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Feeling Guilty May Makes Us Behave Worse.

People are hung up on the idea that it is moral to feel guilty on the grounds that the pain connected with the guilt will prove to be so unpleasant that the act will surely be avoided in the future. If this is what actually happened, I would be the first to suggest that we develop all the guilt we can and thereby become less and less error prone.

Unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, the opposite behavior accomplishes what we have always thought guilt did for us. Namely, don't blame yourself at all, but analyze your errors and sins, and then try hard not to do them again. Blaming yourself for you mistakes convinces you that better behavior is all but impossible and that worse behavior is exactly what a louse like you needs for punishment. Besides, how else can you impress your error on your memory, if you don't bleed inside because of it?

Take the case of Lucy. She married, her husband left for the service, she was lonely and had an affair. Although she had moral pangs about this romance, she enjoyed it enough to cancel out any thought of stopping it or of blaming herself severly. But it ended in a half year and she then found herself in the arms of another man just about as soon as the previous fellow left town. Now she began to hate herself.

It was at this point that she decided she must be a whore, a deprived human being who was above help, and who might just as well go forth and lay any fellow who took a liking to her. One night after attending a party, she noticed that one of the males at the party was following her home. I received a call that evening from a very weepy girl, contemplating suicide, and asking for help.

Only a few sessions were needed to get her to see what she was doing to herself. She changed completely when she realized that self-blame convinced her she was all bad instead of just foolish and unfaithful. I never once agreed with her that her actions were harmless. Her sexual behaviour could give her disease or pregnancy, and she was being unfaithful to her husband. But I insisted that she did those reckless things because she was so disturbed because of her guilt that she had no choice but to continue her self-punishing tactics. When she realized that, the problem was neatly nipped in the bud.

It will not hurt you much if you blame yourself just a little. It is the severe and constant blame you must watch out for. When you believe that you are unworthy you will see to it that nothing worthy happens to you. The worst enemies we have are ourselves. The boy who is told that he will never amount to anything because he has cheated on a test, and that he should be ashamed of all the pain he has caused his mamma - that boy is sure to feel unworthy of his mother's love and he will do whatever it takes to get his mother to detest him. After all, his mother has told him repeatedly that he is not worthy of her love, and can his mother be wrong?

Self acceptance is the medicine to cure this illness - acceptance of one's weaknesses, one's human faults and habits, while all the time trying hard to overcome these annoying human frailties that we all inherit when we are born.

 

Forgiveness for others, but also forgiveness for ourselves is the great lesson
the self-blamer must learn.

 


Overcoming Depression.

Paul A. Hauck

The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.

ISBN 0-664-24969-8

 


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