On Guilt

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This is the topic I planned to write about when life interrupted on Thursday. I should have written it later that day anyway and scheduled it for today while it was fresh in my mind.

If you read my blog regularly you would know that I scheduled a vaccine appointment thinking the appointments were available because the governor was going to announce a new phase of eligibility that afternoon. He did not and still has not. We might be the last state that opens eligibility for “non-essential” under 65 year olds. I considered keeping the appointment. I didn’t think they would ask questions. They would just give me the shot and move along. Others told me I should keep it. I canceled it because I was already losing sleep over the thought of keeping it when I was not eligible. I knew I would lose even more sleep if I got the shot. I would be consumed with guilt to the point that I would make myself sick.

Guilt is a topic that has come up in my therapy sessions so I thought I would talk through it here.

Guilt is not always a bad thing. You need to feel guilt if you do something wrong. If you do something wrong and feel no guilt about it, is there anything that will stop you from doing it again? Or even escalating the bad acts? I’ve always been amazed at the people who seem to feel no guilt about things. The people who lie and cheat their way through life and don’t feel bad about it at all. The type of people who probably have lied about their job to jump the vaccination line(tempting since Hogan seems to have no plans to ever expand eligibility) The type of people who cheat on their spouses regularly. How do they live with themselves? Even if I felt like I wanted to do that I know that any fleeting moment of enjoyment would be overpowered by a level of guilt that would consume me for the rest of my life. Even at my lowest moments, my knowledge of my extreme levels of guilt would stop me from doing anything too bad.

Guilt, though, can also start to seep in to make you feel bad about yourself when you shouldn’t. This is what we have talked about in therapy. Now that I am not working and I am trying to write I feel guilty when I take a break or stop writing early afternoon. I feel guilty about taking time to read during the day even though we have talked about how reading actually helps with writing. I feel guilty when I wrap my day up at 2PM even though I started working on the blog and other things by 8am. I feel like some mysterious “they” is out there judging me for not being productive enough. I’ve fallen prey to the American thought that if you aren’t working to the point of exhaustion you aren’t good enough. I felt guilty when we went to visit family over Christmas even though we tested and quarantined before we left, tested again when we got there and tested again when we returned. We did everything right and still I felt the judgment of “them” I never feel like I’m good enough and the guilt creeps in whenever I do anything that feels less than perfect. Its not a good way to live.

My therapist will ask me when I feel the guilt if I would think my kids were doing something wrong if they were in my position. When I first met with her I was a few days away from going to Kentucky for the holidays and was in post-test quarantine. She noticed that I braced myself for judgment when I told her that. She pointed out that she had no negative reaction about it and asked since my kids were already there if I felt they were doing something wrong. If not, why do I feel like I’m doing something wrong for doing the same thing. That question has come up a few times. The answer is always no. I am judging myself against a standard to which I hold no one else and always finding that I come up short. I guilt myself over things that are not wrong. I project those feelings on to other people and assume they are judging me as well and finding fault.

Guilt can be a good thing in the right situation. Overwhelming guilt in situations where it is not warranted is a problem and can keep you from enjoying life.


12 thoughts on “On Guilt

  1. I understand guilt. I’ve been working hard to overcome the guilt that I’m no longer being productive because I retired (early and not by choice) and now do nothing to earn a meager income. My daughter won’t actively investigate getting a vaccination because she would feel guilty for jumping the line (she’s 35, so there’s that, but she just had a baby and the antibodies passed on to him would be extremely beneficial). I feel guilty for a lot of things that shouldn’t be the cause. I feel your guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done you! Here in the UK you can’t just book an appointment – the government contact you when it’s your turn. So no guilt, no bending the system!

    Liked by 1 person

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