Guilt

I came across something today that I wrote nine months ago, something titled simply “Overwhelms me”.

It says:

It has become apparent to me in recent weeks that my guilt is really the biggest problem I have. I struggle with it all the time. It makes me indecisive, anxious, doubtful, unfulfilled, discontent, etc. All of these maladies, I believe, stem from the guilt that I feel daily about even the smallest things. Nietzsche referred to guilt as “Godlike” but I’m not so sure. I don’t think that God second-guesses everything He has done and then wonders until He is SICK if it was the right thing.

I feel that if I could overcome my inherent need to feel guilty about EVERYTHING that I could somehow be freer. Freer to follow my goals. Freer to let go of the circumstances that are my life right now. Freer to be spontaneous and live. But, I can’t seem to do that. No matter how hard I try to NOT feel guilty, I do anyway. Guilt, guilt, guilt. My days are plagued.

“How tedious is a guilty conscience!” John Webster said, and it is true. Tedious and tiring too. But, I’ve not committed a crime. There is nothing formidable that I have to be guilty about; just everyday life. I beat myself up with the small things, the tiny things said or done or, more often, the tiny opportunities not taken.

Perhaps I don’t know what I’m guilty about. Or perhaps, I’m plagued with equal amounts of guilt and regret. I don’t know. I do know, however, that I have to let go of something in order to live more fully.

Sadly, all this time later – roughly 270 days later – I can’t say that it is all that much better. I still allow guilt to plague me, still allow too many opportunities to pass me by and I still regret almost every step I take.

What’s more is that the things I do, the opportunities I do take, the limbs I do step out onto are never “good enough”. I always forego patting myself on the back for them and head straight to beating myself up for something else that I’ve not done or, at least, not done to my standards.

Am I a control freak? A perfectionist? A habitual pessimist? Obsessive? What fatal flaw do I possess that simply will not allow me to see the silver lining? Why can’t I give myself credit for anything?

My Mother (bless her heart for putting up with me) asks me over and over and over why I feel the need to punish myself all the time, and for what. My answer to her doesn’t make sense in retrospect, but it is always the SAME answer: “If I don’t do it, no one will.” I don’t know why I think that I need to be punished, berated, given such a hard time. I’ve not committed any heinous sin in my past that I need to spend my life in retribution for. Nothing of that sort. And, I’m not Catholic.

I’ve tried practicing ahimsa – advocation of non-violence and a respect for all life, including your own – before but I’m not all that successful at it. Most of you know that I have a great deal of respect for non-violence and life but, somehow, my own doesn’t seem to warrant that respect and courtesy.

But, I don’t know why.

I sit here now and read over this and I realize how crazy and backward it seems but this is just what I do, this is how I am, this is how I operate. Does it work for me? Not so well. But, I have absolutely no idea how to leave guilt, regret, punishment, beratement, and intolerance for myself behind and move on to ahimsa. I need a break and I’m the only one that can give it to myself. Everyone else – those who love me – are more than willing to give me a break, to acknowledge what I’ve done, what I do and to allow me to be human.

In a perfect world, I could turn my favorite phrase around and apply it to kindness and love: “If I don’t do it, no one will.”

Maybe I’ll work on that.

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3 thoughts on “Guilt

  1. I wish I could come to you and present you with the secret key, as some trophy… I can relate so well!
    And worst of all is the feeling of having recognized the guilt so long ago and still being faced with it. As if plain recognition of the problem wasn’t enough. Well, it isn’t.
    Perhaps the guilt has a source. A specific one, from somewhere you don’t remember, and probably don’t suspect. And perhaps tracing the guilt back to that IS that secret key, and all other guilty feelings will just simply vanish the minute you discover the primary source.
    Just perhaps…

  2. Our own guilt and self doubt can be almost crippling, I know…but don’t let it define who you are, trust me, guilt kept me placated for years…it is only when you move past all of it that you can become the person you know inside you are.

    also….it was really funny when you said that you weren’t catholic…lol

  3. Mama Bear: I do think that the feeling of KNOWING the problem and still not overcoming it is the biggest problem. I’ve known the problem for years now, through my own self- reflection and through others telling me as well. I still have little idea how to overcome it, even if recognition is the first step.

    Stilettoheights: The guilt does define me but knowing people like you, people strong and insightful enough to overcome it, is inspiring. It gives me hope.

    Sometimes I think that if I could more clearly define WHO I WANT TO BE, I would be able to move past the guilt some. But, I have no idea who the authentic me is. Or, maybe I do but I’m too afraid to let her out.

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