Saturday, June 19, 2010

What to Do About all that Darn Guilt?

Last week I heard about a mother who backed a trailer over her three-year-old son. It turns out it was an old neighbor of mine. My mom and I had tears in our eyes talking about it. Yes, sad for the little boy who is very hurt (though should be okay), but we were even more sad for the mom. That poor poor mom, who accidentally almost killed her child, her flesh and blood. It was just an accident. How many times do we back out of the driveway without fully looking. Of course it is not her fault, it just happened. It is not her fault.

Accidents happen all the time. How easy and clear it is when you are an outsider to say: it was just an accident; no one is at fault. And thus, conclude, no one need to feel guilty.

However, when you are actually involved in the accident, it gets messy. Very very messy.

My old neighbor will naturally feel guilty every time she sees her hurting little three-year-old. She will probably make herself sick with the guilt and have an incredibly hard-time getting over it.

And if she does get over it quickly, and doesn't feel guilty, then people will assume that she is not fully human, and has no moral fiber. Even though they know it was just an accident, and no one was to blame. But as a society, we expect people to feel guilt. It is just normal.

The only way out of "the guilt" it seems is to desensitize yourself, become numb, or .... what about taking the yogic high road?

The other day, my friend's 2 1/2 year-old boy was at one moment, running around like a kid in a candy store, outside playing with my son in our sprinkler. A few moments later, I was toweling off my son, and then wrapping a colorful towel around his friend. "Ohhh, look at the towel monster," I said. Then he took two steps and fell flat on his face.

Unfortunately, being advid gardeners, there was a gardening tool laying on our porch, and his face came down squarely on the blade, slicing his nostril in half all the way from the bridge of his nose to the tip. It was bad.

We spent the night in the hospital, with the pediatric plastic-surgeon doing a delicate job of stitching him back up. Four layers of stitches later, his nose looks wonderful, well, except for the line of stitches. He may have a bit of a scar, but should look normal once again. Phew.

But it was a long traumatic night for both son and his mother. All night, I try to keep present and be there for my friend and help when I can. I try to keep things up beat, if possible. My friend is amazingly positive, saying such things like: imagine how much worse it could of been. Imagine if it was the other side of that tool facing up - the side with the three-pronged-spikes! Imagine if it went into his eye....imagine....

She is just so darn gracious and positive, and doesn't blame me at all. And all's I keep thinking is: oh my god, I feel so guilty. Why did we have that tool out. It was dangerous! Why didn't I put it away! Why did I wrap him so tightly in a towel so that his hands were tied. Why why why! And now, look at all this suffering because of it! It is excruciating!

Of course I keep this to myself because I don't want to even go there. And I certainly don't want to be self indulgent when it clearly isn't my time of need.

But it is only human to feel guilty, even when rationally you know it was just a freak accident.

The world is dangerous. We could house proof outside and in, until we are blue in the face with worry, and yet the child will always find a way to get into trouble or to hurt himself. Sometimes, it just feels like things where meant to happen and out of our hands.

How many accidents happen each day that turn out to be the best thing that could of happened? For example, two people who haven't seen each other in years "accidentally" bump into each other, and then end up married. (Of course no one is feeling guilty for this accident).

I wonder, on a higher level, what is going on?

I have read from several different sources, that we make our own "life contract" up before we come to this earth. We have come here to learn, and in this contract we have agreed on certain life experiences to help us learn and grow.

This makes me feel much better. Not only that suffering has a reason, but that is was also consenting.

I have always known that guilt is a negative, paralyzing, self-deprecating emotion. It can lead to self-hatred, and contributes to lack of self-confidence. Guilt in and of itself does not do any good, or lead to improvement.

The yogi's advise is to focus on recognizing that ones actions were incorrect, and not that the "I" is intrinsically bad.

And Yogi's are all about "getting over yourself." The less you cling to yourself, the more free you are. The more free you are, the more free you are to merge with the divine cosmic "I".

Having some down time, and some sleep to process it all. I still believe it is my fault for having a dangerous tool out on our porch, when it clearly should have been in the garage. We have a 2 year old boy, we should have known better. But still we got busy and the tool was there.

But, what I come to believe is that it was a freak accident. What were the chances of someone falling onto the one thing little thing in our whole backyard that could cause the most harm? And what are the chances of falling so hard onto it, like being unable to brace their fall completely? It is crazy right?

So looking at it. If guilt is just a negative thought pattern, that leads to more self-clinging behavior, it will do me no good. I am working towards enlightenment not the other way. So, I figure I will learn my lesson of being more careful of dangers, especially for my son, and potential dangers at home. And not indulge too much in the what if's, and the why's and the guilt. I am going to let it go, and just accept. learn and move on.

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