenges that are aplenty. There are multitudes of people, exasperated, throwing their hands up and asking to just catch a break. If it’s not a challenging boss or co-worker, it’s a challenging significant other or family member, financial pressures, or feelings of overwhelm.

The other strong emotion that is wreaking havoc for many people is guilt. The hard part about guilt is that it happens slowly – think iceberg. However, before you know it, it can create a multitude of health ailments or emotional/mental stress. Guilt is a perception created when you feel that you have failed to meet another’s expectations, and in some way, shape, or form, hurt them or caused them grief.

Guilt slowly erodes your sense of self and makes you feel less than, which ultimately takes you down a dark path that leads to either emotional turmoil or physical anguish. Over the past twenty years I have gone over many practice members histories, where they shared their feelings of guilt. They either blamed themselves for the declining health of a loved one, or felt they caused someone to suffer by their action or inaction.

When you are stuck in this state of mind, it’s hard to recognize where you are responsible and where the other person is responsible. I have learned and recognized that everything happens for a reason, and like dancing, it takes two to tango. Learning to identify what you are responsible for, and what the other person is responsible for, will help you to avoid the pitfall of guilt. By taking ownership of only what you are responsible for, will help you to discern whether or not you are truly at fault or not.

I know this self-defeating strategy all too well in taking on guilt and assuming the entirety of fault, because it was my perception at the time to take the blame instead of questioning where the other person’s responsibilities lie. I eventually learned that I cannot know what another perceives, due to the fact that your perceptions are uniquely yours and forged by your life experiences. This is where communicating clearly becomes essential and an absolute necessity to define what your responsibilities are, and what the other person’s responsibilities are.

Practice also to be kinder to yourself as well, because you are going to act or speak in ways that may not be appreciated by everyone. Once again, understanding that you are responsible for your tone when you speak, and being able to have a discussion without a blaming undertone can go a long way to clear up many miscommunications.

Last but not least, the key to clearing out guilt is the power of gratitude. Gratitude is where you are in an equilibrated state and are able to see both sides of a situation. By seeing the benefits of a perceived challenging situation as well as the downsides of a happy situation helps you to stay centered and your emotions won’t take control. This doesn’t mean that you are unable to feel, and although it’s extremely difficult to deal with a challenging loved one or situation, you are able to see that what you are going through is just an experience.  It is neither good nor bad.

By being grateful, you will be able to open up the blinders and your heart to acknowledge a challenging person’s upside and to further appreciate moments of happiness without the uncomfortable anticipation of when things will not be so cheery or rosy.