Quote: “For most humans, guilt is compounded in such a way where we feel guilty about feeling guilty. We assume that we shouldn’t feel that way; yet, the reality is that we do.”
TL;DR: Feeling guilty is a natural part of the human experience, and trying to avoid it only makes it worse. Instead of trying to stop feeling guilty, we are invited to relax the energy around the feeling of guilt and look to understand the feeling more clearly. The feeling of guilt is an opportunity to learn and grow, and can point us toward a more loving way of living our lives. Stop feeling guilty about feeling guilty. All emotionally painful experiences are invitations for us to see ourselves, others, and life more clearly.
This Monday inSight Letter is inspired by two 1-on-1 sessions I had this past week, where feeling guilty was the challenge to work through. Whenever I do these sessions, I seem to always fall in love with the human experience all over again. What first appears to be a problematic emotional experience, making it difficult to function in our everyday lives, is actually an innocent misunderstanding waiting for a more compassionate and grounded perspective.
As we journey (or stumble) through this dance of being human, we are constantly invited to see ourselves, others, and all life more clearly. Our awareness expands, we see more of what’s real and true, and the natural byproduct of this is the resurrection of more love, compassion, and freedom.
Gosh, I feel so honored to hold space for others in this way. Helping beautiful humans rediscover the beauty that’s always been there, and helping them relax into a more present, grounded, and playful life experience.
The emotion of guilt, to whatever degree, hurts. Because of this, it makes perfect sense as to why you want that pain to stop. In many ways, it’s likely the opposite of how you would like to be feeling. The pain of guilt can be all-consuming, weighing heavily on your heart and mind. It can make it nearly impossible to enjoy the present moment and leave you feeling stuck in the past.
Rather than trying or wanting to stop the feeling, my invitation is to take a moment to understand the feeling, to see it more clearly. As we do, it’s been my experience and the experience of those I support that the feeling of guilt can relax a bit, we can relax, and allow guilt to serve a deeper purpose. This deeper purpose is one where every emotion we feel is actually arising, so we might see ourselves, others, and life more clearly.
If we are determined to not feel the emotion of guilt, we will do everything we can to bypass the feeling. The most common way we try to bypass the feeling of guilt is by projecting the guilt onto another person; we take the self-blame (guilt) and tell stories about why it’s actually other people who are to blame. “It’s not me who is guilty, it’s others.”
The second most common bypass (for the spiritually inclined), is the spiritual bypass.
The Spiritual Bypass of Guilt
In the same way that we can bypass our guilty feelings by putting guilt on others, we can find other creative ways to protect ourselves from feeling what we feel. Whatever method of bypass we choose, what it comes down to is the avoidance of what is real and true for our human experience.
The spiritual bypass, is simply to use spiritual concepts to help us hide from the sincerity of our emotional experience. It certainly can be a bit tricky. In one regard, we use spiritual concepts to help us see more of what’s true, and they point to a truth that says (in some way), “All is well and there’s nothing to fear.”
Therefore, if we are feeling that all is not well, and we are in a state of fear, we might find permission in spiritual concepts to ignore these feelings. This is the same as creating stories that say, “Someone else is guilty, so I don’t have to feel guilty.” We cling to these stories, and we hide behind them, in the same way, we can cling and hide behind spiritual concepts.
We might also recognize how easy it is to bypass our experience through the many available distractions in the world. For all of us, understandably, there can be a constant seeking for distractions that help us to not feel the reality of what we feel.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s quite natural that this would happen; it’s innocent in nature and often happens unconsciously. The deeper question, though, is: “how is that going?”
If we look at where we hide from guilt, project our guilt on others, or pretend that we don’t feel guilty, it doesn’t actually resolve or heal anything; it just delays the inevitable meeting we will have with the raw reality of feeling guilty.
The guilt remains, it’s just suppressed; locked away in our hearts, and still carried with us wherever we go.
How to Relax the Feeling of Guilt
Let’s invite ourselves to not try to stop feeling guilty, but first relax the feeling of guilt, so we can position ourselves to see what it’s trying to teach us.
What I find to be incredibly helpful here, is to recognize where guilt is being compounded. It’s like asking myself, “How am I making this feeling worse?”
The answer will be found in my resistance to the feeling. Essentially, my effort to get rid of it only makes it worse. Pushing the feeling away, is simply another declaration that it’s a big problem. Seeing it as “a problem,” adds an energy to it that turns it into something it’s not.
Relaxation is like an openness within us that’s willing to learn, a willingness to see something we haven’t yet seen. Relaxation is to reduce the amount of judgment we have for the experience.
For my direct experience, I’ve come to recognize that whenever I’m experiencing problematic emotions, those emotions are telling me that I’m not seeing myself and reality clearly. Therefore, the difficult emotions are arising to help me see more clearly; they are literally there to help me.
This is quite different from seeing the emotions as “against me,” which only results in pushing them away and subsequently pushes away the lesson that would help me connect with what I truly crave (more love, compassion, and freedom).
Feeling Guilty about Feeling Guilty
How to relax? Well, can you open up to the possibility that the feeling of guilt is okay? This openness is the doorway that allows you to breathe a little more.
If you’re not open to that, can you be open to being open? Start there. If you simply cannot relax, maybe ask yourself if you can relax about not being able to relax.
You see, in many ways, I’m just inviting you to be a little more present with your experience. I’m not suggesting you be something you’re not, I’m suggesting you get more honest about where you are, and meet that honesty.
For most humans, guilt is compounded in such a way where we feel guilty about feeling guilty. We assume that we shouldn’t feel that way; yet, the reality is that we do. This creates the added resistance that makes the feeling of guilt difficult to learn from.
It’s the same with feeling afraid. We assume that we shouldn’t feel afraid, which is simply to be afraid of feeling afraid.
Believing that feeling guilt is wrong or bad, will only create more feelings of guilt when genuine feelings of guilt arise. This resistance, as mentioned, only makes it worse.
The Real Spiritual Pointer
If the deeper spiritual truth is that there is nothing to be afraid of, then that also means there is nothing to fear in feeling fearful. If the deeper truth is that all are innocent and guilt is a misunderstanding, then there is no need to feel guilty about the sincerity of our human experience that sometimes feels guilty.
If “All is Well,” then that also means that it’s perfectly okay if you feel like “All is NOT Well;” for that experience is held within the greatest wellness of reality.
The real spiritual invitation is to help us get in touch with the authenticity of our human experience; not to help us escape it.
Ultimately, we are invited to see that the truth is okay, since our human struggle is one of constantly fighting what is true. This is also the say… “It’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to be what you are, it’s okay to feel as you feel.”
This isn’t saying that what you feel is true, or you’re right about what you believe, or you should get what you want. Rather, it’s saying that you’re free. You’re free to be wrong, you’re free to be confused, and you’re free – even if you don’t get what you want.
Funny enough, as we connect more with this freedom, we are much less inclined to cling to what we feel, cling to what we believe, and cling to what we think we want. Naturally, this can only result in less pain and suffering as we will inevitably see just how much we don’t know, and see just how much life doesn’t go how we want it to go.
What Does Guilt Teach Me?
Guilty feelings teach me that I’m not moving in life in a way that honors my deeper self-honesty. Maybe it invites me to see how my past actions didn’t honor my personal sovereignty and the sovereignty of others. Feeling guilty is an opportunity to learn lessons that point me home toward a more loving way of living my life.
This isn’t an exercise of self-judgment, it’s an opportunity to introduce more love, compassion, and freedom into my experience. In truly meeting the guilty feeling, it’s like recognizing…
“Oh, wow, I was really moving in a way that believed I was unworthy of love.”
“Oh, wow, I see how I was blaming others rather than giving myself what was needed.”
“Oh wow, I see the kind of mess that gets made, when I don’t honor the truth of what I am.”
In this “coming home to what’s true,” the pain of guilt points the way home. The pain invites me to stop, and see things more clearly. The pain is also like an alarm that says this is important. Of course, that’s why pain tends to shut us down, it’s like the pain says…
“Hey, we need to stop and look at this, so we can continue on with more clarity (more love, compassion, and freedom). If you continue on with this painful confusion, you’re only going to create a much larger mess.”
It’s entirely worth mentioning, that as I get in touch with this depth of self-honesty, it makes it that much easier to communicate my experiences of guilt with others, as such painful experiences often involve other people.
If I’m not connected with this self-honesty, then I tend to push those same people away; which, again, only creates a much larger mess.
Gosh, this really speaks to just how critical it is that we become more open to learning these lessons. There is so much more love, compassion, and freedom (what we truly desire to experience) just waiting to be discovered and invited into our lives.