Guilt – the very word itself carries so much heaviness.
I was reminded of a real incident which happened to an American lady who had a tumour at the end of her spinal cord for 20 years. She came for healing from my master as the tumour had reappeared after a surgery.
When he started talking to her and tracing back to the origin of the problem, she started weeping because she was a sexually abused victim at a young age. That guilt stayed with her and she started to hate that part of her body by turning the hatred towards that person towards her own body. After going through a cathartic meditation technique consciously, she was healed within 10 days! The tumour never came back!
From this incident, we can see how guilt plays a major role in most of our ailments because it blocks our energy flow and causes psychological disturbances and diseases. Guilt is like a wedge inserted into our inner space, it retards our growth and puts us into a vicious cycle of misery and suffering.
The mental layer is associated with the powerful emotion of guilt. Guilt comes from non-acceptance of self, a feeling of non sufficiency or non fulfillment. Guilt can potentially create mental hell for us because guilt sits on our heart like a rock, we become heavy and frozen. Guilt is a form of violence directed to one self. It becomes impossible to celebrate life as it does not allow us to be free, to dance, sing, laugh and love. Do you know that a guilty person can never be at ease with himself or herself? He/she will always lack self confidence and constantly look to a leader for guidance.
What is the root cause of guilt?
There are 5 mental patterns which cause guilt in us.
- It is our idea about right and wrong. All these ideas or rules were given to us by our parents, the society and ourselves. The truth is there are so many rules and so many regulations in different places, different situations and different societies. Where is the scale to measure what is right or wrong? The truth is there is NO scale! Without the right understanding on the spirit of the rules, any rule can become another dead rule which we try to break it. However, with the right understanding, any rule can become a technique to live life happily in a community. Rules that exploit our fear and greed always lead to guilt. For e.g. the concept of heaven and hell, when we are given the rules based on greed for heaven and fear for hell, we start creating a deep guilt in us. Instead of following religion as a set of rules, we should take it up as a technique to integrate ourselves. I’ve learnt that conscience is societal whereas consciousness is natural. Conscience is a poor substitute for consciousness. When anything is a forced rule, we always try to get around it. When we follow rules blindly without understanding, we always wait for an excuse to break them. When somebody tells us not to do something, we are tempted to do it. Instead, if the explanation of why we are following the rules is communicated properly, people will accept and follow the rules willingly.
- Fear of Death. As long as we don’t live our life with its entirety or with fulfillment, we will always feel that we are missing something in life. The feeling that we are missing something is the root cause of the fear of death. The fear of death is not the fear of dying, it is the fear of not having lived our life fully. Guilt is the root of the fear of death. The moment we harbour guilt, we don’t live life fully, when we don’t live life fully, we fear death.
- Greed/desire. When our greed arises, society starts labelling or condemning it. So we learn to suppress our greed or desire, this suppression causes greed to build up in us. We start feeling guilty about our desires which then lead to depression or aggression.
- Reviewing our past decisions and actions with our updated intelligence. Guilt itself is a pull and push between the past and future. When we think of past incidents with updated intelligence we feel guilty. Likewise, with guilt, we anticipate the future and destroy the future too. Either way, we miss the beauty of the present moment because of guilt. Whatever is gone is gone, what has been done is done, you cannot undo it. Now if you constantly think about the past and feel guilty, you destroy your present and future too. Nothing can be done about it, so guilt is really useless. All that you can do is not to repeat the same pattern again, that’s all. The past is always past, it is dead, and that is why it is called past. The problem is that our being is a crowd of voices that don’t belong to us. It is the totality of different people’s voices such the mother’s voice, teacher’s voice, spouse’s voice etc. All these voices are there, if there is only one voice, we will never have any problem. Our mind will flow like a river but there are so many voices telling us so many things and creating the rocks of guilt in our path. Guilt makes us feel disconnected within our self. When we feel guilty, we give the power to the society.
- Guilt is actually the shadow of the ego. When somebody says something and you become angry, it is the ego. Your idea about yourself that causes the anger. But right after that, you start feeling guilty about losing your temper. The ego creates the problem and the same ego goes on harbouring guilt. Without allowing ego, if you allow only awareness, you will neither get unduly angry nor will you suffer for it.
In general, we can classify guilt into 3 types:-
- Guilt created by immediate family. Our parents tell us that we should respect their wishes, if we are not able to follow their instructions, we feel guilty of making them unhappy. Family sows the first guilt in us that passes on from generation to generation. When a child wants to shout and jump, dance, that is his/her natural expression. But parents instill the fear in the child that they might fall and get hurt because of tumbling. “No” by the mother or father actually has a deep impact on the child. It creates guilt in the child. If the parent says “No” for playing in the rain, and jumping, the child forces himself to stay in or if he goes out without telling his parents, he will feel guilty. He will be afraid that somebody might spot him. As the child grows, this deep ingrained sense of guilt will actually settle inside him. Small incidents like this collect and make guilt our natural way of life. By and by, the notion of being free and happy is itself associated with feelings of guilt.
- Guilt created by the society. From age 7-14, society creates guilt in us through its rules. The guilt based on fear is created by social laws. We should follow the rules with understanding, not fear. Society instills in us the feeling that we are not enough unto ourselves. It makes us feel guilty of what we are and what we do. The guilty person can never be at ease with himself. Society functions on your guilt – the more you feel guilty, the more society becomes powerful.
- Guilt created by ourselves. The guilt sown in you by family and society grows roots inside you. Then you start creating guilt for yourself without any reason. The first 2 types of guilt are imposed guilt and they are like a crown that is passed on from one generation to another. The 3rd guilt created by ourselves happens when we internalise guilt based on fear and greed. Guilt is the opposite face of desire, when we have the desires we have guilt as well. We can call guilt as shadow of desires. Sometimes you feel guilty of desiring something because you feel it is not right to desire it. Other times you feel guilty when your desires are fulfilled because your feel you are not deserving of what you receive. When your desires do not come true, you feel guilty because you feel you have not done what you ought to have done. Desires invariably lead to guilt. Guilt is something which we did not complete in the past, It is the residue and we usually, instead of being with the experience, we immediately move to the next without completely experiencing the present. This creates a residue in us which leads to guilt.
Whenever we make mistakes, the way of treating it is first to forgive our self. Understand that we were unaware and taking responsibility and saying” Sorry” will reprogram the brain with intelligence to act in awareness the next time. The truth is – all our guilt, all our pain, everything is a pure imaginery shaft we create inside our head. When we are aware, we become spontaneous and we take the right action in the right situation. Once we integrate our self, we will be centered upon awareness, we won’ feel disconnected.
Another important thing is morality should come from integrity not guilt. Integrity means being in the present moment and being integrated & seeing reality without the play of the mind. The moment the mind steps in, the duality also steps in. Without awareness, we become fragmented and immoral. Morality has to do with awareness, not with any other social rules. If we are integrated, we will be centered upon awareness. If we are fragmented, we will depend on morality for guidance.
There are several Vedic techniques that one can learn to release guilt – such as expressing anger, reliving the incident, bringing acceptance or taking responsibility for your life. Most importantly, how do we stop ourselves from getting caught in the trap of guilt again and again?
I discovered that the right way is to live life with intelligence i.e living life out of our understanding of life instead of rules. When we do that, we begin to move like a free-flowing river where the rocks of guilt are not in the path of the water. We live in our presence from moment to moment, there is no question of repenting for what we have done, guilt will have no place.
In essence, guilt is baseless, it does not have an existential reality. We can choose to drop guilt any moment if we infuse awareness and awaken our higher intelligence.
* Note – If you are keen to work on guilt, sign up for “Release Guilt, Awaken Intelligence” workshop on Sunday 29th July @ Balanced Living, from 10 am – 4 pm.