Guilt is: I made a mistake. Shame is: I AM a mistake.
Sanity is: That didn’t work. Now what…?
These three phases deal with the presence (or absence) of the critical mind or judge, and how that affects us.
The first is the critic beating up the kid inside for doing something that the critic brands as a “mistake.” The kid believes the critic and accepts the fact that he or she has done something “wrong.” The guilt that this summons is that we are not worthy, lovable or competent because we have done something that a worthy, lovable, competent person would NOT do. This guilt hangs like a cloud, squeezing out any joy that might be there.
The second is the more intense feeling we call shame. The critic has not only told us that we’ve done something wrong, but that our very nature is wrong! The kid within buys this judgment and feels that his very essence is wrong!
In neither of these is the critic challenged. Whatever the critic says is believed by the kid within.
So the problem then becomes “me” – the kid.
A healing way of experiencing this internal dialogue between the critic and the kid is to understand that the problem is the critical mind and its judgments, not the kid.
(One tool that can help us here is the Work of Byron Katie. Using her 4 Questions, we can challenge the Critic’s thoughts and begin to understand that their truth falls apart under scrutiny.)
Once the understanding is that the critic is the issue, and we challenge the critic’s thoughts, then, we can move into the third phase, which is devoid of criticism and is seen in the light of exactly what happened: I did something…it didn’t work…now what? No guilt. No shame. No anxiety or worry. And very importantly, no blame directed at the kid! Then we can continue the adventure of experimenting in real time and discovering what works – and what doesn’t – without fear, shame or guilt!