Guilt

65 QUESTION: I would like to know how to handle a guilt feeling – and also how does one make amends?

ANSWER: As long as an attitude, an emotion, an action or a thought causes guilt, one has not found the roots of it. Therefore, the gnawing guilt persists. It is as if the psyche says: “You have not come to the roots of it yet,” and, therefore, it is an indication to go on searching about the very thing you are consciously guilty about. Examine it, and you will find that it often is a camouflage of a real guilt. It is as though the psyche says: “I produce this guilt so that I do not have to face the real guilt.” Do not be misled by such discoveries. Go on from there.

You will also find that quite often one feels guilty about a common human failure or fault. Upon further analysis you will find that there is something in you that is not ready to give up this fault or weakness, for reasons still hidden. Therefore you feel guilty. That means you have to find out why you do not want to let go of the failing.

You will inevitably find that the failing is thought to be a defense against your uncertainties, your fears, your vulnerabilities. Only when you find that this is so can you examine why you think it will protect you and whether or not this assumption is correct. Of course, you will find it is a wrong conclusion, a misconception.

Only when you realize fully that it is a misconception will you let go of it. Your inner will will function. You will let go without effort. You will find that the defense mechanism, the pseudo-protective armor of this fault, is useless, senseless. It does not work. When you clearly see that, you will be willing to give it up – and then, when you are willing to give it up, you will no longer feel guilty. You continue to feel guilty only if you try to give up the fault compulsively, while inwardly you cling to it for the reason I have stated.

Therefore, I say, do not force it, for forcing cannot succeed. Rather try to find out whether you really want to give up what makes you feel guilty? Or isn’t there some hidden recess of your soul that says, “I must have that fault because otherwise I would expose myself and be hurt.” When you find that, you approach the core of the problem.

Then there is another alternative regarding guilt feelings: one often feels guilty when that feeling is unjustified. These unjustified guilts are a camouflage for the real reason about which one feels guilty. As I said some time ago, often the imagined guilt is actually graver than the real hidden guilt.

But just because the real guilt is more difficult to face, emotionally it seems harder to bear than the unjustified, imagined guilt. The real guilt may be that you deny yourself in some way, you betray yourself by a weakness that is the result of a wrong conclusion.

By betraying yourself – the best part of yourself, that which yearns to love and give, to feel and to sympathize, to be generous, to be humble – you are bound to betray also those you love best. When you find this indirect betrayal toward others because of direct betrayal toward yourself, you have another clue to your guilt.

By finding all this, you make amends. To find these answers by the piecemeal work, the patience, the perseverance and the relaxed, continued effort in this direction, you do the only thing that is constructive and valuable. Therefore you make amends not to a higher power, but to yourself.

God’s ways, the ways of truth, bring happiness and liberation. If only humanity could feel that, so much sorrow and hardship could be avoided! For many of you feel that although God’s ways are wonderful, they are a hardship on you, demanding a saintly life that is not to your advantage. That is so untrue – so very untrue!

Only when you experience a few major liberations in this work that I show you, will you discover that this concept, often unconscious, is a wrong one. God’s way works to your immediate, direct advantage and is not something goody-goody and saintly that is beyond you. With that knowledge, all your doubts and guilts must disappear, because you can be at peace with yourself and at peace with that which is the best in you, knowing it will not bring you any disadvantage.

 

87 QUESTION: How should I regard my guilt feelings over the joy I feel about the assassination of Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic?

ANSWER: If you ask a personal question, I will give you a personal answer. The guilt feeling comes from the unrecognized desire yourself to be a Trujillo, to have that kind of power. Oh, you may have recognized such emotions already, to a degree, but not to their full extent, and you do not yet understand their significance. You wish to gain safety and pleasure through a strong power drive, which is simultaneously counteracted by an equally strong submissive attitude. This is one aspect. The guilt is the reaction of your submissiveness to your power drive.

An additional aspect is the tendency of submitting to the very person you fear most. There is a tendency of cringing, appeasing, and submitting to the most feared person. This is your way of coping with danger, which is why the strong submissive attitude was originally chosen. But since the power drive also exists, it reacts to such self-effacing submissiveness with self-contempt and guilt of a different nature.

On the one hand you have the desire to be like such a person. On the other hand, you tend to submit to such a person. And in the third place, the desire exists to free yourself of the yoke of such a person – and this happens through fantasies of glory about your own omnipotence.

All this creates guilt, from whatever angle you look at it. It creates the false guilt of not being as good and obedient as the submissive attitude demands; the false guilt of daring to rebel and to hate whatever contradicts the image of obedience and goodness. It also creates the false guilt of not living up to your fantasies of glory, of not being strong and powerful, but actually cringing. And it creates the real guilt of the intrinsic self-centeredness, pride, and pretense that all these attitudes really represent.

If you fully acknowledge, accept, understand, and follow through these feelings, you are bound to grow out of these pseudosolutions and therefore you will free yourself of the guilt, which is only one symptom.

 

110 QUESTION: You have told us about certain activities that cause justified guilt feelings. How can we atone for these real guilts? Could you tell us something about the guilt of omission, when we, through lack of sympathy, commit a sin. I would also like to know about healthy giving up for the sake of others. Is there such a thing as healthy sacrifice?

ANSWER: Of course there is. I have to repeat, once again: hardly any aspect is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy as such. Every aspect exists in a healthy and genuine, as well as in an unhealthy and false way. But let us first go to the first part of your question.

The guilt of omission is not intrinsically different from the guilt of commission. Therefore it is neither easier, nor more difficult to atone. In either case the very same attitudes may prevail: blindness, laziness of thinking and feeling, selfishness, egocentricity, cruelty, vindictiveness, and so on. The first step is always full recognition. That is not as easy as it sounds.

You know how it is with recognition: one may be aware of something, but the awareness may be more or less vague; one may be unaware of its full consequence on self and others, of its force, its reason for existence.

You may be aware of over-ambition, for instance, but unaware of the extent. You may not realize that this ambitiousness is actually a vital solution by which you try to re-establish your impaired self-respect. If you ignore the fuller impact of and reason for this tendency, you cannot be aware of how this ambitiousness affects others. You are ignorant of how you may have hurt others with it, belittling them, shoving them aside, disregarding their needs, impairing their self-respect and dignity.

All this may be very subtle. It may be more a question of attitude and feeling, rather than of actions, because you may be too inhibited to allow yourself to act out what you feel. It may contradict your idealized self-image. All this has to be found and deeply understood. You have to become fully aware of the scope of such tendencies. What takes place when this happens is what I had intended to speak about tonight, and I will do so now.

As you know, there always is a lot of resistance to facing guilts. Whether they be guilts of commission or omission makes no difference; the same tendencies operate in both. Do not overlook cowardice. One may omit a constructive deed out of cowardice, but one may just as well commit a destructive deed for the same reason.

When the consequences are fully understood in that process, one’s awareness grows into wide areas. As long as you are unaware of a guilt, or only partly aware of it, you cannot experience the other person’s feelings, or even intellectually consider them. The other person is a lifeless unreality for you.

When this is the case, how can you repent if you experience things for other people that your heart cannot feel? Therefore any effort at atonement is dutiful, something you do because you wish to be good, you wish to obey the law, to be blameless. Restitution becomes as false as the idealized self and therefore as useless and unconvincing.

So do not rush into atonement. It can be meaningful only if you feel you have to do it, not for your sake but for the sake of the other; not merely to free your conscience, but because you actually experience the other’s hurt, bewilderment, unfulfillment, belittling. And this increased awareness comes as a result of the fuller and wider understanding of yourself. When this point has been reached, you will know how to atone. Your innermost self will inspire you. Guidance will operate. Again, there are no rules that prescribe the mode of restitution, since no two cases are alike.

It is one of the destructive aims of the psyche to deliberately dull itself not only to one’s own pains, but also to those of others. You often speak of people who seem to have no conscience. Compare them with people who are overloaded with conscience. The latters’ conscience is bothered by the least and the most unjustified reasons. Both manifestations come from the very same root. The too-troubled conscience substitutes for the inner lack of awareness, the deliberate numbing of feelings, just as the superimposed faith and hope cover their hidden opposites.

In order to fully understand your guilts, you have to learn to pay attention to and register your various reactions, which are symptoms of resistance. There are a few major blocks against recognizing resistance. One is dullness of mind, laziness of thinking and feeling. Going through life blindly, as though wearing blindfolds is a typical symptom of self-alienation.

Another is looking for and finding blame in others to cover up your own guilts. What one sees in the other may be true or not, or true in part but exaggerated in importance. Still another is the over-conscience, an oversensitivity. It is a reaction of being hurt due to the hurt one has unconsciously inflicted upon others. Ruthless indifference to inflicted hurts is not as different from deep suffering about the discovery of one’s lower self as it may appear.

This may, at first sight, seem paradoxical, but when you look more closely, you are bound to find a warding-off process in such a suffering reaction. The psyche says, “I cannot take it. I may be all that, I have committed these sins, but it hurts me too much to face it.” Such an attitude discloses an attempt to preserve the false picture of saintliness by extreme distress and sorrow, while in reality the psyche did commit sin. This discrepancy has to be evaluated. Once the full impact of the contradictory attitudes is on the surface, it will be apparent that under this exaggerated vulnerability still lies a certain hypocrisy, as well as a warding off against further insight.

If this advice is followed, the hurt will diminish, while a genuine regret will remain, and a healthy desire to gain deeper understanding will not be obstructed by an inner weeping, which is really a kind of self-pity. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be on the lookout for these reactions and face them. This always has to be done before you can eventually come to the guilts themselves.

We have discussed before that people often build a defense against being hurt. But now we go a step further and learn to observe that hurt as such can be a defense. You artificially overproduce sensitivity in order to evade something. You may evade insight and self-facing, or you may overcome the risk of loving and giving of yourself.

This lack of a healthy robustness and resiliency is always an artificial and unconsciously deliberate process. Once you understand this you have won another battle, my friends, for then you will see how you guard yourself against insight and change by being so hurt. Only after such discoveries can you learn why you thought you needed the very attitudes that called the guilts into existence.

All this is necessary if you want to atone. The most fundamental atonement and restitution is change, because repetition of the guilts is then impossible. I do not have to repeat that guilt exists also in emotional reactions, not just in behavior, which one may well have under control. All other atonement is mere detail in comparison to the atonement of inner change, which might also be called rebirth. These details will not present a difficulty. They mean little if the attitudes that have involuntarily inflicted hurts are not changed. And don’t forget that what you withhold from others can also cause hurt!

And now to the part of your question about sacrifice. It is so easy to confuse real, healthy, free sacrifice with its unhealthy, compulsive, ungenuine counterpart. If sacrifice occurs out of a free spirit of giving, and not in order to appease, whether someone else or your own offended conscience, then it is healthy. But it might be hard for you to tell when it is, and when it is not. Only when you look very deeply into yourself will you know whether or not your sacrificial acts are truly free.

 

141 QUESTION: I stick to a guilt feeling because I get a negative, destructive pleasure out of it. If I would let go of this, I would then feel – perfectly irrationally – that, being happy, I would fear death. I feel that death does not matter when I am unhappy, so I do not permit myself to be happy.

ANSWER: The moment you can recognize such a thing, you have the power to give it up. Again, this amounts to fear of death, the fear of having no individuality, no consciousness. This fear can be met only when trust exists – primarily trust in the self. This trust cannot be established as long as the personality plays such magical, childish, bargaining and – in the final analysis – dishonest games.

My friends, when you want to find your way back to the inner center, to the inner motion, it always comes down to the point at which you say, “I let go.” Whether the letting go means giving up destructiveness, cruelty, evasion, or any other unproductive way of life, or whether the letting go is entrusting yourself to the flow of life, it must finally come to the ability to let go.

As long as you stem against it, you produce a disharmony between your life flow and the cosmic flow, of which you are part. It is like a river that is disturbed in its quiet flow by obstructions and strong counter-currents. The disturbance created in the universal flow can be eliminated only by finding this flow. It is necessary to entrust yourself to it and await what comes. It is not a giving up of personality, of individuality or consciousness – not by any means.

You can find the truth of this statement only when you try it. When your consciousness is too tight a nucleus, this harmony cannot be established. The outer ego has become too strong. Too much trust has been placed in it, in a distorted way.

Meanwhile, insufficient trust is given to other levels of personality, which function autonomously when given a chance and with which the outer ego must eventually integrate for harmonious functioning to occur. When the outer ego is overemphasized, the result is separation from the autonomously functioning center, which is constantly at one with the universal stream.

This is the separation we have discussed in this lecture [Lecture #141 Return to the Original Level of Perfection]. When you let go and entrust yourself to the life stream, to the cosmic reality of being, when you give yourself up to it, your ego will not cease to be. It will truly be a relaxed part of that greater consciousness within you. This will mean a security in yourself such as you have never known.

Finally, it amounts to an act of entrusting yourself to the universal flow. To some of you on this Path it comes earlier – to some degree only, of course. With others it comes later, but come it must.

When I say “on this Path,” I mean much more than this particular work in this particular group. I mean a way of life. If a life is rightly lived, it comes to this. It comes to all these awarenesses, to all these inner actions and transformations. It comes to the giving up of all the negativity that we have discussed here from so many different angles.

 

QA162 QUESTION: I resist this idea of agony and torture to realize self. I don’t like it; I don’t understand why this should be part of our experience. Why can’t it be a happy, pleasant, comfortable experience? Why must we be in pain?

ANSWER: You are so right. Why? There is no need. When you issue that question, “Why must we?” it implies that some fate decrees this over you. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. All your suffering results from your innermost consciousness – from your idea that you must suffer.

This consciousness of suffering, this idea, “I must suffer,” is a direct result of guilt feelings one has not faced. For if you do not have those guilt feelings, whether the guilt feelings be justified or unjustified, whether you demand too much of yourself or whether there are really violations of your integrity that burden you unnecessarily and that you need not have – all of that is true in all cases.

One causes the other, as you well know. But whatever the guilt may be, once the guilt is faced, one can truly meet it and do away with it, and not let it bring suffering into your life. Because it is guilt – again I repeat, whether justified or unjustified – that makes you deny happiness, that makes you believe – deep inside of yourself, maybe not at all consciously – “I must suffer.”

The whole human race is burdened with this mass image, with this idea that suffering is a necessity. All religions, in one way or another, preach it. But these religious convictions that are sacrificial and self-denying, are nothing but the product of the sum total of the collective unconscious, if I may use this expression here. And man’s collective unconscious is imbued with this false idea: suffering is necessary.

Now, it is true that if suffering is met constructively, it becomes a tremendous stepping stone and all the sooner leads out of suffering and opens the gates to joy supreme. But it must then be approached with the attitude, “Yes, I’m suffering here, and I will accept the fact that this suffering is absolutely caused by myself. I want to find out where the cause in me lies, so that I will not blame the world and separate myself from nature,” as though nature and you, or life and you, were two different things.

Your life is you, and if you blame life, it is nothing else but blaming you. You only then split yourself off between yourself and think that you are in the throes of an unjust fate that requires self-pity and helplessness and hostility, no matter how covert it may exist.

But all of this burdens you and keeps the door locked to joy. It is precisely this factor that still escapes you a little bit, my dear friend. You know something is there, but you’re still battling with it as though you do not want to quite look at it, and understandably so.

I say “understandably” not in the sense that there is a realistic reason not to face one’s guilt; there is an unrealistic reason. But since you believe this guilt is unforgivable – unconsciously you believe exactly that, my dear – you think, again unconsciously, you cannot afford to look at it.

You go through all sorts of psychic contortions, as it were, not to look at this guilt and to project it outwardly. You would rather feel victimized and doomed to suffering than squarely look at that which makes you feel guilty, precisely because you feel it is inexcusable, precisely because you dislike and reject yourself so much.

There’s only one way out, and that is the virile and courageous making up your mind to say, “Whatever it is, I’m going to look at it.” That is your only chance to discover that the secret, unbeknown self-rejection that you constantly afflict upon yourself, is unnecessary – no matter what it is.

For there is always a distortion and a misunderstanding – subtle and yet distinct – in this kind of attitude. You have absolutely nothing to lose to adopt this attitude, “I want to look at what makes me dislike myself, punish myself, feel guilty,” even if you do not yet feel this guilt. You can see it by the effects, by the shape of your life.

 

QA172 QUESTION: I am ensnared, at this moment, in finding my feelings of guilt, which is one of the keys in the vicious circle and a feeling that is still rather foreign to me. I am very much in touch with cruelty, but find it hard to feel any strong guilt feelings in this connection. I want to face my guilt and see how it makes me react to life as I do. One obvious but still largely unfelt effect of this guilt must be my nonmovement toward life in certain areas. Would you comment on this problem?

ANSWER: Yes. Now, it is always the initial difficulty in every new phase of one’s self-discovery that one is not aware of the feeling, and one only can first perhaps perceive it indirectly by saying, “Yes, it must be there, because I see the effects of it.” And this is exactly where you are coming to, my friend.

In this respect, a short time ago, you were not even aware really of the effect. You knew the effect, but you did not understand that it has to do with guilt. It is only now that you know somewhat, but even the not-knowing in that respect is still not sufficiently strong. It is still too new an idea.

So that is a very, very important thing that you see, “I hold myself back from all good things – from pleasure, from expansion, from happiness, from success, from fulfillment – because I feel guilty.” Now, that in itself is new.

It has to be cultivated, because it is only by the cultivation of the connection between the effect and the cause – that you as yet do not feel, but by deduction know must exist – that you will eventually come to feeling the guilt. And that is, of course, absolutely necessary.

For if you do not feel an emotion that is in you, you cannot really come out of it, if the emotion is undesirable or destructive. So you must feel it, no matter how unpleasant that may seem. But at least you now know that it does exist. And by seeing again and again all those elements in you that indicate the presence of guilt, you will eventually come to feel it.

Now, the ways in which you can make this connection is that you constantly remind yourself, so to speak, whenever you see yourself holding back, being afraid, not being able to sustain or tolerate happy, joyous, pleasurable feelings in yourself, that you immediately connect this, first only by the deductive process, “Yes, that must indicate I am guilty; I have guilt feelings.”

Or look from the other side of the pole, when you are aware of the feelings of cruelty – which sure enough are defensive. They are a result of your fear; they’re a result of your anxiety, of your insecurity, of your defensiveness.

But nevertheless, the cruelty, the hostility is there – and each time you see it, say to yourself, “Well, since these feelings are there, I must feel somewhere guilty, and I have repressed those guilt feelings. I have made myself look away from them, because obviously, the feeling guilty is even harder for me to face than the admission of the cruel feelings – which was also very hard.”

It took a long time – comparatively speaking, not really long – and it took a lot of patience, hard work, goodwill and perseverance on your part that you could admit this. For before you started on the Path, you were hardly aware of anything, and therefore even much more unhappy and out of touch.

It is only by the pain of admitting these feelings that life begins to open up. Now, the next will be that you permit yourself to feel the guilt feelings. It is only then you can utilize what you have discussed and what you know – namely, to face and meet these guilt feelings in a reasonable and productive way.

Accept your humanity; accept your limitations as a human being, on the one hand, and be really willing to change what is in your power to change – and become a more loving, giving person, which will automatically increase your self-love. This can come in proportion to your capacity to connect the cause and effect.

 

QA190 QUESTION: I have come to a point where I have to make a drastic change in my life, and I’m actually making it – I’m initiating a move where I’m making this change. What’s happened is that there is now a tremendous amount of guilt involved in making that change. I’ve discussed this with my Helper, and I think I’ve gone through and through this problem. But I’d like to ask for your help.

ANSWER: Yes. Perhaps before I can go any further, can you say here to what extent have you clarification about the guilt and where is it still lacking? Where are you still stymied? In other words, not only what are your recognitions, but where do these recognitions not yet give you emotional clarity and strength?

QUESTION: For instance, if I have to connect this guilt with my basic problem of shame and my image of man, manhood, etcetera, I can’t do it. I can’t make a connection.

ANSWER: In other words, the shame you feel about your manhood has nothing to do with the guilt. Is that what you’re saying? {Exactly} Yes, I think that you are right. I think there is also something else involved here. To what degree are you aware of what accounts for the guilt?

QUESTION: Well, what accounts for the guilt is the fact that I am tearing myself away from an old situation, and by doing this, I am the target of a lot of blame – blame because of abandonment and things like that.

ANSWER: All right. My answer to you is this. You can allow others to render you guilty. You can accept that load and that burden for wanting to be true to yourself and fulfill your own needs only to the degree that you do not yet see where you make similar demands onto others, where you say in your own fashion, “You be responsible for me. I will not forgive you if you do not fulfill my will. I will blame you and make you a bad person if you do not answer my needs and my expectations.”

Now I do not say that you express this toward the same person at this moment. But, in the past, you certainly have, and now, even if it is not expressed – this particular thing – toward a specific person at this moment, it is a climate that still resides in you. Only to the degree you are not aware of this do you then become a victim to the guilt game of others, and do you have to accept this burden.

I say to you, if you truly see this attitude in yourself and pinpoint it very directly and are aware of this and make only the first initial steps toward freeing other people of this responsibility that you want to load upon them, to that degree you will be completely free of the guilt that others want to unload upon you for being yourself.

It is absolutely inevitable for human beings to inflict hurt and pain upon others in the course of life. It is a sentimentality to assume that this can be avoided. It is only the childish self that says, “You must never hurt me!” It is the childish self that says, “I will be not responsible for the hurt you inflict upon me.” And you have to accept that only where, perhaps in completely different ways, you are doing exactly the same thing. Do you understand?

QUESTION: What you’re telling me is that it’s only a residue, a climate of what has happened before when I would blame the other person.

ANSWER: I would say that aspects of this attitude still exist. There are residual tendencies in you where this might come up again or it might even, in subtle ways, exist already now. Maybe not toward that person, but toward life, toward authority figures.

QUESTION: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. That’s it.

ANSWER: That is your answer. There’s your key. There is where you have the handlebar. You cannot free yourself of that guilt in a direct way. You can tell yourself, on and on and on, “Oh, I have a right, and this is the way it is,” and all the right things. You will be still hooked into that guilt as long as you do not recognize that you are doing a similar thing toward others. And I venture to say that this answer has meaning for many other friends here also – as other answers have too, of course.

 

QA207 QUESTION: I recently experienced a very heavy visualization of my guilt feelings and how I use my body – I get sick and then people like my brother supposedly will come. But I still don’t really understand the method and mechanism of my guilt, and I wish you could explain this.

ANSWER: Well, guilt is really always an expression of “I do not want to change.” If one really wants to give up something that impairs spiritual law, that impairs truth, then there is maybe the greater repentance of something that was wasteful but never the specific kind of feeling of guilt. That is the nature of guilt – “that something inside is there. Yes, it is ugly, but I do not intend to give it up. I want it.”

Now, there may, indeed, be attitudes inside that believe – falsely – that one cannot force to give it up because it is a protection of something very vitally important. But, at least the effort must be made to investigate, to say: “Do I really need this? Why do I not want to give this up?” But, as a rule, guilt exists when one is not even willing to admit that one does not want to give something up.

The less willing you are to admit to give up something, the greater the guilt. The more willing you are – even to admit it – the less the guilt. Because then you are already nearer to investigating the misconceptions that induce you to want to stay with it – for that could only be a misconception, for in reality there is nothing in it for you.

Next Topic

Share