Five-year-old Alina knocked over a glass of milk. “I am not guilty!” She screams. Yes, of course, her brother at the other end of the table is to blame. We are to blame, because we talked to her and distracted her. Blame the bad glass, the rickety table that blinded her with the sunbeam. She is five years old, and her behavior is understandable. But we adults often make excuses in the same way. We are not to blame, but someone else, circumstances, bad luck or Pushkin.
“The easiest way to get rid of guilt is to blame it on something external,” recalls psychoanalyst Robert Neuburger. Why is it difficult for us to accept this feeling, despite the fact that we have learned to cope well with both anger and sadness? “These two emotions are not embarrassing,” explains psychoanalyst Virginie Meggle. “We can get rid of them with crying, screaming.” And the guilt remains with us, and it is too difficult to carry it.
Why? There are three reasons.
I don’t want to doubt myself
Guilt makes us vulnerable. “It takes you by surprise,” says Robert Neuburger. “And our self-image is changing.” Everyone has an idealized self-image. And suddenly a real or perceived mistake spoils everything. We are forced to doubt ourselves, and perhaps disappointment awaits us. We lose our peace and confidence. And if the neighbor is to blame, self-esteem does not suffer. We avoid thoughts that might hurt.
I’m afraid of punishment
We want to remain flawless in the eyes of others so as not to provoke rejection. After all, communication with them is necessary for us to survive.
“There is a huge fear behind our excuses: the fear of losing love and being alone,” stresses Virginie Meggle. And the feeling of guilt activates the scenarios associated with the events of our life. We are afraid of being abandoned (abandonment scenario), to stop liking (abandonment scenario), to show our weaknesses (imperfection scenario). In case of error, we anticipate punishment. And being “punished” at 50 is just as unpleasant as at five.
I attribute to others what I don’t like about myself
In order not to disappoint others or ourselves, we use an unconscious and very powerful defense mechanism. “It’s a projection mechanism,” explains Virginie Meggle. “We reproach others for what we sin ourselves, refusing to admit it.”
We reproach both for mistakes and “bad” character traits and feelings. This is especially noticeable in couples: the other always requires too much of me or does not love so much. But admitting it is too risky for both self-esteem and a sense of security. And the psyche protects us – fortunately or unfortunately.
Emma, 33, nurse
“Everything around me seemed not good enough. I blamed others because I actually felt guilty all the time. When I wondered where this feeling came from, I quickly remembered that as a child I often heard: “You are not studying well enough” or “You did not clean the room well.” And any imperfection threw me back into a state where I had to apologize. I had too much guilt, so I blamed it on others! And then I was able to take on my part of the responsibility – only my own. And I am more willing to give others “their” part. Only them. “
What to do?
Understand what you are forced to say and do – for example, to avoid feelings of guilt. What causes you embarrassment and shame? Answer this question to stop responding automatically. And to ease the feeling of guilt, and hence the desire to shift it onto someone else, do good deeds. Attention to others, benevolence, and gratitude are powerful tools.
By dumping mistakes on someone else, we do not get rid of the feeling of guilt. This is an ineffective strategy. Perfection is the goal we strive for, but not reality.
Better to accept your faults. We are imperfect beings. Recognizing this makes us stronger: we become fairer to ourselves. Reconciliation with ourselves is more comforting than blaming, whether we blame ourselves or others.
Explore feelings of guilt
Meditation, for example, allows you to accept your emotions without fear or judgment. Listen to what is going on inside you. If this seems too difficult, ask yourself: What can happen if you admit guilt? This will allow you to understand what consequences you are trying to avoid, and will help clarify the inner scenario.