I originally posted this in the Positive Living forum and thought I would put a copy here for future reference……..
With my own experiences and all that I read here on DT it seems to me there is a common thread that runs through our thinking (the painful thinking that is). We all seem to experience a similar pain (to different degrees) but give many different reasons for what it is in our lives that is causing it. But the more experiences I read about the more I come to believe that the common thing in all of them is GUILT. And as I see it the guilt comes in two flavors.
First is the guilt we feel for in some way "not being good enough". Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not kind enough, not talented enough, not rich enough…the list goes on and on. We feel guilty that something went wrong in the past because we didn't get something right. We feel guilty in the present that our life just isn't how it is suppose to be because we are not how we are suppose to be. And we fear the future because we think it can't possibly go well because after all..we aren't good enough. Life is all messed up and its all our fault.
And second is the guilt that we lay off onto others. Something in our life or world doesn't seem right so somebody or something is to blame. We can blame our parents or spouses or teachers or people at work or bad luck or society or the government or the weather or those insane other drivers on the road. Our life could be wonderful if it weren't for all those bad people and things we have to live with. When we make all those people guilty then we force ourselves to live in a world full of bad people. How can we ever be happy living in a world like that?
It seems to me that the act of assigning guilt, whether to ourselves or other people or things, is a very painful thing to do. I am beginning to think it just may be the root cause of all emotional pain. When we lay guilt on other people or things it brings on feelings of anger, of being hurt, and being a victim. And when we lay the guilt on ourselves we get both the hurt victim feeling and the horrible feeling of being responsible for it. This double whammy of self guilt is what so many here refer to as the hole or pit that we can't get out of. When we blame ourselves for everything that is wrong and then think that we are not good enough to get anything right or fix things is it any wonder that it feels like there is no way out? I have a friend who was told he had cancer at a young age and he said he felt so guilty because he was going to die and hurt the people close to him. Is there no end to the things we can feel guilty about?
Using my favorite tool called logic it would appear that since guilt is the root cause then guilt should be something we should strive to eliminate from our lives. But ever since we were little kids it seems the whole world has taught us to believe in guilt, and to point out everything that is wrong with the world, and to assign guilt to others and/or accept it as ours. Is it even possible to eliminate guilt from our lives? Is it possible that we are NOT guilty and that all those other people and things are NOT guilty?
It may or may not be possible that we are all guilty but here is a very important fact that logic makes clear. Our sanity and happiness depend on us believing that there is nothing for anyone to feel guilty for. And our degree of sanity and happiness depends on the degree to which we can bring ourselves to believe that. People will argue forever whether this world is a wonderful or a terrible place. It might be either, neither, or both..doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters is if we (in our own minds) can see it as a wonderful place. It would appear our sanity and happiness depend entirely on our perception. As soon as we perceive something as wrong we create blame and assign guilt…and here comes the pain.
So it would seem that we need some tools to help us rid our lives of guilt, or at least cast some doubt on it and loosen its grip on us. There are many tools available but like a hammer or saw they have to be used with care or they might cause some pain of their own! Here are a few that I have used:
Forgiveness -This can have the positive effect of not holding onto bad feelings towards ourselves or others. But, while it helps,it still assigns guilt because why would anyone need forgiveness if they weren't guilty in the first place? It can be the easiest place to start however until moving up to more powerful tools.
Kindness – How about instead of seeing guilt and wrong doing we instead cut some slack and chalk it up to just confusion and honest mistakes? Think back to something you feel guilty about in the past. Weren't you doing the best you could at the time? Perhaps that person who you think did you wrong wasn't as smart or talented as you thought they were (or should be) and just plain made a mistake? Maybe if you give someone a break this time they will give you a break next time.
God/Religion – If you choose to believe there is a God who is good and who created everything then it is easier to perceive yourself and others and all of creation as good. And it is not so easy to lay guilt onto something you define as good. Be careful with this tool though. So many use religion to point out flaws in creation(they call them evil) and when they do the big can of guilt and blame is re-opened. Like a power saw, religion can be used to make something beautiful or to do a lot of damage.
Logic – I personally believe in a good God and I try to be forgiving and kind. BUT, even if I didn't believe there was a real God I would invent a story of one that would help me eliminate guilt from my life..because guilt causes me pain. Or I would come up with some other story that would help rid my life of guilt. And it would make no difference to me if the story had one bit of truth to it…so long as believing it brought sanity and kindness and happiness into my life. The world just has to be a better place for everybody with one more kind and happy person in it. So I will NEVER need to feel guilty for being happy 🙂
So, how about you? Do you think guilt has played a part in causing pain in your life? What tools have worked for you? Any suggestions that might help us all get off the addiction we seem to have to guilt? Looking forward to seeing your comments!
1 Comment
  1. DaveG 10 years ago

    Bang on the money again there Jim.  Again, great advice and one of the keys to overcoming the struggle we face.  Wish I could sticky this one too!

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