How [Work] Guilt Kills You
Social researcher and psychologist Brene Brown's work is so perfect for those that might resonate with this and she's funny. Just if ya wanted a lead to follow.
There's a whole suite of psychologists who primarily work in the area of clinical patient care relating to shame and guilt. Academics write monstrous theses on the topic of guilt. Entire shelves in bookstore's self-help sections read titles like Overcoming Inner Shame or Guilt be Gone! (This actually exists and wasn't written by the Sham-Wow guy, Google it.) But what's behind this monumental surfacing of guilt in ourselves and our daily lives? I'll tell you why, because in this modern society we're conditioned to be so damn concerned with cramming as much productivity into every minute of every day and nothing else, to hell with the rest. Then, when we aren't mentally, emotionally, or physically able to live up to this standard, purely because we're not naturally geared for it, then intense feelings of guilt stirs inside us. Which will continue to manifest unhealthily in all sorts of ways, until we knuckle down and clear out all our emotional junk and re-program our minds to function in a way that is more aligned with our natural states of being.
In a typical "normal'" day, and by normal I mean Western corporate society's definition of normal, there are freight trains of potential guilt roaring full speed at you all the time. You struggle to manage competing demands, not only the ones you place on yourself or the ones asked of you in your personal life but those asked of you in your professional life as well. Some of which are just so ethically and morally opposed to your general value systems, but of course you don't get any time to process anything either because billables will always trump a dispensable person's sensitivity.
So inevitably, because you are not a machine, something naturally slips past you and bam, you open your emotional doors to guilt, invite it into your brain and start to feed it with the infinite reserves of negative thoughts you're able to pluck out of thin air at will. Such hospitable creatures the human mind can be.
You devote so much of your time and energy into trying to be the best you can; adopting differing definitions of what is "best" along the way, only furthering your confusion. With your work, you try to perform at your best, everyday, all the time, forever. With your relationships, you try to be everything to everyone at all times. With yourselves, you try to ensure your outward appearance matches your internal state, but of course, you can't show the world you're an absolute mess so you just pretend everything's fine. This way of working through life is just all too much for human fragility, which shouldn't ever be marginalised but often is in commercial spaces.
Even after all these real, noticeable tensions continue to happen day in and day out for a while you still, ever bravely, get your ass out of bed, put some pants on and venture out into the world everyday to do it all over again. You fill your morning cup with hot coffee and hope that today will be better than yesterday. You push through the mental fatigue, stress and general thoughts of "I just cannot be fucked" and force yourself to continue conforming to these external standards imposed on you by society and others.
A while goes by and your body just can't hack it anymore. It shuts down on you, all you want to do is sleep. Yet you wake up multiple times in the middle of the night, gasping for air because your anxious, insomnia ridden brain forgot that its feeble physical body companion needed to take its meds the night before. You have a terrible sleep and to make matters worse you accidentally set your alarm clock two hours later than it should've; no word of a lie, your eyes thought that number 9 actually read like 6. You wake up, already in physical disarray and into a hotbed of more anxiety, fearing that you'll be late for work, impress poorly, miss something important or just generally disappoint. You're genuinely sick as a dog, your mental health has been shot for months yet you still try to force yourself to just get out the door.
But your body, the trusty body, knows this is poor idea nor physically possible today and brings you to the brink of collapse. So you call in sick and try your hardest to make all the notifications to ensure others can account for your absence and everyone gets as much information as possible. But despite best efforts and intentions, you still feel guilty and convince yourself you could've done more. Like what though? What more could have been done in such a situation? The question remains unanswered, but the feeling of guilt persists.
That's what it all boils down to, doesn't it? The answer to your problem/s isn't in the logic, it's in the feelings. All the anxieties, dependency's, frustrations and general thought patterns a person has, in relation to every situation hurled at your by life, stems from some subjective internal trigger. Whether you're playing with guilt, or its close cousin shame, we all have internal triggers and it's our job to put on our investigator hat, dig deep to find the source and learn how to cope and heal. Because obviously, going through life as a guilt-ridden, anxious, people pleasing walking, talking shell of inadequacy is a recipe for a quick grave.
Point of the story is—quit any job that makes you feel like that. Now, just do it, for your own good. I'm waiting... But seriously though, the point was to learn how to catch guilt when it's just beginning to rear its ugly head in a given situation. Once the guilt and its place of origin can be identified, when you're able to recognise "Okay this is guilt, it's not really me," then you can tailor your responses and reactions to things in a more appropriate fashion. You'll be able to acknowledge it as a thought that's just passing-by to say "Hi," then let it do just that, let it pass right on by instead of consuming you entirely.
It's not easy though. It's a lifelong habit that needs to be practiced and cultivated to have any significant effect and you will falter at times, just as we all do, but short-term pain for long-term gain will always be worth the effort.