Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Source of Much of Our Guilt

Guilt is no fun. Guilt produces suffering, and people can feel it for the slightest misdemeanors. This problem occurs when, on an inner level, we absorb negative accusations from our inner critic.
Sometimes the misdemeanors occurred ages ago. One client could still feel guilty because she had gotten angry for a few hours during her mother's long, fatal illness over 30 years ago. The mother was sick for more than three years, and my client had been a conscientious daughter who tried her best to be helpful and ease her mother's pain. But she still regretted that one-time outburst of anger and frustration. She said she had forgiven herself many times for the outburst, but the painful memory of it, and guilt for allegedly having been a “bad daughter,” kept coming back.
I told my client, "The only reason you're still feeling guilty and suffering in this way is because your inner critic is still able to hit you up with negative accusations about that long-ago incident. Those inner accusations of having been a “bad daughter” are unfair and quite irrational. For one thing, we can’t be perfect. We all have occasions when we’re not at our best. Besides, as you said, you forgave yourself for the outburst a long time ago. The problem is that you are allowing your inner critic to continue to pass judgment on you. You absorb that negative accusation, which means you feel that the accusation has some validity. That causes the guilt.”

We absorb aggression and negativity from our inner critic because of our inner passivity. This passivity is an inner weakness, a place inside our psyche that we have not yet claimed with sufficient consciousness, in the name of our authentic self. The outlines of this inner passivity come clearer to us as we study our psyche and acquire self-knowledge.

As we get stronger and eliminate this unconscious passivity, we successfully shut down our inner critic and live guilt-free and in greater harmony.