Thoughts on Guilt April 2014


 Notebook Drawings, April 3rd, 2014
6.75 x 6 inches, pen on Met Daily Calendar

Thoughts on Guilt: This past week I have been reflecting on the activities and relationships in my life which are sustained through guilt. Guilt can be a means of controlling another person or groups of people. It proliferates amongst certain cultural and ethnic groups, as well as in interpersonal relationships.

The  image on the top left, which has a big "X" through it, demonstrates the guilt-driven relationships in my life. The one below it shows healthy relationships, and the full-page image to the right shows the chord of guilt being cut, freeing the individual to expand, expand, expand. Let's explore these relationships one by one.

1. Family - Family is a huge source of guilt in many people's lives. We feel obliged to attend family events, buy presents, hang out with family members even if they make us feel uncomfortable. But most of us would not be friends with the people in our families if they approached us as complete strangers. Would you? The ties of guilt propel us to act insincerely, which often leads us to talk behind someone's back. Why not select who we are close to, as we select the healthier choices at the grocery store? Why spend time with the Cheetos or Vodka, when we could have fun with fresh mint and lemon grass tea?

2. Friends - False friendships are a strain on the psyche. In middle school, I so desperately wanted to fit in with the "cool girls" that I excluded a nice girl whom I had no problem with. The mental strain of this was incredible, as I knew this action was wrong from the start. A year later, I was given my just desserts when my "best friend" left me for her cool high school girlfriends. Even now, we feel pressured to attend events and hang out with people whom we have no connection to and really don't like. What is the point? Wouldn't we be happier spending time alone or spending time with friends who make us feel good about ourselves?

3. Boyfriends/Relationships - How many people (and myself included) stay in relationships too long because we feel bad for the other person? We feel guilty for not loving the person enough and make up for it by doting on our partner and reassuring him or her that we will not leave. This is a tremendous waste of time and energy as the person could be better off with another partner who genuinely loves them for who they are. Also, as more people my age and younger are marrying, one cannot help but question some couples' motivations. Are you marrying for guilt or for love? Be honest with yourself. Are you marrying to please the parents, because you've been with them so long you "owe it to them," because you're in your late 20's/30's/late 30's and "it's time to settle down" or you don't want to be alone? Or perhaps you have feelings towards the same sex and you don't want your parents to know, so you engage in a heterosexual marriage out of convenience. These are fear-based motivations that only lead to future heart-ache, depression, divorce and possible illness. This time and energy is best spent on developing the self, so an outer relationship is a wonderful plus and not a necessity.

4. Co-Workers - Co-workers can be a mixed bag. Even if you work from home, you have to interact with others on some level. How do you interact with your co-workers? Do you spend time with people you don't like because they are perceived as powerful or popular? Is a person or a group using guilt to trick you into spending time with them and you are too afraid of hurting their feelings to say no? Again, tremendous wastes of energy. It may help to separate from the group and spend time alone. Eventually, like minded people find each other. Or you may connect with no one at work. Is this such a bad thing? This is what books, art and writing are good for. Love yourself.

5. Religion - Most of us are born into a certain religion and are trained to follow this religion from day one. We are often told that our religion is the correct one and we see our family or congregation make fun of other religions. We become arrogant in ourselves because we have the "correct" path and everyone else is "incorrect." We follow the rules, engage in ceremonies, marry someone of our religion (or have them convert), have kids and perpetuate the cycle. Are we missing anything here? Many modern religions are cut off from their original spiritual source, so we are following the shell of the religion, and not the core. Does it surprise us then, that families fall apart when a member dies, or hypocrisy reigns amongst seemingly "religious" people? It may be best to follow your inner values and decide for yourself what is right. It's okay to be non-religious or have a different view. And if people judge you for this, that is their arrogance and insecurity, the need to always be right.

6. Membership - Sadly, I have fallen into the habit of joining organizations and over-committing because I wanted to be accepted, praised and included. Organizations are always looking for help and frequently canvas for volunteers. In the past, this has appealed to my distorted sense of self-importance, but now I know that if I can't help, someone else with more time and energy probably can. Best for all parties involved. Badly-run organizations grasp for volunteers like a panicked drowning person, pulling the rescue worker under with them. This is both selfish and irresponsible of the organization, which should take responsibility for its own mismanagement. The thing is, some businesses are designed to fail and others to succeed. There is nothing you or anyone can do to change this. So why waste your life and energy saving a sinking ship? And when it comes to volunteering, I must paraphrase a quote from Yogi Bhajan, sent to me by a friend:

 Giving is not giving when you feel you are losing something.


Beneath this chart is one depicting relationships built upon love and conscious choice. These include healthy relationships, selective friends and family, internal connection to Source (rather than through a prescribed religion), and selective participation/low-membership in organizations. This diagram feels more freeing and healthy. Initially it can feel painful to cut off people, organizations and religions that are not healthy or use guilt to rope you in, but ultimately, it is for the best. Why waste time, life and energy propping up a tower that is falling?

This is my current mindset based on experience and inner guidance. Everyone has his or her own chart to make. It makes me sad to think of how many of us engage in unhealthy and uneven exchanges, so I publish this blog post with the hopes that some of you will read these words and take courage and apply these changes to your life. Believe me, once you start saying YES to things that feel right and NO to things that don't, you find yourself with more energy and joy to go around. And if people and organizations get angry, it shows that they don't have your best interest in mind. 

In the words of Phyllis Krystal:  Love is Letting Go.


This image is a person cutting the chords of guilt from their aura or energy field. The guilt relationships (being cut by the scissors) are suffocating the person and preventing growth. Meanwhile, the inner circle lists relationships built upon love and conscious choice. On the inside of the person is a tree with branches and roots. A sun comprises the head. 

Drawing a diagram like this can help identify the areas in your life that you would like to clear, and which ones you would like to keep/cultivate.
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