Guilt

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Guilt runs in my family. While we're not the virtuosos Jewish families are reputed to be, we still do a good job in making each other feel guilty about pretty much everything. We have it down to such a fine art, we make ourselves feel guilty without anyone saying a single thing.

I hate that.

Guilt is such an unproductive emotion. It typically just makes you feel like shit without changing your behavior in any meaningful way. This is differentiated by shame, which is a powerful motivator for change. If you do something that makes you feel genuine shame, there's a better chance that the feeling will motivate you to not engage in that behavior again, unless you have some sort of self-destructive aspect to your personality.

My latest guilt trip pertains to Christmas. In years past, I would make the effort to send out Christmas cards to family and friends, and prepare gift baskets for the folks that were local, containing home-made jams, breads, ornaments, and candles. This year, I decided not to. I'm still making jam, but not the baskets, and I didn't send out any cards. Simply because I didn't feel like it.

That should be a good enough reason - that I didn't feel like doing it. And yet, every time I open a Christmas card from a friend or family member, I feel guilty that I didn't send out cards. As Christmas day approaches, I feel guilty that I'll only have a jam assortment for my family members rather than my traditional baskets.

Why? There's no reason for me to feel guilty. I have no obligation to send cards, or give away baskets. My family understands that I'm prone to depression around the holidays, and while I've done better with it in the last five years or so, this year is a bit tougher, for a variety of reasons. No one's upset about my choice but me. I'm making an effort to not be so tough on myself, but my personality type really isn't conducive to the idea of "good enough."

Guilt sucks.

21 comments:

Nathan said...

What is this famed Jewish Guilt you speak of? :-)

When I'd whine for permission to do something as a child, my mother regularly fell back on "Go ahead. You're going to do what you want anyway." For years, I mistook this for sincere and honest permission, not an attempted guilt/shaming.

Guilt really doesn't work on me.

BTW, You're absolutely right about shame, especially when you feel it without any help from anyone else.

Janiece Murphy said...

Nathan, I wondered if you'd catch that. Hehe.

You're fortunate that feeling guilty is not a part of your make-up. To me, guilt is something that is imposed from the outside, while shame is something that is imposed from the inside.

So guilt = bad, and shame = good.

Nathan said...

I've never done the Christmas/Hannukah/Season's Greetings card thing. In a very minor way, I kind or resent receiving the damned things. "Why thank you very much for the lovely picture of your family and what did you do to that kid's hair". "Thank you for the long rambling letter informing me that Aunt Margie's hairdresser has shingles". "And isn't this a lovely Family Circus card that I know you just put so much thought into buying for me." And how long do I have to hold onto all these fucking things before I'm not a rat-bastard-asstard for throwing them out?

The one thing I actually do enjoy doing for others and/or receiving from others is food. I refuse to show up to any party without something I made and I try not to repeat. Today I'm making "Antipasto Squares" which I found on "All Recipes" dot com. I will, of course, monkey with the recipe because I'm congenitally unable to follow any recipe exactly.

Janiece Murphy said...

Nathan, I don't go to people's houses empty-handed, either. I just wasn't raised that way, and I think it's the right thing to do. Jam is my "signature" gift, but I've also brought wine, dessert, whatever's appropriate for the occasion.

I have a most excellent jam-cookie recipe that allows me to bring cookies (my favorite) that include my jam (which I won't eat except for on these cookies). Yum.

Nathan said...

P.S. The antipasto squares are truly made of teh awesome. I will have to exercise much self control it I'm actually going to have any left to take with me tonight.

Here's a link:

http://tinyurl.com/2kmdmp

And be sure to read some of the reviews who had useful info on adjusting the recipe.

Try them. You'll like.

You're Welcome.
--------------------

Also, the word verification for this post was "bjmtyro". I must be nuts, 'cause that made me snort just a little.

Janiece Murphy said...

Those do look mighty tasty. I will try them after the holidays. Cheese and meat. Hmm...

Jim Wright said...

Quilt? What's that?

I really feel either quilt or shame - well, ok, sometimes I think I should be spending more time with my kid. But that's about it.

Of course I think this probably comes from the fact that I mostly likely am not as much of a people person as you are, Janiece. Which probably makes me a much bigger jerk. :)

Nathan, my verification word is nszuxix, which to me sounds like an Alien ambassador or something.

Jim Wright said...

Oh, and antipasto squares, yeah.

Nathan said...

Jim,

Aren't you supposed to be making soup and embarrassing videos?

Janiece Murphy said...

Jim, I think if I was completely left to my own devices, I would be a recluse and wouldn't give a shit about anyone. My "quilt" comes from the dichotomy of wanting to be a recluse and the reality that I don't think it's good for me and I try to make an effort to be a social human being.

Arm-chair psychology: Our Specialty.

And Jim, what Nathan said. Vid-e-o, Vid-e-o, Vid-e-o!

Jeri said...

Janiece, very thought-provoking post - rather than gumming up your comment thread with my random thoughts I wrote them over on my blog.

But I do sometimes feel a little 'quilty' - but not enough that I don't try very hard to establish sane boundaries around holiday obligations.

atbdf - Association of Terminal Bureaucratic Dumb... ok, so much for free association on the verification.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, setting boundaries is an issue I've struggled with my whole life. Saying "yes" when I should of said "no" is a chronic problem.

Nathan and Jim, you can stop snickering now. And get your minds out of the gutter.

Jeri said...

Janiece - fixed the link. Sorry, doggone smart quotes snuck into the html.

And oh, I could write a whole week's posts on the subject of boundaries - but then again, it'd make everyone cranky with me.

Boundaries again. LOL

Nathan said...

Ooh. Look at the pretty gutter.

Me Likes.

Cindi in CO said...

Hey Kiddo - for what it's worth, you're off the hook with me, re: Christmas cards and gift baskets.

Janiece Murphy said...

Cindi, I'm really off the hook with everyone - it's all self-imposed guilt tripping around here. Because my guilt gene is just that finely developed.

Signonthedottedline said...

I see rolled tacos in your future! You know that the ONE THING I can get out is Christmas cards, and you are so good at all teh other things that warrant cards. And I suck at those. Power on!

Cindi in CO said...

Personally, I squashed that guilt gene flat at about age 13. As you know. You should try it. Shame, on the other hand...well, we need SOMETHING to keep us from devolving into an animal state. Heh.

Janiece Murphy said...

Amy, you're on for the rolled tacos.

Cindi, I'm trying.

Cindi in CO said...

Understood. I'm sorry I was flip.

Janiece Murphy said...

Cindi, I didn't take it that way. It's just the never-ending story. Only not as fun as the real one.