The experience of Guilt is created because you believe an external authority figure about who you should be or what you should do or not do. Guilt comes because you do not fulfilling the image of yourself you have come to believe.
What is that image? What are you not fulfilling? Who made up this image? My guess is that you barely know all the ways that you have compiled rules, shoulds, musts and have tos to 'keep you in line'... well... with the patriarchal party line (pun intended). By what moral, social, cultural rules are you complying so that you seemingly 'fit in'?
What is the benefit of keep all this Guilt around? It is well known that over millennia Guilt has been infamously used by certain religious organizations to make their subjects so frightened they would give their spiritual authority away and pay taxes. (Many people still pay those taxes today… Do you?) Guilt is indeed very beneficial for psychopatic 'authority figures' determined to control the pawns in a crowd.
What about you? What is your benefit for playing at being 'pawn'? So that you can rely on Guilt to control you by telling you you are wrong and bad when you move outside the lines? So that you do not have enough energy to create something so outrageous that your parents would not understand you any longer? So that you remain a nice little patriarchal boy or girl?
Guilt has been used as a powerful whip to keep you within the boundary of what is allowed and discourage you from traveling beyond that. Why do you keep using on yourself?
The connendrum that you might find yourself into is that (if you are reading this website) you are probably an Edgeworker, which means you find yourself over and over again not being that which other people want.
If you have not 'handled' your Guilt, you will then over and over again be pushed back into your ordinary grooves. Guilt can easily become your Gremlin's way out of taking a stand for the Culture you want to live in.
Guilt may be the escape valve for your Fear, your Anger, your Sadness, maybe even your Joy of being an Edgeworker.
What if each time you experience Guilt, you hold it simply as a manipulation tool discovered a few thousands years ago by priests, would you have more freedom of movement from it? Probably.
Then, each time you feel Guilt, ask yourself: what I am trying to conform to? The list is longer and horrifying. Write each dimensions that you are trying to conform to, even the most stupid and seemingly insignificant dimensions. These are often the most poignant ones.
AND for whom am I trying to conform for? It could be that the answer is bigger than Mom or Dad.
It is worth looking at the Construct-prison that you have inherited and 'bought into', and document your journey out of this prison, into your Life as an Adult Woman/Man.
What are the traps of conformity (in the forms of shoulds, musts, have to,...) that have been set up to remain a good woman/man of the capitalist patriarchal empire? What is being a 'good husband/wife', a 'good partner', a 'good father/mother', 'a good citizen'? It is ALL constructs that emerges from Patriarchal thoughtware, descended to you down from generations and generations of men and women who preceded you.
THE IDENTITY OF THE 'GUILTY ONE'
A concept is a set of ideas that seems to hang enough together that you can imagine it is real. Guilt is a concept that emerges from the belief that there is such a thing as right and wrong. Guilt is internalized worldviews.
The concept of Guilt induces a polarized world in which you get to choose between living out your life being guilty, in other words, as a victim, and living out your life as one who labels others as guilty, in other words, as a persecutor posing as a rescuer.
If you can prove that you have done something wrong, then you get rewarded the identity of 'the guilty one'. You walk around in the world like everything is your fault. Your boss is mad, it is your fault. The kids are late for school, it is your fault. The dishes are not cleaned yet, it is your fault. Your partner is unfulfilled, it is your fault. Your partner changes their mind, it is your fault. On and on, all day long.
The juicy benefit of being 'the guilty one' is that you are finally accepted. You say 'Yes' to the game of authority figures which can in return take care of you. You play small and give your energetic center along with your attention and your power to create. In exchange, as the poor victim you are rescued. You might even get out of doing something yourself.
Being Guilty, much more than a simple concept is your Identity. It defines who you are, what you are able to do and where you belong.
GUILT: A MIXED EMOTIONS
The research in Possibility Management regarding Mixed Emotions started about 10 years ago, and has only deepened ever since. Guilt has turned out to be an intense emotional experience in which the following three core Emotions are mixed: unconscious anger, unconscious sadness and unconscious fear.
As with any concept, guilt can be used as a trigger for specific feelings which are then used to justify the validity of the concept. It’s a vicious circle. For example, if you think, I am guilty, this can trigger a strong emotional experience, and then you conclude, See? I feel this experience! The concept is true! You can do this same experiment of stimulating feelings with a concept by thinking things like, I am not good enough. I am successful. I am unloved. I am overworked. I am sexy. I am bad. I am powerless. I am a BMW driver… and so on. These are all concepts.
In the case of Guilt, three Emotions: anger, fear and sadness are mixed together and attached to the concept. We think, I am guilty, and then we have this experience of three feelings mixed together. Experiencing three mixed feelings can be very intense. That is why the concept of guilt has such a strong grip on humanity. Other concepts that stimulate three mixed feelings are: shame, greed, envy, jealousy and overwhelm. Do you know the sensations associated with these concepts?
Mixed together, these Emotions feel like an unmanageable wall of Guilt. But Guilt doesn't help anyone. Therefore, the next step is to unmix these three Emotions and get immensely valuable energy and information from each of the pure Emotions when they are unmixed. This praxis may sound unfamiliar to you, hence, I give you a fictional example for unmixing Guilt, to see the value and notes for actions in it.
You feel angry because you did not ask when the deadline was and now I have to pay a fee.
You feel fear that your partner will reproach you for this unplanned expense.
You feel sad because you have had the impulse to ask about the deadline and did not pay attention to it.
Unmixed, each Emotion gives you the opportunity to leave the prison of Guilt. There is anger to pay the fee immediately and to avoid further charges. You can use the information of your fear to ask your partner for a conversation and to create intimacy, instead of lying or hiding. Allowing your sadness can help you to reconnect with your own needs and impulses.
With the ability to observe your own Emotions by unmixing them and to self-assess your own actions, you have an important key for leaving Low Drama. And there are so many more to exit the Guilt game. I have suggested some of them below as experiments that can be used in everyday life. I wish you much joy and success in your research.
Guilt and Responsibility
You have been raised within a specific way of thinking, an old thoughtware of Responsibility, where taking Responsibility means “I can not do it right, I am at fault, and I will be punished”. It is truly a burden, because in this woldview being responsible is automatically linked to being guilty. There is the fear that something could go badly wrong. Using that old thoughtware, it is probably that you equate Responsibility with Guilt.
GUILT: THE WHIP YOU THINK HELPS YOU TRANSFORM
GUILT: THE EXCUSE TO DO IT AGAIN
Guilt in that regard is very close to apologizing. 'Oh I am sorry, I messed up, do you forgive me?' only for you to mess up again a few minutes, hours or days later.
Guilty is the currency you pay to get permission to repeat your irresponsible actions. Most religions have rituals for absolving yourself of Guilt, only to indulge in the very same "sin" again. If you are guilty enough, then you prove that you are powerless to create any New Results. You pay to avoid taking Responsibility for what you have created as well as what you did not create. The identity of Guilt kills any impulse from your Being, your feelings or your ideas, because if you would really create something great, then you could not feel guilty anymore and would not be accepted by your original environment any longer. So you live an adjusted life under the radar within the framework of Guilt.
SHIFT YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO RESPONSIBILITY
Ahhhh - the ultimate question: how do I get out of Guilt?
The answer is simple: the same way you got into it.
THE HOPELESS EXIT: BEING GUILTY ABOUT BEING GUILTY!
Very clever, Gremlin!
You Gremlin might try to escape the prison of “being guilty” by being guilty about being guilty. You fight the prison with the same set of strategies.
Let me say it in different words. If you try to “take responsibility” for having avoided Responsibility by being guilty of your action, without changing your relationship to Guilt (or to Responsibility), you will do so by being guilty again. The way you have learned to “take responsibility” is by being guilty. This is a very old thoughtmap and it created no new results, just more Low Drama. The Responsibility that I am talking about here is from the new thoughtmap of Responsibility.
Guilt is one version of the extremely common game called Low Drama. In Low Drama, you are stuck in a vicious circle. It starts by thinking "It is all my fault" and that triggers an intense emotional reaction. Once you experience this emotional snowball, you have confirmation that your concept of Guilt is right. After all, you feel what you think. You feel your experience and therefore it must be true that you are guilty. Is that true?
THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN
How did you believe in the concept of Being Guilt?
What are the benefits for you to still hold on to that concept?
Extracting yourself from the claws of guilt involves two steps. First recognize guilt as a concept that you can choose to accept or reject. This would be something like choosing to stay in a movie theater where they are showing a horror film, or choosing to walk out of the movie theater into broad daylight. The choice is yours. It is a very simple choice, actually, yet a very powerful one. You can make the same choice with guilt.
The second step requires unmixing the three feelings of anger, sadness and fear that you have probably for quite some time been unconsciously mixing.
Perhaps it is time for some experiments?
by Bob Newhart
A 5-min therapist session!
Worktalks & Trainings
Lisa Ommert is researching the domain of Guilt & Shame with passion and is creating experimental reality for getting out it. (These offers are also available in German language.)
In this meeting you will learn about the mechanisms of these usually very tormenting and energy-sapping emotions and how you can free yourself from them bit by bit. The Worktalk is the prelude and introduction to the continuing online training "Guilt & Shame".
It is often challenging to deal with Guilt and Shame! This is because of the way we think about it. Hidden beneath these emotions are needs that we sometimes forget, while we are so busy dividing situations into "right" and "wrong". When we become aware of the connections between our mixed emotions and our Guilt & Shame, we can develop new possibilities in life. We train this in detail in this online series.