I am sure those who have succumbed to this debilitating emotion can relate.
Guilt devours and sucks you into a seemingly inescapable prison, which although you may not realise it, is primarily of your own doing.
It has been likened to…”Walking up a steep hill with a bag upon your back into which every stone you come across is placed.” This burden of your own making becomes increasingly heavy and intolerable.
I have confronted this ‘monster’ a number of times in my life. In my last encounter, in desperation, I turned to the Buddhist teachings to find a way out of the morass. Although there are numerous strategies in handling this emotion, the Buddhist viewpoint has certainly helped me.
Buddhism essentially differentiates between Guilt and Regret.
The path to take should be that of Regret rather than of Guilt. Regret aims at addressing the troublesome situation head on, without the usual self centredness that accompanies guilt. If it is still possible, and still needed, a degree of atonement is earnestly attempted. Then even if the situation is not rectifiable, or just ‘in one’s head,’ Regret basically says…”Do what you can, if and where you can, promise to never to repeat it again, and then…LET IT GO! With this comes self forgiveness and a lifting of the “cloud.”
Surprisingly Guilt is most Egocentric and yet another way the troublesome Ego tries to build up it’s obsessive control causing self perpetuating misery for ourselves and others. Regret helps to dissociate the personal attachment involved and find a way forward. Once we learn through this approach, boosted by various supportive practices, such as Meditation, to detach from the trouble our sense of self is actually stirring up, we are on the path to freedom. With practice, we also grow to realise that we are constantly creating our future, moment by moment, and that being stuck in the past is totally unskillful. These approaches also reduce the chance of Guilt causing situations arising in the future.
A most notable insight that has arisen out of Buddhism is that we, and only we, are responsible for the negative mind states that arise to trouble us. As we are the cause of these states, we are also key to rectifying and sublimating these “inner demons.”
I sincerely hope this will give some comfort and a way forward, to you, the reader of this article, and help you out of whatever “prison” you may find yourself in.
As always on this site, any comments readers would like to include, that can add value to ‘solving the human condition’ are most welcome. Your contribution will be acknowledged or it can remain anonymous if you so wish.
“Don’t look back…You’re not going that way!”