I spoke to someone today who opened my eyes to a few things, namely the aspects of my shadow I keep squashed down so far that I didn’t realise just how much it contains. On some level I knew I carried some guilt. Reaching down further, it’s a guilt that permeates every cell of my being. As a spiritually aware person, perhaps I had unconsciously linked guilt with religion and the state of having fallen from grace and so believed that such guilt could not truly affect someone like me who is gradually awakening from this state we call physical reality. But what we disregard most fervently are normally the very things that impact on us the most. Now I am aware that I have wrestled with guilt for much of my life. In fact, I believe it is no different to guilt described in religious texts. It is the guilt many of us share purely for being human and living in a material world with imperfect human qualities.
Guilt and shame are very similar but have their differences. Guilt is the feeling of wrongdoing perhaps linked to a specific event or situation where forgiveness is deemed to be needed. Shame is all-encompassing where the entire personality feels unworthy of being alive. I suspect I carry aspects of both. Some of my feelings are situation-specific, others go deeper into a sense of not matching up to others, of doing the ‘wrong thing’ in life. It is interesting to me that the feeling of ‘having done wrong’ has accompanied me for much of my life but I had not really linked it with deep shame or guilt. I suppose that to label it as such would mean being able to detach from it whereas until now I have connected to the fear that perhaps on some level I’m unworthy and so it’s natural to be feeling that way.
Now I realise that this human guilt is the deepest, darkest aspect of my shadow and that is the reason it has stayed hidden for so long. Disguised in the form of logic, painful unconscious beliefs influenced my consciousness which then fed into the guilty feelings that in turn grew alongside me from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I realise I haven’t fully escaped the stigma that I met with so frequently in the past around seeing my own needs as worthy and that I’m trying my best no matter what. In my upbringing, feelings were not okay. You looked after others at the expense of your own. You didn’t talk. You kept the status quo – no matter what.
As an adult I vowed to do right by my own child. I wanted to experience the upbringing I didn’t have- through him. This has not happened in the way I imagined for my son has severe autism. I love him the way he is. But the sadness has not left me and each time something happens, however small, I am reminded of what I don’t have with him. I feel grief all over again. It could be something as massive as my son grabbing a baby while out, or it could be as small as his inability to show any interest in a new game or activity I brought with a loving and hopeful heart. In fact, it is the smaller things that hurt the most.
Life dealt another difficult blow when my ill health returned some years ago. I had already suffered from poor health prior to having my son but having experienced a few years of remission I decided to start the family I wanted in the hope of a better life. For several years I struggled to manage and while so many people have said to me, knowing how ill I’ve been, that I could not have done more given the difficulties I faced with us both, I still feel the guilt of a mother who couldn’t give her child the life she wanted to give him. Eventually, of course, he went to live full time with his father. I know that logically it was the right decision for us both – in fact, the only decision I could have made. But often logic and emotions are miles apart. I still feel the massive pain and guilt of a mother who perhaps hasn’t done right in the eyes of God. It goes against everything I once believed in. I wanted to be there for my child no matter what. Ironically, the only way I could be there for him emotionally was to hand over his care. One of life’s many paradoxes.
In addition to parental guilt, I struggle with ongoing guilt over my illness, the sense that some people feel if I tried harder, did such and such a therapy, thought more positively, attracted a better life, or something else, I would no longer be unwell. I am sure that the majority of these suggestions are well meaning and with no thought of criticism. Sadly the pain tucked away in my shadow seems to incur these suggestions as more examples of having brought my condition on myself. Maybe I feel deep down that I must have done something wrong otherwise I would not be suffering so much.
I am seeing a lot of darkness lately and as the saying goes ‘it is darkest before the dawn.’ I have blogged a lot about my life story. I am bringing the pain to the surface in doing so which is why it feels harder than ever right now. I believe I am facing these aspects of my shadow so I can shine the light of my consciousness upon them. I need to realise on a deeper level that I have done the best I can and that none of this means I am unworthy – only that for some unknown reason I have been asked to take on A LOT and learn some pretty major life lessons in the process. One important lesson to remember here is that I cannot look upon the world to be a certain way to bring me contentment for that can only be found within.
Of course, the ultimate truth is love – I am learning what it means to love myself despite what my upbringing told me and regardless of what is happening externally. Love means knowing what is the highest good for me and right for my son regardless of old beliefs and wants and dreams. Love is knowing that I am not perfect, nothing and no one in this physical world can be, but they are okay the way they are. Even the painful things can be accepted on some level as part of the Whole. Love means realising that I can let go of the conditioned guilt and shame and stand with my head held high no matter what people think of me, my life and the decisions I’ve made for I have done my best. Once I can align myself with this love once more – for it has never left me, only been temporarily and partially blocked out –the guilt and shame in my shadow may start to vanish, or at least be accepted without emotional investment. Maybe then I will be free to fully express the love that is within me.
Blessings to everyone who reads this and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your care and support through my journey.