Huh? Yeah, that’s what I said.
Today, let’s ditch the gratitude, and bring on a heaping serving of good old-fashioned guilt.
Don’t get me wrong, gratitude is a huge pillar of well-being and most certainly its importance has skyrocketed in the pandemic, as have the millions of online memes expressing just how gratitude can change your life. And it’s true, it absolutely can, should, and does.
But today, let’s also deal with the evil doppelgänger first; guilt.
As we all navigate the pandemic, lost jobs, lost lives, and lost connections; we’re all in search of inner peace and balance. Naturally, appreciating what we actually have is one of several tools we can use to find just that. However, the quest for gratitude can very quickly turn into mindsets of guilt. And when gratitude becomes guilt, you will most assuredly find yourself on a feedback loop from hell.
Let me explain.
Pretend you work from home, and always have. You’re young, healthy(ish), and have a good support system around you. You have two kids, and online school isn’t the end of the world because someone is always home. Your wife is an essential worker, in the community, has a decent income coming in, despite having to work in higher-risk settings. Money though is certainly leaner than it was pre-pandemic. Still, you have enough for a bottle of wine a few nights a week, and ample food and supplies to stock your well-appointed home. And since you can’t really go anywhere anyway, what else could you really ask for?
Yet, there will be times when the internet messes with online school, zoom meetings cause headaches, kids are moody, social connection is ancient history, finances seem tenuous, and the sheer anxiety around the virus feels unbearable. In these times, despite what you do have, you simply can’t summon the energy to face another day of the same routine.
This internal struggle between what we do feel and what we should feel within our own individual lives can transform into an enormous sense of guilt.
“Why should I feel so bad? We’re doing so well compared to so many others. So many people are struggling. I shouldn’t feel this way.”
Practice gratitude, they say. Write down three things you’re grateful for, they say. Absolutely do that; just don’t replace the guilt with the gratitude.
While gratitude is an excellent tool for well-being, in the long run we will always be required to face the true issue of guilt, rather than trying to simply change those feelings from guilt to gratitude. Because even if we’re successful, it will only ever be a temporary solution. Don’t allow the quest for gratitude to become the source of guilt.
Instead, we might be better served trying to recognize those emotions, sit with them, get to know them, hell, have a pint with them. Be best friends with the guilt, let it in, and verbalize it; don’t only mask it with other feelings.
This is the way in which we allow the guilt to permanently lose its grip on us, so that we can actually appreciate the gratitude we seek.
So I say, bring on the guilt.
P.S. Looking for a more eloquent version? Mark Manson’s “F*** Your Feelings”.
P.P.S. Yeah, the “pretend” guy is me, of course.
Today’s Day 23 Challenge: Less gratitude, more guilt.
What guilt could you make friends with?