I am not a psychologist and know little about the theories of emotions. But I encounter them on a regular basis and I know what they can do to a person’s sense of self-esteem, confidence and ultimately health. This is the reason for me to enquire into the nature of emotions which I do sense in myself and others, in particular when they are highly organised secondary or tertiary constructs. They live deep inside and are a tightly entangled brood, like a nest of vermin that prevents a person from dropping their defenses in terms of seeing truth and living a life free from the shackles of personal beliefs. Guilt and shame seem to be a very common experiences within the range of human emotional conditioning and they deserve a closer look.
Guilt and shame are both more than simple emotions. While everyone is born with the capability of perceiving strong primary emotions necessary for survival, like anger and fear, nobody is coming to this earth with emotions like guilt or shame. These we have to develop, integrate and grow.
Energetically emotions are a certain vibrations that color the image of our current state of being. We can literally feel the emotional state – or mood – of another person and consciously or not, we respond to it and this is how we create our world and our experiences. So this is why it is so important to understand what lives in us, because the symptoms and feelings associated with an emotional reaction may not be so obvious and we may have developed many different defences. In many ways, higher organised emotions – as guilt and shame – originate in defense mechanisms the egoic mind has put in place, to keep us away from anything it judges to be insecure.
But lets take a look to see how guilt and shame develop over a life time. Again, these insights originate in an enquiry and I am weaving a tapestry based on my own experiences and observations. That means, when you read it – see where it resonates and build your own truth based on my reflection.
Energetically we develop in different stages as we grow up. The chakras, vibrational energy centers associated with particular physical, mental, emotional and spiritual structures and vibrational frequencies, make for a good framework to draw a picture of how the physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual development of a human being is inter-related and connected.
The first 3 chakras are associated with the “ego”, or our dense physical form, and it’s primary goal is survival, relation to others and building of a personal identity. Only if we have developed a stable human “existence”, are we ready to mature further into the realm of higher vibrational frequencies of the three next chakras, that are concerned with self-realisation. The formative years of a human being is the period of childhood. In this period we learn what it takes to navigate the world of opposites and gravity. We learn about time and limitations, and we internalise being separate.
Being “different” is a tribal judgment. This is an old instinctual habit we have inherited from our ancestors. It is important for a tribe to stick together and sacrifice individuality for the welfare of the whole. A group can only survive, when their members are thinking and acting alike. No group can tolerate someone falling outside of the adopted collective standard of “norm” and they will resist, discourage or punish any attempt to do so. Just think about it – the baggage we get from taking on our social, cultural, national and tribal identity is huge – as are the many do’s and don’ts that go with it. It starts with the way we speak, how we dress, what we do and in particular how we treat others, and conversely interpret how others treat us. Many of these “identities” are not conscious – they are in us, they are imprints and they strongly affect our judgements and decisions. This is not necessarily a bad or wrong thing – but these influences are at the bottom of building up more complex emotional reactions.
Shame – a feeling of not living up to or having complied with social norm – originates in this area, the realm of the first chakra. Just think how the feeling of “shame” is being used by society to make what is considered “norm” stronger and to punish anything that falls outside of it. Shame is the feeling that goes along with a fear of being “outside”, not living up to expectations and in general not being able to look at oneself. If we go at the bottom of a feeling of shame, we will find grief. Grief about being separated and longing for oneness. This is based in the normal human emotional development, grieving the loss of the sense of Oneness – or we can also call it the original sin. However, shame is such a complex emotion, it does not stop at just one chakra or developmental stage. This feeling of “fear being ostracized for something we are or have done” will be validated later on, whenever we feel we do not measure up to the standards society expects from us. Shame is at the bottom of many pubertal aggressions – like an overwhelming fear of being left unprotected and alone, which gets acted out in sgraffiti or other rebellious acts. Shame is at bottom of many unhappy relationships or business endeavours, since often times we think it is better to keep up appearances, as opposed to speaking our truth and acting congruently. Humiliation is the name of the fear of shame – to be humiliated is an act that intends to evoke shame and it is used in many abusive relationships.
When a person who is prone to shame reaches maturity and adulthood, and does not manage to develop an healthy sense of self-esteem and self-respect, this sense of shame may also cause guilt. No longer can we blame others for our feelings of low self-worth, it is us having failed and not lived up to the standards and expectations of society. In addition, our life story may have elicit situations, where we feel guilty of having acted wrongly, unfairly, or in a way that was detrimental to others. Guilt is the sense of having failed ourselves, while shame is the sense of having failed others.
So we can say that in many ways guilt arises from a sense of shame, and both of these emotions often do exist together. On top of it, they can be the cause of a lot of tertiary emotions, like remorse or regret, shyness, loneliness, insecurity and many more. So you can see how our energetic make up is developing over the years and is on one hand based on the influences we are confronted with, but on the other hand it is also a matter of our own healthy process of maturity. Developing self-esttem and self-respect means to face these emotions, that are based on previous experiences and hurtful memories associated with it. It is true that many dreadful things can happen to people and that the wounds and the shock may sit deep – however the moment these experiences are over, they are no longer true and what we deal with are attempts to fit a situation we have perceived as unfair, or undeserved, into our own system. Sometimes it is just to painful to look at it and we shy away from dealing with the strong feelings of anger and fear associated with it and preventing to experience the one feeling that seems to be at the bottom of all human experience – grief about the loss of Oneness.
Both, shame and guilt are very strong emotions and they are at the bottom of many unhappy life stories – but also many diseases, as the conflict they constitute generates a tremendous reaction of resistance – or chronic stress. And this is how shame and guilt are important contributing factors in the etiology of addiction, chronic conditions and diseases.