It’s always there. In every moment, lingering around. The guilt that we have seems to be almost ingrained in our nature. What is it about this sensation of wrongfulness that make us feel it so deeply?
It is a weird sort of pain. The sort of pain that you can ignore for a while, but notice more clearly when things are silent or when you have a moment to yourself. Its source is not always clear or sensical. Sometimes you feel guilty for no reason at all. I suppose it comes from an underlying fear of making the wrong decision. You feel like you might be disappointing your loved ones and consequently second guess your choices very frequently. This becomes problematic because the world is hardly black and white, and most decisions that we make are not clearly the right ones.
This means that you could be wrong all the time, and if you want to live your life without guilt, then you’ll have to simply follow whatever someone else says. That way you can blame them for making the decision for you.
Almost everything in life will present us with a reason to feel guilty. Whether you are a struggling working mother, feeling guilty about leaving your child at home, or a student who feels guilty about disappointing your parents with bad grades, or maybe you’re guilty because you feel like you’re not living up to your own expectations.
I think we can grow accustomed to feeling guilty. It could become a normal part of our lives, whereby we can just passively feel the pain of guilt, but become adept at ignoring it. This isn’t healthy of course. Just like most problems swept under the rug, it’ll find a way to come out. It might manifest itself in a way that is not immediately obvious, maybe you get annoyed more quickly than usual or feel down for no reason at all. You might feel sad, even when things on the face of it appear to be going well.
Guilt is a weird creature, it’s able to poison you very slowly and the pain is just minor enough for you to ignore. However, over a long enough period of time you’ll get sick, and by then the damage has already been done. You might have lost years of your life, always feeling slightly down, your sense of joy a bit reduced. Precious moments of life taken away by something that you have created.
That’s in some way the worst part of guilt. It’s a self created problem. It does not exist outside your mind. It serves very little purpose. Even when it seems benign, when it makes us do things for those that we care about, it is still causing damage. Most people we care about don’t want us to feel guilty, they want us to be happy and fulfilled. Ironically, if those that we serve understood the guilt we felt, they probably wouldn’t want us to be doing whatever made us guilty in the first place.
It is not all bad news though. By understanding the nature of guilt, we can work to detach its hold over us. Since it’s a self created problem, we have the ability to remove its power. In reality, guilt is a thought, a perspective about our life situation that is negative. By writing down what it is exactly that makes us guilty and focusing on it rationally, we can dispel its power over us. There is no reason to feel guilty about say, a situation that you cannot change, or a mistake that you made. By focusing objectively on whatever makes us feel guilty we can internalise the absurdity of our emotional reaction and set ourselves free.
Understanding our own limitations and imperfections can provide much needed relief from the idea of perfection that guilt feeds on. In the end, you’re only human and you’re bound to make mistakes. OK so you fucked up and hurt someone, thats OK. As long as your intentions were good and you did your best to patch things up, then that’s all that is expected of you. Furthermore, you’re allowed to be selfish at times, taking risks and trying new things out. C’est la vie.
This is what life is all about. Just make sure that you are considerate of other people, to the extent that you cause them the least amount of harm. Then, look forward and live life.
Your life, no one else’s.