Friday, August 17, 2012

The Trouble With Guilt

I once heard Dr. Laura come down hard on a working mom who called in. The mom was the principle financial provider for their family, which meant leaving her 2 children for the majority of the day. The mom expressed that she was feeling a lot of guilt for not being there. Dr. Laura's response sounded ingenious, "We're given guilt for a reason. You're feeling guilty because you need to be at home with your kids. Find whatever way to be at home with your kids."

Preach it, sister! The answer sounded spot on, simple, and just RIGHT.

And of course I would have thought that- I was a completely guilt driven person. Guilt was the driver, and I wasn't even worthy enough to ride shotgun. I was a mere tumbleweed, being blown to and fro without any dream of appointing my destination.

I agreed with Dr. Laura 100% because I tried to obey guilt 100%.

I wish I could go back in time. That I could track down that caller. And meet her at Starbucks. And offer her a different perspective. A different option for the source of her guilt. I might have to dress up as Dr. Phil to get any credibility, but I'd do it.

If you ask me, guilt is the boss that is never satisfied; that is irrational; that belittles you every chance it gets; that sends you on a wild goose chase; that is unstable. Guilt is that drunk boss who is nothing but a fraud. And like all legit frauds, we teeter-tot between accepting it as truth and calling it out as crap.

I think Dr. Laura had it wrong.

I believe in no way that God instilled guilt in us to be a governing agent. And if you don't believe in God, I'd say I believe that no supporter of good and positivity instilled guilt in us.

So where is this guilt coming from? Well, I have an idea or two.

I feel like guilt takes on a couple of roles. He's kind of like the Ghost of Times Past, aka your subconscious. Let me explain. I think we all grow up creating these ideals. We told ourselves what kind of adults we were going to be, what kind of a spouse, what kind of a parent, what kind of an employee, etc etc. We created these ideals out of our uninhibited dreams. We created these ideals without any experience, without thought for contributing factors.We created these ideals as we corrected those that filled the roles erroneously at the time {our own parents, our teachers, etc.} And guess what...we were going to be nothing like them!

Essentially, we created those ideals while in ignorance. And not only did we create those ideals, they were somehow ingrained and recorded. They became a standard.

And they come back to haunt us in the form of guilt. "You said you would never yell at your kid. You're a terrible mom." I said that when I didn't know what it was like to love a child, to love them so much that you actually care what they do or don't do. "You should be thinking about your husband 24/7 and drooling at the mention of his name. Yes, every mention." That's when I knew nothing more than puppy love and only had him and 1 Math assignment to occupy my desperate mind. "You shouldn't be blogging, you should be taking care of your kids." That's what I said before I understood balance and realized my kids need alone time just as much as I need 'me' time. "If you were a good person, you wouldn't have bad feelings towards that person." That's what I said when Peace, Love, and Happiness had a whole different meaning, when I thought the world could operate at a "perfect" level.

And despite our ability and our conscious logic that dispels any validation to that ridiculous guilt, there's a deep, buried belief that the guilt is right and that we are somehow....failing.

I think guilt also takes on the role of the Ghost of {elusive} Perfection. Innate to human behavior, we look around and take note of what's going on. We look how others' are fulfilling our same roles. NOT innate to human behavior, we have the tendency to then turn around and tell ourselves what a crappy job we're doing and what a wonderful job everyone else is doing. I'm gonna say that again- that self-deprecation is not innate in us. It is a learned behavior.

Nonetheless, we internalize these observations and the Ghost of {elusive} Perfection swoops them right up and haunts us with those notions of "perfection" as well- that every birthday party should look like it's out of a magazine because that's how our neighbor does it, that we should be dressed and looking the part at 8 am when we take our kids to school because that one lady is, that we should be the ones taking and picking our kids up from school, and taking them to all their other activities, and helping them with homework, and have a fantastic dinner on the table at 6 pm sharp because supposedly our sister-in-law's best friend's sister can do it. And since they can do it, I should be able to also.

{How's that one saying go, that we compare everyone else's highlight film to our weakest moments?}

Well, it's all a bunch of crap, the doing it all, being it all non-sense. Guilt pulls stuff out of thin air and somehow has a way of making us think it's legit.

And do you know what I think is most crushing of all about guilt? Those little ideas, little notions, little thoughts that we push away as guilt comes crashing through the front door.....THOSE .....hold the key to a lot of happiness. Those are conscious, brave, current ideas that would bring us so much satisfaction. That I want to blog instead of going on hour number 5 of entertaining my kids, that I want to get a baby-sitter instead of schlepping 4 kids around for 3 hours to do 6 drop offs and pick ups, that I want to go out tonight with my girlfriends instead of putting the kids to bed for the 12th night in a row. It's okay to "waste" money on a class that is very interesting to you. It's ok to try something that makes absolutely no sense. It's okay to drive your own bus instead of letting guilt be the driver.

Imagine that. Those thoughts that we push off because guilt stomps on their's okay-- wait, wait it's more than okay-- it's NECESSARY to try them out and follow them if we want to be free, if we want to achieve happiness.

Try it today. When you start feeling guilty, figure out what the original thought was that brought on the guilt. And then follow that thought. Kick that guilt in the head like the raging murderer he is.

I'm not about to call Dr. Laura crazy or make you decide between her and me, one vote and you're out, but what do you think? What's this guilt thing all about?

Imagine if I had listened to that nagging thought that said, "Real moms don't let their babies drink out of the  {Tylenol} bottle". But I'm no sucka!
{fyi...we do quantity control around here. a dose is a single swig which equals much less than a teaspoon!}

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this, Gay! I think I am one of the worst people out there for meeting standards..and sadly in my life, my standards don't come from what I've learned growing up but what I've seen on television, magazines and well...Pinterest (of course).

    Guilt is such a bully and I fully intend to fight back. I say bring it on. ;)


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