Chronic guilt: the best people have it
What is chronic guilt?
First, we need to understand guilt and its purpose. Most of us don't know the root purpose or cause of guilt. I didn't begin to understand guilt until around the year 2000.
The fundamental function of guilt is to make us feel safer. It's like saying to others (whether they can hear us or not or whether they're blaming us or might blame us), "Look, I'm already feeling bad about this. I'm already beating myself up and I'm going to try to change. Please don't think that I am totally unworthy."
We learn early in life that by feeling guilty we often effectively reduce the impact of others blaming us. We must do it sincerely. We must truly suffer. Otherwise it's not guilt; it's pretend guilt for the purpose of getting the benefits without paying the cost of feeling bad about ourselves.
In others words, in order to prove that you're not such a bad person, you've got to think you're a bad person. What a fucking deal!
This social agreement is built into the fabric of society. If you're not a person who will feel guilty about the bad things you did (as you think might be judged by others), then you're either a psychopath or worse. See Undoing guilt.
But what is chronic guilt?
How is chronic guilt distinct from non-chronic guilt?
Non-chronic guilt is associated with something you did "bad" to one specific person or group of people. It has the potential to be "healed."
For example, these are some ways that a case of non-chronic guilt might be healed:
if that person forgives you
if you think God forgives you for what you did
if you somehow realize that the behavior was not really "bad," even if others may still think it so.
Chronic guilt, in contrast, is a pervasive background condition in which you consistently act out of the context of believing that you're not good enough, not smart enough, not yet lovable, or that you need to prove something before you'll really be okay.
Chronic guilt is the bane of humanity, infecting and affecting almost everyone, even those who are most seemingly immune.
How often is it that the accomplished movie star was motivated to prove how admirable and lovable they are?
How often is it that the accomplished professional got to where they got to be because they needed to prove that their father was wrong about them?
How often is it that the great mother was motivated by proving that she wasn't going to be like her mother?
How often is it that someone who prides themselves on "being a good person" wants to make sure that others don't think they are like those "bad people" who are unreliable, hurting and disappointing others?
How often is it that the person who is long-suffering and accommodating in one or more of their relationships is trying to prove that they are not a bad or cruel person who would not help another in need?
All these people, in some fundamental sense, are living inside the context of not good enough, not smart enough, not kind enough, not competent enough, not ... enough, and, because of that, they are trying to prove that they are. It's never enough. In fact, their "trying" reconfirms their belief in the premise, reenforcing their chronic guilt.
Un-outstanding people (the other side of the same coin)
How often is it that the cyclical wife or husband beater is acting out of trying to defend themselves against words or behavior that occur as disrespectful to them, because they themselves think don't respect themselves?
How often is it that the person who lives their life so that they're frequently in "need of being rescued" is trying to prove that they are valuable or lovable?
How often is it the alcoholic or drug addict is acting out of trying to suppress the suffering they would otherwise feel when they blame themselves for what they did or didn't do in the past?
How often is it that the person who plays it safe by holding down a steady job that is not satisfying or tolerating a tolerable marriage is acting out of the fear that they would blame themselves or others would blame them if they tried something new and they failed at it?
All these people, in some fundamental sense, are living inside the context of not good enough, not smart enough, not kind enough, not competent enough, not ... enough, and, because of that, they are trying to prove that they are. And it's never ending. In contrast with the "outstanding" people, they are not so much trying to prove they are good enough as trying to avoid facing their background belief that they're not good enough.
The way out
Be wary of techniques that try to argue or debate with beliefs like "I'm not good enough." These approaches tend to reenforce the belief instead of dissipate it. It's similar to an adult child trying to convince a parent that they have a right to make their own choices about how to live their life. By thinking they need to convince their parent of this they are actually believing that they don't have that right unless their parent agrees that they do. This type of "right" does not need anyone else's agreement. A similar principle applies when trying to convince yourself that "I'm good enough."
These three toolkits provides the tools, when practiced, that will, step by step, almost as a byproduct, dissolve any such beliefs that you're "not enough" or you "need to prove something."
Step into the world of freedom where life is just your big playground and there's nothing to make up for and nothing to prove!