The Burden Of Carrying Guilt
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ―Wayne W. Dyer
Two emotional states which carry a strong burden — guilt and shame. Healing these two states not only liberates you from carrying the burden of the past into the present moment, but the accompanying emotions of fear and anxiety are subsequently healed.
Fear and anxiety accompany guilt and shame since there is an underlying fear connected to feelings of guilt. The shameful person fears being found out or exposed for their deep feelings towards oneself, although this tends to be an invalid thought process.
Guilt is defined as a deep feeling of remorse for an act which may or may not have occurred in the past. Therefore, guilt becomes a past experience which is renewed in the present moment.
We continue to replay the emotional state associated with guilt believing we are unworthy of making peace with the past. Guilt and the conscious are synonymously tied. It is a misperception that there is a right or wrong course of action, and subsequently the person ties a connection to having performed a wrongful act in the past for which they should be punished for.
They perpetuate the scolded inner child since they feel unworthy of attaining inner peace. There is a misguided thinking which imposes the thought, “Since I committed an untoward act, I deserved to be punished and carry the guilt with me.”
However, showing mercy towards oneself can be the greatest act of kindness and healing process to release the burden of the past. Showing mercy towards oneself liberates you from no longer carrying the guilt into the future.
You were doing the best you could at the time given the resources apparent to you. As you journey through life and acquire a better understanding and awareness, typically you look back on the past with a feeling of regret and remorse for your actions.
What if in looking back on your past you did so with a compassionate heart filled with forgiveness rather than guilt? Release the burden of carrying the guilt into the present moment for in doing so you not only heal the past, you simultaneously bring new life to the present and future.
In a similar vein, shame is viewed as a product of failing to live up to an imagined ideal of oneself. You create an image of who you should be from a young age, which is the accumulation of the thoughts and ideals of those whom you love and respect.
Unfortunately for a number of people, these ideals may no longer serve them as they undertake a new life path or embark upon a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
Shame may also be reflected in the ideals held by society. Popular culture affirms a set of principles and conduct one must conform to if they are to be deemed worthy within the context of the tribe.
There are a set of do’s and don’ts which are typically acquired in adolescence and this is no more evident within the context of marriage. Marriage and family are viewed as natural developments into adulthood for the young male and female. Whilst there is some merit in being a virtuous citizen, upholding morale places restrictions that do not serve those who fall out of the bounds of these obligations.
Explore Your Feelings
“Empathy’s the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” — Brené Brown
Shame creates an unrealistic measure of self-worth, since you create a point of separation between who you think you should be who and you who actually are. This creates the basis for shame since you feel unworthy of measuring up to the image perpetuated in the mind.
It must be said that this is merely a mirage — a canvas created by the mind in which you attempt to live up to. Yet if you fail to live up to this image of oneself, suffering ensues since there is a divide between the imagined self and the proposed self.
The accumulation of shame can lead to depression and anxiety, notwithstanding the image of being shamed. For many people living this way may be considered normal, since they have no contrasting reference points advising them on how they should really feel.
You internalise shame since you feel it is inappropriate to be angry, sad, depressed or otherwise. You endeavour to uphold an image that society has depicted of a well-adjusted and happy individual who is devoid of toxic emotions.
After all, who wants to know a dysfunctional individual who is incapable of handling their emotional state in a healthy manner? This is the message which many people unwittingly buy into, believing they need to suppress or mask their emotions in order to appear ‘normal.’
Yet masking one’s true emotions to appear normal does little to hide the truth, when your emotions rupture and overwhelm you — by then it is too late.
Successively, many people are ashamed to express their emotions for fear they will be judged — in some cultures, such as the Japanese, suppressing their emotions is considered normal in comparison to their European neighbours who are open in their emotional expression.
Therefore, to move through shame become aware of your internal emotional state. That is to recognise that you are living with shame, rather than deny or suppress the emotion.
Awareness opens the gateway to the next healing doorway. There must be willingness to accept your internal state rather than oppose it — embrace the shame rather than running away from it or disown it. “I have the feeling of shame” becomes a healthier inner affirmation rather than, “I am ashamed for my past actions.”
Finally, expressing oneself is the final doorway to the healing process, since one needs to share and explore their feelings with others or a trained therapist in order to connect with their emotions at a deeper level and subsequently transform them into empowering ones.
There is a spiritual message contained within the experience of shame. Namely, shame obscures the real and authentic self waiting to emerge from behind the veil of pride.
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Originally published at medium.com