Guilt... it’s re­ally not my trip... un­less it works

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS - JOHN MASTERSON

Thank­fully guilt does not play a big part in my life. There could be a num­ber of rea­sons for this. I might never do any­thing that I wish I had not done.

That cer­tainly isn’t true. I might be a so­ciopath and just not feel nor­mal emo­tions af­ter bad be­hav­iour. I am fairly sure that is not the case ei­ther. I think it is more that I have seen peo­ple who crip­ple them­selves with guilt and it is not a good psy­cho­log­i­cal place to be. And some­times peo­ple try to guilt trip me but I can spot it a mile away. So the older I get the more I am able to say sorry, apol­o­gise to my­self if needs be, and get on with liv­ing.

We feel guilt when we do some­thing we should not have done. That ranges from a sneaky ice cream to break­ing a con­fi­dence or telling a lie, or worse. We feel guilt when we don’t do some­thing we should have, be it a phone call or hos­pi­tal visit.

Some peo­ple feel guilty about things they think they did. Did they of­fend some­one with a care­less re­mark? I have gone be­yond wor­ry­ing about that one. There are those who feel guilty about their suc­cess, that they are do­ing bet­ter than oth­ers. I usu­ally put that down to work­ing harder. Though some­times I won­der is Rory Mcil­roy so guilty about his im­mense tal­ent that he messes up the first 18 to give the oth­ers a chance.

Guilt-prone peo­ple as­sume that some­thing they did has harmed or up­set other peo­ple, when in fact, they haven’t. Real gold star guilt is when we know we have had a real fail­ing in char­ac­ter. We have stolen, lied, been un­faith­ful, or got be­hind the wheel af­ter too much to drink.

It is a fairly healthy psy­cho­log­i­cal con­trol mech­a­nism to keep us in line. We feel guilty about do­ing things that we feel our peer group would dis­ap­prove of. A gen­er­a­tion ago an Ir­ish­woman might have told no one she was us­ing con­tra­cep­tion.

Dur­ing the up­com­ing ref­er­en­dum there will be a mas­sive ef­fort to make women who have had abor­tions feel guilty. It will be ugly to watch.

It might have worked 30 years ago but won’t to­day. Enough sane, sen­si­ble ordinary women have made the choice af­ter con­sid­er­ing their sit­u­a­tion and de­cid­ing it was the best course of ac­tion.

At the other end of the scale I am a mar­tyr to guilt when I don’t do the run that I should do. Or when I do eat the packet of crisps that would have stayed in the shop if they were not so close to the till. And I am not averse to us­ing guilt when it suits me.

A friend had to give me some news re­cently which they knew would dis­ap­point me. They felt aw­ful. It was much big­ger in their mind but I milked it. It was only a mat­ter of weeks when they had man­aged to come up with a much bet­ter op­tion. They felt great. I felt great.

And I didn’t feel the tini­est twinge of guilt!

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