I read an article last week. On a website. The main question it asked was whether I was ‘in touch with my emotions’. I wasn’t that impressed – either with the article…or with myself for investing the time to read it. That having been said, I spent some fourteen hours driving up and down the UK motorways this weekend to attend a family reunion. I had a lot of time to think.
I laugh a lot. Suggests I am pretty well in touch with my amusement emotion. And based on some of my experiences whilst driving this past couple of days, I am also in touch with my surprise and disbelief emotions. Feeling proud is a good emotion for me – pride in my family and what we have done together. And love of course. Love for my family. And feeling happy.
I am still not sure whether any of this means I am – or am not – in touch with my emotions. Everything I’ve listed so far have been generally positive emotions. So what about some of the less positive feelings – how am I doing there? Well for a start, this weekend’s feeling of surprise and disbelief when driving was often closely followed by a feeling frustration…or even anger. But at least I avoided aggression (never a good idea when driving).
The one emotion I have worked out – and therefore believe I am in touch with – is guilt. And I have concluded that that guilt is the most overrated and most useless emotion to have, or experience…let alone to feel.
I can feel guilty over things that I have said or done – which in hindsight I should never have done or said. Or things I haven’t done or said – which in hindsight I should definitely have said or done. Sometimes these actions (or inactions) involve others, and sometimes only me. But more often than not, it would be fair to say that and feeling of guilt serves me no rational purpose.
I am no expert of course, but it seems that guilt, self-pity and maybe shame, are similar, if not related, emotions. And they all tend to be about us…even if we believe that the impact of our actions is on someone else.
We all make mistakes – the only way to avoid making a mistake is by not doing anything. And it’s almost never the case that mistakes are deliberate. So, rather than feeling guilty, we should accept, apologise appropriately and move on. And learn.
Any situation where we experience that guilty feeling has to be a situation from which we can learn. Learn what happened or what didn’t happen; why it lead to the impact it did; and learn from our experience…learn so we are less likely to do the same again next time.
Guilt is undoubtedly an emotion. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s rational or helpful. But when guilt happens it can feel important. Not least because we can experience guilt more often in circumstances that involve people or situations we care about deeply.
And this is where – and why – friends and family help us so much. Friends and family care about us and care for us. They know us and they are there for us. They laugh with us and share with us, love and cry with us. They accept us, and they will forgive us.
I celebrated this weekend with my own – and my enlarged – family. And yes I may have felt guilty at times over things I have done…or not done. But I also felt loved and I felt happy. I felt part of something special.