Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guilt

It's a damn weighty feeling to know you have let someone down.


I tend to be hypervigilent at the best of times (and downright neurotic at the worst of times) about the way my actions with be perceived by others. So the notion that, despite the noblest of intentions, and theoretically the most precise of attention, I have still slipped up, is like a swift kick to the stomach.

I'm starting to think there is merit to patenting the term "psychologist's guilt". For me, I fall into despair when I unintentionally do something to offend or sting someone. I chastise myself in a heavyhanded manner-- how can I be a professional if I screw up every day interpersonal interactions?

So, yes, I hurt someone I care about.
Nothing irreparable, nothing unforgivable, nothing intentional.
But I still hurt them.

At first, excuses poured out of my mouth like a waterfall, like rapids.
I needed it to be understood that there were miscommunications, misunderstandings, distractions, that malevolence was never a part of the plan.
That, quite simply, I never meant to.

But sometimes you just need to admit that you made a mistake. 
That moment I admitted it, I felt myself crumple, the wall hard against my back.

I guess we all deserve to feel guilty sometimes.

28 comments:

S'Mat said...

oh guilt...
they'll forgive, i'm sure, if they even noticed in the first place! (ever feel guilt only later to discover no harm was done?)

i heard this the other day, i found it interesting... we tend to view actions against us by their impact, but when we commit those same actions, we assess them by their intention...
e.g. you really hurt me vs. i didn't mean to

Princess Pointful said...

I think that is a really good point-- feelings versus intentions.
I was reading a post on heartbreak the other day, and how when we first get our heartbroken, we think only a cruel meanspirited person could do such a thing, but when we break someone's heart, we always think we have necessary reasons. Interesting...

(and sadly, yes, they noticed in the first place :( )

Mandy said...

I agree, it is hard knowing that we've let someone close to us down. I also think it takes us longer to forgive ourselves, than the other person involved.

Dan said...

We often hold ourselves to a higher standard than the rest of the world. It hurts to let someone down, but it hurts even more not to forgive ourselves - both them and us.

Essentially Me said...

It's hard to admit to your mistakes. But I think doing so allows us to grow and mature more as a person. I know that when I stopped with the excuses, I just felt different. I owned up to my actions more which meant I needed to step back and assess what I needed to change. Anyways, I can totally relate.

insomniaclolita said...

sometimes i hurt a person, but i dont mean it.

ps. is it an excuse too? people make a lot of excuses and it confuses me so many times already

wee-h said...

I like this post and can understand it as I hurt a friend recently. Unfortunately she went over the top with the guilt factor on me and it’s left a hole in our friendship. I think it can work both ways, we can learn from guilt, but people who have been hurt need to learn through forgiveness as well.

t.k.foster said...

It is impossible to not hurt anyone, but the self may be more disappointed than not. The reason we feel guilt, even though I'm inclined to think guilt is more of a rational response to our inappropriate behavior.

Beth said...

When you make a concerted and conscious effort in life not to hurt others, it's a double-whammy when you do - guilt & regret.
I often wonder what life would be like not to care. There are certainly people who live their lives this way.

Sheila said...

This is like a page taken straight from my book. For me, it's harder to get over hurting someone else than getting over when they have hurt me.

Guilt is a bittersweet companion. It ehlps us strive to do better and learn from our mistakes, but it also hurts alot.

Now, eat 2 pieces of chocolate, have a good cup of coffee and view the dawn of a new day!

dmb5_libra said...

i feel you on this post. the guilt. OH THE GUILT! it eats away at me sometimes. its so funny when someone says to me "i didn't mean to..." i scoff at the statement, but when i say it to someone else, i fully expect them to understand.

Deutlich said...

I *hate* that guilty feeling

Psych Post Doc said...

I've so been there, it sucks.

A couple of years ago I sorta dropped the ball on a collaboration with a friend. I didn't even realize I did that until she made a rather passive aggressive comment as we were saying goodbye for the weekend.

I ended up calling her on my 8 hour drive to where I was heading and we worked it out. I felt so incredibly guilty, but after I apologized for the mishap and she apologized for being passive agressive, we moved on** and we still collaborate.

** although apparently not complete moved on since your post prompted this paragraph comment. :)

Jacqueline said...

I'm sorry you're going through this. Guilt is my least favorite emotion and I know how hard it can be to forgive yourself for the things you've done (even if they were intentional). I'm sure your friend will be able to put it behind her and that things will be fine.

This too shall pass :)

Crushed said...

But this is actually where YOU shouldn't feel guilty.
Mistake.

Not malevolence.

Yes, we all hurt people without meaning to. We can't help it, I don't think, because none of us KNOW the mind of everyone else. We're all wired slightly differently.

Intention is the only guide you can use.
Absolve yourself.

It's right what you say about heartbreak. For some reason, people seem to think if they have their heartbroken the other person did it on purpose. Hence the darts club using my face as a target.

But you have to be objective, Princess. Guilt is a useless emotion, it's a frustration that we can't change the past.

Matt said...

I feel guilty all too much.

maybe I'm an ass?

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

ooo guilt is the worst feeling in the world, on one hand I want to say I dont believe in guilt but when its becuae of something you did to hurt someone I understand it's hard not to....

Meghan said...

Crappy deal, feeling guilty sucks. I find that you tend to feel guilty way longer than the person is mad. Just human nature I guess.

Paula said...

There's little worse than the feeling of having hurt someone you care about.

longredcape said...

I have issues with The Guilt. My new year's resolution was to decrease the amount of guilt/worry/fear (the 3 seem to go together for me) I allow myself to feel.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

The worst time ever felt like this was when I got drunk and slept with one of my best mate's ex-girlfriends. She was an absolute cow to him.

And, quite obviously, so was I.

My absolute low.

Get well soon!

Katelin said...

as long as you don't let the guilt completely take you over i think you'll be okay.

Tough Girl 101 said...

dont you psychologist types call that cognitive dissonance?

Surfergrrl said...

awe i hate it when that happens. you just want to rewind things and do things over differently.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

Guilt is such a harsh emotion......I am sorry you had this experience. I am certain this individual will and probably already has moved beyond the hurt and hopefully you can both learn from the experience.

michelle woo said...

Guilt is underrated in the lineup of Worst Feelings of All Time. I myself think it should be at the top. Though it's a gnawing pain rather than piercing one.

brookem said...

the guilt thing... i get it. i hear you on this one, fully.

Mrs4444 said...

Yeah, guilt can be hard to admit. It is also freeing, though, right? Plus, it's the perfectionist in you that makes you not want to admit you are not infallible :)