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Walter E. Jacobson, M.D. Headshot

How to Deal with Personal Guilt and Shame

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We all have, deeply embedded in our unconscious mind, a self-loathing part of us, regardless of how much self-esteem we have, regardless of how much good we do in this world and regardless of how proud of ourselves we are for our ethical and compassionate behavior.

That self-loathing, as irrational as it is for most of us who have done very little in the "hurting others" department, manages to generate guilt and shame which we do not wish to experience consciously because it would be too unpleasant.

So we unconsciously project it onto others and see others as worthy of loathing and worthy of guilt and shame, rather than ourselves. In the process, this helps us feel better about ourselves at an unconscious level.

It's very convenient and emotionally sustaining when we project it onto people who deserve it, so to speak, by their despicable actions. And we don't think twice about it. They clearly deserve all the judgment and animosity they get directed at them. They clearly deserve to be made to feel guilty and shamed.

But when we project it onto other people who haven't necessarily done anything terrible to deserve our harsh judgments, with the exception of not treating us the way we wish to be treated or not thinking or behaving the same way we do, the mechanism of discharging internal angst by pointing the fingers at others becomes more obvious, if we are willing to look at it.

So what do we do about this?

Certainly, at the level of our personal relationships where judgments are flying left and right, if we remind ourselves that our judgments are actually a reflection of our own embedded guilt and shame, and if we can see those we are judging as loving beings who are confused and have lost their way (regardless of how badly they are behaving towards us), then the best approach is to catch ourselves and stop attacking them with our judgments, because we will, essentially, be healing our projections and healing ourselves in the process.

We can disapprove of their bad behavior. We can encourage them to take responsibility and we can insist on consequences. We can avoid them. We can set boundaries. There are any number of solutions available to us.

The key is to judge the actions, not the actors. The key is to demonize behaviors but not people, because when we demonize others we are demonizing ourselves at a deeply embedded level, reinforcing our guilt, shame and self-loathing.

At the level of people in the world who assault, abuse, maim and murder: Again, it is in our best interests to despise the behaviors but to not demonize the people. They are not evil, despite the evil that they do.

They are children of God, like all of us, who are severely damaged in their incapacity to love because of the love they never experienced themselves.

Ultimately, when our consciousness can handle this revolutionary concept, it can evolve further to appreciate that everything in this world is an illusion, a bad dream we will one day wake up from, in which case, we don't even need to hate horrific behavior.

When we are enlightened and wake up from this nightmare we call reality, we will also appreciate that everything horrific in this world never happened, and there is no need for hate or for sorrow.

This is certainly an idea that most of us cannot get our mind around. We cannot tolerate this idea nor accept it to any degree because of all the horrible evil and terrible suffering that is obvious all around us and can't be presumed not to be real.

I can't argue the point. Nonetheless, I maintain that everything we see in this world is a projection of our internal thought system.

If we keep love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness in the forefront of our mind, we will see, to an ever-increasing degree, a world that reflects that, a world of cooperation, harmony, generosity, success and abundance.

If we choose at the core of our consciousness to embrace fear and judgment, then we will continue to see a world that is full of scarcity, lack, limitation, competition, aggression, war, famine, disease and death.

There are only two thoughts, love and fear. And everything we see in this world is a projection of one or the other.

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