Not Guilty by Kaze Gadway, 15th in Life Skill series
R.D. Laing “True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is.”
Probably all life skills begin and end with the ability to have healthy boundaries, to know when to draw the line.
This is only possible when the individual stops assuming every issue is a matter of guilt and innocence.
“It’s not my fault.” This is the instinctive defense when there are no boundaries of integrity.
For a short time, I worked hard at domestic violence issues where boundaries wavered between inflexible to Swiss cheese.
“I don’t care,” she says. These words are uttered by a Native woman whose shoulders seemed permanently wilted. “I don’t even want to get up but I have to go to work so I drag myself around. I hate it when people try to cheer me up. I can’t afford to care what other people feel. I have my own problems.”
Another young Native girl speaks up, “I wish I didn’t care. I cry all the time. Any time someone is mean to me I start crying and I can’t do anything.” Tears creep down her face and she smears the dirt around by quickly wiping her eyes.
As we chat with the other women in the dismal room, one woman admitted “I used to feel good about myself but whenever he accuses me of being wrong, I feel that in my gut. I have done so many wrong things. I feel guilty all the time.”
At this point we changed to a conversation of discerning beyond our first emotional reaction.
Turning to the young girl who felt wrong whenever someone says “It’s your fault,” I ask, “What do you think the issue is if it is not about being wrong?”
“He wants me to read his mind,” she says. “I don’t know what he means when he glares at me. He wants me to know when he wants quiet and when he wants to eat. And I always guess wrong.”
So we work on the issue of communication. The women are not satisfied.
“How do we get beyond feeling guilty?” a young adult asks.
We table the boundary discussion for the next week. But during the week, two of my young adults who are married were cited for domestic violence and they ask me to work with them.
The same issue emerged. They both felt guilty in their marriage and neither could get beyond the emotional barrier.
“Let’s do a game called ‘Second Chance,’” I say. We all have emotional triggers that have us lose control. The second chance is to step back from the emotion and look at the issue behind it.
We play a game where they react emotionally and then physically step back and look at the issue, not the emotion. They imagine a line drawn in sand as their boundary.
The young husband has a peculiar look on his face. “I can’t believe how free I feel when I don’t think of things as guilt and not guilty. I think I have lived my whole life thinking how wrong I usually am. I always fight when someone tells me that something is my fault. I don’t have to do that anymore.”
It is such a silly game. Yet, living in guilt consumes us all. It is a life skill to go beyond the superficial to what is real and profound.