Just a Little More on Guilt

20 Jun

i just need to add this.

When we’re babies, we learn that we have control of  other people.  If i cry, someone responds.  Once i make that connection, i can began to try to make sense of everything else.

i may learn that if i ask, i get it.   The cookie on the table?  In my family, i needed to say “the magic word,” ~ “please.”  It got immediate results, most of the time.  And  “thank-you” came right after getting the cookie, before the first bite.  

We learn that our words and actions lead to responses.  We think that our words and actions cause and control the responses.

It is magical thinking, and it’s developmentally appropriate.  There is some truth to it, but it’s not always as simple as please-and-thank-you.

Once we’ve made the connection ~ learned that what we do impacts the universe and changes what happens to us~ we begin to try to make sense of it.  To learn rules about how the world works.

We learn what gets attention and what doesn’t, what to do to get a “Good girl,” or what to do to get in trouble.  The more solid and reliable the people around us are, the easier it is to learn the rules, and to make sense of the world in a way that ~ well, in a way that makes sense.

The flaw in a child’s thinking is that ~ to some extent ~ we’re always trying to figure out what we did to make things happen and what we can do to either make the thing happen again or keep it from happening again, right?  And sometimes, we didn’t do anything.  Can’t do anything.

So if my parents fight about whether or not i can go to camp, i may feel responsible for them fighting.

As an adult, we can say to the child, “O, no, sweetie,  that wasn’t your fault, that’s on them.”

And the child may think, “But if i hadn’t asked about camp, they wouldn’t be fighting.  So it is my fault,  i started it.”  And right there – in that moment – unreasonable guilt is born.

If you learn a lot of that guilt in childhood, it can be harder to shed in adulthood.  And sometimes, the lessons have been so confusing that we blame others for things that we ARE responsible for and carry guilt for things that are NOT ours.

For those of us who have found ways to straighten that out in our heads most of the time, life gets easier.  But there are losses that come with the growth.

If i’m not guilty ~ not responsible ~ for other people’s actions, it also means i have no control over them.  If i have no control ~ o, yikes ~ if i’m not in control, all kinds of horrible things can happen.  Right?

Yeah.  Many of us grew up believing that it was our  job to make things work.  To make them go smoothly.  To make peace, calm troubled waters, take care of everyone, make them happy.  The belief that we can and should be able to do all that all the time is not so easy to give up.

Other times we learned that it didn’t matter what we did.  That nothing we did made any difference.

i dont’ know how all this plays out in TTWD.   But those early childhood lessons are the foundation of our beliefs about control.  Part of BDSM, for sure, is about how we handle control.

So there are connections to be explored.

Is BDSM one opportunity for me to explore not being responsible for things i’m not responsible for?  Is it my chance to learn reliable ways of earning a “good girl?”  

Or ~ if i learned that it was hopeless, that i couldn’t control or be responsible for anything ~ BDSM could be a chance to gain a sense of control over myself.    To have clear rules and expectations, rewards and punishments that make sense.

And how does it work for Doms?   Is it their chance to actually be in control, to live out the dream of being able to manage others’ behavior?

i don’t know.  Just stuff to think about…

11 Responses to “Just a Little More on Guilt”

  1. vanillamom June 20, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    And….how does evolving through adulthood change that?

    In my 30’s I’d say….. (I’m sorry, I didn’t check the pants of the jeans and didn’t know your lipstick was in there before I threw it in the washer. I’ll find you a new pair of jeans…)

    In my 40’s I said (I’m sorry the lipstick got all over everything. But I have asked you to check your own pockets before putting stuff into the hamper. I am really sorry your pants got ruined.)

    And in my 50’s I say ….(You need to take care of your own stuff. That’s not my job. My job is loading the washer. Your job is checking your pockets.)

    I’ve gotten less apologetic. I’ve gotten…i dunno…harder? I have enough things that I’m responsible for.

    I do feel guilty about some things…but learning what to let go of is an ongoing process…a lipstick in the washer is small potatoes…but a very big shift in my own head.

    How that relates to the D/s side of my life? Hmm…sometimes I feel guilty for my relationship with Master….I do justify it that I don’t get the same level of caring from my spouse that I do from another…

    Master doesn’t make me feel guilty…he’ll *humble* me…we had a little thing just last night….but it was resolved quickly….because we talk through things, much as you and your Sir seem to. No festering allowed. But guilt? It doesn’t seem to have a part in our relationship.

    • aisha June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      Dear ‘Nilla,

      i’ve tried three times to answer this ~ wordpress apparently doesn’t like me much today…

      i love the “lipstick left in the pants” as a way of observing the changes in yourself and how much responsibility you accept for other people. Very cool!

      And that’s a different kind of guilt from any you might carry over your relationship with your Master. My hope is that there would not be much, if any, there ~ but then, you feel what you feel.

      And both of those are different from the guilt that he could lay on you. I’m glad he doesn’t!!

      Thanks for your comment! Lots to think about there…


  2. Amaia June 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Interesting question.. I asked Daddy his thoughts.. and his feeling is that for some people it is a way to “role play” controlling other peoples behavior and decisions.. that it is a fun atmosphere and one of mutual “play”. He sees others that they are just dominant by nature, and the lifestyle allows that side of them to be accepted and embraced. It is not always easy setting up rules for “s” types to follow..and plenty of time they are fought against as change is hard.. But, the dominant is who he is.. and takes the hard road of forming the relationship that makes both people the best they can be.
    As for guilt.. he says he has never really put the two together.

    • aisha June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      Hi, Amaia,

      O, cool ~ i always like to hear a Dominant’s viewpoint.

      And yeah, i can see that ~ how it can range from role play to a central part of one’s life. Interesting that he doesn’t see a connection with guilt. Maybe because he’s not dealing with that aspect of things…

      Thanks for asking him, and sharing here!


  3. jade June 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    i think that one hallmark sign of an abusive relationship is that you are flooding in guilt/shame and are told that you are really in control because if you had just had the labels on the water bottles straight in the frig, you would not have had to have the beating. It always and forever turned around (never an admission that they could have made a different choice) and…for awhile…you believe you have control. Because the day that you truly understand that you could well be killed because of something trivial is the day you have to face that you have no control at all. i think the guilt and the concepts behind that help keep you invested in it because you are too terrified to see past the fact that you will be hurt and maybe killed for reasons you can’t understand or control.

    Even Catholicism has a structure for dealing with guilty feelings. i mean, its dumped on you, yes. But at least you know exactly how to get penance and the idea is that once you have done that, you can let go of the guilt as well.

    i think that guilt does not serve a functional purpose because i will seriously mentally beat myself up forever if i am told something is my fault and believe it. It is not that easy for me to mentally pick that apart at times. Guilt/shame creates a downward spiral for me. It is more that….my mind may readily see that something is not my fault. But emotionally, i can get stuck. So its best to avoid the guilt/shame trap all together and/or to have a very clear way to be absolved with a definite beginning and ending.

    • aisha June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      Hey, Jade,

      Yes. Wise observations on how guilt and control play out in abusive relationships. For sure, the idea is to make you think you’re controlling (responsible for) the abuse that happens rather than recognizing it’s the responsibility of the abuser, and they own the control.

      And – yes. Catholicism does have the mechanism built in, so there is also the idea that nothing is unforgivable, that we all make mistakes, and that you don’t have to carry guilt forever.

      And I think the effect guilt has on you ~ for whatever this is worth ~ has to do more with the abuse you’ve experienced than with guilt as a concept ~ if that makes any sense at all. Absolutely, i agree that guilt trips aren’t helpful for you at all, but i think that is because they slide into shame, and i’m against shame altogether…Yeah.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jade.



  4. jade June 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    As an aside, any time i get into “a perfect ____________ (wife, mother, teacher, daughter, whatever) would do ____________,” i know i have headed into dangerous territory. Even “a good _____ would__________” is my mental que i am heading to guilt/shame land.

    A good slave, in my mind, depends only on two things:
    1. The opinion of the Master and
    2. Doing the best i can, even if that did not reach the intended goal.

    That being so, i work at letting it go and unless guilt is deliberately introduced into it, i tend to not do it to myself. Guilt is not a healthy motivator for me.

  5. Wordwytch June 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    First off, the comment about babies… a friend of mine says that babies are So smart. Not even a week old and they have figured out Room Service!

    Now back to guilt and BDSM, etc…. We all have moments. I shouldn’t have eaten that eclaire… waited so long… thrown that away. And on the rare occasion, we hit a situation where our Doms will “guide” us through that issue if needed. It can be that chance to work through an issue and come out on the positive side.

    I can see Dom’s using it as a tool to help a sub work through an issue as well. “You know you shouldn’t have …”

    However, if the whole relationship is built on guilt, I think there’s a problem. If nothing else, Doms should be helping subs to work through their issues, not make them feel guilty or manipulating them with guilt.


    • aisha June 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Hey, Wordwytch,

      Yep, babies are just that smart! My darling granddaughter is anyhow!

      And yes, i think you’re right. There are times we might feel guilty because we did something that would have been better not done, or vice versa and if we carry excessive guilt ourselves, i think a Dom might be able to help one work through that. At least i think maybe so.

      As for relationships built on guilt – wouldn’t that be awful???

      Thanks for commenting ~ i really appreciate your insight and wisdom…


      • Wordwytch June 22, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

        Give the grandbaby a kiss from me. Hugs to you and thank you for your blog. I enjoy it and I’ve been enjoying the conversations.

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