Chronic Guilt


Many of us struggle with always responding to moments of disjuncture with a preset script of guilt or shame instead of being able to listen to ourselves and our emotions as a guide for interpreting the moment. This is our attempt at both protecting ourselves from being caught off guard and having to suffer the pain of shame and loss (which is what happened originally to us) and subtly communicating our need for others to recognize our distress and take the lead so we can slowly grow into being vulnerable without having to risk the unbearable pain of rejection. This last part is often only barely in our awareness if at all.

Evan was a hard worker. Ever since he was young Evan never settled for less than excellence in whatever he did.  When he did not feel he could be  excellent in something he would often lose interest in it or disengage. This strategy for life served Evan very well in many respects. After all, people respond well in our society to excellence. However, Evan's emotional state was a fragile one. He was terrified of feeling he was underperforming but also simultaneously over burdened. He struggled to allow himself to relax. In fact it seemed the only way he could feel good was by achieving something or doing something or by totally numbing out (an act that left his wife and friends feeling ignored). Often people, when they weren't benefiting from his efforts, could misread him as uptight. Evan was desperate for someone to help him manage his emotions (an act that he currently did on his own through his compulsive work ethic) but also feared his emotions would be burdensome to others and he would feel rejected and ashamed by that. 

This led to repeated experiences where he desired help but couldn't ask for it and then felt let down. However, he would not feel let down as much as he would feel angry and then guilty and embarrassed at what felt like his "little kid" desires and potential behavior if he had blown up.

Evan is on a journey to both knowing himself well enough to stop acting out this scene over and over. His learning curves are to a) tune into himself enough to know what he needs b) not judge himself for that c) trust others enough to ask for help. Which is all well and good but impossible on his own for we all need people to help us grow. So Evan is also dependent on finding people who can love him in the attentive and patient ways he needs to have the capacity for this work. As much as we'd like them to, these changes never happen solo, they always require relationship.