These past few weeks – months? – guilt, rage and helplessness have become my friends. I didn’t like what it was doing to my mental health – sleeplessness, lethargy, more rage, inability to focus – so I thought of going through my notes to find some sort of message or solace. It’s something I like to do. Every time I have come out of one my spirals, I have made a note of it: what happened, how it affected me, and what helped me get out of it. These notes help when a similar, yet unsimilar, spiral comes. That’s when the title of a note caught my attention: I have a theory on guilt.

This is what that note said:

Guilt is a copout. It allows you to feel bad about a situation without actually doing anything about it. Because you tell yourself that feeling guilty is equivalent to action.

It is also quite an effective coping mechanism but it can be crushing. It can be so crushing that it can leave you in a limbo. For example feeling guilty for picking up a book so I can distract myself. Intellectually I know that taking care of myself and focusing on my needs are okay but it’s terribly difficult to do it.

How do I cope?

By reminding myself that the weight of the world is not on my shoulders

Mostly when we choose guilt over action, it’s because what we’re trying to avoid is so massively huge that if we remove the cover of guilt, all we’ll be left with is helplessness.

But guilt and helplessness are not the answer.  

There are many ways you can contribute. You may not have the wherewithal to be Captain America, or even his sidekick, or the sidekick of his sidekick, and that is okay.

Drawing my circle of influence

I learnt this term while on a team call where one of us said that her therapist mentioned a good remedy to the anger, helplessness and guilt is to make a circle of influence. Which basically means you make a list. A list of things you can influence and a list of things that are outside your influence. Work on the things you can work on. Even if that thing is as simple as getting up in the morning and getting through your day.

You can also go through the video here that explains the concept further.

Emotions are good

I learnt a term recently which perfectly captured what I was doing. The term is doom scrolling and I realized that I had taken to scrolling through Twitter, like a penance, angry because I was unable to do anything. The polarizing apathy of the government with the goodness of the Samaritans was heart breaking. And I kept asking myself, what do I do of this impotent rage.

It took my brain twelve hours to supply an answer. My brain told me it’s because you care, you’re human and you want to help. The answer helped. And once I was feeling better, I was able to focus on my circle of influence.

It’s okay to create your own roadmap

One of my favourite lessons from watching Moxie on Netlfix was how you can show support in different ways. Big and small, it all matters.

If I try and compare my efforts to the doctors, nurses, journalists and everyone who has been fighting this on ground level, I will probably lose before I even begin. If I try to emulate the hundreds of volunteers who are coordinating on-ground efforts without the wherewithal to do it, I will be of help to no one.

It’s not a competition. You can help in whatever way you can. Yes, sometimes the fatalist in you will question your measly efforts. Yes, sometimes the guilt will crush you. At those times, take a step back and remember, this isn’t about you. It’s about the cause and whatever you can do in aid of the cause is enough.

Like this blogpost. I hope it helps you, in whatever little way it can.


This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter


Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. I speak only from personal experience.

22 thoughts on “Guilt and me

  1. Thank you for this article, Suchita! It makes such sense at a time when the whole world has turned topsy turvy. All of us do need to have our own circles of influence. And yes, you have a lovely handwriting. Do take care!

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  2. Emotions are good, yes they are! Without them, we won’t exist. It is only how we channel them that matters.
    And oh! the social media! I am no longer in that rat race and have given up FOMO.

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  3. Indeed all the mayhem , administrative shortsightedness and apathy was bound to affect any sensitive and sensible person. I have undergone that phase and tried to do my bit. We all have the power in us to make changes and choices ,however small .A change for the better is always welcome. Raising our voices is important and thanks for sharing .

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  4. I can so relate to feeling guilt and rage. Guilt that while my life is going on smoothly here, family is struggling in India. you are correct when you say that the whole burden seems to be on our shoulders.
    I am trying to restrict my time on Social Media, as I land up getting even more frustrated.

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  5. Wonderful post. Something that is useful for everyone. Something that is not merely a read but to build some constructive within you. And something that is not a one – time read, if be read once again sometime later, after every read.

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  6. A very insightful post very relevant to the emotional turmoils people are going through. The sensitive people ( Empaths) tend to feel more strongly in such situations. Newyork Best seller list author, Anita Moorjani has written a new book to help Empaths handle such situations titled “Sensitivity is the new strong” Perhaps you may like to read it.

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