I fear that I am guilty. Should I be worried about that?

Rose colored glasses

Fear. Guilt. Should. Worry.

The four most debilitating emotions in my world. I’ve had a few personal experiences recently that have led me to open the door and let these evil critics in. I try not to let the negative thoughts come into my head but by habit I let them in. It’s a struggle to get them out of my brain. Anne Lamott says “My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone”. I know I have work to do. Again. “Ugh”.

I have heard that people make decisions based on two basic emotions – Fear or Love. Fear is the emotion that guilt, should, shame, worry and other negative feelings revolve around.  Fear that something bad will happen. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing someone or something you love. Fear so disabling that I lose my ability to enjoy daily life. It’s an absolute battle to get loving thoughts back in. Hafiz, a Persian poet, who lived in the 1300s wrote “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions”. Me too.  I find it interesting that fear is still an emotional factor 700 hundred years after this quote was first spoken.

Should and Guilt are twin sisters to me. I should do this. I should NOT do that. I should have said this. I should NOT have said that. I should call this person. I should send a card to that person. I should eat better. I should exercise more. I should read more. I should clean the house. I should do something productive. I should do this. I should do that. I should, I should, I should… My very kind-hearted husband tells me “Don’t should yourself”. Do what you feel like doing. Don’t do what you don’t feel like doing. I believe he has achieved some kind of enlightenment. I have not!

When I don’t do what I feel that I SHOULD do guilt takes up residence in my mind! One definition for guilt is:

a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc. whether real or imagined.

I feel certain that my sense of guilt does not come from committing a grievous offense, crime or wrongdoing. It is not real but an imagined perception of offending someone else. “Shoulding yourself” results in guilt from a “perceived” poor decision. 

I am really good at following that “worst case scenario” rabbit down that hole and worrying about ridiculous things that most likely will not happen. That plane hasn’t crashed yet. I haven’t contracted the worst, incurable disease yet. My kids are alright. I’ve already survived some terrible events in my life. I lived. Worrying is not going to prevent bad things from happening or prepare me any better for when they do. Corrie Ten Boom said “Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear”.  Fear again. 

I realized (AHA moment) that these negative emotions mostly occur after I’ve had an unpleasant experience with a negative person. I tend to believe in the ultimate goodness of everyone. I believe that people will always choose to do or say the right thing. I believe that people always make the best choices. I believe that everyone has something to be glad about. I believe that people will be nice. The conflict in my brain arises when I’m confronted with someone whose beliefs are different than my own. The one in which “life sucks” and there is nothing in this world to be happy about. You would realize that your life sucks too if you would just take off those rose-colored glasses. So I take them off and start to believe that maybe there are a lot of things in my life that aren’t so rosy. Someone I love is going to die eventually. Someday I might contract some dreaded disease. Something “bad” is going to happen. If I didn’t have those damn rose colored glasses on I would clearly see the apocalypse coming.

I’m learning with every experience that “what is going on for them is about them and not about me”. A good portion of my life I have made it about me. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? I am a “people pleaser”. From an early age it shaped who I am, what I thought and the decisions I made. The guilt, fear, worry and “shoulding” myself comes from wanting to make the people in my life happy and fearing that if I don’t they won’t like me. I doubt my own judgment and question my decisions. Was my perception of the situation wrong? Does this person really know more than I do? Are my feelings wrong? There’s a good chance that I did not say the “wrong” thing, do the “wrong” thing or make the “wrong” decision. What’s going on for them is about them and not me. 

I’m not guilty when I haven’t committed a crime. Worry doesn’t prepare you for when bad things to happen. When I “should” myself I shame myself and that is too much like a self-imposed punishment. It implies that I MUST do something or face the consequences.  Fear fills the room and does not let positive, loving thoughts in. When I make other peoples negative feelings and opinions more important than my own positive thoughts it creates internal conflict. This inner uncertainty allows the worst emotions to enter my mind. I lose sight of ME. 

I’m getting a lot better at pinpointing what IS going on for me when guilt, worry, shame and fear appear. I’m fighting back. When I take the time to think about why I am feeling such visceral emotions my perspective becomes clearer. The key is to learn what I need to learn about myself, let it go and move on. Quickly. Without letting guilt, worry, shame and fear hang around for too long or at all! Easier said than done but I feel as if I am getting better at recognizing the triggers. There is hope that I am getting closer to some kind of enlightenment. Eliminating these words from my vocabulary means trusting my own instincts and decisions and loving myself enough to say “No”. I won’t let you disable me. I’ve learned that for me it also means setting boundaries or outright eliminating the toxic relationships with negative people who cause me to feel these stressors. I like to think that as I am getting older I am becoming wiser. It is not selfish to put my own feelings first. It is OK to see things differently. Taking care of ME is essential to my happiness and well-being. 

One of my favorite writers is Glennon Doyle Melton. Check out her website and subscribe to her blog postings on http://momastery.com. Read her book Carry On Warrior. Watch her TED Talk. In several of her postings she talks about putting her “perspectacles” on. 

When I put on my perspectacles (my rose-colored glasses) it is amazing how clearly I can see what’s going on. Plus, I look good in pink!

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