Guilt and Shame and How to Overcome Them
As we grow up, we encounter many models. On these we base
what we expect to look like, what we expect to sound like, what we expect to be like...
and we inevitably fail. We are destined to fall short (maybe horribly short) of our
expectations for ourself. As kids we dream of things that will happen, without any regard
for the way these dreams interconnect and clash. When we dream, we are everything to
everyone all the time. How can we not fail?
This inevitable fall, this inherent curse to failure, will
give birth to a storage of guilt and shame within us. Guilty of betraying our models.
Shame at others realizing our guilt. These will fester and grow within us, consciously or,
even more dangerously, unconsciously. They will manifest in unexpected ways, at the most
inoportune moments. Until one day you will be facing the Clear Light, your innermost
secrets exposed and naked, and the guilt and shame and pain of all these years in hiding,
will burst out uncontrollably, probably sending you in drastic downward spiral which you
will be unable to stop... only to be born again and start accumulating all that guilt and
shame, all over again.
Seems hopeless no?
There is one simple but unnacountably tough response to this
paradox: surrender. Give up. Now. And again. Yes, again... now. Give up. Give up on your
images of yourself. Give up on the stored ideals of your youth. Give up on the memories of
futures that never happened. Give up on the eyes of the stranger that flash upon you and
make you question. Give up on the desire to impress, to be known, to be loved. Give up.
Easier said than done. So we need some practice.
Experiment: Personal Confession
- Take a day off for this experiment. You may not use the whole
day, but leave it open in case you do.
- Get a notebook and plenty of pens. Go to a place where you
won't be disturbed at all.
- Write down for a half hour everything you have done that you
feel ashamed of or guilty about.
- Rest for a half hour (read a book, meditate, etc.)
- For another half hour, write down more actions or events that
you remember that you feel guilty or ashamed about. (Remember, this is only for you! So
don't censure or edit in ANY way!)
- Rest again.
- Continue these cycles until you can't possibly think of
anything. Be very specific about each action or event. If after you write something, you
think of more details about an action, write them down. If you think of different events
which are similar, write each one down (if they come as individual events to your mind.)
- When you feel that you can't possibly write any more, put the
notebook down and meditate for a half hour to an hour. Use the mantram: "This is all
gone. I am forgiven. I am absolved. I am clean". Repeat it quietly to yourself.
Experiment: Secret Moves
- Go to a room where you are by yourself and you won't be
bothered. You will need no more than half an hour for this experiment.
- Play some music if it is readily available. Otherwise play
music in your mind.
- Move with the music
- Start to make movements that your body would not normally do.
The stranger the better. Remember, nobody is watching! So get wild!
- As you discover certain movements that make something inside
of you "cringe", repeat those movements in particular. Do them very slowly.
Repeat them over and over.
- After about half an hour stop. Let a week go by and try it all
Experiment: The Clown
- Again, for this experiment you may use a whole day or a large
part of a day.
- Dress as a rag tag clown. For this purpose you may use
clothing you already have or buy some used clothes that make you look clownish. You may
simply dress in these funny clothes or also paint your face. You might start by simply
wearing a shirt or pants that you feel "funny" in. It's up to you how far you
take the costume.
- Place a small pad of paper or notebook in your pocket along
with a pen.
- Go to the downtown of your nearest city and walk around. Walk
slowly and deliberately.
- Feel your own stress of shame at being dressed in this strange
way. Also feel the reactions of people (both real and imagined).
- Write down any impressions, perceptions or cognitions that
come to you while doing this.
- Keep it up for several hours until the shame has been
- Now sit down and write about this new state.
Experiment: "I Don't Know"
Make a point of examining every question you are asked,
whether it's technical, philosophical, metaphysical, etc. When you feel the urge to give
an opinion or make a statement of fact, ask yourself silently: "Do you really REALLY
know this?" If the answer is "NO" (and it should be "NO" most of
the time!) then say "I don't know" and don't make any further comment. Try this
at least for a week. Write down the results on you and on others every day.