Despite appearances to the contrary, there is no typo in the title I have chosen. In fact I have been struggling over this post for days as it is so real and sensitive to me.
I warn you now that it has all the makings of a long post, and I apologize for this but I hope that you will read it and indeed comment on it and that it will be worthwhile reading.
So let’s start by looking at a couple of definitions…
Definition of ‘Gilt-Edged Bond’
A bond that is issued by a blue chip company. These bonds are considered to be high-grade, with little risk of interest payment interruption or default.
[Above definition taken from Investopedia]
Definition of ‘Guilt-Edged Bond’
A bond that is changed or strongly influenced by the introduction of and/or the retention of guilt. These bonds are considered to be high-grade by the person applying that guilt to another but low-grade to the person it is applied to or who is applying it themselves, with little risk of further additional investment by the person applying the guilt to another and great personal cost to that other person or indeed the person applying it to themselves.
[Above definition taken from years of experience]
Of course the bonds referred to in the first definition are the financial kind – (promissory notes if you will) and the bonds referred to in the second definition are those of relationships.
Likewise the gilt in the first definition refers to value and quality whereas the guilt in the second definition is something very different indeed.
So let’s look at that guilt for a moment…
I am convinced that when it comes to guilt there are two basic types – ‘Appropriate Guilt’ and ‘Inappropriate Guilt’.
I have to tell you that in my opinion there are very few things so cancerous and so detrimental to someone’s; personal happiness, their self-esteem/self-image, and/or their mental health as ‘inappropriate guilt’.
Inappropriate Guilt, in my opinion, can be defined as: any guilt which is either unjustly or incorrectly applied or accepted or which either goes unaddressed or which is improperly addressed.
Appropriate Guilt however is, I believe, guilt which is justly applied or experienced and which is correctly addressed.
Appropriate Guilt is, if you like, a conviction over something which we have said or done and which we should not have said or done. (Or conversely it is something which we have failed to say or do and which we should have said or done.)
Additionally it is something which is then responded to in such a way that it is learnt from and which then leads to a commitment to a) not repeat said actions and b) where possible to repair any damage done.
Guilt is, in short, a mechanism.
And let’s be certain of this one essential fact. Once it has served that purpose it ceases to be either useful or beneficial to us and instead of being a mechanism or a springboard to action it becomes instead a very heavy weight.
As parents we teach our children right from wrong and we encourage them to do right and discourage them from doing wrong. If they deliberately choose to do wrong we then address that and part of addressing that is indeed the discouragement of choosing to do it wrong again.
BUT a key part of it should also be the removal of any guilt that child may feel as a result of his or her actions.
This is without doubt a very sensitive area for me personally. I have already in previous posts mentioned how my relationship, indeed my perception, of my father differs from that of my siblings towards my father.
He was in fact a very dutiful and responsible man and a good father in many ways but he was also, in my understanding and experience of him, a man who was strict and rigid and authoritarian in his approach.
I, for my part, was an overly bright and yet often rebellious child and one who was experiencing and trying to deal with a great many emotional and mental issues. Issues which mainly due to the time and society in which I grew up, I never fully understood nor ever trusted, nor shared with anyone – least of all my parents.
Additional to the normal everyday boyishness the mental and emotional issues I was secretly trying to deal with caused me to behave or to respond in ways which were either rebellious in their own right or simply misunderstood as being rebellious.
So, having himself been raised very strictly, my father’s response to this was usually; fast, harsh, unequivocal and trust me made a very real impact on my rear end!
But there within lies the problem. I have little to no doubt whatsoever that as a parent my father, through his actions, sought to ‘teach me right from wrong’ and to ‘encourage me to do right and discourage me from doing wrong’.
Likewise I do not doubt for one moment that the numerous hidings that I received in response to what was seen as my ‘deliberately choosing to do wrong’ was his way of ‘addressing that and a part of addressing that was indeed the discouragement of my choosing to do it wrong again.‘
BUT that ‘key part’ which I mentioned earlier – the key part of the removal of any guilt that child may feel as a result of his or her actions was sadly all too often missing from the equation.
As a result of; either the severity of his response, or because of his (often understandable) inability to properly contextualize my behaviour, or indeed my own inability to understand or communicate the reasons for my behaviour, his response all too often came across as unjust, unfair or extreme.
This then became the focus of the entire situation, clouded the issues, and inevitably damaged my own image of myself. Only adding to any guilt which I felt and not removing it.
So much so in fact that the impact those responses made on my rear end are nothing compared to the impact that it made on my self-esteem/self-image and indeed our relationship.
Our relationship sadly became, and what is more even more sad, remained to the day of his death, guilt-edged.
Why am I sharing this with you now? Do I have some need to bare my soul in this regard?
Possibly, although trust me there was enough being ‘bared’ way back then when this was all happening.
Or possibly it is because I recognize so clearly how that has impacted my life and how it is still having an impact and sadly in some ways being replicated in my relationship to this day. Not least of all within my relationship with myself.
Part of my mental health, and I seriously doubt I am alone in this, is the fact that I obsess over situations where I fail to live up to my own expectations or where I offend or seem to let others down in some way.
I cannot begin to describe the level of emotional pain or mental anguish that I go through when this happens, nor indeed the effect that any resultant ‘inappropriate guilt’ has on me and on my emotional and mental health. And I recognize how silently and secretly it can also do so.
I am convinced that for me personally, and quite possibly for many others – perhaps for you also – part of working towards our own emotional healing and mental wellness is being willing and able to perform a ‘guilt audit’ in respect of both our past and present relationships alike.
We need to look at whether guilt is present in our relationships with others and also with ourselves.
We need to determine where it is coming from.
We need to determine whether or not that guilt is (or was) ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’.
And once we have done this we then need to either a) make it appropriate – and thus then respond to it correctly or b) remove it from our lives and those relationships.
Is there ‘inappropriate guilt’ that we are accepting or allowing or experiencing in our relationships with others or even with ourselves? Is there inappropriate guilt that we are applying to others even? If so it needs to be addressed.
Guilt is an acquaintance we all from time to time meet, and one whose purpose and benefits we should recognize. But it should never become a companion and never the reason or key part of any bonds that we make or have.