Editor's note: The author and founder of the Seat of the Soul Institute shows us how to work through one of life's most challenging emotions.
(Oprah.com) -- Many people think that guilt is a natural experience. It's a familiar experience, but it's not healthy or productive. It serves no constructive purpose. Here are five things to think about the next time you are feeling this way:
Guilt comes from a frightened part of your personality. The actions that you regret also came from a frightened part of your personality. Following fear with fear moves you in the opposite direction that your spiritual development requires, which is toward love.
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Guilt impairs your ability to learn from your experiences. When you see something that you could have done differently, or wish you had done differently, remember how you could have spoken or acted in love instead of fear. This helps you apply what you have learned and keeps you from feeling more guilty. Your experiences are designed to inform, support, and benefit you, not cause you to contract into fear and remorse.
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Guilt keeps you from being honest with others and yourself. It keeps you from seeing that you cannot cause another person emotional pain. You can trigger emotional pain in others, but their pain comes from inside them, not from you. Their pain is an opportunity for them to learn about themselves. Your pain is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself. Guilt distracts you from that crucial lesson.
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The relationship between guilt and forgiveness may surprise you. Guilt is actually a twisted or manipulative way of seeking forgiveness. It is the belief that if you inflict suffering on yourself for your choices, another will forgive you for them. This is belief keeps you in pain because only you can forgive yourself.
You cannot give the gifts that your soul wants you to give while you are feeling guilty. Your gifts may be to raise a family, create a new kind of business, write a book, or dance. When you choose not to forgive yourself, you choose not to give the gifts your soul wants to give. You can choose otherwise. You—like everyone—have gifts and you were born to give them.
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