A client recently asked if feeling guilty is the same as being guilty. I had to immediately pause and reflect on what was actually said. On the surface they seem like one in the same. But the more I examined my own life, the more I realized that I felt guilty far too many times for things that were not of my doing and certainly not under my control.
Tibetan Buddhist lama Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche once exclaimed:
"Guilt is actually the way we try to escape responsibility for our actions and circumstances. 'I wish it hadn’t happened.' 'I wish I didn’t do it.' 'I wish I had never gotten angry' or 'I wish I didn’t do that embarrassing thing.' and so on. Regret [on the other hand] is the opposite of guilt. We acknowledge it, we expose to ourselves that we have done something harmful and how it came about from our ignorance, but we don’t get caught in emotions and story lines."
When I think back on the many times where guilty feelings bubbled to the surface, they always seemed so out of control.
In my head 🧠, guilt felt like something I was running away from - something I wanted to escape. It was too painful to face. It reminded me that I failed. That I lost. That I was a loser.
Feeling into my heart 💓, I certainly know that guilt is a negative emotion. But as I breathe deeply into it, I am struck with the fact that wallowing only serves to take my power away. As a coach who supports my clients on the change journey, I am reminded that being stuck is like a sinking ship, at one point the ship will go down, but you don't have to.
And lastly, my gut 🤰 is urging me to forgive and forget. It's a game of tug of war, with some wins under my belt. But right now, I know that making peace with it is the only way out. In this new enlightened perspective, it's about forgiving but never forgetting. Otherwise it may come back around again to see if I truly learned the lesson.
This week, I challenge you to identify where the feelings of guilt reside in your body. Once you identify the origin of its pain, it will be far easier to work through in melting it away.
Every Monday morning at 10 AM EST I will post a powerful prompt which can also be synced to your smartphone calendar here and follow it wherever it leads. The aim is to resource all "three brains" — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.