That Guilty feeling can kill you
That guilty feeling can kill you
P V VAIDYANATHAN Feb 4, 2012, 12.00AM IST
Guilt is an emotion that all of us have felt at various times of our lives. And this is one emotion which can be draining and depressing and can rob us, to a great extent, of our mental peace and energy. In order to be able to overcome guilt, one first needs to understand why we feel guilty. Once the understanding comes, it becomes easier to tackle this problem.
We feel guilty whenever we think we should have done something but did not do it, or whenever we should not have done something, but went ahead and did just that. Hence, the starting point of all guilt is in our minds. We have an ideal, which is either inborn or which has been taught to us by our parents, teachers and society.
If we stick to this ideal, if we perform our duties as we have been conditioned to, there is no guilt. But as and when a discrepancy creeps in between our concepts of what is ideal and what we did, this discrepancy or gap gets transformed into guilt, making us feel miserable and depressed.
Guilt has very little to do with the trigger or the circumstances that come from the outside. The environment is constantly changing. We are not affected by all changes. But if we have strong beliefs about right and wrong, duty and rights, and what is good and bad, then it is likely that whenever events occur that challenge our beliefs, we would either react with anger and aggression or with guilt and frustration.
To get rid of guilt, we need to first understand what is right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral - but these are not absolutes. What is considered good at a particular time or place could be bad at another time or place. If we cling to our parents at the age of two, it is considered normal. But if we cling to them at the age of 40, obviously something is wrong. If a man kills another, it is a crime. But if a policeman on duty kills a criminal or a soldier kills the enemy, he is honoured with medals. Therefore, in order to remove guilt, we need to first understand what it is that we feel guilty about.
The worst thing one can do to oneself, when feeling guilty, is inaction. If we acknowledge the mistake which has led to our guilt, then we can go about correcting it. If we accept that mistakes happen and that to err is human, then too we can go about reducing our guilt, through acceptance. But to neither acknowledge nor accept our mistake is foolish, as we have to carry the guilt without there being any solution. It is like putting our car in neutral gear and pumping the accelerator. It gets us nowhere but ensures that we lose a lot of energy, and we end up polluting the environment literally or virtually. Left unaddressed, guilt pollutes the atmosphere.
Life unfolds in accordance with a divine plan. We are only actors in a play, and someone else is the scriptwriter. If we can put our complete trust in a higher power, it becomes relatively easier to get rid of guilt, and a whole lot of our negative emotions, which torment us on a daily basis. We come to understand what is right and wrong in absolute terms, and also what the grey areas are, and then deal with them accordingly.
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