Testing times bring with them challenges which can be hard to deal with and would take long to heal – if it would at all?
Many families the world over, who have lost their loved one’s or those who are away from their families during this time of isolation will have to deal with not just ‘fear’ but also ‘guilt’ – the ‘Survivor’s guilt’.
You may face it too!
This is one lesson which emerged for me in the last 9 days of lockdown and I started to dwell deeper. I must say, it provided me with insights into the ‘guilt’ I have been carrying all these years and how its impairing life and living.
Just one day before the lockdown both my wife and I were with our Son who being a medical professional was to join duty on the day the lockdown was to start. He was happy that we were there with him as he wouldn’t have to bother about the chores at home as we would take care of the cooking, cleaning and organizing for him. As we were anticipating a longer lockdown period and the possibility that his house help might not turn up, we thought of driving back home to get our stock of provisions and clothing – preparing for the long haul.
As fate would have it, we returned leaving him alone and a strict lockdown was imposed. We had no chance of getting to him. The house help couldn’t make it as well. It was the start of an ordeal which he was least prepared for. He not only had to put in long hours at the hospital but also get back home and do his bit of cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing his clothes, running errands and so much more. It started to take a toll on him and on day 3 he was exhausted and totally stressed out. Highly irritable, edgy and each phone call with us used to end with he reminding us of the fact that we left just when he needed us the most.
The next 5 days were a period of ‘guilt’ for myself and my wife. We kept feeling bad that we left him alone at this time of stress. That we couldn’t do much for him from where we were. A feeling of despair and helplessness. Each time we sat down to have our meal, we start to think of him and feel guilty of that fact that we left him there. We wish that we were there and how it would have taken the load of him. We were loading up on our ‘Guilt’.
Today is day 10 of the lockdown and the last few days have been traumatic to say the least. Being away, feeling powerless, helpless, guilty and what not.
I am sure most of you would have also faced similar situations in your life time or are currently going through the stress from ‘guilt’. Maybe you have stopped ‘living’?
I heard of a dear friend who sent his brother out to run some errands during the lockdown due to #coronavirus and unfortunately he came in contact with someone who was a carrier. Poor chap had to be quarantined and is going through the pains of hospitalization. The problem is that there is no way the family can get in touch with him and no news of what is happening. Couldn’t be much worse. My friend was feeling ‘guilty’ of sending his brother out. He felt that he was responsible for his brothers condition. He kept telling me that ‘it could have been me in his place’. He has lost his sleep over it.
I think post #coronavirus closure, there will be many in this world who will be carrying the ‘guilt’ and that which could impede their very ‘living’. Parents who sent their kids on a vacation or to study in China, those who were gifted with tickets to Italy for their honeymoon, families of healthcare workers, officials who were busy helping others and not be with their family in the time of crisis and many more…
At this time I thought it is important to look at the ‘Psychology of guilt’. It is so rooted in self-judgment, the sense that we have done something wrong. It is your anger turned inward arising when we violate our belief systems.
Did you know that much of this unhappy self-judgment is rooted in what we were taught as children. Our guilt so often comes from our childhood because we were raised to “Sell ourselves”. This may sound harsh but it’s the reality. I’m talking about how, as children we symbolically sell ourselves for the affection of others. We are usually taught to be good little boys and girls, tending to the wishes of others rather than forming strong identities for ourselves. We’re not really encouraged to be independent or interdependent. We’re trained to be codependent, making others needs and lives important and neglecting our own. It is not a conscious choice; often we don’t know how to meet our own needs for our own happiness.
One clear symptom of this is your inability to say ‘NO’. We’re taught to please others by agreeing to their requests. Many parents are unhappy when their children say ‘no’. In fact, it’s wonderful when children learn to say ‘no’ at the appropriate times. We all should learn to say ‘no’ – early, loud and clear.
The desire to please others is a fertile ground for ‘guilt’. Sometimes we feel guilty when we try to assert our independence. This can be particularly a problem for children who suffer a loss, while still forming their identities.
I asked my friend “What do you think you would have to say if you were the one in the hospital and your brother called on you?”. He thought for a while and said “I would tell him that it was my choice to go out. I could have refused but I went. It could have happened to anyone. I am glad that you are safe. You guys stay home and be safe!”
Most of our ‘guilt’ is either an outcome of some past events over which we had not control or from the prospect of future imagined events over which we do not control as well.
If you want to feel better, you have to let go of the guilt. Guilt binds us to the darkest parts of ourselves. It is a connection to our weakness, our shame, and our unforgiveness. The smallest part of us feeds on it. Our inaction nourishes it. When we feel guilty, we stay small-minded, our lower thoughts are in control. After a while we become ashamed. The remedy therefore is to take action and share our feelings. The real you does not know guilt. Your true self is beyond the guilt of this world.
Its our responsibility therefore that we continue to talk to people who have survived and have to go through the trauma of losing a loved one, or having been the people who were spared from the virus.
We have to help them overcome the ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’. We have to help them ‘LIVE’ – that’s the reason they were spared isn’t it?
Time to reflect on all the ‘Guilt’ you have been carrying! Use this time to cleanse yourselves and help others do the same.