I can’t help it – it’s in my genes! For a Mum who wonders more than most about nature vs nurture (our kids being adopted and all), I wonder about the DNA that leaves me feeling like someone is always saying to me ‘Thou Shalt Not’ of ‘Thou should not have’ from on high, from within myself – where is that bloody voice coming from?).
That someone, who sits on my shoulder and narks – you shouldn’t do that, feel that, be that because it is WRONG, even when it’s right, or perfectly understandable at least – well that someone can just go ____ off (opps feeling guilty again – Thou shalt not swear!).
That someone who tells me I AM wrong, even when I haven’t DONE anything wrong, doesn’t make any sense but I still believe them anyway! Pretty silly right.
Do you have a guilty voice that dominates the airplay in your head?
You see I’m beginning to think that my guilty voice isn’t a someone at all, or even an irrational side of myself that I stupidly choose to listen to, but a something that is somehow programmed into my make-up, encoded in me so that I can’t switch it off. I can tell that voice to shut-up but it keeps on harping like some recurring computer error – warning, warning fatal error!
I think I have the guilt gene! It has come down my Irish Catholic lineage to leave me feeling like I’m never good enough, and if I ever do feel good enough, then I should feel guilty because pride is a cardinal sin, isn’t it? I even have to watch how much pain I allow myself to feel, because I’d be guilty of wallowing in it. I can say three Hail Mary’s and five Our Father’s but I will never be good enough – I am born into sin after all and no amount of penance will change that.
Ok – religious rant off my chest. In truth our daughter is being confirmed Catholic and making her first Holy Communion next weekend, so I do believe in God’s forgiveness and our own power to forgive ourselves and others – I believe in God and good wherever they are found in this universe. But I don’t want to believe my guilty voice any longer.
Of course I understand that guilt is a common garden variety curse of all mothers, and the moral compass that makes you feel bad when you yell at the kids, or simply aren’t good enough, in other words most days.
And I’ve written before about the extra layer of guilt I feel as an adoptive mother, that comes down to a debt of gratitude that I feel I might never be able to repay, so to bang on any more about that would only make me guilty of being self-indulgent. Yep, been there too.
I understand that guilt can serve a useful purpose in helping us to become better versions of ourselves and that a total absence of guilt can turn ugly, deadly in a sociopath’s hands.
But generally speaking, I’m making a case for guilt being a useless, wasted, crippling emotion that I would give up if only it weren’t programmed into my DNA.
Do you believe that is even possible? I hope I’m not the only one driven crazy with shame sometimes.
So what can I do? What can any of us do to stop guilt running the show? I know I can recognise guilt for what it is – wasted – and stop it in its tracks. I can realise it’s a tendency (OK a trait) that I have to be hyper vigilant about.
I can avoid nurturing guilt in myself by cutting myself some slack for a change. I can avoid nurturing it in my children, because they don’t have my genes and I can only be responsible for what I pass down to them through the way I live. And I can pull myself up when I find myself passing down that guilt, but NOT feel bad about it – after all it’s not easy to over-ride a computer program, a genetic code.
If we can reboot our way of thinking, somehow re-engineer how we feel , then I reckon we can conquer the curse of guilt and use it constructively for our own, and other’s benefits. It can be good when its genuine remorse and the will to try harder, and very bad when it’s a form of self-reproach that never ends.
We can choose to see guilt as just a reminder to think before we act, to be more thoughtful, to put ourselves in another’s shoes. We can remind ourselves that while we can always do better, we are still good enough, and we certainly weren’t born wrong. We can tell guilt to ‘go jump’ unless it serves us.
At the very least I’m turning the volume down on that guilty voice, looking for some new anti-virus software to weed out the flawed programming, and recognising that while we may not be able to change our genetic makeup, we can learn to live the way we choose.
We can choose forgiveness, for ourselves mostly and so find peace.
Linking up with Essentially Jess from IBOT this wet Tuesday. Please share if you or someone you know needs to get over the guilts. And I’d love to hear any guilty habits or secrets if you want to fess up – might make us all feel better.