The Toxic Effect of Guilt

I often use my daily meditation practice as a way to surface any underlying negative emotions and clear any resistance that may be holding my energy vibration down.

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I often use my daily meditation practice as a way to surface any underlying negative emotions and clear any resistance that may be holding my energy vibration down. The analogy I like to use: you are naturally like a cork bobbing on the surface of the water – you don’t have to do much to keep the cork floating happily along, because that is its inherent nature. Negative thoughts and emotions, however, act like a hand that’s holding down the cork. If you simply release the negative emotion, the cork (and your vibrational frequency) will naturally rise back to your true nature – a state of joy, enthusiasm, and love. Any emotional state other than this is not only unnatural, but research shows that chronic negative emotion and stress is toxic to our cells and hazardous to our health.

So being acutely aware of negative emotion is the first step to recognizing and releasing it. For this article, I want to focus on a particularly insidious emotion - guilt. Guilt is one of those tricky emotions that’s hard to pinpoint and even harder to root out. In its broadest definition, guilt is “an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have compromised his or her own standards.” But I’d argue that that definition is not nearly subtle enough for the type of guilt that most people experience (especially women, who in my experience are more prone to obsess and fret than men).

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For instance, most people might feel guilty about big offenses like stealing, cheating, or lying. Negative emotion is not always a bad thing if it helps you identify your moral compass and course correct – it’s called having a conscience. But what about when our guilt meter goes into overdrive and we start feeling guilty about the unrealistic expectations we’ve set for ourselves? For instance, I recently started working part-time in order to devote more time to my family and writing. To be honest, I love my lifestyle and am much happier as a result. But, I sometimes feel guilty and find myself saying “you’ve worked so hard to get to this point in your career and now you’re getting off the ladder” or “you’re a professional, and you’re not meeting your full earning potential.” Even though my husband and extended family fully support my decision, I feel my own internal sense of pressure and guilt. And on and on for goals and expectations that only I’ve set for myself.

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Dr. Kulkarni
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