Guilt is a powerful ghost that can haunt the deepest recesses of our minds. If we’re not paying attention, it can sneak inside us, take us over, and determine nearly everything we do. It can make our major life decisions for us, create our limitations, and suffocate our hope and inspiration. But what is it? Where does it come from? What does it mean? In my work as a psychologist, alternative healer, and spiritual teacher; through my participation in the lives of those I have been blessed to encourage; my evolving understanding of guilt has grown to include origins deriving from our back stories, egoic minds, and fluctuating life situations.
Guilt and the Back Story
When a healthy sense of responsibility turns into a burden of guilt, it is often the result of the conditioning of our pasts. Families, religious organizations, and historical experiences, among other things, strongly influence our beliefs about ourselves and the world, what is “right” and what is “wrong,” how we should look in the eyes of others, what makes us a “good” or “bad” person, the measures of “our success,” and so much more. Depending upon how sensitive we are, such influences may have a greater or lesser impact on our thoughts and lives. The simple definition of guilt is “a feeling of having done wrong, or failed in an obligation.” The influences of our families, religious organizations, and life experiences condition our understanding of what is “wrong” and what constitutes the parameters of an “obligation.” As mentioned in earlier posts, whether we are in Spiritual, Safe, or Survival Mode will determine the range of our thought, perceived possibilities, and courses of action; and consequently the scope of our understanding of concepts such as “wrong” and “obligation.” When we grow up around controlling, judgmental, abusive, or even highly opinionated people; we may learn to live in perpetual states of stress, anxiety, self doubt, fear, or depression. If we step outside the lines we were conditioned to stay within, tthe we may also experience guilt pursuant to our alleged transgressions. All of these negative emotional states keep us trapped in Survival Mode, where we believe there is a threat that we must fight against or escape from. The guilt such conditioned beliefs may generate, and the negative emotional states they may create, can seriously limit our ability to pursue our dreams, fulfill our purpose, and live our truth. This is because we have been conditioned to believe that what others tell us our dreams, purpose, and truth should be; or the things that we are capable of doing; are true. They are not. Others do not even know these things. We are the only ones who do. But we become so trapped within our conditioned beliefs that we often do not realize this, and live our lives based on the opinions, judgements, and control imposed upon us by others. We need to become more aware of these things, so we can set ourselves free and ascend.
Guilt and the Ego
Unresolved ego issues like inadequacy, trust, control, and victimization; especially when interacting with a guilt-based back story; can lead to guilt triggers that pull us out of our clarity, and throw us into defensive states of needing to be right, trying to prove ourselves, distrust, being controlling, self righteously believing that we are victims, and perceiving that we are being unfairly treated. The negative emotions that these issues and defenses generate will shift us into Survival Mode, limiting our thoughts, perceived possibilities, and courses of action to those associated with fighting against or running away from a threat. For example, if we have an inadequacy issue, then we will be hypersensitive to being wrong. If we have been conditioned, by our back story, to believe that we have poor judgement, are generally a failure, and have little value; then when we think we have made mistakes in the present, and feel the guilt and other negative emotions they may generate; we will also be experiencing the guilt from the past that was triggered by the present situation. We may not realize that the magnitude of our guilt is a combination of our past and present guilt. We may believe that it is all coming from the present situation, and assign much more significance to it than it actually warrants. So when we develop sufficient self awareness to distinguish the origins of our guilt and other negative emotions (e.g. past, present, or a combination of the two); we will be better able to recover from guilt responses in the present, transmute the guilt and other negative emotions into higher vibrations, and overcome the ego issues that may be limiting our lives. We can consciously rise above both our back stories and our egos. When we are able to rise above the constraints of the material world mind, and perceive higher vibrational things, our lives will be naturally transformed. We will discover our true nature, our life purpose, and the freedom from guilt to pursue them.
Guilt and Fluctuating Life Situations
Depending upon our back story and unresolved ego issues, our current life situations may generate guilt in the absence of what would typically cause us to feel guilty. Guilt is a useless belief anyway, as it is a dysfunctional twisting of the concept of personal responsibility. It is a lower vibrational state that keeps us trapped within the most primitive parts of our mind. OK, so if we have a history of being told that we are not good enough (back story), develop hypersensitivities to criticism/being wrong/being rejected by others (ego issues); and if our current life situations include people who are critical, judgmental, or uninterested in knowing who we really are; then we could be experiencing intense guilt and other negative emotions; and allowing them to control our lives; without truly understanding what is going on. We would probably attribute our entire guilt experience to our current situation, when all or part of it could be coming from our back story or ego issues. This can cause us to assign much more significance to a situation than it warrants; and prompt unnecessary fight or flight responses; which could lead to anything from paralyzing guilt to major life changing decisions.
Transmuting Guilt Into Acceptance
From the Spiritual Mode we might perceive something as the highest of truths, from Safe Mode a reasonable option, and from Survival Mode it might generate guilt or seem wrong. When we can see what is happening, and why, we are free to pursue goals and dreams with alacrity, grace, and peaceful acceptance. From this vantage point, everything is different. Nothing is black and white. Anything is possible. And the chains of our pasts and our egos have been broken.
Photo Credit: Kristian Niemi