Guilt is feeling responsible or regretful for doing something (real or imaginary).
You can feel guilt for something you did, for something you didn’t do, but want to do, or for something you think you did.
Guilt is an emotion that stems from the thought that you are responsible for someone else’s misfortune. People experience guilt because they’re convinced they’ve caused harm (emotionally, physically, materially or otherwise).
The emotion that follows is from a tendency to misinterpret situations and an inability to question the logic of our own conclusions.
Tonight, I’m feeling really guilty.
This is guilt about something I wanted to do, but didn’t do. This guilt is based in the fear of missing out (also known affectionately as FOMO). In this case, it’s the fear of missing out on time with my parents.
My darling parents have been visiting my husband and I from California for the last several days. I see them about every six weeks or so, but our time is always limited. I love my parents, and I cherish the time I get to spend with them. They are active and in their mid-60s.
My family has always been known for our intelligence and quick wit.
My mom is smart as a whip and always has an opinion about everything. She’s a goldmine of knowledge about architecture, fine art, plant-based diets, and cosmic energy.
My dad is a philosophical jokester with a lifelong career in public education, The Grateful Dead and electric guitar. I can wax poetic with him for hours about everything and nothing. I admire them with the fire of 100000 suns.
The last few visits I’ve had with them, I haven’t been feeling well.
Not only am I battling PTSD, but my Fibromyalgia flares have been happening back-to-back. A knee injury, GI issues, a chest cold. I haven’t had a lot of energy, especially, for a 29-year-old gal. I try to be my usual self: spunky, sassy, sarcastic—but I get weighed down by fatigue, pain, and a general feeling of malaise. These days, I can usually only operate at Full Becca Capacity for about 2.5 hours without needing a nap.
Dinner with my parents have always been special to me. Growing up, we had family dinner almost every night where we’d talk about what’s new at school, what the latest gossip is, our homework, and general topics like, ya know, The Rolling Stones and the latest episode of Star Trek. Occasionally, grandparents or family friends would join, and we would sit together at the kitchen or dining table, talking through dessert and bottles of wine.
My parents loved to entertain, and I loved to listen to their conversations.
Tonight was their last night in Seattle, and I was looking forward to sitting on the deck of their rental that overlooked the Puget Sound. The night before, my husband, parents and I sat outside until 10pm and watching the sun set over the Olympic mountain range. As I sat on the deck next to my father, he told me how happy he felt surrounded by his family, the sun setting over the snow-capped mountains, and a water view. “The trifecta of happiness,” he said.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good sunset?
Tonight, I wanted to do that again. It’s Father’s Day. I wanted to sit on the deck with my dad.
But it was hot. So. Effing. Hot. Seattle is having a heatwave right now and the rental, like many in Seattle, doesn’t have air conditioning or any fans.
After we finished dinner, my body temperature skyrocketed in the late-spring heatwave. With my head pounding, I felt like I was going to faint if I didn’t get some fresh air. The deck was sweltering in the late evening sun, so I couldn’t stand out there for longer than a minute. I tried to go down stairs to cool down. I washed my face with cool water.
I needed to go home. I could feel a migraine brewing, or a panic attack festering under the weight of the sun.
I wanted to spend time with my parents, but I needed to take care of me too.
I feel guilty because I wanted to spend more time with my Mom and Dad. I feel guilty that I needed to go home when they’ve flown all the way to Seattle to see me.
Much of the unhappiness we experience is due to our own irrational thoughts about situations.
Shame arises when we feel bad, not just about what we’ve done (or not done), but about what our actions imply about who we are.
Does this make me a bad daughter? Will I regret going home early? Will I miss an important insight?
At a deeper level, I fear losing my parents. I fear that this could be the last time I see them, and then, forever, I’ll regret going home early because my head hurt. I don’t know if that’s a normal thought, or if that’s anxiety. I think about death a lot.
Shame represents a much deeper psychological wound, one in which we condemn not just our behavior but our very self.
Rather than feel guilty about feeling guilty, I am going to own my guilt and see it as a positive attribute.
I am not a bad daughter. I am not a bad person because I needed to go home to rest. It’s okay.
I have a great relationship with my parents. I admire them and I want to spend as much time with them as I can.
And now, I’m going to let those feelings of guilt and shame go, and send my parents a text saying that I love them.