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3 Essential Oils for Guilt and Shame

By Jodi Cohen

Whenever I hit a bottleneck in my physical healing, I have learned to look to what emotions might be impacting my health.

Emotions – including repressed and suppressed emotions that have not been processed – are thought to be stored in the body and influence your physical health.  There are many theories on why this is the case, including studies on the frequency of specific emotions and how they match the frequency of specific organs.  Chinese medicine correlates specific organ systems with emotions.

Another theory postulates that in the limbic system of the brain, the neurons for the emotions and the neurons for the organs are next to each other. As a result, during intense emotional states (like extreme anger or fear), excess energy produced by this emotion will go to the corresponding organ to be stored there, but this emotional energy can change the way the organ functions.  The organ may not return to optimal function until the emotional state that is causing it is corrected.

For example, the kidneys are often associated with fear and the liver with anger – both of which I have been trying to process.

Working through unprocessed emotions is a bit like peeling an onion.  There is always another layer.  As I have been working to process my repressed and suppressed emotions, I find myself bumping into emotions that are the most challenging and most painful for me to work through – the emotions of guilt and shame – which are perceived to be the lowest frequency emotions and consequently, the most damaging to your health.

What is Shame?

Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion that can cause you to feel like a “bad” person, defective, worthy of contempt, or that you are fundamentally flawed or inadequate as a person. Shame is a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises from the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper.  Shame is also associated with negative self-evaluation; motivation to quit; and feelings of pain, exposure, distrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness.

Feelings of shame are common to people who grow up in abusive environments where you might get the message that you are undeserving, inadequate, and inferior and should feel ashamed.  You might also have grown up with emotionally immature parents who expected you to meet their emotional needs, which is not a reasonable request for a child.  When you are unable to meet these unrealistic expectations, you may be blamed, punished or made to feel inadequate which can cause shame.

An abusive parent may make you feel guilty, implying “After all I’ve done for you,” sometimes combined with criticism that you’re selfish or ungrateful.  Shaming goes beyond guilt to make you feel inadequate. It demeans you as a person, not just your actions.

Shame is an intense emotion to deal with and may prompt coping mechanisms to help you escape from your emotional pain or inability to face yourself, including:

  • Withdrawal: You might want to curl up in a ball and disappear when you feel shame. Shame makes us feel like we’re not good enough, and all we want to do is hide away.
  • Anger: Because you feel emotional pain, you become angry to try to aim your pain away from yourself.
  • Perfectionism or unrealistic expectations: You may engage in overachievement or  adapt controlling behaviors in your attempt to avoid being shamed again.
  • Defensiveness: May cause you to become defensive and shame others in return
  • People pleasing:  to avoid being shamed again


Symptoms of Shame

Shame can present as a number of self-defeating reactions including:

  • Feeling sensitive or being worried about what others think of you
  • Thinking you let someone down
  • Remembering Mistakes from your past
  • Feeling unappreciated, used, or like others take advantage of you
  • Thinking that you are stupid or attributing mistakes to your “stupidity”
  • Believing you are a failure or thinking of yourself as a loser
  • Feeling rejected, regretful, inadequate, or like you have little impact
  • Thinking that people hate you
  • Believing that others are better than you are
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Constant negative inner dialogue.
  • Thinking of yourself as unlovable or unworthy of love
  • Hiding yourself from others or feeling if people truly knew you that wouldn’t like you


How Shame Impacts Health

Shame is connected with the limbic system, the part of the brain that influences the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.  In fact, an experience of acute shame experiences, also known as a “shame attack,” can trigger immediate physical changes associated with a fear response, which can shut down your ability to think clearly and problem solve.  Research supports that, noting that when your brain’s limbic stress response is more active, the prefrontal cortex, which controls logical thinking, is less functional.  According to the research “Exposure to acute, uncontrollable stress increases catecholamine release in PFC, reducing neuronal firing and impairing cognitive abilities.”

Shame — unlike anger, which usually propels people to change — can also prevent personal change and growth, which can cause people to feel “stuck.”


Essential Oils to Unravel Shame

The key to unraveling shame is compassion which can be experienced through the heart. Your heart is the organ most responsible for maintaining a sense of confidence and morale.

Your heart connects you to feelings of love, balance, and connection to others. When you process things through your heart (as opposed to your head) you are better able to be kind and compassionate to yourself and unravel shame. Your heart also helps to support feelings of self-acceptance, self-love, compassion, openness, and unconditional love of others. Looking at the world through your heart center allows the kindest, most genuine response and helps you avoid the desire to engage in any kind of conflict or negative self talk like shame. Heart centered focus allows you to bear witness and hold space for others and validate their experience without judgement, allowing you to be kind and supportive witness and validate the experience of others without the need to carry their pain for them or diminishing own your value or self-worth.


The heart integrates and balances the physical, emotional, and mental body, providing blood to every cell and every organ.  It also serves as a complex information processing center, influencing brain function, the nervous system, hormonal system and most of the body’s major organs.

When any part of the body isn’t functioning at an optimal level, the heart has to work harder.  For example, when the body is in a state of stress, it needs more oxygen which increases the heart rate.  The heart is our body’s reset button, but a state of constant stress can fatigue the heart and compromise our ability to reset, leading to inflammation, infections, toxicity and heart disease.  By returning the heart to balance, we support the cardiovascular and circulatory system, regenerate the structure of the heart and helping to reset the homeostatic mechanism for the entire body.  Apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ over the heart (left side of chest) 2 -3 times daily.

Flower Oils, like Rose, are powerful when you need to get out of a dark place.  Rose oil is also known to bring a feeling of love, create a sense of well-being and release past hurts, like grief.  Its benefits were documented in studies that found breathing and blood pressure relaxed after Rose oil was applied to the skin.  I like to apply this one over my heart.


Lung Support™ 

Your lungs contribute to a sense of self confidence by maintaining our physiological boundary. Lungs in harmony provide for an optimism and our source of self-respect.

Feelings of grief, bereavement, regret, loss, remorse can obstruct ability of the lungs to accept and relinquish, impeding their function of “taking in” and “letting go”.  Grief that remains unresolved can become chronic and create disharmony in the lungs, weakening the lung’s function of circulating oxygen around the body.  Vibrant Blue Oils Emotion Support Lung Support™ was designed to help overcome grief and let go of negative experiences.

This blend works best when topically applied over the lungs or around the ears.  It can also be deeply inhaled and allowing yourself to gently release intense emotions with your exhale as a powerful strategy to allow you to micro-dose emotional release.


Kidney Support™

Fear and feelings of disharmony triggered by shame may live in the kidneys. Kidney Support™ is designed to help you strengthen your kidneys, cleanse your urinary tract system and feelings of safety, dispel fear and bring about a balance of emotions.  Essential oils can increase the flow of bodily fluids, such as urine, to help flush excess water and toxins – including emotional toxins like shame – from the body.  This is especially helpful if you suffer from edema or swelling due to excess water accumulation. Essential oils for kidneys also possess antiseptic qualities that are helpful in preventing kidney inflammation and relieving urinary tract infections.

Topically applied essential oils for kidneys can be a powerful tool to help strengthen kidney function.  For example, several essential oils possess natural diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties and may help enhance your body’s efforts to maintain proper fluid balance, support bladder function and aid overall urinary health. In fact, research demonstrates that essential oils can significantly relieve symptoms of kidney disease.



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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.