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The g word

“Sometimes I just want to paint the words ‘It’s my fault’ across my forehead to save people the time of being pissed off at me.” – Christina Westover


Pushing the shopping cart as I leisurely strolled down the produce isle, I was amazed at her reaction. (Or was I?) “You stupid bitch! Watch where you’re going! You should be in the candy section…fat bitch!” I had inadvertently tapped into this well dressed and coiffed woman with my cart. I say tapped, as that is truly what happened. I stammered, “So sorry.” As is my habit, I could not look her in the eyes.

How can I, a relatively bright and sound of mind woman, still allow myself to be responsible for all the bad in my world? My cat was ill because I didn’t feed her the million-dollar-a-bag food. Even though the man hit my car with his car, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the traffic.

Do I have issues? Of course… a therapist might say that I was potty-trained harshly or that my mother was maladjusted. I can’t tell you that either of those theories is realistic, but I will say that I’ve been dealing with the g word for as long as I can remember.

Deciding to ask some female friends to share what they feel guilty about, I jotted down their responses;

~ “Years ago I had a drug problem and found myself stealing money and objects from friends and family. Clean now, I feel loads of regret about that,”

~ “I was having a relationship with a guy I really liked, but slept with another man. Neither relationship lasted but I feel badly that I was a cheater.”

~ “I really don’t feel guilt often. I suppose I’ve done my share of bad things and maybe I should feel more guilt. Oh well…”

~ I feel guilty when I binge eat, like eating a dozen donuts. As soon as my stomach settles, I deal with THAT guilt by eating. Sick? Yes!”

~ “Guilt? Not in my vocabulary.”

~ “When I was a kid, I hit a neighborhood boy with a baseball bat. He was constantly teasing me. I actually caused him to black out AND need stitches. His name was Jimmy and every time I met a Jim I have to wonder if this is him.”

~ “I used to feel tons of guilt when I had pre-marital sex. It was like my mom was in the room watching me. I’m divorced twice and thank God I don’t feel like that now!”

~ “I have far too much guilt and I would rather not talk about it.”

~ “Spending money. Always. Case closed.”

~ “Let’s see…there’s eating, I feel guilty when I eat any carbs or sugar. There’s my kids…I’m guilty of not being a perfect mom. And, there’s down time. I feel lazy and unproductive if I’m not busy 24/7.”

It appears that the g word is a feeling that most of us wrestle with. At this point I went to the internet and researched. From Sigmund Freud to modern theories, it seems that, “When we see another person suffering, it can also cause us pain. This constitutes our powerful system of empathy, which leads to our thinking that we should do something to relieve the suffering of others.” [Wikipedia] When we don’t react in a fashion that we feel is appropriate, we may then feel guilty. Interestingly, sociopaths and psychopaths do not feel this empathy and consequently don’t feel guilt.

I guess the g word has a place in civilised society. For the moment, that gives me pause for thought


  • Amanda McCusker says:

    sometimes a little guilt seems like a luxury- they don’t call them “guilty pleasures” for nothing. But overall, I don’t think guilt has any constructive aspect- I try(but don’t always succeed) to just move on.

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