I thought today was going to be about guilt… it was one of the first feelings I was confronted with in the morning.
One of the unforeseeable consequences of this experiment is that I’ve gotten a very thin skin. I pick up on a feeling that previously would have led me to an automatic reaction immediately (denial, reframing of the story to my benefit, fight/flight) when it is quite weak in comparison to the ‘harder feeling’ like anger, fear, jealousy for instance. So I picked up this sense of guilt triggered by a minor remark this morning and took it as a cue to look at that.
So I sat down and invoked feeling guilt. I needed to remember some stories before I could really get in there. So I remembered what I tell myself when I feel guilty to turn up the volume, so to speak, “It’s my own fault,” is a good one, and then I stumbled upon an old time favorite, “When I am truly myself I inevitably hurt the people I’m close to with my words and deeds.”
Having turned up the volume I noticed how my shoulders rose and I bent over; I don’t know if this is an English saying but in Germany we say sometimes of a person, “He walks bowed under guilt’s weight.” Guilt, indeed, feels like a heavy burden.
And I also experienced this morning that when guilt is there the question “Why?” and “Why me?” are rampant, and down that road also the feeling of self-pity is pretty close.
Guilt is, like many other ‘negative’ feelings very ego-oriented. If something goes wrong in my relationship there is often, at least when I look closer, the feeling that it’s all my fault. This is most likely in deep resonance with a child’s feeling when their parents separate; I’ve heard a teenager say that her parents divorce was her fault recently, and I remember my young years and that I was convinced that my father left us because of something I did wrong, and that was only proven by my mom then sending me to my grandparents… and on and on the sad story goes.
The feeling that everything that goes wrong in my relationship is wrong because of my inability or even unwillingness to do the right thing, say the right word, or do or say nothing in the right moments, is a well known acquaintance of mine. Triggered by a situation guilt comes, and leads me into automatic reaction… and this is not only so for guilt but for almost all (or is it all?) feelings. Evolutionary this makes sense: You don’t want your consciousness to get in the way when Â there’s a tiger approaching, you want your body to go into overdrive and survive (and it was those humans that actually did survive and were our ancestors). But in these extremely complex times we live in, and the type of relationships, however intimate they are, that we live in, we don’t want to react automatically to people and situations, to the things friends and partners say or do – we want to respond from our soul, our heart, our very being.
Before I couldn’t explore my sense of guilt anymore because this feeling was overwhelmed by another one, I found that guilt is closely related to being depressed (another feeling not yet on my list) and the fear of being cast out; maybe because guilt is a social feeling indicating just this danger: people feel guilty when they disobey the rules of their clan, community and maybe even society.
But I have to revisit this at another point because jealousy rode strong and intensively right into my heart at the breakfast table. And now I know the difference between feeling jealousy because of what I fear might happen and feeling jealousy because of hearing that indeed it did happen.
Within the “fearing of what might happen” jealousy there is still the hope that it doesn’t happen. But the other one is without that hope, hopelessness gets mixed into the brew in which there is feeling forlorn, helpless, paralyzed, “How can you do this to me?”-selfpity, turning away, wanting to close down forever, and more.
So not only is it a more intense version of this feeling conglomerate it is also one that has “Let go of all hope, ye who enter here” written over its gate. At least that’s how it is for me as I’ve discovered in the waves that have been washing over me today. Yet, it’s not just one awful day long drawn out feeling at all. Probably because I’m not telling myself long, winding stories about how I got here, what it is she did, etc. (I can’t stop images appearing in my mind, like I said yesterday, but that’s different from telling myself all kinds of things about why I suffer this). For hours the jealousy is gone, and there is this beautiful sense of connectedness with her, all and everything that is also there. This I’ve found to be true for all the ‘negative’ feelings. It’s the feeling-field that I mentioned yesterday that is very much there when I’m out on the streets (at home also, of course, but out there it’s noticed in a different way). But when I’m in the jealousy-conglomerate there is a disconnect that beckons…
Jealousy comes in waves, as all feelings do. You could could say that since they are not permanent you shouldn’t attach to them, or whatever you tell yourself about your feelings. I prefer, having gone down the road of this experiment so far, to openly experience my feelings, to get to know those I’ve avoided and disowned so far by invoking them and welcoming them. Even if it looks as if jealousy is here to stay, (really this is a story) I prefer to be with the feeling and explore it closely.
I’m happy I have had the good fortune to do this experiment ‘out in the open’ because it keeps me at it, also helping me to reflect on it in a wholesome way, and have the encouragement I get from lovely people here and in private.