Many years ago, a friend told me matter-of-factly that the life is hell when it is infested by any or both of the two states of mind – fear and guilt. Over the years, I have observed the truth of his statement. Fear has paralyzing effects and guilt has very discomfiting consequences. I have tried to keep myself away from fear as well as guilt, by being good and doing good and most importantly advocating good. Sadly, however, the two states of mind have pervaded my being with vengeance and I am at a T-point, where one step leads to fear, and the other leads to extreme guilt. Whichever path I embark on, I suffer mentally and emotionally.
The reason or the situation is not worth documenting, however, the basic theme underlying the misery, is one of expectations of others and the reluctance of the self to comply to those expectations because it causes a large amount of distress. I am expected to do something; I deny compliance, duly stating my reasons (which to me are quite logical and well-founded). The result is that the expectant party sulks, broods and even gets angry, and free-flowing communication is hindered. I am guilty.
I am guilty for having caused someone unhappiness and also causing discord because I said “No.” The lingering guilt-ridden feeling is devastating and troubling, and I realize that by not agreeing to do as expected by others, I have actually isolated myself and created am embarrassing lull in my life, and also of others. No one is happy – neither the expectant party, nor the denying party (that is me!). I decide in favor of relenting and agreeing to fulfill what is expected of me, instead of having sullen faces and low tolerance.
The moment I decide to comply, the boulder of guilt lifts from my heart. I should feel happy and light because I am finally made peace and decided to comply as expected. But I am not happy; I am all the more forlorn, and there is another pressing weight on my heart. The dark clouds of fear engulf me and suffocate me. Till the time my answer was “No”, I was guilt ridden, but the moment I said, “Yes”, fear took over. The more I think about the task at hand, the more my heart sinks. I know I have made the concerned people happy by agreeing to fulfill their expectations, but my own self is fearful of the level of efforts and the limit of tolerance required. I am back into a cocoon of darkness. I escaped guilt to embrace fear, and till the actual activity that I am supposed to perform is not accomplished the fear will linger on – stressing, troubling, diverting and dulling me.
I have done these umpteen times – burdened by guilt, I have given up my stance, only to succumb to fear of the days that demand endurance, adjustment and patience. I have tried positive therapy, oft telling myself to comply for maintaining a normal rhythm of life and things. But guilt and fear is parasitic – it grows on you – and creates a pattern of recurrence. You comply once, you comply always, and each time non-compliance means guilt and compliance means a gnawing fear accompanied by mental discomfort for forcing yourself to do what you don’t want to do.
I am sure many of us have gone through this cycle of what I call the “Death of the Free Will” – be it handling a difficult boss, a not-so-comfortable job scenario, complex relationships, political and legal issues, or even addictions and compulsions in one’s life. I wonder how many choose to live with guilt and how many choose to live with fear! I have yet to find a balancing equation in my life – and even as I sign off I have this strange sinking feeling because a dear one has left me in doldrums – somewhere between guilt and fear!