Guilt, fear, and our choice to love pain


Wow. wow. wowowowowow. 

Today’s reflection is a classic connection between then and now — how messages given to us in hindsight made little or no sense in the moment, but later in time have revealed themselves to be profound, important, and affirming. In late December, Charise and I held our annual New Year’s Angel Card reading that was only speculative. It served as a preview and framework for our year ahead, and six months later, as two of the cards have come to their completion, we’re starting to get some answers.

Our angel card reading was divided in four quadrants of the year, each representing a range of three months. As we are in the last week of June, I am finishing my angel card theme for the months of April, May, and June, which is guilt.


Here is the description (with bolded sections resonating with me particularly):

I release any beliefs that no longer assist in my soul’s growth.

The energy of fear has many guises to complicate your path to loving yourself. Guilt is the most devious, because it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is a self-imposed emotion that pretends to be instructive and enlightening

Guilt can help us grow when we realize that our actions have been harmful to others and that we need to make amends. After we do so, though, it’s time to learn from the behavior and move on. The problem arises when we hold on to a guilty feeling that serves no purpose other than promoting self-destructiveness and low self-esteem.

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Guilt is not always rational, but if you examine it subjectively, act on it, and release it, it becomes a temporary emotion. Long-held guilty feelings are never good and will create a roadblock to self-love and happiness. You must continually scan your current emotions for any guilty feelings and bring them to the surface for analysis. Healthy guilt is a warning that action should be taken; irrational guilt needs to be released.

Okay. Now that we’re all caught up, let’s unpack.

On April 1–the first day of the guilt theme–something big happened. A few friends and I rented a beach house and spent the weekend eating, drinking, walking the beach, and enjoying quality time in community with one another. One of my friends was more than a friend but not a boyfriend–a complex relationship we had been navigating (poorly) for the last two and a half years–a relationship that had reached its apex of complication when I drove home in a full-blown, anxiety-ridden panic with full-body weeping and physically paralyzing consequences. When I had to skip work just to take therapeutic baths and make emergency phone calls to my therapist, I was left with no choice but to do something about it. If our relationship was going cause both of us pain because of our inability to choose dating or nah, we had to begin the work. And we did.

What a wild–and unsubtle (as the universe often is)–way to welcome the guilt phase of my year. After speaking with my therapist, we learned that my visceral reaction to his rejection of romance was undoubtedly primal, resurfacing issues and responses we were both internalizing from our childhood. There is no better way to describe this primal feeling other than the first sentence of the guilt card: The energy of fear has many guises to complicate your path to loving yourself. As a child, trying to be on my best behavior and excelling to elicit value and praise from my parents became my main priority during their divorce. As their marriage fell apart, our home fell apart. That’s when I learned the lesson (a false one, I’d come to learn) that trying to be a perfect person would make someone love you and make the pain go away.

What was really happening was the wolf’s performance in sheep’s clothing: pain was suppressed by accomplishment and compromise because nobody was ready to address the fact that we were all feeling real, extreme pain. Rather than owning our personal roles in creating or perpetuating the pain, we ignored it until it erupted like a volcano.

This is what happened at the beach. An eruption. Pain and fear covered with beer, waves, and pizza, until we couldn’t drown it anymore.

In hindsight, I am learning that my relentless pursuit of keeping people in my life who cause me pain is connected to the fear of losing them, coupled with the plunge in self-esteem and confidence that makes me blind to my own pain (thus making me not realize there is even a problem). As much as I didn’t believe my self-love was affected, it absolutely was. In the complicated relationship with my friend, I did everything I could to fight for our connection, and many of those strategies included my choice to perpetuate my own pain through body image particularly. Since he and I have chosen to disconnect in the last month, I have been practicing psychological exercises to retrain my brain to remember that I can dismiss pain as easily as I can welcome it. The reason it takes practice is because, in the context of our relationship, I have only been skilled at doing the latter.

Perhaps the most complicated part of this pain is that we actually treated each other like fucking gold. He and I showed more care for one another than we probably have shown to anyone else in our lives, and the painful conundrum wasn’t something we did, but rather something we didn’t do: commit. In navigating those years, having “the talk” more times than most people ever would, we believed the pain of existing unhealthily between two kinds of relationships was bad for us, but not as bad as it would be to be completely removed from each other’s lives. What resulted from this double-bind? Guilt, fear, shame.

In Quantum Love (a book you’ll hear more about in future posts), Dr. Laura Berman discusses the significant mental and physical health risks associated with lower-energy, ego-based emotions. Whaddaya know: guilt is the lowest-level emotion (along with shame) that a person can possibly feel. Studies have shown how people who feel guilt emit the lowest frequency energy waves, which means, according to the law of attraction, that they’re attracting low-frequency situations into their lives. Knowing I was going to write a post about my guilt season this week, I could not believe the serendipitous timing when (last night!) I read these words in Dr. Berman’s book:

“I see shame and guilt as an incarnation of fear. When you feel shame and guilt, you are blaming yourself and feeling fearful from the stories you are telling yourself as a result: you are a bad person, insensitive, selfish, etc. You imagine that you are going to lose the person you are feeling guilty toward or lose the love or admiration of others in general.

Fear serves us in many ways: the prickling hairs on the back of our neck tell us when something is not right, the stomach drop is a fear sign we can’t ignore, and the tension in our muscles prepares our body to fight for itself or flee danger. But when fear is our constant companion, especially in our relationships, Quantum Love is impossible. It’s not about never being fearful. It’s about changing the habit of fear in your relationship and learning how to recognize whether the fear is a reflection of the ego self or the essential self.”

Dr. Berman then writes: “Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love writes, ‘Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.'”

This action-oriented perspective connects to the guilt card:

1) Irrational guilt needs to be released; and

2) It’s time to learn from the behavior and move on. 

In this bittersweet separation from my friend I am experiencing waves of emotions, but nevertheless learning more about myself and our situation every day as my pain subsides and I can examine the last few years more clearly. The profundity in these realizations is not based on anger or resentment towards him. It’s actually about me: how I let myself operate in the lowest-level frequency for years, and no wonder my brain needs some retraining to operate at a more positive, enlightened wave.

So now I leave you with these reminders and lessons learned:

1. The lower-level emotions we experience are often cover-ups–a wolf in sheep’s clothing–for more primal feelings, such as pain. I am learning to address the pain as the source, not the the symptoms of the pain that make us chase our tails in circles. Find the real problem and you will find the real solution.

2. The ultimate guilt you will feel is your own. If you can choose to be paralyzed by it, you can choose to release it. Will you make that choice? Are you capable of making that choice while still wishing happiness, abundance, and prosperity to the others involved? Are you willing to not identify as a victim, even though that label is easy and comforting?

3. When your situation changes day by day as a result of doing the work, it feels like minor miracles. The last few weeks have been heaven and hell all wrapped into one, but I’m learning. I see the difference in my life now that I have released the shame, guilt, and pain. Every time my brain reverts to the pain I once felt, I mechanically force myself to express gratitude for anything and everything in hopes that one day my brain will naturally use gratitude as a replacement for pain.

I know there will be continued rewards for this work because starting July 1, we begin three months of GROWTH! The angel card says, “Your higher self will deliver you soulful wisdom and guidance so you’ll know the right choices to make in your life and how to live as a spiritual being in this physical world.”

We’ll see together what comes next!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s