In the first of her monthly col­umn, Dubaibased Devin­der Bains says feel­ing guilty is good for our emo­tional health.


Equal­ity, per­se­cu­tion, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters? What should this first col­umn be about? It should be about some­thing im­por­tant, right? Some­thing that’s not Celebrity Love Is­land or Bake Off. Def­i­nitely not Tay­lor Swift’s new song and cer­tainly not the two-year hia­tus from Jon Snow, that’s break­ing my heart into a gazil­lion tiny pieces, right?

Th­ese were my thoughts when mak­ing my list of col­umn ideas. I feel strongly about fe­male em­pow­er­ment and gen­der equal­ity. I’m an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who has cut down her car­bon foot­print by walk­ing ev­ery­where – even in 50 de­gree heat. I turn off the water in the shower to shave my legs, I’ve dropped meat, palm oil and most of all… fun, from my diet in an ef­fort to de­lay the scari­est of ‘C’ words: cli­mate change. My eyes fill with tears when I see the news im­ages of hu­man dis­place­ment and poverty as a re­sult of war. So, I should be writ­ing about one of th­ese is­sues, right? Just pick one and go for it. Open the Mac­book, start typ­ing and Bob’s your favourite un­cle again.

But within sec­onds I’m won­der­ing whether it’s okay to eat pasta when I haven’t been to the gym today. I mean I could go for gluten­free… maybe I should just stick to beet­root and chick­pea salad again. Oh my word, stop! Back to the col­umn. So, which topic is most im­por­tant to me right now, what are my friends here in Dubai talk­ing about when we meet up? The last se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion I re­mem­ber went some­thing like this: “Do you think Kit Har­ing­ton would be at­trac­tive if he wasn’t in Game of Thrones?’

What’s wrong with me? Why hadn’t we been wor­ry­ing about Hur­ri­cane Har­vey? Why hadn’t my sis­ter, who also lives in Dubai, and I been dis­cussing Mum’s bad back or Dad’s swollen shoul­der in­stead of hav­ing a bru­tal Bey­once vs JLO ar­gu­ment over our (ve­gan) din­ner?

So, now I feel bad. Pangs of guilt for be­ing so far away from my fam­ily in the UK, es­pe­cially my neph­ews who are grow­ing up see­ing ‘Aun­tie Dee’ once ev­ery four months, my par­ents who are age­ing be­fore my eyes – but via pic­tures on What­sApp rather than in per­son. I’m feel­ing guilty that I’m so far re­moved from what’s hap­pen­ing in the ‘real world’. The wars and winds are so far away, emo­tion­ally and ge­o­graph­i­cally, that they don’t even reg­is­ter in ev­ery day con­ver­sa­tions. And with ev­ery care­free thought, comes this guilt… and it’s pretty much ev­ery day.

And, I’m not alone, this feel­ing of get­ting on with life while feel­ing dis­tanced from ev­ery­thing that’s ‘im­por­tant’ to us and ‘im­por­tant’ in the world is rife amongst my peers here in Dubai. This in­ward stigma of hav­ing a nice life while oth­ers suf­fer, the guilt of life pass­ing by easily while our fam­i­lies are a thou­sand miles away, get­ting older with­out us age­ing along­side them.

So, what can we do? Em­brace the guilt… yep, that was the an­swer from ‘Jeeves’. Be­cause feel­ing guilty is a sign that you care, it means that you are think­ing about th­ese things. A study earlier this year by Not­ting­ham Univer­sity in the UK found that guilt-trips are good for you, ‘they en­cour­age peo­ple to re­pair a sit­u­a­tion and lead to co­op­er­a­tion’. I guess this is true. When I feel guilty I do end up call­ing my par­ents to ask if they still think eating white toast soaked in but­ter is the healthy op­tion for din­ner, to check in on my blind dog’s bad ear, ask if my sis­ter’s neigh­bours still have that mon­strously weird, eye­sore of a red phone booth in their drive­way! And even when I feel guilty about what I eat, it makes me swap bad, bad cheese­cake for good good Gourmet by Kcal (if you don’t love the ba­nana sushi dessert… I’m afraid we can’t be friends).

So, there you go, feel­ing guilty is good for you and as we’re all feel­ing guilty, all the time, we’re all good peo­ple.

With that happy thought in mind, I’ll get back to watch­ing Game of Thrones, from sea­son one, all over again.

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