When I was going through my divorce about 6 years ago, I realized that I have had a guilt complex for a good portion of my life. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s always been there. I have felt guilty for saying no, guilty for saying yes and guilty for saying maybe. I don’t know why it took me so long to recognize it, but once I did I saw how it had influenced so many things my life.
All the times that I agreed to do things that I didn’t want to do just so that I wouldn’t have the guilt associated with saying no came rushing back to me. That time when I was 12 and I let the Jehovah’s Witnesses not only give me a Watchtower magazine, but come back for a visit the next week, was driven by the guilt accompanied with saying “No.”(Isn’t it just more polite to say “yes?!”) That horrible double date I went on when I was 17 just so my friend could see her boyfriend. (Who wants to disappoint a friend?!) My date totally ignored me, complete with hitting on the waitress; her date ended up getting her pregnant. All the visits that I made to my insanely angry, former in-laws when all I wanted to do was hang out with my Grandmother, were motivated by guilt. (I couldn’t leave my ex-husband alone with his horrible family!) There was one time I started crying when we pulled in the driveway.
Once, I realized that I had this “condition” I made a New Year’s resolution to work on it. Around this time I happened to find a shirt that said “Guilty.” I bought it immediately and started wearing it. This branding/labeling helped me to fully acknowledge my condition. I actively monitored my thoughts for pangs of guilt and tried to rationalize the guilt away. It took a while, but it slowly began to help. For a while I swung completely the other way: I only did things that I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. This resulted in many missed social gatherings and some disappointed friends, but it also resulted in some new experiences. Eventually I swung back to the middle, saying “yes” occasionally when I didn’t want to if it helped a friend, but not feeling obligated to do so no matter what.
I spoke with an intuitive consultant last year that actually told me something about the origin of my problem that made a lot of sense. She said, “This comes from people making you feel as though you weren’t sharing enough of the burden. At the time you were essentially too happy for everyone else.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. This scenario has played itself out in my life in many ways in both personal and professional situations. I am basically a happy, mellow person and that does not sit well with hyperactive people who thrive on stress, such as my ex-husband. These people tend to feel that I don’t understand the “how serious” the situation is or that I lack a sense of urgency, because I am not thrown into panic mode. Now I know that this is truly their problem, not mine.
These days my guilt complex has diminished considerably. Now I tend to think “I should feel guilty about this”, but then I realize that I don’t feel guilty at all. It’s so liberating! My “condition” is still a part of me and most likely will always be. I acknowledge it when it crops up and try to honor it if it makes sense, without having it rule my life. This work has made me a stronger person and partner and I am grateful to have gotten the cosmic download. Thanks Universe!
Elizabeth Spannuth believes in love as a driving force in our lives. She is continually amazed by the humor at work in the universe and approaches things with a wry witticism. She firmly believes that love takes many forms as she herself has had many different kinds of meaningful, relationships. She has said “I do” and signed “I don’t” and thanks the powers that be for giving her the grace learn from every experience. She has a varied professional background that includes performing arts training, event planning, sales and marketing planning and execution and serving as a whipping girl in corporate America. She is currently the Love Evangelist at Good Clean Love.