The needless emotions

Dr. Wayne Dyer postulates that if you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another plan­et with a different reality system. “Throughout life, the two most futile emotions are guilt for what has been done and worry about what might be done.”

GUILT means that you use up your present moments being immo­bilized because of PAST behavior, while WORRY is the device that keeps you immobilized in the now about something in the FUTURE – frequently something over which you have no control.

Although one response is to the future and the other to the past, they both serve the identical purpose of keeping you upset or immobile in your present moment. Robert Burdette wrote in ‘Golden Day’: “It is not the experience of today that drives men mad. It is the remorse for something that happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may disclose.”

Dr. Dyer believes that guilt and worry are perhaps the most common forms of distress in many cultures. With guilt, you focus on a past event, feeling focused on a past event, feeling depressed or angry about something that you did or said, and use your present moments being occupied with feelings over the past behaviour. With worry, you use up those valuable nows, obsessing about future event. “Whether you are look­ing backward or forward, the result is the same. You are throwing away the present moment. Robert Burdette’s ‘Golden Day’ is “today,” and he sums up the uselessness of guilt and worry in these words. “There are two days in the week about which and upon which I never worry. Two carefree days, kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is yesterday and the other day I do not worry about is tomorrow.”


Guilt is the most useless of all self-destructive behaviours. It is by far the greatest waste of emotional energy. Why? Because, by definition, you are feeling immobilized in the present over something that has already taken place, and no amount of guilt can ever change history.

Guilt is not merely a concern with the past; it is a present-moment im­mobilization about a past event. The degree of immobilization can run from mild upset to severe depres­sion.

If you are simply learning from your past, and vowing to avoid the repetition of some specific behaviour, this is not guilt. You experience guilt only when you are prevented from taking action now because you behaved in a certain way previously. Learning from your mistakes is healthy and a necessary part of growth. Guilt is unhealthy because you are ineffectively using up your energy in the present feeling hurt, upset and depressed about a historical happening; and it is futile as well as unhealthy. No amount of guilt can ever undo anything.


Guilt becomes a part of emo­tional makeup of an individual in two basic ways. In the first, guilt is learned at a very early age and remains with a grown-up as a leftover childish response. In the second case, guilt is self-imposed by an adult for an infraction of a code to which he professes to subscribe.

Thus you can look at all your guilt either as reactions to leftover imposed standards in which you are still trying to please an absent authority figure, or as the result of trying to live up to self-imposed standards which you really do not buy, but for some reason pay lip service to. “In either case, it is unwise, and, more important, use­less behaviour. You can sit there forever, lamenting about how bad you have been feeling guilty and that guilt will do anything to recti­fy past behaviour. Your guilt is an attempt to change history, to wish that it were not so. But history is so and you cannot do anything about it.”

You can begin to change your attitude about things over which you experience guilt. The Afri­can culture has many strains of puritanical thinking which send messages like, “If it is fun, you are supposed to feel guilty about it.” Many of your own self-inflicted guilt reactions can be traced to this thinking. Perhaps you have learned you should not indulge yourself, or you must not enjoy a dirty joke, or you ought not to partake in certain kind of behaviour. While the restraining messages are omnipresent in our culture, guilt about enjoying yourself is purely self-inflicted.

You can learn to savour plea­sure without a sense of guilt. You can learn to see yourself as someone who is capable of doing anything that fits into your own value system and does not harm others – and doing it without guilt. If you do something, whatever it may be, and you do not like it or your­self after having done it, you can vow to eliminate such be­haviour for yourself in the future. “But to go through a self-inflicted guilt sentence is a neurotic trip you can bypass.”

The guilt does not help. It not only keeps you immobilized, but it actually intensifies the chances that you will repeat the unwanted behaviour. Guilt can be its own reward as well as permission to repeat the behaviour. As long as you retain the potential payoff of absolving yourself with guilt, you will be able to keep yourself in that vicious cycle that leads to nothing but present-moment unhappiness.


Perhaps, by absorbing your pres­ent moments feeling guilty about something that has already taken place, you do not have to use that moment in any kind of effective, self-enhancing way. Very simply, like so many self-defeating behaviours, guilt is an avoidance technique for working on yourself in the present. Thus, you shift responsibility for what you are or are not now, to what you were or were not in the past.

In addition, by shifting responsibil­ity backward you not only avoid the hard work of changing yourself now but the attendant risk that go with change as well. It is easier to immo­bilize yourself with guilt about the past than take the hazardous task of growing in the present.

To eliminate guilt, begin to view the past as something that can never be changed, despite how you feel about it; and any guilt that you choose will not make the past different. Additionally, ask yourself what you are avoiding in the present with guilt about the past. By going to work on that particular thing, you will eliminate the need for guilt. Finally, reconsider your value system. Which values do you believe in and which do you only pretend to accept? List all of these phony values and resolve to live up to a code of ethics that is self-determined, not one that has been imposed by others.


You can spend the rest of your life worrying about the future, and no amount of your worry will change a thing. Worry is defined as being immobilized in the present because of things that are going or not going to happen in the future. You must be careful not to confuse worrying or planning.

If you are planning, and the pres­ent-moment activity will contribute to a more effective future, then this not worry. It is worry only when you are in any way immobilized now about a future happening.

Just as society fosters guilt, so in encourages worry. Once again, it all begins with equating worrying with caring. If you care about someone, the message goes, then you are bound to worry about the person.

Worry is endemic to our culture. Almost everyone spends an unrea­sonable amount of present moments worrying about the future; and it all amounts to naught. Not one moment of worry will make things any better. In fact, worry will very likely help you to be less effective in dealing with the present. Moreover, worry has nothing to do with love that predicates a relationship in which people have the right to be what they choose without any necessary conditions imposed by the other.

The present moment is the key to understanding your guilt and worry activities. Learn and live now and not waste your current moments in immobilizing thoughts about the past or future. There is no other moment to live but now, and you do all of your futile guilt and worry in the elusive now.


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