Why the guilt?

“Why the guilt,” he asked, smiling somewhat amused because he knew I would not know the answer.

“I don’t know man,” I say, “why do people feel guilty? Maybe because they feel they have a debt to pay?”

“This will be your homework for the week,” he continued. “Next week you’ll tell me why you feel guilty for all the things you feel guilty for.”

It’s a question that has been on my mind all week. I still don’t know the answer. I have felt a lot of guilt lately, and the feeling is particularly strong today.

Ten random things I feel guilty for right now:

  1. For accepting a job far away from family.
  2. For not talking to my family often enough.
  3. For sucking at maintaining most friendships at long distance.
  4. For not driving to The Netherlands to meet family (or friends) now that the restrictions are lifted.
  5. For carving out ‘me time’ in the form of writing, or other creative outbursts.
  6. For taking a day off today at only a couple of days’ notice.
  7. For saying no to meetings.
  8. For not having worked on the manuscript I was supposed to work on. (I’ll do it tomorrow afternoon, I promise!)
  9. For not having finished my grant proposal (yet).
  10. For handing in a review report two days late. (Yes, these automated e-mails make me feel guilty)

It didn’t take me long to write the list. What took me long was listing the most dominant ones. The list goes on. I know that these are completely irrational thoughts. I could easily kill each and every one of them with rational thought. And I do. But then they’re back. Maybe an hour, maybe two, if I’m lucky the next day…

Why all the guilt? I don’t fucking know. How to get rid of it. That’s the big question. But if someone has a reasonable answer to present to my therapist, at least I won’t have to feel guilty for not doing my homework…

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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