“What if I feel guilty for feeling good?”

“What if I feel guilty for feeling good?”
September 2, 2015 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #478

“I feel guilt and shame for everything I accomplish and for feeling good, relaxed, and taking care of myself.”

Maria writes:
I have problems with feelings of guilt (and shame) for everything I accomplish (for example, my new PhD) and for feeling good, relaxed, taking care of me or loving and trusting other people. There is a part in me, that may be worried from time to time, but most of the time it is really trying to suppress my individuality, my life essence and purpose, trying to lock me in an inner prison of guilt and punishing me with pain or depression, if I rebel or do the self-caring things anyway.

I know I need to accept that part of me and listen to it, in order for it to change. But sometimes I think I just have to tell it that it’s wrong and that it’s hurting and oppressing me, keeping me from living a fulfilling life and taking good care of myself.

Dear Maria:
I can hear how painful it is to you, that your own genuine impulses toward self-caring and forward life seem to be opposed from inside of you, as if something in you wants to punish you for feeling good.

You know it’s wrong, that voice. You know it’s not telling the truth about who you are and what you need. And sure, you could try telling it so. But I predict that doing that will bring no change.

Why? Because that kind of argument — is it true, is it not true — is still inside the stuck system. When you say to such a part, “You are oppressing me,” you are identified with the victim. This just perpetuates the oppression, and does nothing to shift the roots of it.

I suggest that you turn toward the part in you that seems to be trying to suppress your individuality, and listen to what it is worried about. Even at the times it doesn’t seem worried, I assure you it is.

What is it afraid will happen if you stand out as a shining person who can accomplish good things? What is it worried will happen to you if others see you enjoying yourself and relaxing? Very likely it will show you scenes from the past, things that happened long ago that it is afraid will happen again.

And then: You be its listener. You let it know you really hear what it doesn’t want to happen to you…ever again. And then check with it, if it feels you have understood, or if there is more.

This is a transformational process…if you keep listening. If you argue with it, or even explain that those situations are no longer current, you will stop the process…because then you are losing Self-in-Presence. For true change, be the Listener inside.


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