Guilt is connected to many, if not most destructive behaviors. It keeps us in unhealthy relationship patterns and robs us of our precious energy and happiness. Sometimes it hides in the shadows and often it boldly puts on the clothes of 'Justice' and pretends that it is 'Good'. Guilt, however, generally leads to more suffering. Innocence leads to true freedom. In this blog, we will explore consequences of guilt and pathways to innocence and freedom.
Just a few weeks ago, I was wondering where I might be hiding my own guilt and asked my 'inner guidance' to teach me more about guilt. There is a common saying, "Careful what you ask for!" It was not long before I was personally delivered some answers and an experience in the form of an emotional 'relationship trigger.'
Before the experience started, I was in a peaceful place. I had just come out of meditation and was feeling deeply calm and loving. When I checked my emails, I noticed an email to me from a supplier. In the email, the supplier was upset about an experience he had had with one of my colleagues which he had just spoken to. In his words, he described his conversation with my colleague as, 'one of the most hostile I think I have ever encountered in a professional space'.
Still calm, I was concerned about what might have happened and how the supplier felt he was treated. I did believe that the supplier had an experience that he interpreted as hostile, but I did not know the other side of the story. I was concerned about the interaction and concerned about my colleague. I wondered if she was OK. What was her experience?
I called my colleague right away to see what I could do to help. I was not prepared for the experience I had in my own interaction with her and she was not prepared for the experience she had with me. My own energy went from peace to 'what in hell is going on here!"
Without going into details, (I've actually forgotten the details of what I said and what she said), my colleague and I got into our own little emotional 'battle'. She felt hurt with the accusation and got defensive. I incorrectly took her defensiveness personally as if it was directed as an attack on me and then I noticed that I was being defensive too. Although not huge, I had been emotionally triggered. Luckily, continuing the conversation in that moment was not possible so we agreed to come back together in a few days to sort out what was happening.
Emotional triggers are good, if we learn from them
'Triggers' in my experience are a 'good thing' - if we take personal responsibility to investigate the source of the charge and heal it. For myself, I often (but not always) need to take some space to process triggers away from the situation. If I don't, and I am still caught up in the energy of the trigger, the ego can come out to play and things can get even more messed up! Maybe you've had that experience of wishing you had suspended the conversation before it exploded into all out war? I have done this too many times to count!
I've also learned over time that if I don't process these emotional triggers as soon as possible, then they process in the background anyway and suck a lot of energy. They could even ruin my day. If I don't process them at all, the pattern will return again and again (often with more intensity) until it is forgiven and healed.
My colleague and I had been presented with a 'relationship mirror'. I didn't know what the lessons and gifts from this experience would be, but I knew it would be an opportunity to heal some pattern within me/us. I went to work right away to discover the 'gifts' this experience would have for me.
Healing Guilt, Attack and Defensiveness
My healing process now is almost always rooted in forgiveness, guided by intuition or 'my inner voice'. When I asked within, what came to me in this situation was to investigate the polarity of 'attack - defense'.
This made sense. I do a lot of 'shadow work' which collapses/forgives polarities like this and frees you from it. I always come away with the feeling of being more whole and often joy. Shadows are almost always present in 'trigger experiences', especially when we are 'over-the-top' emotionally charged. In this situation,
- The supplier had felt attacked and went into attack/defense behavior
- My colleague then felt accused/attacked and went into defensiveness and then
- I felt accused of siding with the supplier and I got defensive. There was even a temptation to attack/blame my colleague! Interesting how quickly I lost the peace!
As I processed my own experience of attack - defense behaviors with the intention to forgive and learn from it, I was surprised by what was behind my own defensiveness. I got defensive because I did not want to feel guilt. I also subtly attacked the others in my mind, if not in my actions, by making them guilty. "All this was their fault, not mine". I remembered how painful guilt had felt over the years and acknowledged that my defensiveness had been an unconscious strategy that protected me from the painful feeling of guilt and shame. I discovered that behaviors of attack, accusations, blaming, and finding fault was also about avoiding guilt by projecting it onto someone else. I understood that when we attack others, we are also attacking ourselves.
As I healed from this mirror of relationship, I fell into understanding and gratitude. Forgiving, released all guilt from the experience and set me free. It also allowed myself and my colleague to come back into a deeper, more open connection and trust. The gift of forgiveness is always expansive and it pays forward.
In our world, attacking and defensive behaviors are pervasive and viral. They are so common within our own psyche, our relationships, social media and in our world, that they are 'normal', acceptable and even 'right'.
- We believe it is proper and right to defend ourselves if someone attacks us.
- We believe it is proper to strike back at someone if they have hurt us or someone we care about. They should be punished. We call it justice.
- We believe it is acceptable behavior to attack our enemy before they attack us.
But is this truth? Is this justice or just our misguided egos? If we were acting from Unconditional Love, and a Knowing of Innocence, would attacking or defensive behavior exist in the world? Wouldn't we just experience everlasting peace.
Guilt is at the root of war, violence and suffering
Today, and throughout history, defensive and attacking behaviors have perpetuated violence on a massive scale. In the energy of attack and defense, we have seen world wars, arms races, genocide, hate crimes, murders, tortures, executions, social media blaming and hate, family disputes, divorce, rape, starvation... the list goes on. And don't forget the attacking and defensive behaviors that happens in your own mind from the 'critical self' that attacks you... "you are too fat, stupid, not good enough,...."
The ego will always feed guilt as a primary way to keep us in the illusion of suffering, sacrifice and pain. It tells us that establishing guilt is 'good' because it will help us to control our 'darker natures'. Look around you. How successful has guilt manipulation been in controlling the dark side of humanity? Is punishing and making someone else suffer because we have suffered really a 'good' thing?
Returning to Peace and Innocence
I have come to know that our human journey is about returning to love - unconditional love. In unconditional love, guilt does not exist. There is only innocence. Everyone of us, in Truth, is Innocent and everything else is a persistent ego illusion.
Returning to unconditional love and holding everyone's innocence may seem like an impossible task. It certainly has not been 'easy' in my own experience. However, I have also experienced that each step along the way has priceless rewards and is worth the effort. Forgiveness pays huge dividends in happiness.
You can find peace but peace starts with healing yourself and your personal relationships through forgiveness and absolution. Are you ready to find your piece in peace? Are you ready to let go of guilt?
Some steps to healing guilt, attack and defensiveness
Step 1. Become aware. Honestly look at yourself and where you hold onto guilt. Ask for help from your 'inner guidance'.
Where are you playing in the field of guilt?
Are you attacking or punishing yourself because of past and present guilt?
Where are you projecting guilt, blame, or judgment onto others?
Where are you defensive?
Who do you need to forgive and return to their innocence?
Where do you need to forgive yourself and return to your innocence?
Step 2: Make a decision. What are the benefits of completely forgiving yourself and others? What are the consequences of not forgiving? If you know the truth, there is really only one sane choice - to forgive. If you need help in understanding why, ask your Spirit/ 'inner guidance' for help.
Step 3. Forgive. Once a firm decision is made to forgive, this step becomes easier. You may need help with this. Again, ask for help from your Spirit/inner guidance. It is also helpful to have a proven forgiveness process and an experienced forgiveness coach. Contact me if you need assistance.
Step 4. Check in. Is it complete? You will know that you have forgiven when you are truly grateful for the experience and there is no blame or guilt remaining. You feel Innocence. Sometimes there are layers of forgiveness before the experience is completely released. For example, you need to forgive the other person and then you need to forgive a parent and then you need to forgive yourself.
Step 5. Celebrate and pay it forward. Once you are free, you may feel like celebration. You will feel different. It is also possible that in your wisdom you may be able to help others to become free too. You may notice that other people have already changed because you did.
Beyond. Practice Defenselessness. Without guilt, there is no reason to defend yourself to anyone else or to yourself. When you KNOW you are ready, practice being innocence and becoming defenseless. Defenselessness takes you right out of the illusion that anyone can truly harm you and you know you are always safe.