Guilt

Posted on Dec 20, 2016 in Self-Help

How often have you been having a hard time and heard some version of, “You really shouldn’t feel that way. There are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!?” In that moment, how do you feel hearing that? It likely doesn’t help. Rather, it hinders by piling on more discomfort in the form of:

1. GuiltHow is it that I have so much and others aren’t given these same opportunities? I am no more deserving than anyone else, yet I’ve been the recipient of so many gifts.”

2. Self-criticism “Look at my life and all that i have, and I still suffer. Something must be fundamentally wrong with me!”

3. Pressure “I do have more resources than others at my disposal, I better do something amazing with this opportunity!”

This comparative approach is often counterproductive as it fails to address either party’s issue in a timely manor. It also feeds into a separatist mentality, one that is quite common in our culture. (In this mentality, the focus rests on the differences between us and our fellow man, rather than the similarities that hold the potential to unite us.)  Lastly, it often leaves the person at hand in an even more distressed emotional state.  (Using guilt as a motivator will always bear negative side-effects.)

distress, depression, guilt, self-help, thoughts, how-to

 

All feelings are valid.
Remember this for when you are having a hard time.

Remember this for when your friend is having a hard time and you are slipping into judgement with the thought that “They shouldn’t feel this way.”
Whether it’s your…

– teenage sister who is upset after failing a test.

– friend who is dealing with a broken heart.

– child who tears up after breaking their toy.

– colleague who nicked his Ferrari.

– or your spouse who simply feels sad today.

What is present is not to be trivialized or dismissed. Allow for validity of the pain without feeding into it – This isn’t about a pity party, this is about empathy.

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On every human path there is suffering. No one is immune – not those of money nor health nor power nor fame.

We may understand this intellectually, but can easily forget it and fall into judgement — evaluating an event or circumstance as to determine where it lands on the worthiness scale. We decide for ourselves and for others, what is the appropriate way to react; what feelings and thoughts are allowed.

This process is a flawed for a couple of reasons. One, because this is an assessment no one has the authority, (nor unbiased perspective,) to make. Secondly, the current event/circumstance may not even be the real reason this feeling has emerged. The mind may just be using the situation as a pretext for outletting a particular emotion.

So cry over the spilt milk. Cry if you feel like crying. Those around will likely judge and say, “Wow, they are overreacting.” Those people wont be able to see how the milk represents the general chaos your life has been. They wont be able to see how present your need is to uncork the many emotions that have been suppressed over the years. (From a parents’ divorce, which brought confusion; a house move, which brought powerlessness; a change of schools, which brought loneliness; and an inability to right yourself since, which brought frustration.)

These tears may very well be rooted in the past. By bringing more awareness to one’s experience we can optimize the effectiveness of this weeping as a discharge of emotion. This can be done by giving the tears a particular meaning; or simply by being open to the release of the sobs (ideally, in a safe space with a supportive individual).

This isn’t about staying in it longer than necessary and it’s also not about repressing what comes up. This is about feeling the feelings fully enough that moving on becomes an option.

 

Everyone will get gifted in their lifetime. Privilege comes to all.

  • Though an obvious example would be through the inheritance of financial wealth, privilege doesn’t always come in the form of money. In fact, from one view, not having money can be seen as a privilege.

I’ve known a number of North Americans who have, upon returning from a trip to a developing country, expressed some condescending and confused version of, “Oh my goodness, I feel so sorry for those people, they have so little! It’s remarkable – they have nothing and yet they are so happy!”

I just imagine one of those “poor” families they are referring to, back in their hut, discussing the unhealthy tourists they’ve been exposed to.

(They themselves are content in their simplicity. They have an understanding of what is important in life — their relationships, art, music, play, spirituality, time in nature. They appreciate how being free from the burden of unnecessary stuff makes nurturing all of these possible.)

And then I imagine them, in all their wisdom, saying something like, “Those poor Americans, they have so much, how could they possibly be happy?”

  • Everyone experiences privilege in a different way – Some may be gifted with a high IQ, others with a strong immune system. Some may be born with a nationality that grants them a multitude of freedoms; where others may be born into a simpler life where they aren’t given as many choices, but therefore don’t have the stress of as much decision making. Some may be born with a particular creative talent; others with a particular mental capacity (like resiliency for example).

This isn’t about denying the importance of a global perspective. This is about seeing that pinning realities against one and other in order to make a competition out of suffering fails to serve either party.

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When we examine how we converse as a culture we give ourselves the opportunity to question it and to then decide if it’s a dialogue we’d like to perpetuate in & outside of ourselves.

Let’s look at one cliché to demonstrate how we can contradict our word and then remain ignorant the double standards we hold. “Don’t compare yourself to another,” is commonplace advice and yet we use this same approach in trying to shake someone out of their sadness. “You really shouldn’t feel that way. There are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!”

Perhaps an innocent attempt to offer perspective, this message is overshadowed by its subtext, “Your lifestyle doesn’t warrant you sadness… Your experience is lesser-than and therefore unworthy of attention.”

Without ignoring the clear differences that reside over borders of geography, government, culture and race, can we allow space for each individual and the myriad of emotions to which they are entitled?

people, emotion, feeling, expression, depressed, thought, sad, guilt, distress, anguish

Practically speaking…

“You really shouldn’t feel that way. there are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!”

Brushing aside one’s pain will not feed that child, it does not alleviate their suffering. Brushing aside one’s pain is not productive in and of itself. If one truly endeavors to be of service in the world, one route there might very well begin with a step in the opposite direction. To hold presence in one’s full experience and to let go into the suffering, is to tap into the suffering of every human on this planet. It is in experiencing one’s own humanness that an emotional and spiritual knowledge is granted – a key for connecting ourselves to others (others who might like our support, like these children).

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So what is to be done in the suffering?

1. Refrain from piling on more stories (like this comparative dialogue example). These thoughts often just get in the way of being present to one’s feeling.

2. Feel the feeling. For most this is easier said than done as many fear getting stuck in an uncomfortable state. The only way out is through though and feeling the feeling is the only way it can be processed and then released.
– Getting stuck only occurs when an emotion is suppressed or a false story is fed.
– Naming feelings can be helpful, but be wary of judgement as this is what keeps them trapped. Trapped feelings are set to manifest as dis-ease and/or violence.

3. Certainly, take time to learn about another culture’s reality and to acknowledge one’s own privileges. However, to optimize receptivity of this information, it’s helpful to wait until the suffering has passed.

 

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Taking Things PersonallyExpectations, or Compassion.

depression, depressed, feeling, emotion, sad, rain

 

3 Comments

  1. Another incredible post by Kat Green! 🙂

    I’ve long held similar thoughts, but this is the first time I’ve seen them expressed. You gave some wonderful examples and, as always, packaged in a box of first-rate writing.

    Thank you, Kat!

  2. Hi Kate it’s Andrea I’ve left some messages on Instagram and I believe you might’ve wrote me back on the path in the past I think it was like in December of last year I really need your help I’m struggling with eating disorder that was 12 I don’t remember all I told you but I’m scared I’m going to get a binge disorder or something like that I have a lot of health problems I need your help please help me I pray to God that you’ll get back to me really soon do you know how good Dan McDonald’s I would like to leave my phone number my phone number is 661666-7015 you seem like a wonderful person inside and out I really hope you can help me

    • Hi Andrea, I’ve sent you an e-mail. Let’s open up the conversation there.

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