This is such an excellent question. Guilt is at the core of many illnesses. Its partner is regret. As long as we are living in emotional pain rooted in the past, we are going to have a difficult time healing in the present.
Guilt is anger with yourself for some choice you have made. The cells of the body can harbor the energy of guilt inside of them and when they do, your body inflames and congests in response. In fact, you may find that you heal, only to have a recurrence of a condition. Guilt doesn’t let us off the hook for very long and your physical symptoms may be reflecting that.
When we are not healing, some part of us is afraid that there is not enough love for us because we are not worthy. We have done something that justifiably means we don’t deserve love. If we are not worthy, we don’t get loved. Deep down inside, we may be afraid that we will never be lovable again. We might be waiting for God to show us that we are indeed loveable, but we are never quite sure that the love we experience is true testimony of God’s unconditional love.
And so we suffer, perhaps with periodic moments of rest. But most of the time, we suffer terribly. When you are ready to heal your feelings of guilt, you are ready for serious healing. You are ready to make peace with yourself.
Many of us have made terrible decisions that have cause great or permanent harm to someone else. Many of us have made little decisions that we have regretted for years. Most of us were too wounded to have made any other choice at the time we hurt another.
An elder once said this to a group of women listening attentively to her wisdom: Over the years I have learned that most people are doing their best most of the time, even if it doesn’t look like their best in retrospect.
Consider this, if you had never been physically punished as a child, how likely do you think it would be that you would physically punish your own child or a child in your care?
If you had never been sexually abused, do you think it would be likely you would sexually abuse someone else or have thoughts about it?
If no one had ever criticized you, is it very probable that you would criticize someone else?
We do harm because we have been harmed. This has gone on for many generations, as we wander away from the realization that we are love and are deeply loved. We act from our fear that there is not enough love. Pass this down from generation to generation, and now you have abusive patterns of behavior that give us many reasons to feel guilty and regretful.
How do we end the cycle?
There is only one way that I know and that is through compassion. The person to become compassionate with first is you. Hold the abused part of yourself in your love. Then, when you are ready, hold the wounded part of you that abused another in your compassion.
Let the guilt slowly dissolve in your compassion. You will come to understand that everything is a search for love. And the one you most need that love from is you. There is no one that expresses Divine love for you, in the way you need to feel it, in a more satisfying way than you.
At my non-profit, New Dream Foundation, I teach a simple, yet powerful way to experience self-compassion, the greatest of all healers. http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php?topic=75.0 You might want to become familiar with this simple practice in guided meditation, so that the next time you feel guilt, you have a way to be lovingly present to this energy, allowing it to dissolve in your compassion.
When the guilt disappears, notice that you probably have more zeal for life. Your relationships are sweeter. You feel better and you physically heal more quickly.