dijmart wrote:True forgiveness is seeing that there never was anything to forgive. You were too unconscious to do any better at that time. (I believe E.T. said this)
I still struggle with this idea that everyone who has done harm did so unconsciously. If I could fully accept that, I can't imagine I would feel any guilt. So maybe part of me doesn't want to accept it because it feels too easy a way to let myself off the hook. I would rather accept full responsibility.
I understand this difficulty. Most of us were raised to believe that people choose their actions freely and it's the mature thing to take responsibility for those choices. I'm not sure whether ET said the lines above, but I know he wrote this in Power of Now, "As long as your mind with its conditioned patterns runs your life, as long as you are your mind, what choice do you have? None. You are not even there."
In my book We Are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity I talk a lot about shame and guilt. By insane I mean deluded about reality; insanity means confusing my mind-generated reality with actual reality. This mind-generated reality is formed by the programming we receive from our family and culture; it's basically the same as ET's conditioned mind.
In the mind of a person who commits a crime or some other misdeed, the action is rationalized in their mind as being correct. Their mind-generated reality is so distorted that they see hurting another person as a good or necessary thing. My thinking in this area has been influenced by Dr. James Gilligan, a psychiatrist who directed the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School and was in charge of psychiatric services for the Massachusetts state prison system for ten years. He wrote a book called "Violence" in which he claims that all violence is an attempt to seek justice, or to undo or prevent injustice.
Epiphany, at the time you did the thing you are guilty about, did you rationalize it as just or necessary? Jesus is said to have said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do" as he was being nailed to the cross. I think this is what Jesus must have meant; a violent person's confused mind means he or she is out-of-touch with reality. They are not thinking or seeing clearly, even if they can do apparently rational things (like wearing a bullet-proof vest when committing a mass shooting).
It sounds to me like your desire for taking responsibility is resulting in your guilt and inability to put your past behind you. This is why I think free will is so important--as long as we believe we did something on purpose, we cannot forgive ourselves. Same if someone has done something that hurts us, if we feel they did it on purpose and could have done something else, it's hard to forgive them. But when we realize that we and they are the slave of unconscious mental programming, and we and they couldn't have done anything else, then we can see that there's really nothing to forgive. It's absurd to say, "I forgive the mosquito for biting me" because we realize the mosquito has no free will. Neither do humans. When we get this we've moved beyond forgiveness to compassion.
Instead of the kind of responsibility that (I think) you're talking about, I think there's another form that is compatible with the lack of choice. This means recognizing that your mind has been configured in such a way that it is possible for you to commit a deed that you find unethical. That's reality. It's not your fault that you were configured that way, but if you don't want to do it again you need to recognize its existence. It sounds like you have done this. And this is perhaps where therapy can help, by helping to reconfigure your programming.
As to whether you need to "confess"; this brings a favorite book to mind: Crime and Punishment
by Dostoyevsky. The main character, Raskolnikov, plans to rob and kill an old lady. From the moment he conceives of the crime his punishment starts--he suffers in his mind from guilt, while he rationalizes why this is the right thing to do. After killing her he is almost immediately caught and sentenced to a period of years in a prison in Siberia. His mental torments continue unabated, until one day seven years into his sentence when he finally stops all of his rationalization and honestly and fully admits to himself that he killed a human being; no excuses; this is what happened: I killed for money. At that moment he was free, even though he had a number of years left in his sentence. He was free in his mind.