“True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is.” – R. D. Laing, psychologist
“… she was holding back something…perhaps a memory, a confusion…maybe, a secret?”
Ellen was a soft spoken woman about twenty five years old, who worked in the tourism industry selling cruises to seniors with time and money on their hands. But her approach, her manner, was soft and respectful. Her sales goal, she said, was to ensure her clients had a memorable trip and got value for their investment.
But there was a restrained element to Ellen’s youth. It was like she was holding back something…perhaps a memory, a confusion…maybe, a secret? Whatever it was, it left one with a sense of the unspoken in her demeanour. It seemed to sour her pretty face, and left you seeing a smouldering ember waiting for a breath of fresh air to bright and enflame it.
When I asked her how I might serve her, her response was, “I really don’t know for sure…I’m just very confused about so many things…I really don’t know where to start. I am so dis-spirited…so unsuccessful, in so many ways”
I suggested, “ Well, let’s start with your biggest challenge, at this moment, in your life?”
She looked at me, then retreated into herself briefly, and then she said, “There are so many…but the major one is my spirit…I feel so guilty all the time!”
“Guilty about what, Ellen?”
“I am very dishonest, and it constantly eats away at me!”
“I hesitate to say because it probably won’t make sense.”
“Give it your best shot, and let’s find out.” I urged.
“Ken, my parents were not religious in the traditional sense…I was not raised in any organized religion. I learned very early, each person believed what they needed to, in order to make sense of their life experiences. So I have family, friends and colleagues from many, diverse belief systems.”
Ellen paused, so I urged her on again with, “So, has something happened which has confused your own belief system?”
“Yes, exactly! I am very dishonest and it constantly eats away at me! It is creating havoc in my head, and in my life.”
“How specifically were you dishonest, Ellen?”
“It goes back a bit. I was almost sixteen years old, and waiting for my next birthday to get my driver’s license. We lived in the country, so being able to drive meant freedom to come and go, as you please. However, my Dad was not supportive at all. He had this beautiful new car, and was not keen to have even my Mom, and especially, his oldest daughter, driving it. He had even refused to let me take driving lessons.”
“What happened that you thought was dishonest?”
“I’m just going to say it: I’m pro-guilt. Guilt is good. Guilt helps us stay on track because it’s about our behaviour. It occurs when we compare something we’ve done – or failed to do – with our personal values.” – Brene Brown, author
“…no one was around…not a soul! So I left!”
“When I turned sixteen, I got my driver’s permit and didn’t tell my Dad. Then, I got my own copy of his ignition key, and would steal his car late at night after everyone in the house was asleep, and drive around town, practicing my skills.”
“You must have been a very determined teenager.”
“That I was, Ken! One night, I was circling the town square after midnight, and was distracted by something…I don’t remember what it was…but I do know, I rammed into a parked car, smashing its’ left front fender.”
“What happened next, Ellen?”
“I stopped and got out to look at the damage to Dad’s car and the other car. Dad’s new car lost a headlight, but the bumper, though scratched up, had saved the rest of the car. But the other car had a huge dent in it and its chrome was torn off…it was a huge mess.”
“What did you do?”
“Ken, no one was around…not a soul! So I left! I did write my name and telephone number on a piece of paper and stuck it under the wiper blade of the smashed car. But then, I left as quickly as I could.”
“What happened next?” I asked.
“The next day was Saturday, Dad’s day off work, so I was able to replace the headlight and polish out some of the scratches on the bumper before Dad even noticed. Two days later, the owner of the parked car called and I arranged to pay him in cash for the repairs. I gave him a story about rushing a friend to the hospital, never mentioning I was an unlicensed driver in a stolen car,…he was very good about it. My Dad never found out, the other driver never found out, and the police never found out…but I have carried this with me ever since. What if I had hurt or killed someone that night? What if I had been hurt myself? What if I had wrecked my Dad’s car?”
“How could it have been an advantage to break the law…”
“They were certainly all possibilities…but they didn’t happen! I have heard some people in the auto insurance industry, don’t call auto mishaps accidents anymore, they call them, collisions. I suspect this is because there are no accidents in nature…everything is a two sided event…with a loss and equalizing gain.”
“Are you saying I gained from that crash?”
“I am! But how, I don’t know…I can only guess. But Ellen, you will know exactly, if you want that information. Do you?”
“I’m not convinced there were any gains, Ken. But, if there were, it would sure help me to know them, because I have spent years beating myself up for what I did that night.”
“Then, let’s have a look at that collision from some other perspectives, shall we?”
“Ellen, go back in your memory to that night. What was, and has been, ever since, the biggest advantage to you of having that collision, that night, in your life?”
“I have no idea, Ken! How could it have been an advantage to break the law, break your father’s trust in you, and endanger your own life…and maybe someone else’s…all in the same second?”
“That limited perspective you have is how you has been creating all the guilt you’ve been carrying around. Let me offer a few guesses of what might have been the gains you received at that second that night.”
“Just one would be a great start.” she added, with a small measure of hope in her voice.
“What did you learn that night which changed you forever…”
“Ellen, you said you stopped when it happened, checked for damage and left your name on the other vehicle. This suggests to me you owned your responsibility to the other car owner, and so honoured your own values. Remember, you could have just left the scene…but, you didn’t!”
“I suppose that’s true, but what’s the benefits to owning my own values that night?”
“Owning your values enables you to honour your own spirit, protect your integrity with yourself, and protect your future.”
“Each person has a set of values they use to learn to be purposeful. When we honour our past by honouring the values we’ve collected from it, this gives us the self-esteem and self-confidence to deal with our world.”
“You’re saying I gained self-confidence from that collision and I learned important things I have used since?”
“Ellen, you tell me! What did you learn that night which changed you forever? How did it enabled you to get to be where you are today, doing what you do, and having what you have?”
“I guess I have been looking at it only in a negative light…but, you’re saying it has a positive one, too!”
“It has both…and once you can see both, and how equal they are…you will be able to appreciate the collision, and move on with your life.”
“Consciously or not, we are all on a quest for answers, trying to learn the lessons of life. We grapple with fear and guilt. We search for meaning, love, and power. We try to understand fear, loss, and time. We seek to discover who we are and how we can become truly happy.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, psychologist
“I realize I was only noticing half the picture…in a sense, half my life…”
“Ken, I like the idea of that! Looking back now from here…it occurs to me, I never told dad about it because I didn’t want to jeopardize our relationship, we were so close…I just wanted to be independent. And, to this day…I am a very careful driver…and I want my kids to be good drivers, as soon as, it is legal, and they are able to learn.”
“Ellen, those all sound important, but, was there a more, or most, important benefit to your collision?”
She paused for a few moments deep in thought, then she replied, “I think it was learning to deal with a crisis on my own…to exercise my independence. Looking back to that time in my life, I felt smothered with a lot of responsibilities. I was doing poorly in school, and had recently been labelled learning disabled. And, within our family, I felt a lot of pressure being the eldest.”
“So, the collision provided you with an opportunity to demonstrate to yourself your own competence, your own ability to take care of yourself…your own ability to act decisively, and independently.”
“Yes…when I think about it now, I realize that was its biggest benefit to me at that moment. It really empowered me to take charge of my life, when I took charge of that collision…I get it now, Ken!” she said, her face lighting up for the first time.
“So, now Ellen, do you think it was an accident or a collision?”
“It was definitely a collision, Ken!”
“…I take great pride in being just that way!”
“You started out saying you were dis-spirited and unsuccessful…how are you now?” I asked.
“I realize I was only noticing half the picture…in a sense, half my life. So, even though I was doing OK, I wasn’t appreciating it…I was unaware of how that collision changed my life by empowering me…it really help prepared me for the rest of life…didn’t it?”
“Ellen you’re here now, and doing OK…so maybe what you learned today was two of the keys to spiritual success. First, there are no mistakes (accidents), in anyone’s past…only collisions (opportunities to grow). And second, having the courage to go explore your own…to find the blessings in each of your crises!”
“Yes, Ken, if I hadn’t had that collision that night I wouldn’t be the independent, determined person I am today. I take great pride in being just that way!”
“It seems to me that everyone on this planet whom I know or have worked with is suffering from self-hatred and guilt to one degree or another. The more self-hatred and guilt we have, the less our lives work. The less self-hatred and guilt we have, the better our lives work, on all levels.” – Louise L. Hay, author
Until Next time…
So, check out your personal crises, your personal traumas…the spiritual ones and the other ones. Find the other side, which empowered or enlightened you in ways you can still see today. Then, you will be able to honour them by letting them go, so you can be free, to get on with your life, instead of carrying them around on your emotional back.
If you are struggling in your relationship, please go to our NEW VIDEO on how you can deal with it
If you find our posts useful, please share them with your circles of influence, your family, friends and colleagues. Encourage them to subscribe to our FREE Newsletter and ebook, “Finding Balance in Your Life” And, please like us on Facebook or Twitter.
Our next seminar will focus on individual learning “A Transformation Day for COUPLES!” will be on September 26, 2015 at our offices. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com