Fear, Guilt, Shame: The Three Horseman of My Apocalypse

I have been thinking recently about intention and motivation. That sounds all hippy-dippy, but its something I have been talking about in therapy.

In my Ethics class this week, we have been talking about Buddhist ethics. Buddha believed that all our thoughts can be categorized into to boxes: wanting something, and avoiding something. My professor had us notice our thoughts throughout the day to see how true this is.

“I am going to take side streets not the freeway.” -> avoid

“I need to get some new shoes.” -> want

These are just dumb examples but I think that the Buddha is right with this idea. But the more that I thought about it, I saw that my thoughts and decisions are divided into three categories: fear, guilt, and shame.

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These are heavy words, but hey, I have heavy feelings.

Like for instance, just with this blog. I feel guilty that I don’t post more, or when I try to write and it feels forced. I fear that no one is listening and that I am just shouting into the void. I feel shame that I believe that my opinions and ideas have enough merit to be shared to the world. Like, who am I to have people care?

Growing up as a Christian probably did a number on me because I can think of a million examples related to my faith. I am scared that I will go to hell and that motivates me to believe in God. Is that true faith if I believe out of fear? It also ties to Buddha because I am trying to avoid suffering. I feel guilt when I don’t pray or read my bible. I feel shame for my sin and not changing the way I act. The list goes on.

I’m all tied up in this big ball of intention. Every action is motivated by fear, or guilt, or shame. But if that is what’s motivating me, than am I really living? Are those actions honest and truthful? I want to be making choices out of good, and love, and confidence. I want to write because I love it, regardless if people read it or not. I want to believe in God because it makes me more loving and compassionate, it motivates me to help others and to live a life of humility and honor, not because I am scared I am going to hell.

But how do I get out of this big swirling ball of gross feelings??

I am going to take a page from Buddhas book here and say meditation. It’s not just yoga and “om-ing” it about quiet contemplation. Take TIME, not just a second or a couple of minutes. Devote time to thinking, REALLY thinking. Therapy helps get me on my way and is a great sounding board for why I feel the way I feel, but the real work is in my head. I am not going to read a book or do some exercise and not be plagued by this stupid feelings anymore. I have to put in time and effort so I can understand why I feel the way I do, catch my self earlier, redirect the way I feeling, and change my thoughts and motivations.

Meditation doesn’t neglect Christian faith. Meditation is INTEGRAL to the Christian faith.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” -Psalm 19:14

“I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” -Psalm 119:15-16

“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” -Psalm 145:5

What you thinking about, dwell upon, spend your time doing, is what you value.


Three days have passed since I wrote all of that. That same day I had therapy and I mentioned this blog post and my thought process on my motivation recently. My therapist totally agreed that fear, guilt, and shame are my motivators. She wanted me to notice what I’m thinking about. She told me to take time to unpack all of those emotions. She told me so much that I can’t even remember all of it (hint: I love my therapist and therapy and it has changed my life). Even though I can’t remember everything we talked about, I do remember that we talked about that even though I am in a FAR better emotional place than I was 4 months ago, I have even more serious and difficult things to think about and decisions to make. I am so grateful that I am in a better place to start tackling the very nature of myself, but it is still work dude. I am NEVER going to outgrow therapy. I will also have stuff to work on.

So what’s the point?

Just checking in. Just letting you know where I’m at. Just wanting you to know that I’m not perfect (not like you thought I was or anything). Just know that I have to deal with the day-to-day but my wheels never stop turning. I am on a merry-go-round in my head at all times. I am doubting every decision I make and why I am making it. But I’m good.

“Horsemen of my apocalypse” is just a touch dramatic (perhaps more than a touch) but I’m good. I’m better than I’ve been in a while. I’m not scared. I’m excited. I get to live a FREAKING LIFE. I get to figure this all out. I get to unravel my mind and my motivations, AND THEN I get to put it back together. It’s sad that I have to write something like this. To even say that fear, shame, and guilt play such a big part in my life, is a sad thing to say. But I’m not sad. Don’t be sad for me. I’m going to figure it out. Or at least try. Meditation is helping me. Writing is helping me.

See you soon.

Olivia Grace

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