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How do I Stop Feeling Guilt and Shame?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Many struggle with guilt and shame. I did too. If I made a mistake or said something that people didn't immediately like, I was overwhelmed with strong feelings of guilt and shame. Additionally, I constantly felt like I had let down people around me, especially my father. These feelings made my life very difficult, and I often found myself living a life where I tried to "make up" for the disappointment I thought I had caused others.

Through meditation, I was able to release my guilt and also understand myself much better. I share my experience here in the hope that it can open your mind to new ways of looking at guilt and make you curious about trying meditation.

What is guilt and its consequences?

To overcome guilt, it helps if we first understand the meaning of guilt and shame and the underlying mechanisms that cause us to suffer.

Essentially, guilt is our mind's response to a violation of our norms of right and wrong. When our mind, through thoughts and emotions, tells us that we have done something "bad" or "wrong," guilt arises from within. To some extent, this serves the purpose of preventing us from doing bad things. But it also causes a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Does meditation help with guilt and shame?

For some people, the maneuvering room when it comes to things they can do without feeling burdened by shame is very limited. Their mind, i.e. their thoughts and emotions, tell them to always behave well and that they always need to be liked by others; this causes even small mistakes to trigger strong reactions of guilt and shame. I have noticed that people who have grown up with controlling or critical parents in combination with a strong sense of inferiority complex are particularly prone to feelings of guilt.

The suffering is painful and prevents us from reaching our full potential as humans. Strong feelings of guilt can, for example, make us into people-pleasers or prevent us from making bold moves that are necessary to grow and flourish as human beings.

Why should we stop feeling guilty?

Although feelings of guilt and shame can be painful and make life difficult, a valid question is why we should get rid of them. If we free ourselves from guilt and shame, will we not turn into shameless monsters?

What I realized through meditation was that the reason we should stop feeling guilty is that guilt does not exist in the true mind (the original self or the higher self). The true mind is the highest and most sublime existence there is. It is not self-centered but lives and exists for everything and everyone. A life lived from the true mind is a life in harmony with the flow of nature. It is up to each person to find this true mind within themselves and live their life with that mind.

It is for this reason, the nature of the true mind, that we do not turn into shameless monsters when we get rid of our guilt and shame; on the contrary, it is only in this way that we can coexist harmoniously in the world.

Do not try to satisfy guilt or shame

When strong feelings of guilt arise within us, our first reaction is usually to try to find a quick fix to stop these feelings of guilt.

Let's say someone is upset about how we acted in a certain situation. In that case, we may need to apologize, discuss the situation, or find other ways to reconcile with that person. However, this won't work if our actions are driven by guilt, which is a self-centered emotion. Because the purpose of our apology or reconciliation attempt in such cases is primarily to alleviate our feelings of guilt rather than actually caring about the person, our actions will not touch the other person's heart, and we will likely feel even more anxious because we failed to achieve the desired result (forgiveness, reconciliation).

The example above shows a type of defense mechanism. It is quite likely that there were inferiority, anger, or hurt feelings within us that contributed to the situation, but we were not ready to deal with it and instead let guilt dictate our course of action. Had we been free of guilt, we could have addressed issues such as hurt feelings, differences in opinions, misunderstandings, or past mistakes instead of just apologizing. Without guilt in our minds, we would have been more honest both with ourselves and with the other person.

Don't fight against guilt or shame

As mentioned above, it is difficult for us to mature as individuals if we do not address our guilt-laden mind.

What makes our situation so difficult to handle is that guilt takes control of our mind, and we cannot escape its grip. But here we need to understand the following about how the mind works: the more we try to resist something, the stronger we hold onto it.

Instead of resisting the shame-laden feelings, we need to give ourselves permission to feel them. This will surely feel counter-intuitive at first, but it is a much more productive strategy than fighting against guilt and other unpleasant feelings. Allow yourself to walk around feeling as shameful as possible. Let the emotions rise within you without trying to control them. Although this is painful, you will soon discover that the shame diminishes and you feel lighter and refreshed inside.

The reason this works is that allowing the shameful feelings is like removing the lid from our internal pressure cooker of suppressed shame. Another way to express this is that we have started to accept ourselves as we are. Self-acceptance leads to progress.

Meditate to let go of guilt and purify your mind

Guided meditation to fight guilt and shame

Simply put: the reason we experience shame and guilt is because we have shame feelings in our mind. Equally simply put: if we clear our mind of shame and guilt, we will no longer feel guilty or ashamed. Clearing the mind is therefore the ultimate solution to the guilt problem (including other problems related to the mind), and we should seek out a place that offers this solution. Meditation is that place.

There are two main aspects of meditation: (i) self-reflection and (ii) letting go.

Through self-reflection, we become aware of patterns and underlying frames and constructs in our mind. By letting go, we empty our mind of these painful patterns, frames, and constructs. As we practice meditation over time, we gradually return to the guilt-free, original mind. In this way, our life becomes happy, simple, and rewarding.

Over time, one discovers that all the suffering caused by feelings of guilt has actually led one towards increased self-awareness. That is the purpose of shame. In my case, I came to realize that suffering is not bad. It is simply a way for the universe to help us seek the Truth. If we keep our minds open to finding the truth, we will understand that all the pains we go through are actually disguised gifts.

These days, meditation is effective, inexpensive, and easy. Learn more at Stockholm Meditation, where I meditate myself. You can receive personally guided meditation via Zoom or at the center. Having a personal guide is incredibly powerful. Through meditation, you will get to know yourself very well, and when you empty your mind, you will begin to realize things about your true mind, your true self. Meditation helped me tremendously, and I'm sure it can help you too. Highly recommended!

Please watch the short video below. It describes how meditation helps with guilt.


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1 Comment

Gab Adam
Gab Adam
Mar 15, 2023

Beautifully said

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