What Lurks Behind Guilt

[Written around 2005.]

There are two types of guilt: healthy guilt, in which you feel remorse for having done something that hurts the honest growth or healing process of another, and unhealthy guilt, in which you feel guilty for telling the truth. Most children grow up feeling incredible degrees of unhealthy guilt about their existences. They feel they’ve done something wrong simply by being, and from their family’s perspective they did: they were born honest.

In reality it is parents who are primarily guilty – truly guilty – and this is how they should feel, though all but a few successfully defend against it. They created their child to fulfill their own purposes and they molded him to meet their needs. They rejected him until he buried his truth – the worst of violations – and thereafter only provided him with conditional love. They then accepted no responsibility for this crime – this crime against the BEST of humanity – because accepting it entailed first facing the painful truth of how abandoned they were by their own parents and then acknowledging how guilty they should feel by having recreated the dynamic.

Every child grows up suffering abuse and neglect by his parents (unless his parents are fully enlightened, that is, fully healed from their childhood traumas), and unless he heals his wounds he will act them out. This is the inevitable and cruel repetition compulsion that rules our unconscious psyches. Like his parents he will victimize others (and behave self-destructively) because he will bring his unfulfilled needs into every relationship he enters, thereby polluting its potential for enlightenment.

Many of course act out their unfulfilled need more benevolently than others, going the route of Mother Teresa rather than Hitler, yet even she was motivated by the unfulfilled need stemming from the neglect and horror she suffered in childhood. She simply projected her desperate and denied – and split-off – need onto her wards and poured into them the passion she unconsciously wished had been devoted to her long before. This did her wards more harm than good, because she treated them like children, nourishing their delusion of parental rescue through the thin veil of feeding their hungry bellies. (And that is when she actually fed them. All too often she manipulated them and used them for her own grandiose publicity campaign and hastened their very deaths through total medical neglect, a lesson of false love that she, who allowed herself the best and most expensive of Western medical care, hypocritically did not apply to herself.)

He who acts unconsciously blocks the path toward enlightenment. He is guilty, and we all are to some degree. The only way for him to truly free himself of guilt is to take responsibility as a maturing person and look within, heal the deepest wounds of his ancient traumas, see the truth as truth and the lies as lies. In this way his guilt will fade in his heart. But from the perspective of the family his guilt will only grow. Families consider children who get real to be evil. To break from the family and speak the truth about its lies is to break its cardinal commandment. On the path toward enlightenment there is no turning back.

3 thoughts on “What Lurks Behind Guilt

  1. Your last few lines in this post:
    “Families consider children who get real to be evil. To break from the family and speak the truth about its lies is to break its cardinal commandment. On the path toward enlightenment there is no turning back.”

    This is exactly my experience. I had my brother in my face raging at me after telling the truth in a particular situation. My entire family is in denial and I see some Machiavellianism in my mother and my sister. My mother wants me in her life. I question what she wants from me. I don’t talk to her or my siblings at the moment. My father died in 2013.

    However, I admit to missing certain things about my mother but when I stop and think about certain things that happened, especially the rage of my brother in my face, I know that I would cut that person right out of my life…particularly if they made no apology nor changed the behavior after said apology.

    I have done a little work on my self, but want to get into it more deeply and intensely. I have quite a few questions that I know my mother could answer for me, which I feel would help me in my recovery to know the answers to.

    I am wondering, what is your take on being in touch with such a parent for this purpose?

  2. Im glad i came across your blog! Its helped me see that this guilt ive been carrying around isnt all my fault. So much helpful information. Thank you! Love your passion in this area.
    I was ignored soo much growing up. Felt emotionally abandoned and rejected by my mother. Still working on healing and understanding what happened. Is there any way i can ask you a question on a personal issue privately?
    Thank you Mr. Mackler

  3. I am a “mainstream sort” in my 40s surrounded by new middle and upper middle class parents. I have yet to see a parent who chose to have a child for 100% non-self-serving reason. Even the ones who adopt the sickest most “challenging” child are doing it for themselves, flaunting their badge of sainthood, or rescuing themselves through rescuing of another.

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