Monday 23 September 2019

Guilt... it's really not my trip... unless it works

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Lee Smith
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Lee Smith

John Masterson

Thankfully guilt does not play a big part in my life. There could be a number of reasons for this. I might never do anything that I wish I had not done.

That certainly isn't true. I might be a sociopath and just not feel normal emotions after bad behaviour. I am fairly sure that is not the case either. I think it is more that I have seen people who cripple themselves with guilt and it is not a good psychological place to be. And sometimes people try to guilt trip me but I can spot it a mile away. So the older I get the more I am able to say sorry, apologise to myself if needs be, and get on with living.

We feel guilt when we do something we should not have done. That ranges from a sneaky ice cream to breaking a confidence or telling a lie, or worse. We feel guilt when we don't do something we should have, be it a phone call or hospital visit.

Some people feel guilty about things they think they did. Did they offend someone with a careless remark? I have gone beyond worrying about that one. There are those who feel guilty about their success, that they are doing better than others. I usually put that down to working harder. Though sometimes I wonder is Rory McIlroy so guilty about his immense talent that he messes up the first 18 to give the others a chance.

Guilt-prone people assume that something they did has harmed or upset other people, when in fact, they haven't. Real gold star guilt is when we know we have had a real failing in character. We have stolen, lied, been unfaithful, or got behind the wheel after too much to drink.

It is a fairly healthy psychological control mechanism to keep us in line. We feel guilty about doing things that we feel our peer group would disapprove of. A generation ago an Irishwoman might have told no one she was using contraception.

During the upcoming referendum there will be a massive effort to make women who have had abortions feel guilty. It will be ugly to watch.

It might have worked 30 years ago but won't today. Enough sane, sensible ordinary women have made the choice after considering their situation and deciding it was the best course of action.

At the other end of the scale I am a martyr to guilt when I don't do the run that I should do. Or when I do eat the packet of crisps that would have stayed in the shop if they were not so close to the till. And I am not averse to using guilt when it suits me.

A friend had to give me some news recently which they knew would disappoint me. They felt awful. It was much bigger in their mind but I milked it. It was only a matter of weeks when they had managed to come up with a much better option. They felt great. I felt great.

And I didn't feel the tiniest twinge of guilt!

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