Like a cancer of the mind, guilt can invade the existence of some individual and undermine their well-being. However, this morbid guilt is not inevitable and it is possible to free ourselves by a salutary letting go attitude.
The guilt that occurs when we cause harm to others is really healthy. It is desirable that one who steals or damages the property of others should feel guilty. This painful feeling will be encouraged to make amendments, or at least apologize. But some people feel guilty when no misconduct is alleged against them.
Thus there are individuals who blame themselves for being born and having been a burden to their parents, have an interesting job, to do better than their brothers and sisters, to put their children in a day care so that they can join a job, not to be perfect or just have fun. This guilt-there attitude is a kind of first gangrenous outgrowth. As for cancer, degeneration of a sound mechanism is the base and eventually undermines the well-being of those who are affected.
We are responsible for our actions but not others’ reactions to them
Here’s an example: a woman meets a colleague who invited her for a drink after work. She accepted the proposal while taking care to inform her husband over telephone that she will come a little later than expected. On her return, her husband made a jealous scene. If she feels guilty that she bears some responsibility in this crisis of jealousy, she said: “It is my fault in this state!”. However, as in the previous example, the emotional reaction of the husband is not caused by the behavior of his wife, but his way of interpreting this behavior. This is a trigger, but not a cause! The thoughts of this man and the nightmare scenario that is playing in his mind are the causes of jealousy. Besides, he might as well make a fit of jealousy, even if his wife had given up the invitation. A single hair found on her blouse could be enough to set fire to the powder…
Family education and religion is certainly an argument for understanding why so many people blame themselves, but this does not explain everything. There must be another reason! To find out, consider the example of a child who is guilty to face her parents’ divorce. He said: “I should be wiser, better work in school, and do more prayers…” Paradoxically, the guilt-inducing thoughts reassure: it should, which means it could, and divorce would have been avoided, that is what he believes. Better yet, it could be that his parents back together if he redoubled his efforts.
Thus, by believing he has the power to alter events, the boy reassures to face a terrible realization: the world does not work as he wants and he is powerless to change course. Rather than feeling this terrible anguish caused by the powerlessness, because of the decisions of others, he prefers to think he does have the power to change things. But the cost is the responsibility and therefore guilt when it goes wrong. Guilt is the price of power.
Better to be guilty than powerless
Omnipotence is the hidden face of guilt, the reverse of his medal. The second is much painful as the first can be reassuring and even enjoyable. Therefore, we do not get rid of morbid guilt so easily. Fighting against it is also risky as there is a chance of losing this illusion that is so dear to us! Without it, we will suddenly face a terrifying fear of powerlessness. This is why we must heal first.
Take all our responsibilities, but nothing more than our responsibilities
Renounce the responsibilities of others amounts to letting go kind of attitude, that is to say to accept the fact of living in a world where we cannot control everything, where our influence is certainly existing, but is limited. In other words, be willing to face our powerlessness to change the course of things. Moreover, it is also a way to respect others in their ability to choose, let them exist in dignity. The healing of morbid guilt is the price!