On Guilt and Shame

September 3, 2010

Recently, I have noticed that humans are the only creatures that seem to feel a sense of guilt or shame.  But when I come home from an errand and the trash is all over the floor, my dog automatically bows her head and goes into the corner – isn’t that guilt or shame? Actually, what we assume to be a dog’s sense of shame is their anticipation of punishment.  For them, trash on floor = yelling.  It wouldn’t matter whether they had created the mess or not, they would cower in their corner either way.

If we examine this emotion more carefully, we find that guilt is simply self embarrassment.  If you feel guilt, you are embarrassed about what you have done and, more specifically, what that says about yourself.  Along with guilt comes that feeling of shame – shamefulness in your actions and what those actions say about who you are.

To see yourself as unacceptable or flawed is painful, and sometimes the only way we know how to cope with that is to shove the occurrence down and out of our mind.  To box it up and push it into a corner where we don’t have to think about it.  But it’s still there.  To shove it out of your thoughts doesn’t relieve the problem – it is still sitting there in the corner where it will rest on the edge of your consciousness, constantly looming over you.  You can never heal by simply making yourself forget.  And you can never fully forget.

To rid yourself of feeling guilt and shame, you must first acknowledge what  you have done.  Look it square in the face and say “Yes.  I did this.  This is true.”  Acknowledgment is sometimes more difficult than we might assume.  People will go through great lengths in order to keep from acknowledging to themselves that they have done something that puts them in a bad light because that is so painful.  But, you have to own what you have done.  You cannot deceive yourself just because that might seem like the easiest way out.  Look in the mirror and see you for you – flaws and all.

After acknowledgement, you may choose to either accept those flaws within yourself and come to a place of peace at living in harmony with them, or you can choose to bring change and alter your thought processes or actions so that those flaws may no longer be a part of you.

Shame and guilt do nothing but waste energy and emotion in dwelling on being someone you don’t want to be or trying to push that out of our thoughts.  Instead, take action.  Accept or change.  Be constructive and you will  be able to let it go and heal.

How else do you think animals live so fully in the moment?  They don’t dwell on the past or internalize what ugly and unacceptable beings they are.  In fact, I don’t even think they have a concept of ugly and wholly unacceptable.  How beautiful.  No shame, no pain.


This is for you.

August 1, 2010

Find Love within yourself.  See the majestic, serene, delicate beauty in the world.  Listen to your favorite songs that have helped you to find yourself and get lost in them.  Become absorbed into the music.  Be soft with yourself.  You are a warm, soft creature.  A miraculous creature.  Find your radiance.  Slow down.  Listen.  Feel.  Smell.  Soften your gaze.  Feel your heart beating.  The constant, underlying rhythm to your entire being.  It’s okay – everything is okay.  This is the way it’s supposed to be.  This is your experience.  What can you learn?  What does it say about you?  Experience everything as thought it were the first time.  Fill yourself with wonder and awe.  Notice.  Don’t judge.  Everything is the way it is for a reason.  Accept it, embrace it, be thankful for it.  All things bad have good in them.  Learn.  Love.  Grow.  Accept.  Embrace.  Radiate.  Your inner truth, wisdom, and beauty are contagious.  Look around you.  Notice everything  you have  been given.  Be thankful, be appreciative, know how lucky and gifted you are.  Give back.  Love.  Heal.  Slow down even more.  Every single individual in this world is beautiful and is doing the best that they can.  Embrace them.  Show them how beautiful they can be.  To be whoever you are is a gift.  Know that.  Forever.

Two nights ago, I sat above the edge of the sea on a wall of boulders eight feet up in the air.  The wind screamed, ripping at the rose bushes and crabgrass behind me, and wave after wave reared and crashed below in torment before being sucked back out into its successor, clawing the sand and pebbles back with it.  All of my surroundings turned alive with raging emotion.  In my mind, I knew I had two old friends snug and warm indoors no more than four yards away, speaking to each other on the strings of their guitars, creating a marvelous conversation of entwined feelings and words without words, but their music was swallowed by the wind and the waves.  So close to them, emotionally and physically, yet so far from where they were and what they were in that moment, I took a deep breath of the frigid salty air as it whipped around me and filled myself with this darkness and aliveness.  Sucking in its breath, I became one with the storm around me, yet I sat in stillness in the center of it all as it ripped and raged around me.  Together but separate.  Together AND separate.  At one with my surroundings yet at one within myself.

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