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Taming the Guilt

(From the "Global Living" newsletter -- a monthly e-zine full of great tips and information for expatriates, global nomads, and internationally-minded.  Please sign up at www.GlobalCoachCenter.com).

“Before we can make friends with anyone else, we must first make friends with ourselves.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt

I decided to follow up on the money issue with this issue on guilt because -- let’s face it -- guilt is one of those emotions that are very often connected with money. And in the case of expatriates, and most often their partners, guilt is what can consume us when we move.

Let’s take a scenario. You are both working, making good income, and enjoying career growth in your home country. Then suddenly your spouse or your partner gets a wonderful offer to transfer to another country with his/her company. Or to join the Foreign Service. It’s an offer that cannot be turned down and, besides, both of you were always interested to travel around, see other countries. Your own job and income would have to be sacrificed but you both reason the loss of a second income by a complete expatriate package you’ve been offered. You really won’t have to make any money to survive or to even live comfortably, so it seems like loosing that income isn’t such a big deal. Besides you are hopeful that perhaps you can find something when you get there – after all you are a professional in your field and someone will sure need your expertise.

But then the job you want doesn’t come along. Weeks, even months go by and you are still unemployed, living the life of leisure so to speak. So you begin to feel just a bit guilty. Guilty that your spouse is the only one bringing the money home; guilty that you get to sleep in; guilty that you still haven’t found anything (“Have you really been looking that hard?” Your inner critical voice likes to ask); guilty that you didn’t take the first job that came your way although it was well-below your level of experience (“Who do you think you are?” That same voice asks again); guilty in front of all those people back home who knew you as a hard-working professional; guilty about … I can go on and on.

Before you know it, these feelings of guilt expand further. You begin feeling guilty about not spending enough time with your children (if you have them) – because, well, that’s what you are supposed to do if you are not working, right? You begin to feel guilty about going out to lunch with friends or buying something for yourself – again because you are not spending enough time with the kids or you are spending money you didn’t earn. You also may feel guilty about not keeping the house clean enough or not cooking – mind you, you hated doing that back home yet now it’s a must because… well, again, you are not working.

There can be many more reasons for you to feel guilty and guilt often consumes us in other areas of our lives. Guilt is a tricky thing. Once you submit to it, it keeps growing, spreading to other areas of your life and, before you know it, you feel guilty on a regular basis. So what to do?

First off, you have to recognize that guilt serves no useful purpose. Whether or not you feel guilty about something that something isn’t going to change. After you realized that, think of your guilt as an IOU. Who do you owe? What exactly do you owe him/her/them? Write that IOU out on a piece of paper. Sometimes just seeing it in writing makes the whole issue look ridiculous.

After you wrote it out go ahead and tear it up. Don’t consider it for too long because in the majority of cases, the IOUs are actually written out to your own critical voice – the same one that makes you feel guilty about things. Considering your IOU for longer than a set period of time (let’s say 2 minutes) will only make matters worse because you’ll find yourself grappling with your critical voice. And grappling with him/her will never get you anywhere. Our critical voices are tricky creatures and I assure you that you can never win an argument with them.

This handy method comes from Rick Carson’s book “Taming your gremlin.” Good luck taming the guilt!

About the Author:

Margarita Gokun Silver is a Life/Professional coach who helps individuals and organizations to succeed in this increasingly diverse world and to overcome the challenges of working and living in other countries/cultures.   If you mention LowCostLifeCoaching.com when you contact her, you will receive the special discounted rate of $50 a month for coaching services.  To contact Margarita, please go to www.GlobalCoachCenter.com.

Copyright Margarita Gokun Silver 2006