Traversing the Inner Terrain

The search for the Authentic Self.

Guilt-free?

Is it really possible to live guilt-free?

So, if you recognized yourself in the last blog, you may or may not be attracted to the name I've given that particular mask and costume-the Scapegoat. And if you'd like to give it another name-I won't be offended. But giving it a name allows you to differentiate-the first process of integration. It allows you to recognize-even on a daily, even on a moment-by-moment basis, the voices of guilt and shame when they arise. And it is in this recognition and the realization of the behavior patterns attached to our responses to these internal voices, which is so very much a part of the process of release.

The other part of the process is in recognizing the voices of the authentic Self that have been squelched by the Scapegoat and are now longing for a place to stand. I said in the previous blog that one of the first things we might do in getting in touch with the authentic Self was to recognize the resentments presented by having lived so long in the prison of guilt created by the Scapegoat identity. The reason this is so, is that we don't usually have to go very far to find these resentments. They are sitting right there under our grumbly attitudes, and our occasional passive-aggressive digs at those for whom we've taken emotional responsibility. In other words, they are handy.

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Resentments, unlike what we've been taught, just tell us something about what we really want. If, for example, I resent having to be the only sibling in a large family to take care of my elderly parents, that resentment is telling me a truth. It is telling me that this is too much to ask of me. It is telling me that perhaps I've been afraid to ever ask anyone else for help. It might be telling me that I assume no one would help me even if I did ask. It might be telling me that I have a habit of taking on these difficult tasks and not asking for help because this makes me feel like a good person. It might even be telling me that I've set up a pattern in my relationships in which I take responsibility for others' emotional stuff as way of bridging the gaps between us. In so doing I've not asked that they bridge their side of the gap. In other words, it could be telling me that I've built this life for myself that I don't really like. So there's the message from the authentic Self.

But then the Scapegoat comes in and it has a counter-message. It declares that good people make sacrifices and that I should not be feeling resentment because that means I'm not yet pure enough. I still carry some dark smudge of ugliness. And I should work hard to eliminate this resentment. Furthermore, it might also make excuses for my siblings, each one having some seemingly really good reason for not doing their part, financially or otherwise. And it might also tell me that as the oldest, or the one with the most time, or the only one who would do it right-I SHOULD be the one doing this.

But if the Authentic Self is heard at this point, it might say something like, how can I possibly eliminate a feeling of resentment so strong. I've tried praying about it, telling myself that that feeling is sinful or wrong, telling myself that it would one day pass, and even deliberately going out of my way to do even more for others to prove my resentments invalid.  But the feeling of resentment is still there. Resentment might also say something like, my own health is suffering because I am constantly doing so much. Or, my parents have picked up on my resentments-they know I'm not being real.

And so it goes. What is happening here is that we are becoming aware that there is more than one voice in there. And that process is so very important because it allows us the opportunity to choose which one we will believe. You see, the Scapegoat, like so many other roles or masks and costumes, circumscribes our actions around a small set of messages or mantras. These messages tell us that we'll only be considered to be caring people or good people if we.... 

From the book Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self, the Scapegoat is divided into two different categories. What I've been describing thus far is called the Scapegoat/Priest, who is ruled by guilt, trying hard to be so good, so that s/he won't feel so bad. The other is the Scapegoat/Black Sheep-which we'll be talking about in another blog. But for the Scapegoat of this blog, the Priest, the mantras consist of self-hypnotizing messages that say that sacrifice is good and anything else is selfish. They say that you should always be worried about making a mistake because someone else might suffer for your mistakes. They say that even considering your own happiness is selfish, but that everyone else is supposed to be happy or at least comfortable at all times and if they are not, it must be your fault. There is a consistent need to apologize even for the fact that someone thinks you've done something "wrong," even though you haven't. I've even known scapegoats who apologize to inanimate objects when they accidently run into them. And finally there is this sense of always striving, always trying, to get it right.

Scapegoats can live very small lives, circumscribed by guilt and the fear that it will get worse if you ever move out of the small box you live in. Their choices very often mean taking care of someone, who is using and/or abusing them, out of fear of the enormous guilt they might feel if they didn't. Scapegoats are often excellent picks for someone who has a Victim identity, because every time the Victim cries Victim, the Scapegoat feels guilty-even though their resentments tell them what the Victim is really up to. Scapegoats typically continuously talk themselves into obeying the guilt every time.

            And that is why it is so very important to differentiate between the varying voices within that come in the form of feelings, thoughts, behaviors or subtle nuances of meaning. Because in so doing we give ourselves the option to disobey guilt and open up the options, previously ignored, which are always being created by the authentic Self.

            But why, when guilt seems to be such a powerful tool for the "right," would we want to disobey guilt? That's a question to be answered in the next blog. Wait for it. 

Andrea Mathews, L.P.C., is a Cognitive and Transpersonal Therapist, internet radio show host, and author of Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self. more...

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