It is not an exaggeration to say that guilt is a self-made
poison we administer to ourselves frequently. Along with
fear, it’s the most effective tool the ego has for ensuring
we will remain hopelessly bound to our past. There’s only
one known antidote: complete forgiveness, starting with
ourselves and extending to everyone else, as well.
Holding on to guilt, however, is like facing into a
corner and believing at the same time that we are actually
moving forward. We hide out in that corner instead of
truly releasing ourselves from guilt because we think we
deserve to feel bad and to suffer the sense of separation
guilt brings. We also believe if we feel guilty long enough,
the guilt will gradually, magically go away and we will
finally be free of it.
That disoriented inaction keeps us stuck in the cycle of
guilt. We feel the guilt internally and unconsciously project
it outward onto others and sometimes the world itself.
Then we think what we see out there is real and true, when
in reality the situations we create through our unhealed,
guilty projections are entirely of our own making. In truth,
we are both the creators of our own guilt and the ones
who keep it alive. We are also the only ones who can free
ourselves from the illusion of guilt’s vice grip on our hearts
and minds—and ultimately on our happiness.
When we’re not projecting our guilt, it’s usually because
we are attempting to handle it by attacking ourselves
(frequently expressed with symptoms of depression or
physical illness). Many of our religious traditions and
parenting styles use guilt as a way of steering us in “the
right direction” through making us feel bad about ourselves
for something society views as bad or wrong.
Although we may not be consciously aware of it, the
underlying source of our guilt is always the belief that we
have sinned and the fear that a judgmental God will attack
and punish us for our unworthiness. Yet guilt and fear
cannot coexist with love. When we choose to hold on to
these negative, destructive feelings—and it is a choice—we
prevent ourselves from experiencing the very loving peace
and presence of God that can release the guilt for good.
We have often played what we call the “game of guilt” in
our workshops. One person throws “a hot potato” of guilt
to their spouse, partner, colleague, or friend and the other
person usually digs into their metaphoric garbage pile of
past grievances and adds a little more to the guilt before
throwing it back. This can go on and on until the situation
approaches a metaphoric war.
Do they have choices? Most people in their blaming,
shaming, ego mindset of tossing guilt back and forth
do not think so. But we can always decide to choose
differently. One of them can choose to drop the attack. If
and when that happens, the other can choose to drop it
too. If they do not make that choice and instead continue
to suffer and punish themselves, they will invariably find
someone else with whom to play the same game.
No one can or will ever take away our guilt. We are the
ones we have been waiting for to set us free to experience
Examining how our attitudes determine our experiences
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
GERALD JAMPOLSKY, M.D., AND
DIANE CIRINCIONE-JAMPOLSKY, PH.D.,
ARE THE FOUNDERS OF ATTITUDINAL
HEALING INTERNATIONAL. TOGETHER AND
SEPARATELY, THEY’VE AUTHORED 16 BOOKS.
Giving up the Game of Guilt
HOLDING ON TO GUILT …
IS LIKE FACING INTO A
CORNER AND BELIEVING
AT THE SAME TIME
THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY