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Playing the 'Guilty' Card. Monday November 4, 2013

Here's the eighth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please don't forget we'd love you to add any ideas, tips, insights or advice you may have that you'd like to share with other Moodscope members that might be of help. Please add them to the comments at the end of this post. Many thanks. Caroline.

Today, it's the turn of the 'Guilty' card, which Moodscope defines as, 'feeling regret for doing something wrong.'

Is our guilt real, or imagined, or somewhere in between? This is where the rational approach can be so helpful – guilt must justify itself to be taken seriously.

Inappropriate guilt, shame, and blame are an unholy trinity that torment many. Imaginary guilt that cannot maintain its case in the face of honest cross-examination must be banished immediately. Is this feeling based on your values, or someone else's imposed standards?

If 'feeling guilty' – such a dominant human emotion – had a good intention, it would surely be to help Society and relationships function. In many senses we should feel regret for doing something wrong. However, many of us feel regret for errors of judgment and even misdeeds that were committed way back in the past. When this persistent guilt paralyses positive action in the present, it needs to go.

There are many pathways to free yourself from genuine, honest guilt. The most logical one is restitution – to do something to 'balance' the books. Whilst deeds cannot be undone, and words cannot be taken back, we can always introduce new deeds and words into our future history. I am a great believer that it is how we finish that matters more than how we start. When we are young and inexperienced, we are still learning – and I don't think we should ever 'punish' anyone while they are learning. Since I never intend to stop learning, I don't think I should ever punish myself! The flip side of the deal is to keep learning and to keep changing.

If restitution cannot be made to the parties we may have wronged, doing good to someone else is good for the soul. It is a healthy direction to go in. A fresh destination for our soul's Sat Nav.

I really don't like it when people say to me, "You haven't changed a bit!" I have. I am not the person I was even two months ago. I am constantly transforming. Nowadays, I treat guilt with as much respect as my Sat Nav. Sometimes it's accurate, and so I follow its guidance after checking the evidence. Other times it's just simply wrong! Sometimes I know a better way – and I take it, because, after all, "I" am more than the guilt I may feel.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 6:36am

All guilt is is the fear of disapproval

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 8:01am

Agree with Lex's post and with 'Comment 1' from Anon above. Would be interested to know what readers think and feel about the guilt that is dumped on you by others for misdeeds you haven't committed - unearned, misplaced and unjustified disapproval? Easy to say, 'take no notice.' But when you know you are disapproved of for no good reason - it's difficult.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 8:21am

When I was at uni, 30 years ago, I got pregnant. The university doctor, no doubt very used to the situation, took a shocked, naive, frightened young woman and guided her through the process, and within a short time I was in hospital "getting rid of the problem"
And that was the point that my problems started. That was the point at which I realised I had killed my baby.
How do I deal with that guilt? How do I forgive myself that? I cannot.
Friends who know about it, understand, forgive, say "you were young"
But I cannot forgive myself.
I have tried to make amends. Tried to be a nice person. But the guilt is always there.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 9:19am

I always score "extremely" when it comes to guilt. It is like a blanket of suffocating cloud that permanates every part of my being. I know in my logic mind that i have done nothing to be guilty of. But to keep things my fault, gives me control. To release myself i have to put blame where it belongs which means i have to be angry towards my abusers. Anger is more scary than guilt. Its all muddled up but its a work in process.

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 9:35am

Thank you for sharing so personally and openly. I hope someone in the Moodscope community can add support that is based on deep empathy and practical insight rather than my own clumsy attempt. I can say that I feel only compassion for you and a wish that I had more insight.

Nick Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 9:57am

What a very touching and profound post.
I can offer no help or advice, other than to say that you have expressed a quite understandable and an almost unbearable example of 'guilt'.
You obviously took, what was thought of at the time, as the only option available, which took great courage, and I do not think that after time for reflection over many years you should continue to feel such guilt.
You have tried to make amends, as you say, and it is obvious to me that the experience should be viewed as part of your life that has since moved on and your continued 'guilt' has made you a more thoughtful, insightful and better person.
Please try to move on and realise that when we were young we perhaps do many things that in later life we may have done differently. It's known as experience.
Please do not beat yourself up about something that you can no longer change, but thank you so much for sharing such a thought provoking insight.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 10:22am

I live with the guilt of depression, and it's effect on those around me which is a vicious circle. I now have a daughter with a mental health problem that I know I caused and make worse. I would end it but that would make it worse for her again - there is no way out.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 11:14am

The fact that you are a Moodscope user suggests to me that deep down you know that there IS a way out; also that you are trying to find it ...My advice therefore is: Keep using Moodscope; keep blogging; and try some of the many excellent suggestions offered by people who experience similar feelings. Frankie

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 11:21am

I agree wholeheartedly with what Nick has written and could not put it any better. My heart goes out to you; I have not experienced what you are going through but I have one suggestion; read what Louise Hay has to say on guilt - "How to heal yourself". Frankie

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 11:24am

Thank you for your inputs today Nick and Frankie - I'd forgotten that Louise Hay was such a helpful writer in these areas.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 1:13pm

I have indeed been where you have been and are. For me I was 17 over 40 years ago. And then an autoimmune illness that made it impossible for me to carry to term. So here is my peer support. I hope and pray it gives you some relief and comfort. The pain of loss will not go away (I know the anniversary every year & count how old he/she would have been) but I have treated it as any death. For me understanding the stages of grief helped me to understand my intense feelings of loss and self-condemnation. I am a Christian, so knowing nothing is beyond God's forgiveness helps me. Acceptance of your deed as something in your past may be the key. But you have to let go. Hard work indeed but possible. Being nice to others may never help this issue. You seem to be holding a grudge against yourself. Being nice to yourself & treating yourself with as much compassion as you can could well bring you peace. I wish you peace sister.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 1:24pm

This was very helpful Lex. Guilt, shame, regret for making self-defeating decisions sometime plague me. How did I get to this place?! For me depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand relentlessly. Guilt and even shame seem never to be far behind. You are right though, I am a live-long learner. I will come out the other side of this episode a stronger, wiser, more mature woman a little freer for the effort. Thanks Lex.

Mary Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 1:38pm

Excellent blog as always!

I love your point that guilt must justify itself. I too am a Christian and whole-heartedly believe that guilt is never from God. The conviction that we have done something wrong may well be, but guilt, as far as I can see, is never positive; never offers a way to redemption, restitution, freedom. Guilt keeps us feeling bad. Just at the moment I feel embarrassed and humiliated that I forgot an appointment with a client on Saturday. (A minor thing, perhaps, but I still feel bad about it) Part of the feeling is that I have not yet sufficiently (in my view) apologised. Once I've sent her a card saying sorry I'll feel a bit better. The appointment will still have been forgotten and my client will feel however she feels about it, but I will have cleared my conscience with a very sincere apology. Then I have to forgive myself and remember not to schedule appointments for busy family Saturdays again. To err is human, but to forgive is human too. Somehow it's more difficult for us to forgive ourselves than others.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 2:30pm

Do you want to know where I go for a mental holiday? I go to the Cheltenham (cemenertary) graveyard and the Trinty church. Idont feel like its doom, gloom and misery but happy, joyful and celebrating. A place where I can go and rekindle a old flame with my old granny, who was a very wise woman. I look at all the tombstones and I swear that its getting more and more dead bodies by the year.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 2:49pm

yeah me too still learning, but expensive

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 3:41pm

Thanks for the encouragement and insight, Mary. I like the fact that we're drawing a distinction here between guilt (always a toxic emotional state) and conviction. Conviction would work well with the 'inner Sat Nav' I've been talking about. I totally agree that it is harder to forgive ourselves... I wonder why that is? I may approach the Guilty card differently now and challenge my mind to come up with a useful 'inner witness' of a sense of conviction or else tell that internal critic to take a hike!
I also think apologising is redemptive in itself. When other people apologise to me it almost gives me permission to be more gentle on myself when I make mistakes (like forgetting things).
When a teacher becomes a teacher because they've learned something themselves, perhaps we too can become teachers when we've made serious mistakes and come through those hellish times. To help prevent someone else reliving our own nightmares is one of the most positive responses I can think of.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 4th 2013 @ 5:15pm

Thank you. Every one.

Anonymous Tue, Nov 5th 2013 @ 4:07pm

The Emotional Genius Karla McLaren takes a different tack. The whole article is worth a read. Basically, her foundational premise is that all emotions have value and non out ranks another. Like a team of peers.

I'll clip a couple of paragraphs, but read the article to follow her train of emotions.

"Fascinatingly, in a dictionary definition, guilt isn’t even an emotional state at all – it’s simply the knowledge and acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Guilt is a state of circumstance: you’re either guilty or not guilty in relation to the legal or moral code you value.

You cannot feel guilty, because guilt is a concrete state – not an emotional one!

Your feelings are irrelevant; if you did something wrong, you’re guilty, and it doesn’t matter if you’re happy, angry, fearful, or depressed about it. When you don’t do something wrong, you’re not guilty. Feelings don’t enter into the equation at all. The only way you could possibly ever feel guilty is if you don’t quite remember committing an offense (“I feel like I might be guilty, but I’m not sure.”). No, what you feel is shame.

Guilt is a factual state; shame is an emotion.

Shame is the natural emotional consequence of guilt and wrongdoing."


Anonymous Tue, Nov 5th 2013 @ 4:26pm

I appreciate your risks for sharing this, even anonymously, in public. In family constellations work people discover what you have, that an abortion is significant and leaves ripples in the family system. But in FC it is never judged. It is observed and included, but not judged as "right or wrong" —as "choice" or "murder."

FC sometimes helps someone discover that Life, capitalized, can accommodate it. They find out that when the spirit of the aborted child is given its place and loved within the system other people in the system such as the woman and man involved, can find a better place for themselves. Siblings feel more "at home" and sure of their place in the order of childbirth. For example, someone may never have truly felt like the first born, and when the aborted spirit is included in the first position, everything falls into place.

FC is subtle and nuanced, so this quick example most likely makes little sense if you haven't read about it or experienced it.

You can read a summary of what it's about here:
and here

And by conducting your own searches, of course.

May you find the peace you seek.


The Entertrainer Thu, Nov 7th 2013 @ 12:53pm

I was excited to see this link - thank you for sharing.

Julia Thu, Nov 7th 2013 @ 6:56pm

I don't feel guilty about things any more. I used to and actually have done something in my past which some people might feel very guilty about had they done the same. It was something I guess I should feel guilty about or should have at the time but I never did! I justified it by telling myself I was driven to act in this way. I still firmly believe this. I didn't hurt anyone, only myself, long term and at the time. Nowadays I am just a boring soul with no temptations sadly! But I don't feel guilt. Sadness yes that certain things happened but not guilt. And I am NOT a Christian before anyone thinks I am. I really don't know why anyone wants to tell us all they are Christians on this site. It is totally irrelevant IMO and helps no-one. But don't get me started....(I only said I wasn't one because someone or two people said they were)

The Entertrainer Sat, Nov 9th 2013 @ 9:14am

I can resist everything except temptation! (Oscar Wilde). I'm with Oscar!!!
I'm also liking Revu2's insights into guilt not being an emotional state... I guess any word is what you take it to mean. Anyway, let's not worry about belief labels such as "Christian" or any other faith. Moodsocpe is non-denominational - and, in fact, no faith is required or requested. Guilt is a hot word for Christians and a key theme, but I agree with you Julia that it would be best to keep our beliefs under the RADAR.

Julia Sat, Nov 9th 2013 @ 1:11pm

Oh Good! Just read this Lex. You are a sweetie.

Julia Sun, Nov 10th 2013 @ 12:06pm

The other Oscar Wilde quote I like is "Life is too important to be taken seriously"
I am wondering which your next "card" blog will be Lex. Hope you are working on it! (And I hope you don't get stressed thinking about it).

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 8:44am

Hi Julia... the next card has been revealed! The "Irritable" card... one of my favourites, and an area of expertise! Definitely one that benefits from your Wilde thoughts! Have a lovely day x

julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 9:25am

Just read it and like it Lex. Very much! I will post later after others have. (I sometimes think I put people off posting after I have so do try to let others have their say before my quite often irritable missive appears!)

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 10:37am

Thanks for your ongoing encouragement Julia. I'd actually like to discuss some ideas with you, if you'd be happy to email me?

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 10:10pm

I prefer seeing past mistakes as having regret about decisions I made. I want to have compassion for the person I was at that moment who did the best she could with the information and history and circumstances in that moment. A definition of sinning that I like to apply is the ancient archery term of sinning, which is that I missed the mark. So that means I can pick up another arrow and try again. If I harmed someone with my shot, then I can look to see if restitution can be made. If not, my future actions can certainly be based on a fuller understanding of the consequences, and if I choose based on wanting to be true to myself and to do no harm, I see that as a form of restitution that can contribute.

Leila Sun, Nov 24th 2013 @ 8:38am

I agree with your comment completely. I have first hand experience as a 6 years old child of someone else's ( a grown up close relative) guilt and shame being put on my little shoulders 'don't be like your aunt' and living with it all my life and still having the negative effects on with my relationships. It is not easy and the damage is done. Yet it is not hopeless, understanding , articulating and maybe eventually moving on is the ways forward.

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