Sunday 12 November 2017

#310 How much guilt do you want to carry around?

I got asked this question by my coach last week. Not on its own. As part of a series of questions. To get me thinking about what sort of psychology I would want to have, if it was different from what I have now. I say "psychology", she called it "head space" I think. I suppose "mindset" or even "attitude" might be another word for it.

So what does my response look like?

Stupid question
As far as I can see, this is a perfectly valid response. It is a stupid question. My view of the world is... I like to think I'm an open-minded person, so I won't go and say that people can't choose how much guilt they carry. Many people might feel that they can. However, I'm not convinced that our ability to choose our emotional baggage is absolute, or even that we have that ability at all. What if we don't? What if it's simply impossible to reduce our guilt, in the same way that it's impossible for one hand to clap?

I think if there was just one person on the planet, that person wouldn't have any need for guilt. It's a social emotion. If you're religious, you might feel guilty to God. If there was no God and no other people, there'd be no need for guilt. That's one theory at least. Another theory would be that you can feel guilty to yourself. You plan on building a log raft, then you sit around eating coconuts instead. Then you feel guilty... maybe. I don't know. There might be psychologists or biologists who know whether guilt is a social emotion or not.

No guilt
I think that "none" would be the ideal answer. Let's not feel any guilt, so that we're free to move forward and do what we want without worrying what other people think or thought or feel about our circumstances and our actions. It's a nice idea. It doesn't seem very realistic though. If people could simply discard their guilt at a moment's notice, they'd presumably do so and guilt would have vanished many decades ago along with smallpox, scarlet fever and shingles. I'm just saying random disease names, I have no idea which ones have been eradicated.

Some guilt
This is answer number three. "Some guilt". Perfectly consistent with what I think my subconscious might thinking, perfectly realistic, unhelpful and boring. This is the sort of answer I'm unlikely to get any brownie points for giving although I don't know that for sure. Maybe it's the right answer. It is, after all, perhaps the most honest.

Less guilt
This seems like a better answer on paper than answer three but I have to ask "What's the point of trying to feel less guilt?". Is it possible? What's the basis for it? How is it done? I'd like to give this answer but I don't really know how to.

"OK". Is "OK" really an acceptable answer to the question? Possibly. You see, when someone, particularly a coach or an authority figure of some kind, asks a question, they often mean it rhetorically. Not because it doesn't have an answer (although it may not) and not because they don't want you to try and give that answer (they may do) but just because their reason for asking is not so much to get that answer as to make you think about it.

They know that you can't immediately change your mindset. They know that a person's emotional patterns are complex and affected by outside influences. They know that most people have egos and vices and critics and beliefs and preferences and limits. Still, they want you to check in with yourself. To ask the unanswerable questions. To pump fresh attention into areas that have been dry for a long time. All the while, probing and searching for information that resonates. Unlikely answers that come out by surprise and untapped meaning that sits in the darkness, waiting to be discovered.


Fizzfan said...

If I behaved perfectly and the rest of the world did too, zero guilt all round but probably a world taken over by robots and very undesirable.

Perception plays a part too. I’ve been asked if something has upset me and I’ve not even remembered the event. Likewise, family members have raised things I’ve done years ago that they’ve listed as irritating and clearly memorable and I’ve been left pondering why such a small thing still registers as noteworthy to them.
My Mums a great one for pointing out things people have said years ago like it’s relevant to an argument now. I see that as someone with a very focused quite small mind and not a good quality. She clearly nurses these ‘gotcha’ moments as minor victories whereas everyone else mostly thinks phreerggghh.

Guilt’s sometimes just your own perception of what you’ve done wrong. That person may not have even have been bothered.

If you’re generally a well intended person and don’t set out to upset or hurt anyone, it’s better to focus on that than the ifs and maybes of what someones reaction to something has been. You can’t please all of the people.........

Yeah some misgivings are fine, they teach us we don’t approve of how we’ve handled something, but dwelling on them too much, not so much.

Profound Familiarity said...

Phreerggghh indeed. If there's one thing that irritates me, it's when people resort to illogical arguments.

You sound very confident in your views on guilt. In some of your comments about other things, you've pondered and asked questions back to yourself but this is an area you're firm on.

Fizzfan said...

Yep. It’s years of fretting on lots of different levels that has just made me tired of guilt and misgivings about people.
I’m far from perfect but few people are and if you don’t gel with someone, you can’t change that.
I just accept it for what it is now. Differences. No ones right or wrong. Just different.

Profound Familiarity said...

Yep, fair enough.