Macbeth: ‘Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased [of guilt]?’
Doctor: ‘Therein the patient must minister to himself’.
Do you ever feel guilty? Do you still feel guilty about stuff you did yesterday – or even 50 years ago? Ever thought about why? You choose to feel guilty in order to prove to yourself you are a good person. How crazy is that?
You choose to feel guilty because you did something (or didn’t do something) that violates the self-image you have created to compensate for the primal existential fear inside that you are an evil person, a sinner, unworthy even to lick the slime off a slug.
Confused? Yes, it’s very tricky in there. From the minute we are born, often without even intending to, in order to protect us from harm and keep us under control, society programs us into adopting a self-concept that we are essentially ‘bad’.
According to a UCLA study, by the time the average child is 10 years old, they’ve heard the words ‘no or don’t’ over 1.4 million times.
At the same time, our innate defence mechanism attempts to cover over that existential fear with a cunningly-contrived self-image. This is the false ‘mask’ we wear that tries to convince us we are not bad, and tells the world we are nice, good, and deserving of approval.
Thus, If we do something that supports our worst fear (I am evil), we are lured by the ego to feel guilty about it, because in its pathological way, it thinks ‘if I can cancel out the bad by replacing it with something that proves I’m good, then I don’t have to change my behaviour and I don’t have to look inside and challenge the veracity of my self-concept’.
The big problem is the ego compulsively believes you have to feel bad in order to feel good about yourself. Religious belief often says you must feel remorse before God will forgive you!! The even bigger problem is none of this is true!. It is all horseshit. It is not true we are bad – let alone ‘evil’. And the self-image of ‘I am not a bad person, really’ is a meagre shadow of the goodness and perfection of your true self silently observing this charade being played out in your life.
As dramatised by Lady Macbeth, this kind of guilt becomes a disease that will eventually kill you. Nothing serious, of course. But it doesn’t do it quickly. It will drive you into all sorts of addictive, compulsive patterns, and dis-ease, in the futile attempt to numb out the pain and ignore the only remedy there is for guilt – the inner work of self-forgiveness.
Psycho-spiritually, true guilt occurs before we do the action. It’s our inner guidance forewarning us. Obsessive guilt post hoc is an optional, self-inflicted punishment that serves no moral, spiritual nor psychological purpose. Even scripture says we cannot get into heaven if we’re burdened down with guilt. If you read Genesis with your eyes open, you’ll see that it is Guilt that is the ‘original sin’ – not disobedience! Guilt is unnecessary, self-indulgent, self-pitying, life-destroying, reckless, dangerous, immature, self-harming behaviour.
Normal, in other words.
Psycho-spiritually (as opposed to religiously) God (the indwelling soul) does not judge us ever, at all. Judgment and punishment are not attributes of the divine. And, according to the symbolism in Revelation, each and every one of us is already forgiven for everything we’ve ever done or ever will do anyway. A big part of our spiritual purpose then, is to learn self-forgiveness.
I’m constantly working on my deeply encrusted guilts – and my new ones. We’ve all done some dreadful shit in our lives at some time: either by design or by default. How do you stop feeling guilty? How do you forgive yourself? Thereby hangs a tale.
If you’re sincerely asking those questions, you’ve already begun the process. Add some honest self-reflection by way of sensitively-guided-missile-questions, and sincerely declare ‘I forgive myself for judging myself for…’ (e.g. allowing my little foal to get injured, for being too intimidated by someone else’s opinion, and on and on till you hit the deep core of the pain) you’re on your way to a life of emotional freedom – and spiritual liberation too – if this lies in your destiny.
You deserve to free yourself from guilt right now.