Dealing with Past Guilt


Every once in a while, my mind decides to take a tour of some of my past experiences and the process is quite interesting.

One recurrent theme that shows up is guilt. Guilt for not being a gentle friend, guilt for misinterpreting situations and responding erratically to them, guilt for showing profound immaturity in relationships, guilt in different shapes and sizes.

I’m very used to it by now and I found a couple of ways that helped me deal with these periodic flashbacks. Here are two practices that can support us to find peace even within the perceived confinement of guilt.

1. Observing the process without judgement.

Long ago, I’ve realised that our mind has a personality of its own and it doesn’t quite overlap our truest nature. The mind can go crazy, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Not when we can observe what is going on impartially. The good news is that gaining that impartial perspective is not that difficult. All it takes is realising when the mind goes astray and taking a step back to observe what is happening. If we don’t board that train, it will soon move away from us and fade into the unknown.

2. Seeing what is the underlying need surfacing from these thoughts.

While observing what instances come back from the close or distant past, it can be helpful to try and pinpoint what it is that our mind is trying to achieve by reliving what had already happened. For example, I learnt that by resurfacing past experiences related to guilt, my mind is working out some issues of inadequacy. Basically, I am dealing with a deep-seated belief that I am not good enough. While reliving those moments, my mind is trying to fix them by designing better alternative scenarios and assessing how that impacts my emotions. Does it make me feel better? If I don’t stay mindful, I might think it does, at least for a split second. And then, I’ll continue in order to get another one of those precious seconds where I feel that I am good enough because I made a better choice. Once I identified what the mind is trying to achieve, there is more room for becoming aware that the whole process is nothing but a chimera. It does not offer any real positive outcome, solutions or sustainable comfort.

Many of us have those moments when we reminisce our past and realise we could have done or been better. But that noble drive has to be brought to our present reality into the moment of creation. We are creating our life with every breath and the present moment invites us to use all our prior experiences and turn them into wisdom so we can expand our life into the highest version available at the current point in time.