WHEN THE GUILT AND SHAME OVERWHELM

Guilt. When properly used it helps us to know right and wrong, to apologise for our mistakes, and guides our conscience, hopefully making us into good human beings. But sometimes guilt gets out of control, unbalanced, it becomes a constant companion, and along with it comes its faithful friend, shame. It can be suffocating and diminish all self worth, because guilt is very good at making us feel ashamed of ourselves, worthless, useless, and bad.

These emotions can become so overwhelming, causing us to berate ourselves for having any kind of negative feeling. I suffer strongly from a constant sense of guilt for feeling, or even more for expressing negative emotions. While over the past year I have come to know and lean that it is perfectly healthy and acceptable for us to be open about our painful, darker emotions such as anger, disappointment, grief, sadness, frustration, hurt, as long as they are controlled, even writing about them brings a deep sense of shame and guilt.

I was raised being told to toughen up. To ignore mean comments and actions, to not complain. I was told not to be a sook, and I vividly remember being told “no wonder you don’t have any friends”, when I tried to express how badly I was feeling over a situation that I was being badly bullied in. It was one of the worst things I could do, to show my sadness, pain, or hurt feelings.

Yesterday I wrote about loneliness, I expressed sadness at feeling invisible, and pain that my family seem to receive the same treatment. I wrote about being hurt when we are left out of things where I would have made sure that everyone was included. At the time it felt good to let it out in words, to say the things in this semi anonymous setting, that I can never say in reality situation.

But now I find myself feeling shame and guilt, it claws at me incessantly and tries to make me “take back” my pain. It is telling me that I have no right to be upset, to be hurt or disappointed, it is screaming in my ear that I am not worthy of those feelings, that I should accept what is given to me with a truly greatful heart, because I do not deserve affection or friendship, so even crumbs must be treated with the greatest of thanks and reverence.

The guilt tells me that I am selfish for expecting others to want to be near someone like me, that I am useless and obviously it is my fault that I do not have many close friends. The shame tells me that those I have considered friends are busy people with important lives and lots of other friends they must share their time with, and that I should be ashamed of myself for daring to have such an ego that I would be expecting their time or attention in any way. That I am a selfish person and that it is not right of me to demand anything of anyone.

I feel so confused, “well me” is telling myself that it is OK to have a range of feelings, that it is healthy to be open about all the myriads of emotions that flicker through my body each day, that there is no need to constantly pretend that everything is perfect and I am only feeling nice feelings, because it is natural to have this range and it is healthy and I deserve to be able to say “things are not great” without feeling sick to my stomach.

But my brain, so practiced, so experienced, has an incessantly loud voice that is telling “sick me” that I am being negative and bitter, nasty, spiteful, selfish, mean. It is telling me that I am all the things I try so hard to never be, and it is frightening.

Today I will continue to try and let these feelings wash over me, to experience them and try to reason on them. Negative emotions feel so, well, negative, so unkind. Writing them out can be cathartic, but it also frightens me to experience them too, outside my comfort zone! However, a comfort zone is a lovely place, but nothing ever grows there…

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