The nature of guilt

I have a friend, Ben. Ben and I met at work and we flirted a lot, we kissed and we slept together. Then he told me he had a girlfriend and he thought I knew. They live together. He thought I had a boyfriend too. I was going to see Ben in a couple of days. He was going to come over for breakfast. The rest you can guess. It was all a great plan until I told him I don’t want him leaving my house guilt ridden, like the last time. That was almost a year ago. He changed his mind about meeting. I am happy he did because it would have made me feel terrible if he had come over and then felt bad about being here.

I wrote this because it is what I wanted to tell him. It is a stream of thoughts that I’ve not edited. It’s the conversation that I would like to have with him, in an ideal world. Usually people avoid hard truths and conversations that might lead to them. So this is what I wanted to say to him as a friend, even though I don’t know if he sees me like that at all. I’ve written it as a letter because I am talking to him. But really, it is the beginning of a chat that I wish he and I could have.

*   *   *   *   *

Ben,

 

Guilt is not a feeling. Guilt is a thought process. It is not real and all it does is confuse you. Why? Because it stops you from realising what you’re really feeling.

Granted, you might not want to go that deep into your thoughts and feelings right this moment. Especially since once you’ve faced the truth, you can’t unface it, can you?

But the fact is that what you call guilt is nothing more than you telling yourself you’ve done something wrong. Something bad. You’ve disappointed someone. Perhaps yourself too. Disappointment is a feeling. Regret is a feeling. But what is it that you really regret? Is it the action itself? Or the circumstances surrounding it?

See, a bad action is bad regardless of the circumstances. You are not doing something bad in itself. But you are letting someone down. You are lying and if you’re caught, you will hurt someone. You don’t want to be hurtful. You’re a nice guy, I know you are.

You’re also used to being cautious. You don’t leave one job before you’ve secured the next one. You don’t take risks. You calculate, you measure.

Have you measured your happiness Ben?

Ben, why is it that we are back where we started? There are temptations everywhere. It’s not just me that tempts you. It’s just easier with me because we have a sort of history I guess. It doesn’t feel like it’s only been a year, does it?

Are you being your own best friend Ben? Are you doing what is in your best interest? Are you telling yourself the hard truths that only a friend would?

Ben, is this the life you want to live? Have you given up on yourself Ben?

You and I are very similar when it comes to flirting and tempting and playing.

I like the game. I appreciate a good player. I could never be with someone that doesn’t excite me. It’s one of my favourite thrills. I thought we had that in common.

You remember too. I remind you of everything you’ve given up to be with your girlfriend. Your cautious nature is not doing you any favours here Ben. This is not a matter to be decided using reason. This is all about feelings. And the truth here is that you are letting each other down.

You have given up something very important to you. You’re fighting to keep yourself in check.

It’s tough to admit a mistake. But it’s the right thing to do. You’ve got to do this for yourself. She needs to do this for herself. It’s unfair to both of you.

So what is guilt? It is a thought Ben. A judgment. It is condemnation without trial. Would you do that to a friend? Would you let them do it to themselves? You probably wouldn’t. You would speak up. You would rationalise. So why don’t you do the same with yourself? Why not take a step back and ask what really matters: what made you do it? What makes you want to do it? What are you really feeling? What drove you there?

When you meet the right person, the idea of sleeping with anyone else will be inconceivable.

On guilt. Part one.

What is it that you actually feel when you say you feel guilty? Guilt is not an emotion, it is a state of mind. It is self-destructive and self-abusive and downright horrible. When you say you feel guilty, you probably feel bad about something. Perhaps you regret the behaviour or the outcome. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sorry, it just means that you have done something that you think you shouldn’t have done. “Shoulds” just like “musts” are thoughts, not feelings. They are derived from processes that we think are reasonable, ie. I should not kiss another man because it will hurt my boyfriend.

But once what’s done is done, how does feeling guilty help in any way? It doesn’t. Guilt is not a feeling, it is a judgment. It is the opposite of innocent. So the only thing that is accomplished by “feeling guilty” is passing judgment on oneself and condemning an action or behaviour or whatever it was, sometimes just a thought or a desire. The problem with that is that it’s unfair. You can’t be the same person who accuses, defends and condemns you all at once. You need to be your friend. You need to be able to analyse and understand what leads to the desire to act a certain way. Feeling bad is one thing, but it’s not going to make a change. Regretting something is normal too. It’s okay to regret a behaviour. It’s not okay to keep beating yourself up over it.

Here’s the worst thing about guilt: it opens you up to abuse. It makes you vulnerable to manipulation. Religions would not survive if it weren’t for this kind of thinking.

So what do you do instead?

Try to be fair. Be honest. Accept the mistake. Accept the humanity of your nature. Take responsibility and find what led you there in the first place. Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. Learn your lesson and forgive yourself.

If you’re being rude because you’re stressing, realise you’re stressing. Apologise. Don’t make excuses. Own the mistake. Find what’s stressing you out. It could be many things, nothing in life is isolated. Take one thing at a time and figure out how it affects your behaviour and your happiness. That will help you prioritise what’s important. Finally, make the change.

Don’t just admire the people around you. They are might be further down the path but the path is open and all you need to do is start walking. Keep going forward and soon enough there will be others that you will be ahead of. It’s a life long journey and it’s great if you learn to be your own friend because that way you can be everyone’s friend 🙂

My first vlog

 

I was going to wait until my space was a little more organised before taking the first video but I went to Greece for the bank holiday a few days ago and while I was there something happened that I really wanted to share. So I thought, oh well, and recorded the story replacing the real names of those involved.

Cheating has been happening since the beginning of time but that doesn’t make it okay, or does it?

Here’s my thinking: if I’m looking to cheat on my person, it means that I am unhappy in my relationship. This doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a break up but it definitely shows that there is a conversation that needs to be had. The problem is that most people are scared of change and that makes it hard to start an honest conversation with oneself, let alone someone they love.

Personally, cowardice and dishonesty put me off altogether for the simple reason that people who are like that seem unwilling to take control and be in charge of their own lives and happiness.

It takes bravery to be honest and willing to face hard truths. But you can’t have a meaningful relationship without honesty. As Donna in Suits puts it:

“…but if we can’t tell each other the hard truths, then what are we doing?”

The way I see it, being honest is a duty we all have to ourselves. How else can we figure out life and be happy?

Thanks for watching! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

ioli

xx

PS. I’m still in the process of moving into my new room in London and I’ve just managed to sort out the internet so I’ll be keeping the blog a little more active 🙂

You’ve got to start somewhere.

Day 0

Do you find a blank page intimidating? I do. The endless possibilities, having to choose a single direction – I freeze. Then I remind myself that it’s all in my head, so I have no choice but to let go and give in to panic. I start typing like crazy, I reject my thoughts, I delete and type over and over again, waiting for the panic to dissolve. Eventually it does. All I need to do is remind myself that it will. And that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be a start.

I’m going to call today Day 0 and dedicate this post to new beginnings.