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Claire Nielsen: Healing to find our purpose

"To heal the haunting of guilt and shame, we need to forgive ourselves," writes Claire Nielsen.
In this week's column, Claire Nielsen gets into the need for forgiveness of self, and the importance of healing the attachments to guilt and shame.

I recently had a couple of beautiful separate conversations with two men (on the same day) who are motivated to make this world a better place.

Tom and Ryan have had their issues with addiction and bad choices in the past and are working to heal the relationships that have been harmed during the years they were struggling with unconscious behaviour. In my conversations with them, it struck me just how much they have to share and what beautiful, motivated spirits they are. They both feel their purpose is to make a positive loving difference and they glow with beautiful energy.

This article is dedicated to them on their journey, as well as to my nephew Ryan who is actively making a huge impact in his current life choices. I wrote an article about Ryan and his recovery process last year. Addiction is an easy trap and am happy to share that he has stayed clean, has been working as a peer support specialist for Meti Nation BC, has spoken at the National Mental Health and Wellness symposium in Ottawa and is scheduled to speak in July at a national suicide summit in New York. He has used his life experience and turned it into motivation to find opportunities to help others.

Ryan read a draft of this article and stated: “This is how I feel about reconciliation, healing, finding life’s purpose and using it as a gift. How we handle crisis and life’s storms can bring immense strength and knowledge. It enables us to use our unique gifts (that each of us have) to give back and become our best self.”

Those who have been in the trenches and have risen from the depths of their traumas, addiction and/or mental health issues to heal and use their life experience to help others are the ones to listen to, in my opinion. I feel that individuals with the most relevant human experience have the most authentic guidance to share.

This leads me to the most significant part of this article: The need for forgiveness of self, and the importance of healing the attachments to guilt and shame. The energies of guilt and shame (based on past life choices or genetic predisposition) may initially motivate the personal need to change and the desire to do better in the world, but sustained attachment to these energies rob us of being present, at peace, and connected spiritually with a sense of divine purpose.

To bring healing and forgiveness into our deep regret regarding past harmful choices we have made, we may feel the calling for reconciliation. If we are brave enough to consider apologizing to those we hurt, this article gives some suggestions on how to do so. Never too late to apologize. It is based on a parent/child relationship but will work for other relationships too. It is scary to apologize, for it puts us in a vulnerable position and our egos don’t like that much. But it is necessary in order to move on to the next phase in finding our purpose.

To heal the haunting of guilt and shame, we need to forgive ourselves, but before we can forgive ourselves, we need to first understand why we made the negative choices in the first place. Was it purely from a lack of human decency, or was it learned behaviour, or genetic predisposition, or self-medication, coping methods in chaotic times, PTSD, survival of our psyche, or deep disconnect from self, humanity and spirit.... There are endless reasons we lose our way and so many causes for our disconnect, but this is all part of the human experience — our own personal human experience. To bring healing to the experiences, I believe we need to have the intention to release the negative attachments that don’t serve us, while inviting the healing energy of love into our psyche and body.

One way to help with the healing of guilt and shame, is to notice and name the feelings, and choose to surrender them to a higher power. Trust the universe (or God or Creation or whatever language we attribute to a Higher Source) that our past is part of divine intention and that without it, we may not be where we are today. Our present state of growth, healing, awakening to our purpose, and sharing knowledge in facilitating healing for others is a result of our life experiences.

Claire Nielsen is a columnist, health coach, public speaker, author and founder of