Are you guilty?
Like me, have you never noticed that you’ve been clinging to the sad comfort of guilt? The ache in the pit of your stomach churning ever so consistently that you no longer can live without it? You see, never before had I really paid much attention to the feeling, that when one day the random penny of connection dropped inside my crystal clear mind; I didn’t know what to make of it all. For the first time in a long time the noise was well simply not there. Instead, there was sharp crashing of reality, which slipped pass through a fragile net of emotional safety. Especially for a “feeler”, the thought eventually was like a rough crack in my mirror. Typically, I “feel” guilt all the time. So how did I get here? I am not one for psychedelic trips, apart from one failed attempt at magic mushrooms, which unfortunately ended my birthday celebrations in a solitary puke purge. However, interestingly, I note that negative emotions suffer the same fate. They also make me physically sick. I know the point here, isn’t the somatization of emotion but I did find it enlightening. Guilt actually makes me sick, rather ironically I have CFS/ME so I am walking a fine line with this self-pity party I am throwing myself. Do you feel this way or does yours manifest in the same way? Perhaps, I am not alone on this sick train of inner turmoil and I have company, I am yet to find.
Before indulging deep into my personal woes, I decided to look up the term “guilt”. Primarily because I am an information whore but more so, I hate to not know the facts. Come on, if the facts are wrong, then so are many other things. The domino effect is critical. This is the one lifeline to end all of this ridiculous misery. I refuse to tumble without valid justifications. Therefore, in case I misinterpreted its original meaning, I went on a definition binge. Unsurprisingly, I conclude that I don’t suffer from lack of guilt.
“Guilt is the fact or state of having committed an offence, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”
Without any doubt, I suffer from a guilt complex. One, which has taken root in my heart and refuses to let up. This is no medical diagnosis, it is a personal one from my school of guilt. I have mastered this art without any real conscious effort. I am not even trying to deny it, so that’s saying something. What exactly is my crime? Or what is yours? Maybe we all suffer from a communal, collective guilt? Who knows? Let’s think about it. When did you last feel guilty about something? In my case, I have spent the last three months in America feeling guilty about my husband overworking. Somehow, I managed to feel guilt about being in the way of his relationship with his son. The son he hadn’t seen for two years. Then, I felt guilty about wanting to spend time with him. Funnily, I also felt guilt about wanting our relationship to be how it used to be not this now you see me, now you don’t. The clumsy emotional decision of my lonely heart, drove me to a snap decision of spontaneously visiting when I knew he had a lot on, also causing so much grief. On overall, I pretty much felt guilt for being in the way all the time. Before, I knew it, I returned to England, where I am guilty of many serious crimes. During my previous visit, I had hurt my mother by marrying without her consent. Outcome: guilt. I damaged my relationship with my sisters. Outcome: guilt. I offended my other sister by marrying a Black man. Outcome: guilt. Worse of all, upon my return, after 15 years, my youngest sister told me that she was sexually assaulted by one of my friends who I had once trusted her with when she was 12. Outcome: unforgivable amounts of guilt. Now, that’s guilt on another level. I cannot even begin to unpack that for you.
The thing is though, this unravelled a belief, which had so much subliminal power over me. The culprit: guilt. Guilt has played such a significant role in my life and in how I process and receive information. Basically, I feel I am preconditioned to this idea of mistreating others that I failed to notice the power it had over everything. I can actually carry on with all the thoughts that make me feel guilt but it is pointless because I know now, I had no conscience recognition of it. It is like guilt bypassed my awareness and slipped into my subconscious like a date rape drug that had kept me sedated for so long. Would I have realised otherwise? I somehow doubt it. I live in a world where self-responsibility is held to the highest order, so all of my actions demand accountability for their choices. I might as well hang myself right now because it is an impossible standard to hold one self too. But did I relent? Fuck, no. Yet, sitting in front on my laptop screen, I ask myself. What’s the point of it all? I cannot change any of it. I cannot rewind back to 15 years ago to erase that choice where my sister was alone with a child molester. Neither can I undo the moment where as a child, I decided not to say anything about my own abuse. Or as the adult when I decided to tell my family about it. They are all actions in the past. The thought before I type it, is in fact now in the past. Then what is it serving? I mean, yes; guilt can help with our moral compass but when does it go to far? In reality, my husband is busy, it his choice to spend his time as he wills. I cannot change his choices so are my needs justified? Do I have to feel guilty or am I programmed to now feel in such a way that I don’t know how to let go? After all, if I am accountable for my actions, then shouldn’t my thoughts and feelings comply to the same standard?
Guilt appears to be a revolving door, the one I cannot seem to step out of. I am not sure if it’s because I don’t know how or I am unwilling too. It could be very possible that I am confining myself to the negative thought as opposed to my humanitarian values. Perhaps, this isn’t about humanity or morality but simply a precedence for a feeling that has taken root in my early psyche. Is it really unkind to want time with my husband when his son needs him? Or is it just that I miss him and nothing more than that? I won’t lie, I don’t know how to get past my sisters truth. Although, I have started to churn the wheels of process and reflection. I understand and accept that she is entitled to her anger and hate towards me. I don’t judge that. I should have known better and I should have protected her. So, is guilt justified here? Or am I afraid to let it go because I don’t want to feel like a dispassionate psychopath who has no remorse for her actions? Am I as guilty as the perpetrator? Are we two sides of the same coin? The fact that I am questioning it, should be an indicator in itself. I am no psychopath but I am also not narcissistic; this isn’t about my guilt, it’s about my sisters pain. I am not giving myself a get out of jail card yet do I deserve to punish myself even more than I already am? The actions of my younger self are already repaying the karmic price for this violation of trust. My sister wants nothing more to do with me. She can hardly stand to be in the same room and I don’t blame her. I can’t stand myself sometimes. I am not allowed to see her children or my other nieces and nephews. She will never resume a relationship with me. Neither will anyone else, willing want one. All of these facts, lead to this thought; what’s the point then? What function is my guilt serving? Other than confining me to a fate of sorrowful misery, it really isn’t rocking my boat with joy. I know, I made mistakes but the truth is- it is in the past. I am not disrespecting my sisters flashbacks or her. I really am not. I am merely stating that it has happened. We are on that journey already. The path in motion, with or without guilt.
Is it the death penalty for me? Off with her head!
I committed a crime. I betrayed the trust of a child who believed I would always protect her. You may believe it is what I deserve. Do I believe that? Today, my freshly opened eyes, see another reality. If you asked yesterday, I would have agreed with you. Today though, I wonder if it is possible to forgive yourself? Think about it. There are variations in the degree of guilt we feel for each of our actions. I don’t feel the same guilt for everything. And maybe if I began with my smaller crimes, I may eventually be able to recover from it all. Realistically, if we chose to do nothing, then we are holding ourselves in a pattern of self-destruction and dysfunction. Even the thought, “I committed a crime” needs deep reflection. You can’t just consent to your emotions without some rational reasoning. Misery breeds misery, I am sure the lesson isn’t that. Ultimately, if we are responsible for actions towards others, then aren’t we held accountable for the same for ourselves? Then why come last? Of course friends, I am also not a legal professional so none of this would stand in the court of law but if you are the judge and jury, then I say you have some control over the outcome. Is it off with your head for every mistake you’ve made? Inevitably this tug of war between emotion and thought, shouldn’t mean you lose in the end. I have not been thinking, I have been feeling. Instinctively I feel before I think but it doesn’t mean all my feelings are apt or reasonable. The sad truth is our feelings are programmed since birth and thus reinforced by our life experiences and observations as children. Surely we can find psychologically and scientific evidence for this if we wanted. My question to you is- do you enjoy this guilt trip? Is the high – low worth it? I can’t change or regulate something I don’t know exists, until I do. It’s a fair rebuttal. I agree with you. But now you do. Like I do. What will we do next?
I have one small request, would you be willing to hold me accountable for this deeply rooted emotional evil that’s consuming my existence? I want to practise forgiveness, yet I know I am scared. Until I believe, I deserve it, will you kindly help me? I don’t want to evade responsibility for my mistakes but I want you to remind me that I can let it go because holding it, isn’t healing. I am only perpetuating a cycle of negative emotion, which won’t make anyone happy, especially not myself. Will you join me in collectively dumping our guilt complex and maybe with support, we will move away from a lifetime of subconscious pain. In the end, our life is a journey. We make choices that hurt us and hurt others. However, I am beginning to accept that suffering necessarily isn’t the only way to learn. Forgiveness, healing, compassion and kindness is not only for others. It is also for one self. And wait before you question whether it is selfish or not, I will put you out of your misery. Self care is not selfish; it is self-service, without it we cannot offer true meaning to anything beyond ourselves. I know, these are mere words. Actions. We need actions. What are we waiting for? Start now, with your own reflections.
The cosmic calls. How do you respond?
Photography credit to original artists.
Quotes referenced from Webster Dictionary.