The person who accuses you does not feel guilt. Rather, that person feels an opposite sensation: the THRILL OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS!
Pointing a finger can feel so powerful for the sanctimonious.
The holier-than-thou individual accuses, then feeds on the guilt of another. Ooooh, it is such a juicy satisfaction to be wronged…then to be RIGHT about how badly you were wronged. Right?
It is quite a pair: The guilt-ridden agent of darkness versus the glorious-self-righteous accuser.
When The Accuser is in the Mirror.
What if you heap guilt upon yourself? Who are you?
You are both The Accuser and The Accused. Wait a sec. Are you guilt-ridden or self-righteous?
Yes, this is a trick question.
The Answer: You are both.
One part of you really does feel guilt.
The other part of you really does feel self-righteous.
You feel shame and pride, at the Exact. Same. Time.
And, yes, that is one of the weird things about being human: There are two things seemingly opposite things going on at once.
When The Accuser and The Guilt-Ridden CoExist in YOUR BRAIN.
That’s right. Guilt and self-righteousness – shame and pride – light up the EXACT SAME neural circuits in your brain.
What’s the difference then?
You tell me. Could it be, perhaps, the mood you are in? …what you are being encouraged to feel? …habit? …that one state gets you more of what you want?
The fact is, guilt and self-righteousness feed off each other. When you pile guilt and shame on yourself, it actually activates your brain’s reward center. Yes, your guilt and shame help to make you feel self-righteous and prideful (and vice versa).
[Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t make this up. For you fact-finders, the areas of the brain associated with guilt and self-righteousness, as well as shame and pride are the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula and nucleus accumbens. The teeter-totter of the two sets of emotions bounces back and forth between the first three structures (that handle more self-righteousness and pride) and the nucleus accumbens (that handles more guilt and shame).]
The Solution Begins.
Anxiety happens when you allow yourself to lie to yourself about who you are.
One of the most common ways you determine who you are is by defining what you experience. If you perceive your experience in a totally lopsided way, what you can expect is lots of lopsidedness. Call it anxiety. Call it schmanxiety. Just make sure to call it lopsided.
The next time you feel guilt, identify how – at the exact same time – you feel self-righteous. Shame and pride happen in the same area of your brain, at the same time. Since you cannot deny it, you might was well take an inward peek. Identify it. Even if you do not yet know how to handle this kind of stunning fact, relief comes when you acknowledge yourself. You can say, “Yep, I admit it” and “Nope, I have no idea what comes next” and still feel relief. (And, no, you do not have to tell anyone what you found. Until you get used to it, you can keep it your little secret.)
You are a human being. Like the rest of humankind, you are a complicated being. It’s okay.
This post is dedicated to Anita.