4 Steps To Stop Self-Punishment

Personal Development
4 Steps To Stop Self-Punishment post image

If there is one thing that I learned from my life in general and all my spiritual revelations than it is that forgiving is not something that needs to happen between you and a God (let’s just assume that this one’s automatic and a done deal no matter what spiritual concept you are following) – but it needs to happen within yourself.

I always liked the quote of Heinrich Heine:

“Of course God will forgive me; that’s His job. “

Who Really Needs to Forgive You

But what is in the nature of God and therewith easy for him to do is mostly very hard for ourselves.

We all are carrying a heavy load of things we cannot forgive ourselves and/or things we beat ourselves up on a regular basis for being the way we don’t want ourselves to be.

Just imagine what would happen if you could love yourself with the same depth that God loves you.

Why We Punish Ourselves

We created (or accepted) so many rules in our lives – rules about how we should behave, how we should be, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do … and so on – so many “should’s” in our life.

And it doesn’t matter where we got these rules from (parents, teachers, family, society, religious teachers, peers, bosses, etc.) whenever it is a rule that not following will lead to guilt, then it is a rule that we accepted in the first place and therefore made it our own. A rule that you didn’t accept (at least on a subconscious level) will not affect you (here I am talking about psychological rules – not legal rules).

So every time we sin (that means we don’t do something we should do or do something we shouldn’t do), we feel guilty and are longing for punishment. That’s right – punishment is a psychological need within us that we will insist on as long as we weren’t able to forgive ourselves.

Self-punishment is a subconscious means to remind us of our own continuous shortcoming.

So here is the destructive 3-Steps of Sin Process

Step 1: You sin
Step 2: You feel guilt
Step 3: You punish yourself (or make sure others punish you)

The Key to Good Punishments – Limitation

And these punishments can come in various forms – but there is always one key-component – limitation.

Every limitation that you attracted is tied to a punishment mechanism that you created.

Here are some example of these self-punishments through limitation:

  • becoming obese to make sure you won’t attract someone else
  • making sure that you loose your money, because you feel unworthy of becoming financially secure
  • not being able to find friends or love, because you don’t value yourself highly enough
  • you don’t allow yourself to enjoy certain things because you think you don’t deserve them

These limitation mechanism can also come in quite subtle ways.

The Best (And Most Absused Practice Of The Catholic Church)

If there is one good ritual that the catholic church installed (and I am no catholic) than it is the Absolution. Now I think it is also one of the most abused practices of the church, but the core of it is very powerful.

Absolution is not about washing away your sin and then you go on living your life like nothing has happened before. That is a mis- or abuse of the concept of absolution.

To understand the concept one has to go back to the original meaning of the word.

Fans of UYM already know one of my most used sources for that, the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Just see, what we find there …

absolution: “remission, forgiveness,” c.1200, from L. absolutionem (nom. absolutio), noun of action from absolvere “to absolve” (see absolve).

absolve: 1530s, from L. absolvere “set free, loosen, acquit,” from ab- “from” + solvere “loosen” (see solve).

solve: c.1440, “to disperse, dissipate, loosen,” from L. solvere “to loosen, dissolve, untie,” from PIE *se-lu-, from reflexive pronoun *swe- + base *leu- “to loosen, divide, cut apart” (cf. Gk. lyein “to loosen, release, untie,” O.E. -leosan “to lose,” leas “loose;” see lose). The meaning “explain, answer” is attested from c.1533; for sense evolution, see solution. Mathematical use is attested from 1737.

So the true essence of an absolution is to untie or free you from the burden of guilt, not to forget about it, but to allow you to learn from it and carry on your life as a new, changed man (Important – it is not about staying the same person!!!)

The True Essence of Repentance

Integrated into this is the concept of repentance. To repent or regret something as a function is not there to make you feel guilty and bad. That is todays use of it – saying “I am sorry” and not doing anything. But the real impulse of it is to get you to change – change yourself. If you don’t use the impuls of repentance to change yourself, then the guilt will stay in your subconscious and will use subtle means of self-punishment to remind you of not taking the lesson.

So the real essence of repentance is to learn a lesson from what happened and let it transform your self.

That is when failure could be used as a diamond cutter.

So the formula is pretty easy – you make a failure – you repent – you let this change your inner being – and then you’ll give yourself absolution, so that this new changed you can strive forward free of all the dragging down power of guilt.

The Practical Application

Step 1. Write down everything that you feel sorry about.

You of course should use a journal for that. Note down everything that you don’t like about yourself, everything that you regret doing in your life. Write it all out. Now some people think that this one would equal focusing on the negative, but trust me, you already have this negative in your mind and you cannot get rid of it until you put it down on paper.

At first this step could take some time since you might carry a lot of remorse within you. But hang on to it – it will be one of the most valuable lessons in your life. If you fear writing your guilt feelings down – trust me, there is much more pain involved with repeating them all the time subconsciously in your mind.

You can even make a deal with your subconscious – once you’ve written them all out, you can tell your subconscious that all these sorrows and regrets are now in a safe place, where you can always can come back later. That means, your subconscious doesn’t need to remind you constantly of these. Very often the constant repetition of negative feelings is an attempt by our subconscious to remind us of the importance to tackle this problem. If we can reassure it that we won’t forget them, it can relax with the reminders.

Notice it is not about forgetting all the things you are sorry about, it is all about allowing these sorrows to change your being into something better.

2. State your intent and readiness to forgive yourself

Say to yourself: “I am deeply sorry that this happened and I do take full responsibility for it. But that happened then and now I am ready to learn the lesson ingrained in this experience and am ready to forgive myself on all levels, let it transform me and change me into a better human being from now on.”

Step 3. Take a deep breath and experience the power of change

Feel the power rushing through you once you made the decision to let the associated feelings of guilt go and accept the transformative power of your failure to become a better human being. Feel the energy and frequency of change within your body. This is a reel kinesthetic experience and you should take a note of how your body changes during this state.

Step 4. Write down how you would act as a changed man (or woman) from now on.

There is a certain power to writing down your decision. When you’ve written down how you would act from now on as a changed person, you have a higher chance of success, since writing it down makes you more accountable to change.

But this can only happen when you are ready to release your guilt. Remember – God (or whatever spiritual concept you believe in) has already forgiven you a long time ago – the whole universe is waiting for you to do the same.

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20 comments… add one

  • Hi Patrick,
    I’ve been subscribing to your blog for a few months – and enjoying it immensely. I never knew anything about Hawaiian spiritual principles. It’s fascinating.

    I really loved this post about forgiveness. Forgiveness of self, and others is so hard for many people, especially when the ego gets involved.

    By the way, thanks for always being so helpful in the A list classes.

    Sincerely,
    Angela Artemis

    .-= ´s last blog ..Earth Day or Urgent Day? =-.

    • Patrick

      Angela, good to bring some new sources of wisdom into your life. Been pretty busy but will bring myself in more to the A-list classes again in the future.

  • I really enjoyed your treatment of forgiveness. A lot of truth, heavily laced with irony. Whether the offender is someone else or oneself, we naturally feel angry over the transgression. That is a heavy, self-limiting burden to carry around. Doctors say it can weaken the immune system, make you sick and lead to an early death. It would seem the smart money is to ‘get over it” ASAP. To me, forgiveness is walking away from all those negative feelings, whatever they may be. It means saying, “Screw it, I don’t care anymore. I’m putting it behind me.” As you say, it’s something you do for yourself, not for the other person, and not for a deity.

    .-= ´s last blog ..The Personal Strength of Responsibility: Buckle Up =-.

    • Patrick

      Denny, thanks for pointing out the destructive nature on all levels (including health) of not forgiving yourself.
      “Screw it …” – exactly sometimes you don’t need sugar-coating. You screwed it, there is nothing you can do to the past, so take your lesson and move forward. Thanks for this other version of the same principle.

  • So true Patrick, sometimes we are harder on ourselves than anyone else (including God), could be :-).

    I will definitely try your exercise and see if it helps cut through the “habit” of being hard on ourselves. And well, the parts about how we self-sabotage ourselves because we think we are not worthy, well, what a price to pay for carrying around guilt!

    Cheers,
    Krishna

    • Patrick

      Krishna, totally right – if we needed to pay that price in $ we would be horrified about the real price – but just like Denny pointed out it affects all levels of our existence. If we could look into the future and put a money value to all things happening (or not happening) because of this guilt dragging us down, we needed to come up with a large number (I would guess at least 7 figures). Now think about again if you are willing to pay 1,000,000+ for these feelings.
      Hope the exercise will clear out something for you.

  • Hi Patrick,
    Doesn’t it seem that their are certain religions, cultures and even family dynamics that are more prone to using guilt and shame as a means to control people? Sometimes we feel guilt about something we want or need but we know it will upset others around us. To overcome this, we must develop a strong sense of self and define what integrity means for us as an individual. There are certain universals of course (murder, stealing, etc.) but each of us must define our own values and have the courage to live by them. When we step out of those boundaries, our heart will remind us. Lovely post! Barrie

    recalibrate

    • Patrick

      Barrie, of course certain religions, cultures and family dynamics will foster the guilt feeling – and it takes a lifetime (or more) to overcome these. I don’t think that guilt in itself is a negative feeling – it is an indicator that we violated a rule. The question is only whose rule was it in the first place.

      If we kill a person we violated a universal rule – but most rules we feel guilty about are universal, they are rules made up by someone else to influence our behavior.

  • Wow, powerful post my friend. It has been a long time since I heard the right concept of absolution. You really turned it into a more everyday and friendly practice without loosing the power of it.

    I will give ti a shot once I’m back home, even when I think I’m ok, it would be a good thing to give it a shot and see if everything gets better. Thanks for sharing this one!

    • Patrick

      Alejandro, I think that the conception of Absolution was always thought of as an act of pure love – of course people always are able to turn this into the negative and abuse it for greed, power and a lot or other motives too – but that doesn’t touch the essence of the concept – only it’s perverted shadows.

  • Hi,
    I read the book “Goodbye to guilt when I was in my late 20′s and after 11 years of Catholic school it did the trick.

    I beat up on myself for years and it’s a completely unloving and a waste of time. I like your steps…everyone deserves their own love and self-honoring! Thanks Patrick!

    • Patrick

      “everyone deserves their own love and self-honoring” – very well said Tess. Although sometimes society, the church and our upbringing make it really hard for us to realize this. Thanks.

  • anu

    Hi
    marvelous post.Only by forgiving yourself you can start to love yourself, how true it is.Do you think we have to do the steps2-4 quite a few times if the guilt is long standing and have been causing you physical pain.

    • Patrick

      Anu, yes indeed very often we need to repeat this process to remove several layers of guilt. We have conditioned ourselves to take all the blame of the world on our shoulders, that letting go of this often takes its time. But don’t hesitate and keep on letting go these layers of guilt. Good point you’ve made. Thanks.

  • Hi Patrick, great post about forgiving yourself, something which I believe is crucial to being the best person you can be.

    I must ask you though, how much of it is a balance? What I mean is, there’s a fine line between cursing yourself for your mistakes, trying to be a perfectionist, and letting things happen, without learning from any of your experiences. I have my own ideas about where the balance is, but I’d be more interested in hearing yours. Keep up the good work Patrick :-)

    • Patrick

      Stuart, I guess the balance is quite clear when you come to ask your true core. What I mean is that deep within you have an instance (you might call it the God within or the Higher Self – but that are just names) that knows what is the right balance for you. No one else can say you what it is for you – only you can.

      It is not about not caring about things or just letting them happen without learning a lesson from it – quite the opposite – frustration with a situation is really welcome – as an indicator or an entrance point for a repentance process. Because the whole process of absolution and repentance is not about not changing. It is SOOO MUCH about changing, about becoming a better version of you, about Constant Improvement on your side (and yours alone).

      But unless you can forgive yourself improvement of your whole being is not possible.

      I hope that helps you a bit in finding YOUR balance.

  • I enjoyed reading your post. All are true and possible. I like the most is the destructive 3-Steps of Sin Process:
    You sin.
    You feel guilt.
    You punish yourself.
    Thanks for sharing a wonderful topic, I have now a great day!

  • Sunny

    Dear Patrick,

    First, i would like to say that the way you have been personally giving reply to each comment here is really wonderful.who does it usually? Yaa i also hope to get your reply. Anyway I have been since past few years punishing myself. I understand as per your article that i have a ‘continuing guilt’ and i need to forgive myself but how do i ‘improve’ or change’ the past? My problem is that i didnt get admission in good enginneering colleges because i didnt study during entrance exam and now i am doing something so removed from science and my talent- commercial pilot training. Yes, its a good career but somehow i am not able to forget/forgive myself as i cannot say go back in years to school ,study & write the entrance exam again! i think i need to accept the new reality but it hasnt sink in me till. Please suggest something.

    • Patrick

      Sunny, let me get one thing straight. You can’t improve or change the past. The past has happened and it is not changeable. No matter how sorry you are about it. But if it is impossible to change the past, then no beating up yourself would do any good either for the past.
      So if you can’t change the past, then all you can do is USE IT – for the present. That’s what the essence of repentance is all about. Yes you feel sorry for what has happened, but what can you learn from this experience to shape your present and future in a better way.

      If you are unwilling to accept your current reality and are always looking back to your lost chances, then you have a hard time creating a compelling future.
      So in recalibrating your focus to the present and upcoming future, you should rethink how you can use your passion and talent today and how you can built on it. Maybe there are ways where your scientifically trained mind can come up with an improved way of training pilots. Don’t think that simply because you didn’t get a degree that your talent is wasted.

      One of my favorite speeches is Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech. Especially his talk about “you’ll only know in hindsight how your dots are connected”.
      Maybe you’ll find inspiration by realizing that a vast amount of breakthroughs came from people who didn’t have a degree at all. So follow your bliss, forgive yourself and remember “you don’t know yet, what all this is good for”. But in hindsight you will see that it all made sense. So relax and think about how you can inject your gifts and talents into your current reality to create a great future for yourself and others as well.

      You were not send here (by God or whatever you believe in) to beat yourself up and agonize about your past failures, but to stumble and rise again, so you learn to walk. Have you ever seen a baby that walked without stumbling often in the beginning. What if such a baby would give up and refuse to learn walking. Hmm – the baby knew that making mistakes isn’t bad in itself but necessary to learn walking. Why do we adults think that making mistakes is now something else.

      So stumble and rise again. I will be curious how your dots will create a brilliant future for lots of people around you.

  • Tiago

    Dear Patrick,

    Thanks indeed. I’ve just read your article and would like to thank you for all the good advice you gave me. I’ve been stuck in a past situation and I just don’t know how I can come through it. Its failure keeps coming to my mind not allowing me to start again. I feel afraid of not being able to have another long-lasting relationship and somehow it is so because I still believe that I will, at some point in life, go back to the previews one I had. Some how that also stops me from going away, from moving on, from building a new life, something I’d really love to do. I’ll try to follow your hints.

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