Guilt/Shame


Insight is the awareness that the external world is but a mirror. Whatever you see therein is but a reflection of yourself.” – Baal Shem Tov

The most liberating thing that one can do for oneself is to tackle the emotion of shame and guilt within oneself. However shame and guilt are probably the most difficult of emotions to fully expose in yourself. It is the secret agent of emotions, with its secret networks and subterfuge, It moves with stealth through your personality, insidious in its characteristics and actions. It uses camouflaged tactics that effects your reactions and actions in life’s situations so subtly that you are hardly ever aware how it influences your life, and your decisions. Its origins are somewhere in the dark shadows of one’s memories. A delicate network that spans generations.

Born as a female Afrikaner Christian, I came into this world with a heavy load of guilt/shame. It took me many years to work through the many layers of guilt/shame that I had. I felt myself unworthy to be alive, yet I realised that only through my living could I make a difference. The more I uncovered the subtle networks the more it surprised me just how far back our inherited guilt and shame stretched.

Within a Christian based society, one of the first things that are impressed on our minds is that we are all sinners. As a woman it goes one added bit more, that we women were responsible for the fall of mankind. Even today women’s sexuality is still feared “as the temptress of men”. The greatest blasphemy is certainly to proclaim that you are guiltless. Some even say that, that was why Jesus was crucified, for in saying that the son of man is guiltless, he became the Son of God. It is well known that authorities use guilt to control and force people to conform to their pre-set standards.

Just what is guilt? “Nearly identical in the way they work guilt and shame generally form a single complex. The way to distinguish them is this: ” Guilt is the feeling that follows perceived wrongdoing:’I did wrong.’ Shame is the feeling that we, ourselves, are made ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ for what we did. Shame is a grief-related feeling… There are three major myths about guilt /shame that often severely limit our lives and makes us miserable. The first and biggest lie is that guilt can protect us from being punished. In fact, guilt is an unconscious ‘I owe you’ for punishment. When we feel guilty, we attract punishment from the world, and we also create it for ourselves. And here’s the kicker: We never feel as though we have been sufficiently punished… A second lie perpetuated in the name of guilt is that the feeling somehow prevents us from repeating our’ wrong’ actions. ” Hale Dwoskin – The Sedona Method

The more guilt you feel the more defensive you become because you are awaiting your due punishment. This leads to projection. ” The ultimate purpose of projection is always to get rid of guilt… If you are to retain guilt… you cannot be you… You project guilt to get rid of it, but actually merely concealing it. You do experience the guilt, but you have no idea why. ” The Course in Miracles

 With projection of guilt you feel that if you are guilty then so must be others, so the deeper your feeling of guilt the more mistrustful you become, and the more you need defences. This prevents you from being yourself, for to be yourself would be to expose your guilt to the world and so must be punished. All that is hidden in the darkness will of course fester and eventually erupt into full view. It is easy to see how the defensiveness that leads from guilt and shame affects our ability to love. Firstly, we are not worthy of love in our sinfulness, so that when anyone expresses love to you, they must be worse than you. So then you would start to look for their faults which must be there, and this spells the beginning of the end for most relationships, for judgement and blaming kills the love between people. “… is it not harder for you to say ‘I love’ than ‘I hate’? You associate love with weakness and hatred with strength, and your real power seems to you as your real weakness. For you cannot control your joyous response to the call of love if you heard it, and the whole world you thought you made would vanish… Love seems then as an attack on your fortress of guilt, because you believe that magnitude lies in defiance, and that attack is grandeur. Love cannot enter where it is not welcome. But hatred can, for it enters on its own volition and cares not for yours.” The Course in Miracles

The influence of guilt and shame on our lives even affects our perception of time. “You can hold on to the past only through guilt. For guilt establishes that you will be punished for what you have done, and thus depends on one-dimensional time, proceeding from the past to future. No one who believes this can understand what ‘always’ means, and therefore guilt must deprive you of the appreciation of eternity. The future in time, is always associated with expiation, and only guilt could induce a sense of a need for expiation… By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuos without an intervening present. Thus making the future like the past… Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future.” The Course in Miracles

To truly give unconditional love, you first have to look at the feelings of guilt and shame within yourself. You will have no freedom unless you do. In releasing your guilt and shame you open yourself to the flow of love.

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