by Nanette de Fuentes, Ph.D.
The technique of embracing forgiveness for oneself is built upon a thorough understanding of guilt. Guilt is a pervasive emotion which when unresolved, can impair one’s psychological and spiritual growth. It is classically defined as “self-reproach and feelings of culpability” or “deserving of blame.”
The various schools of psychological thought view the etiology and purpose of guilt in different ways. From a psychodynamic viewpoint, neurotic guilt emerges from an overly punitive or overly developed superego, from the constrictions of which therapy should be able to free one. This viewpoint contrasts with Reality Therapy, wherein guilt is seen as a valid reaction to a real transgression. Existentialists, on the other hand, view guilt not as a neurotic trait stemming from early childhood (a personality organization one ought not to have), but as the personal sense of “missed life challenges.” Then there is the transpersonal perspective, which may view guilt as a response to a signal from one’s Wise Self to warn an individual to examine more closely his thoughts, motivations, and actions. The Transpersonal approach carries a basic assumption that matrices of psychological and psychic energy can constellate around thoughts and feelings, and these energies can easily turn into guilt, thus preventing positive change. Many people get mired in this energy matrix of guilt and compulsively—even over many lifetimes—repeat the attitudes and actions that generated the guilt.