19 Jun

i used to say, “i’m Catholic, i do guilt really well.  Bring it on ~ i can handle it.”  And i did.

What i meant was that i was used to carrying a load of guilt and i didn’t let it bother me too much.  Tell me i’d done something wrong, i was responsible for something wrong, and i might not believe it was my fault, but i’d shrug.  Sure, whatever.  My bad.

There was just too much guilt being doled out for me to deal with.  Easier just to accept it and move on.

Not that i’m some kind of psychopath who can do things wrong ~ do things that are wrong ~ and not feel bad about it.  Really, i’m not.

But i was overwhelmed with guilt and being held responsible for a multitude of things that were not my fault, i tried to act like it didn’t matter, didn’t affect me.  Sure, i’m guilty.  No surprise, no big deal.

Inside i tried to tell myself it didn’t mean anything, that i knew better.  But the weight of guilt lingered.

A couple of different therapists over the years didn’t think that was a really effective life strategy.  They challenged me to reject guilt for things that weren’t my fault.

Which was a good thing, because, as it turns out, guilt for things that we’re not actually responsible for turns into shame.  And shame isn’t helpful.

So i try to be clear in my own mind what i’m responsible for and what i’m not.  i feel remorse when i make a poor decision, but it’s far too easy for me to beat myself up for it.  i work to avoid that.

And as i become more Zen about life, i’m not so quick to judge myself ~ or others ~ in the first place.    My life is more about unfolding who i am, and helping other people find who they are, dark places and shadows and all.

Guilt teaches us to hide, to try to get rid of, our “negative” parts of our selves.  At this point in my life, i’m more about just recognizing those parts.  i think for every piece of ourselves we try to cut off, three or four similar parts spring up.

Carl Jung says:

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

Working with JM, the amazing analyst, has helped me recognize that and use all of my self in my own life and accept the variety of aspects in others.

i think this is not even half my thoughts on this topic, but i’m pressed for time, as i always seem to be these days.  

Thank you for starting the discussion yesterday, Sin, and also thanks to those of you who pitched in.  i swear i’ll catch up on answering comments soon.  

But youall also do fine without me – what do you think?  Is there a value in exploring our feelings on guilt?  How do you feel about it, deal with it?

17 Responses to “Guilt”

  1. foxy June 19, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    Guilt for me is everything I do – have I spent enough time with the kids, I really should be doing XX or seeing how XX is doing. If I let it the guilt would wash over me and control my life.

    Therefore like yourself I write things down, I suppose more a journal than a blog. I use it like most therapist call a “mood diary”; yeah I have had therapy too, there I have a place to release the guilt over things I couldn’t do, things I couldn’t change and then they no longer own me.

    That way I set myself free and allow me the chance to live and experience all that are around me.

    I am not saying this would work for everyone, some find solace in the confession box, others chatting with friends and some find it writing blogs. I just hope you continue to share your journey with us all.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 6:46 am #

      Hi Foxy,

      i think lots of us are driven by guilt that way ~ i used to be for sure, particularly when my kids were little. Just knowing where i needed to put my energy by where i felt the guiltiest! lol

      Sounds like you’ve found some good ways to cope with it all. That’s the key, isn’t it? Finding what works for each of us.

      Thanks for the comment, and for the kind words!


      • foxy June 20, 2012 at 7:07 am #

        You are so welcome

  2. Fondlers Anonymous June 19, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I think being Asian AND Catholic means I was brought up in a manner that glorifies the carrying of guilt.

    It was only recently as I was chatting with one of my best friends (2 weeks ago) and came out of the closet about my D/s relationship that he looked me in the eye and said – ” hey, you’re allowed to be happy. And you’re allowed to ask for the things that make you happy. And if anyone makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, tell them to go jump in a lake. Cos you’ve been trying to be everything for everyone for too long. And have been accepting blame for NOT being EVERYTHING they expect you to be.”

    And I cried. Right there. in the restaurant. As if he had absolved me of all the wrongs i had been accused for all my life. when in fact all he did was free me from the blame.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      Dear FA,

      What a wonderful story – thanks for sharing it here. One of those transformative moments that moves us further along our life path. i’m so glad for you that you had that experience.

      And i had to pause a moment writing this, and just let it sink into me. It feels ~ redemptive. He blessed you.

      May your blessings grow…



  3. monkey June 19, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I’ve been stewing in this post for two days aisha. sin was right, it’s a big topic, covers sooo much ground.

    Fear, fear is the easy part. It motivates me in two ways. Sometimes fear is a moderator for me, it keeps me from acting. Other times I get angry that I am afraid, and in those cases it pushes me to act. I’m not sure what makes the difference, I’ll have to think about it.

    Guilt now, guilt… I live with a huge weight of that. Personally, my biggest issue with guilt is knowing when it is mine, and when it isn’t.Certain guilt’s are so ingrained that I can’t tell if they are valid or not. It is so nice when I can recognize “this isn’t mine” and shed it on the side of the road, such a relief.

    I would love to be back in therapy.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Hi, Monkey,

      Sounds like fear is helpful for you – at least it is if it keeps you from acting on things that are too risky and if it pushes you to act when the fear is a false alarm.

      Guilt is really more complex, isn’t it? Sorting through all the things we feel guilty about is like a part-time job… lol. But really, kind of.

      As for being back in therapy ~ you know what i’m going to say, right? Find a way to make it happen. Are you going to school now? If so, they may have a counseling center staffed by students. That would be free. Or they may have some referral source. Just a thought.



  4. joolz June 19, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    I am not catholic so never carried guilt in the way that some of my friends did. Like foxy though i have felt guilty for being at work when i perceived i should be with my son, felt guilty for not giving enough time to the wider family, felt guilty for not giving as much time to work as others sometimes seem to.

    But as i approach my 50th year and as i have embarked on a new and different relationship, suddenly i realise that i can’t keep carrying guilt in this way. We all deserve happiness Fondlers Anonymous, your friend is right it is time for those who would make you feel guilty for being yourself and for being happy to take that guilt and keep it to themself.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 7:07 am #

      Hey, Joolz,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting!!

      You don’t have to be catholic to carry guilt, that’s for sure. i don’t know if i’d say we “deserve” happiness, but we sure don’t NOT deserve it, if that makes any sense. You know, happiness is built from moments of joy and contentment and a life of meaning and so on…

      It sounds like ~ and i saw from your blog ~ that you’re working on building the life you want to live. And really, that’s as good as it gets, right?

      Welcome to blogworld!



  5. Wordwytch June 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head aisha. It’s why I don’t do guilt. Can’t, won’t, don’t.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks, Wordwytch. Yeah. It’s often not so helpful. aisha

  6. Amaia June 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    As a former Catholic as well..( school girl and all.. ) I totally get this. I have found that through this BDSM journey I have dealt with so much of trying to let go of dogma that was indoctrinated into me. Sometimes Its easy, most of the time not. I can say it is getting better and I find that while in the D/s lifestyle I’ve gotten through most of it, it’s the sexual area I am still struggling with.
    I think that guilt can freeze us.. cause us to not grown, learn about ourselves, our relationships and the world around us. So much of “man made laws” dictate our every move and how we should behave, that it’s like shackles on our heart and soul.
    I have a strong faith, and that is such a part of me.. but as for dogmatic rules and expectations, I try to walk away from that. It gets easier each day.

    Great topic..

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      Hi, Amaia,

      Good point! Guilt can, and does freeze us, and that’s particularly true in the sexual arena. It creates a particular kind of fear, doesn’t it?

      Hmm. Wow. Important stuff to think about. Yeah, i let go of more dogma all the time. It’s super helpful.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments!


  7. Conina June 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Oddly, I don’t find guilt to be that useful. I’ve been reading this conversation and I can’t identify with any of it. Not a Catholic, for the record.

    I know “usefulness” isn’t the reason most people feel guilt, either. I suppose the closest I’ve come to carrying guilt for anything is my friend’s suicide earlier this year, and you yourself helped me over that with your comment on it. I feel a lot of sadness, often, but I don’t try to take responsibility for that sadness on myself.

    Isn’t that interesting? For my relationship and my dynamic, guilt doesn’t really have a place to be. I suppose once in a while I may feel I’ve dragged him down a path he doesn’t want to take.. but he’s always very quick to set me straight, so I may spend a few minutes at a time feeling guilty, but… it’s always resolved.

    In my youth, I did carry a lot of guilt. My mom was… random. My best friend one day, calling me names and shouting at me for something innocent the next. I spent a lot of time just feeling that if I could just.. be…better, somehow, that she wouldn’t have those days of hating me. My husband has been a great help in helping me see that we can’t really fix other people’s problems though, and that was hers and not mine. So for the last many years, I’ve just tried to let her moods roll off my back, and I do NOT miss the guilt. Not one bit.

    Thanks for sharing this topic. It sets the wheels spinning.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      Thanks, Conina,

      Very cool that you’ve been able to shed so much of that guilt. Having a “random” mom (nice way to put it!) does set you up for a bunch of it. That’ “if i could just be ‘better'” thing can so easily lead to a sense of shame.

      It is helpful to have people around us who can help us sort it out.

      Thanks for your insightful comment!!



  8. poured out June 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I have a draft post that I’ve been editing for months now. The title is Guilt Mentality. HUGE problem. I’ve only recently felt like I’m handling it in a healthier way. But, sometimes that grasps slips and I spiral back into guilt and all its associates.

    • aisha June 20, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      Dear Poured out,

      Hmmm. Guilt Mentality sounds like a great title for an interesting post… i’ll look forward to reading it.

      And life is all that process of progressing and slipping around the spiral.



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