Do you take care of a bunch of chores that have been neglected for weeks, months or years when you see how hurt and upset your loved ones are at you?

Perhaps you go to the other extreme of making sure that no one can find fault with you and blame you for anything by anticipating areas where you could be found wanting.

Whether you are pumped up by needing to make amends or to avoid blame, the source of your motivation is probably guilt.

Mark couldn’t live with his guilt if he behaved like his mother

Mark cringed each time he recalled Melody’s screwed up tortured face after he had gone on a date with another woman during their days of courtship. The effect on him had been like a ton of sharp needles poking his belly and drawing blood, hurting and throbbing for ever more.
That image poured salt in his wounds. It reminded him of feeling betrayed as a teenager when his best friend went to concerts with other people and he was rejected. Roger remembered all those many times when his mother went out with a host of strange men after his parents divorced. He relived the bitter taste of feeling that he wasn’t enough. He couldn’t bear to think that he was doing the same thing to Melody that his mother and friend did to him. The guilt was unbearable.

Guilt made Mark feel like a good person for a while before torturing him again.

Whenever Mark stopped at the bar for a drink with friends before going home, the guilt made him do ten things at home that he had been putting off for months. The guilt was appeased and he felt accomplished and proud at the same time.

Guilt made Mark get a catered romantic meal for his wife and himself after he missed dinner twice in a week.

Guilt made Mark spend Sunday out in the yard with Melody and his in-laws after chickening out of a family ritual two months ago.

Guilt made Mark wash both cars after he had fallen asleep on the couch one night and left Melody alone in bed.

Guilt made Mark take and pay for the class in computer graphics after he discovered that the course Melody had bought him for his birthday had expired.

The cost of using guilt as a motivator was never having any peace

The only thing that really propelled Mark into action was guilt, guilt and more guilt.

He had to feel bad about himself before it was worth finding the energy to do things he wanted or that went with being a husband and member of a large group of in-laws.
His mother had never cared about his feelings and had not been a good model when it came to doing things to show love and care. Her way had been self-centered and he had paid the price. He couldn’t be as selfish and thoughtless as his mother. The only alternative motivator for Mark was guilt.
Mark paid the price of using guilt as a motivator by never being at peace with himself.

Mark deprived himself of feeling the pull of real desire and enthusiasm to get things done for himself and his wife.
Mark acted only to appease his guilt and get some recognition from others that he was doing the right thing!

Acting out of guilt made mark feel better in the short term, but angry and unhappy in the long term. He was pushed by the stick of guilt and never had the pleasure of tasting and chewing the sweetness of the carrot.

How to let go of guilt and bring in wishes, desires and enthusiasm?

1. Mark can break the cycle by giving himself space to discover what he wants and why he wants it. Just the act of allowing a spontaneous desire to surface and act on it can create new ways for him to experience himself and make life exciting rather than full of judgment and guilt.

2. Melody will feel more loved and regarded if she sees that Roger truly wants to do something with or for her, instead of acting solely out of guilt.

Seeing Melody happy will erase the need to feel guilty about not treating her the way he thinks is right, and make their relationship more honest and fun.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a psychologist and relationship expert. She helps people connect with a minimum of stress and by using positive rather than negative emotions.