Recently, I had a very short conversation about guilt. It prompted a very long thought process about where guilt comes from. Who is responsible for causing the guilt?We all feel it, I would venture to guess it happens daily. The question of the day is who's fault is it when you feel guilty. It may be that you feel guilty because someone spoke up and let you know how your actions made them feel. Is this type of guilt their fault or yours? I believe you have to wear your own guilt. It's yours to either wear like a badge of honor or brush off. Guilt can be crippling or it can help you become a better person, unless you are a sociopath everyone feels guilt.
Parents feel guilt if they want some me time, when they can't help with homework, your expectations are too high or too low. It is a no win situation isn't it? How about the guilt you feel in relationships maybe you aren't spending time with your significant other. Anytime you stand up for yourself to do what you want to do you run the risk of feeling guilty about it. I love to read but will admit, sometimes when read for pleasure I feel guilty about it. I feel like there is something else "more productive" that I need to be doing.
Don't even get me started about religious guilt? It can be a major part of the experience and issued in big doses to keep you on the straight and narrow path of morality. Parents can in turn use guilt to ensure their children follow the rules. How do our friends use guilt? If we just don't feel like going out with friends how can they possibly have a good time without us? Our friends may lay on the guilt because you decided to stay home. What if you'd like to be out with friends but feel guilty if you leave your loved one at home alone? Is it because we believe that if we leave them they can't survive without us? Who is responsible for the guilt? Did the significant other make you feel bad by hanging their head low, wrapping their body onto your leg and begging you not to go? Did they cry and scream like Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie, "You hate me, You hate me." That may be the story guilt put into our heads.
Have you ever felt guilty for leaving a pet at home? Seriously our entire family is whipped. We all feel guilty leaving our dog alone. We pick up the keys she begins happily wagging her feathery little black tail, sure she is about to go for a ride. The ritual starts with "You have to stay," then promptly followed up by, "We'll be back" Why do we feel compelled to tell the dog we'll be back. Her tail immediately stops wagging as she stops dead in her tracks and then slowly looks up with the those sad little hound dog eyes. Ah, there is it, the guilt. Now, did the dog set out to make us feel guilty. Was it a manipulative attempt on her part to make us change our mind and do her bidding? Of course not. The next time someone makes you feel guilty be it a parent friend, boss or colleague, take a moment and evaluate the intent. Is it really guilt they are trying to evoke or are they just expressing a need and we heap our own personal guilt? It could be a bit of both.
So, is guilt emotion or a learned skill? We are taught from a very young age to feel guilty to correct bad behavior. The key word there is "taught" Have you ever witnessed a baby feeling guilt. Um, No! Guilt is a learned response. Guilt exists because we allow it to. So, wear your own guilt , take responsibility for your own reactions to it. Let the available lesson serve you, then let it go just like a pair of old jeans.