I have spent a lot of energy in trying to grapple with a sense of guilt. The reason is that a few years ago I ventured to break the norm, and swim against the tide. I had my reasons for doing what I did, but I could not share all of them, and, perhaps, they did not need to be shared. But in the process several people felt hurt. There was no intent to hurt or cause pain to anyone, yet people around me suffered.
It took me a long time to realise that what I felt as guilt for having wronged people did not actually come from inside. It came from outside, from the internalized accusations, the blame, the labels that people had attached to me, not because I myself felt that what I was doing was wrong, for deep inside it did not feel wrong. They had their reasons for thinking and doing what they did, and perhaps because they felt slighted they also felt it their right, or duty even, to express what they thought. And I lapped up most of it. But still, I did not change my path, because deep inside, what I was doing, felt right.
As children we learn to follow the rules and norms prescribed by family and important others. There may be situations, instances, where our inner sense tells us differently, but we give in to the established strictures from outside because that seems the safest way to survive in our social set-up. If we have not made that inner anchor strong, we seek support and security from outside for our basic sustenance. Certain experiences in the early years gave me to learn that it was best to keep my inner and outer worlds separate. The event I started this blog with was a rare occasion in my life where I allowed my normally muted inner sense to seek expression outside. The guilt feelings were perhaps a play of light and shadow within myself: if I paid heed to my inner sense, there was no place for guilt, but when I felt small and dependent, I was susceptible to the angry messages and emotional pressures from outside.
The realization and learning for me through this (still ongoing) struggle is to trust and strengthen the inner anchor more and more, and allow that to influence my outer way of being in this world.
Another insight from this experience, which is central to Indian psychology is, that in any given situation, we and only we are responsible for our actions and responses.