Why Do We Always Feel Guilty?

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Most of the time posts lead to more thoughts about the subject written about, in the person who wrote the post and also in some of the readers. Often comments left on posts take it just that little bit further and lead you to a question you would have not touched on otherwise.

After posting my article about SAHMs and working moms yesterday Serena, who is running an amazing blog called “Talking Of Incest” left one of those comments.

“You know sometimes I think all human beings are hardwired to experience guilt. We all find something to feel guilty about. Maybe there’s truth in the Adam and Eve story… maybe we are hardwired to feel guilty for the original sin. I mean, what evolutionary purpose does guilt have…..?????”

This comment combined with some other comments talking about the feeling of guilt made so much sense. Clearly the working mom feels guilt. Guilt for not spending time with her family, for having to leave the kids behind when they are crying or sick. She feels guilt because she is not doing what “a mother is supposed to do”. Instead of being proud. Proud for supporting her family financially. Proud for being able to juggle all of it, job, family and herself. Proud for being a fantastic example for her kids.

Same with the SAHM. She feels guilty because she is not working. She is not supporting her family financially. In the moments she has a breather she feels as if she’s lazy, not doing enough. She feels guilty for having given up her career, guilty for not being the successful business woman she always pictured herself to be, the role model she wanted to be for her children. Instead of being proud. Proud of being there for her children at any given time. Being there for them when they are sick, being able to dry their tears. Instead of being proud for making sure everyone comes home to a clean house and a home made meal, a full fridge, paid bills. Instead of being proud to taking the kids wherever they need to be

Why is it, that we always feel guilty? For everything we do, respectively don’t do? Instead of focusing on what makes us proud?

Are we really hardwired to experience guilt? And where does it come from?

I’m not sure if I would go back all the way to Adam and Eve. Although it’s probably where it started. After all Eve was the one labeled guilty of having committed a sin. Is it truly possible that women still pay for something that is most probably a made up story?

Guilt is an amazing tool of power. Make someone feel guilty for something and you most probably get that person to do stuff you want them to do. It’s the most powerful tool of manipulation.

So I wonder if, by making women feel guilty because of the Eve story, men put themselves in a position where they could make women do whatever they wanted them to do. Why else would men have been superior over all those years.

I think one day a clever but otherwise probably very insecure man had to come up with a tool to control women. So the story of Adam and Eve was born and he had created a way to make women feel guilty as they were forever responsible for men and women being kicked out of paradise. A little while ago I shared a ‘Did You Know’ about Lilith. Of course Lilith story was never told the way Eve’s was. It was kept quiet. Maybe it was a woman who came up with Lilith because she was fed up? Maybe it was a guy who was secure enough to accept that female and male are actually both pretty cool and decided that it needs a certain balance in the act. Who knows…

Before I lose myself again in the comparison between Lilith and Eve let’s get back to the point…

I don’t think the feeling of guilt is only a women’s issue. Yes, we have the additional weigh of Eve to carry along but do we really let that one influence us nowadays? I doubt it.

So why do we all, female and male, have a tendency to feel guilty although we have not done anything wrong?

As I said in the beginning of this post: Making someone feel guilty about something gives you an incredible advantage. It puts the reins in your hand. And we all know how people work. Some are wired to take advantage of others. They will eventually realize this easy way to influence people. They will spot this chance to manipulate and use others. And they don’t care about the fact that they actually destroy a lot in the people they use.

I believe that we all encounter people like this in our lives. Some earlier on, some later. In some cases the person that instills guilt in you is a family member, maybe a parent. I’m not talking about abuse. Although in the end, taking away confidence in someone might be seen as some sort of mild abuse. I’m talking about the “innocent” form of keeping someone on track.

As an example: It’s like giving a pet to a child when the child is very little. Of course the kid is excited. Happy. Claiming the pet was for the child but it was as much for the parent as for the child. But then the pet is used to control the child when they are older. Instill guilt when they want to go away, when they want to travel, tying the child to the home, to the parent by tying them to the pet. Even when the child moves away to go college the pet is used to make them feel guilty for moving away and searching education. Education that will provide the child with further chances. Chances that might be better than the ones the parent ever had. Instead of support there is guilt. Instead of being proud there envy. And in the child’s case: Instead of being proud for the achievement, instead of being motivated to take on the world the child feels guilty for neglecting the pet, neglecting the parent. They think they’ve done something to the parent, the believe the parent is the victim of their actions. This pattern will never go way.

Constant dropping wears away the stone. In the end you feel guilty for breathing. You will forever carry that feeling inside of you. You will always feel guilt. For achieving things, for not achieving things. Because nothing you’ve ever done was good enough. Nothing you’ve done was right.

While I was writing this I had to clear my mind and headed over to Serena’s blog again to figure out if I should link to her About page or her home page. And then I read this post and it so totally plays along with what I wrote so far. Reading it my inner voice shouted “feeling guilty about accepting compliments, feeling guilty for having done something people thing was done right”. The struggle to accept compliments and feeling guilty are so close related to each other.

So how can we get to the point where we can actually be proud of our actions and ourselves instead of constantly feeling guilty about something?

The key lies in realizing where your constant feeling of guilt is coming from and then facing it. It lies in the decision to get rid of those people in your life that make you feel bad. Toxic people, family or not, have no room in your life. No matter if they are blood related or not. And then there is a lot of work. Work on yourself, making you realize that you don’t have to feel guilty. Making you realize that you can be proud of what you do, no matter what it is. Making sure you don’t allow yourself to fall back into old habits and thinking structures. And realizing that it’s okay to walk out on people who try to make you feel guilty for something you do not have to be guilty about. It’s a big step and it takes time but it’s doable.

One step at a time…




16 thoughts on “Why Do We Always Feel Guilty?

  1. Hard wired for guilt, fascinating concept. Some of us escape that guilt, and some wallow in it. Not sure what it is that makes that difference ? When it is used to manipulate, it is a sign of weakness. Very sad to weaponize human emotion. A thoughtful post, Sandra.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a Christian I believe the Bible story of Adam & Eve. I also believe you’ve made an interesting connection regarding women and feeling guilty due to Eve committing the first sin…something I’ve never thought of before. Interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t believe that we are hard wired for guilt. I rather think that, as with hate, it is a learned behavior. Using guilt as a tool for control is easy to understand. As for allowing oneself to be controlled by guilt, not so much. I lean more toward the notion of stewardship, that when something enters your life and you have responsibility for that whatever, you are required to do the absolute best you can while it is within your control. At the end of that period the stewardship passes to someone else and you have no responsibility for what happens from that point on. As long as you can say, “I did (am doing) the best that I can with what I was given you have no right to feel guilt.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Many traits, like guilt, worry, etc. are passed on. Don’t know if it’s through nature or nurture of the brain. Either way, I think the brain can be rewired to overcome.😤

    Liked by 1 person

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