What is guilt?
As the definition below suggests, guilt is a feeling:
Guilt: "a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation."
I had never thought of it as a feeling, I had always thought of it as a 'thing' - possibly more of an 'action'. Interestingly, when I take a look at the synonyms there isn’t much positivity there:
Synonyms (words with exactly, or nearly the same meaning):
self-reproach · self-accusation · self-condemnation · feelings of guilt · guiltiness · a guilty conscience · a bad conscience · pangs of conscience · remorse · remorsefulness · regret · contrition · contriteness · repentance · penitence · compunction · shame · disgrace rue
I’ve written this blog from a personal perspective. I’m hoping it’s interesting and we all learn something from it, otherwise, my guilty pleasure of writing it is all a bit selfish.
I feel guilty all the time. Day in, day out, I am riddled with guilt. Are you wondering if I did something terrible like murder, theft, vandalism or arson? Something worse?! I’ll explain a bit more and let you be the judge…
I feel guilty closing the bedroom door for some peace and quiet; some 'me' time. I feel guilty because I am here. I feel guilty because I judge people. I feel guilty because sometimes I put myself first. I feel guilty when I don’t put myself first. I feel guilty when I drink wine or eat toffee. I feel guilty when I speak to ex-partners who I still enjoy a conversation with. I feel guilty when someone speaks to me and my heart misses a beat because they gave me eye contact or were attentive and they are not my current partner. I feel guilty in the queue at a till with people behind me. I feel guilty when I pull out of the roundabout in front of a driver who wasn't indicating. I feel guilty when I take too long to decide what food I’d like to eat in the restaurant “just 2 more mins” I say to the waitress, wanting desperately to be left alone so I can decide in my own time. I feel even more guilty when I actually have to order the food and state what I actually want. Imagine how I feel if the food arrives and it isn’t right or it's cold; imagine the guilt that goes with informing the waitress I am unhappy!
I feel guilty because I do not understand all the hype around Christmas and cannot be fooled by the adverts and shops full of pressure and cannot wait for it to be over. I used to feel guilty putting a fiver in a child’s birthday card instead of wrapping up a nice bit of brightly coloured noisy plastic – I’ve well and truly dealt with this guilt as I greet my 11th year of parenting and kids parties.
I feel ‘parent guilt’ every waking second of my day – this is a whole blog on its own.
The list is not complete, but we don’t have all day.
So, although I am actually physically guilty of one or two of the things on the terrible list stated above (I’ll not divulge any further info on those…) do I need to feel guilty about the day-to-day things? Why do I feel that way? When I look through the paragraph I begin to see a pattern; I feel guilty because my actions may affect other people and meet my needs/wants:
‘I do not want you to experience a negative emotion because of me, my needs will come second to yours if it means I can please you, then you might like me and I can feel validated and worthy and like a good, selfless person.’
Where does a belief like this come from? What if I’ve reached middle-age and no longer want to feel like this - If I start living my life without guilt does this make me a bad person, selfish, thoughtless, self-centred? What if you judge me because I’m living my life how I want to and I don’t feel guilty - will I be labelled as having a mid-life crisis?
Will my ‘mid-life crisis’ make you feel better so you can carry on living with guilt and pleasing others but not looking like a lunatic like me?
“She’s gone mental just running around living her life exactly how she wants to without a care in the world - what does she think she’s doing?! One day she’ll be dead and none of this will matter but she will feel guilty even in death for speaking her truth and living the life she wanted. Mark my words, no good will come of this.”
But I’ll be dead. Do the dead feel guilt for living life and dying? How selfish to just go and die!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start burgling houses on Christmas eve so I can reap the fruits of someone else’s labour (do those guys feel guilty?) but I have stirrings of an idea of living the second half of my life (if I’m lucky) a very different way to the first half – without guilt.
What if in 2020 we do and say what we want, whilst still living to our own code of ethics, morals, values and principles that are important to us and not letting those which are important to others infringe on our entertainment and free spirit? I’m not talking about extremism or death and destruction here, more stating my needs and 'being more me', whatever that brings – feeling the guilt but doing it anyway.
Will we be judged for living without guilt for the day-to-day things?
Let me tell me this: Thou shall be judged regardless, may as well stop judging yourself.
This is where counselling and group workshops can really ignite your learning about you and what you want and need.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Lynsey Judson
I am a qualified, person centered counsellor with a wicked sense of humour and experience of some fairly testing life events.… Read more
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