The Fear of Guilt

As Lorean and I are raising our daughter Madelyn, the choices we make for her seem to be non-stop. With my ties to psychology and obsessions with neurological development, I am known to overthink decisions every once in a while, (or all the time according to Lorean as well as reality). We are trying to provide a loving environment where our daughter can maintain her sense of peace while experiencing the world around her. Decisions including:

Food: times, temperatures, quantities, introductions, allergies, etc.

Sleep: times, habits, positions, environments, consistency, etc.

Family: times, obligations, travels, vacations, meals, etc.

Medical: appointments, doctors, research, medications, etc.

Babysitting: times, cost, selection, etc.

…can be overwhelming from time to time (or all the time). So, then I start to ponder the inevitable question: Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

Unfortunately, that question doesn’t have an answer.

Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

The black and white assessment of right and wrong is an overwhelming weight to carry. If the standard is locked at the unreachable (right) perfection, it would be more accurately described as impossible. The impossible scenario often leads to the feeling of guilt, and with habit and more thought, the guilt is enhanced with fear.

Guilt

According to Merriam Webster, guilt is defined as “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy”. First, let’s assess the components of this definition in more detail:

‘Feelings of deserving blame’

When you feel that you deserve to be blamed, you are identifying yourself as the cause of the negative situation. The feelings associated with this label include fear for the situation itself, and fear for the potential guilt which may occur. There is a potential of experiencing more guilt. Therefore, the feeling of guilt is compounded into a more overwhelming feeling.

‘Imagined offenses’

Something may happen in the future which the family, friends, group, coworkers, or whoever else will not be happy about. There is a fear that the something will happen, and there is a preconceived guilt regarding the potential experience. Personal blame is anticipated due to situational involvement.

‘Sense of inadequacy’

This sense of inadequacy may be a bigger issue to tackle, and it is important to jump right to the specific root of the feeling of inadequacy:

[Let’s imagine I am currently experiencing extreme cycles of the fear of guilt. That was a fairly negative introduction to this topic, and I am personally feeling a little down about things after that analysis. Surely if I am feeling negative then everyone else who reads those descriptions will also be feeling negative. If there is already a fear of guilt factor within the reader I don’t want to impose more negative feelings. I am feeling anxious that the reader will not benefit from my attempt to help. Somehow, I have to make things better for the reader. Everyone will probably end up worse than where they started. I need to delete this whole thing and start over. It would probably be best if I just didn’t post anything on this website. At this moment I am feeling some tension in my neck. My palms are starting to sweat. I am thinking about other faults I have, and I am wandering further into how these faults may have a negative impact on other people.]

If you can identify with similar feelings related to work, parenting, relationships, family, etc., then I have a few considerations and self-assessment work for you.

Considerations

First, let’s take some time to assess the bigger picture. Whether the situation is a couple years within the 4 million years of human existence, or the situation impacts a small group of individuals within the 7-billion-person population of the current earth, it could be argued that the ‘imagined offense’ is not of significant magnitude. Yes, all lives are important, and all time is valuable. Therefore, your time should be allocated for sharing positivity within yourself and with those around you.

Another perspective of the bigger picture might be related to the wrath of your religious leader and/or God Himself. Many religious followers and leaders have thoroughly implanted a fear within the minds of children who accept the affiliation (before their minds are able to differentiate rational choice). Thus, it may be rational to fear the potential scenarios which may damn you to hell. My apologies for sliding right back into a spin of negativity…..

Spirituality offers another helpful perspective of the bigger picture. The following Bible verse from the book of Matthew is one of the most important as well as a personal favorite:

“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

This is a very simple and profound message with 3 important take home points:

1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind

Your spiritual journey must remain fully encompassed within your love for God. Obsessions over personal and/or community issues will distract you from loving God.

2. Love others as much as you love yourself.

Your love for God and your spiritual journey will become distorted and distracted if you do not also share your love with yourself and the people around you.

3. Love yourself

This crucial message is usually grouped with the previous point, especially in the context of current Christian religions. Within the quote the statement was phrased as if loving yourself would be easy and inevitable. Although immediate personal satisfaction could be argued as our current social norm, it has become easy to disconnect from the true love of our human self. I will write more about this later, but personal satisfaction tends to outweigh self-love too much of the time.

If you have fully dedicated your heart, soul, and mind to loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, guilt is minimized. This love is a holistic entity of belonging which is more than right and wrong, it is different than the social norm, and it is a fulfilling experience.

Before we move on, it is important to first clarify a common misconception of love. The picture of yourself which you have created, your ego, will not support lasting or meaningful love. Unfortunately, it is easy to become trapped within our ego. We try to optimize feelings we have for our created sense of self, and these feelings are usually dependent on the guessed opinions of the people around us. The true entity of lasting and meaningful love becomes confusing and clouded. Personal satisfaction jumps up to become the primary concern, and there is an unhealthy dependence on the ‘love’ that other people have for you. Guessing how much you are loved and feeling guilty when optimal levels aren’t reached (or when there is a chance they won’t be reached) becomes habit.

It is time to break the guilt habit and resolve the underlying fear of guilt. Hopefully the enormous time-frame of human existence, the massive human population, and the full dedication of heart, soul, and mind references were helpful, but let’s identify some specific times when you feel the guilt and tackle the issue!

Self Assessment

What specific experiences initiate the cycle of guilt?

Has the situation actually occurred?

If the answer is yes, then you can move on to the next question. If you want to gain more control over the feeling of guilt, or if the answer is no, then it might be best to understand that many future scenarios ranging from the happiness of new life through the emotions surrounding death are quite possible. It is best to fully experience the present moment and share your love with the people around you.

Are you sure you are the primary cause?

If the answer is yes, then it may be more efficient to discuss the situation with the person or group before the negative situation occurs. If the answer is no, then it might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind.

Do you feel that you have not prepared well enough for the situation?

It might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind. If you feel that better preparation would have been beneficial, imagine this as a learning experience which will guide you through the process of preparation for future events.

Do you feel that you are incapable of preparing well enough for the situation?

This is a self-esteem or sense of self-worth issue if you feel that your preparing is always or inevitably lacking. Depending on the accuracy of your assessment as well as the level of the feeling, it may be beneficial to tackle these issues with counseling and other appropriate activities. On the other hand, if I were signed up to run a marathon tomorrow, I would certainly be having that feeling. I have not adequately prepared my body to run the marathon, and that would probably be too taxing for my body to handle. I would have to make a firm decision to either withdraw from the marathon, or pack a couple meals and plenty of water as I begin my casual 8 hour, 26.2 mile walk.

The overall goal is to focus on sharing and experiencing love. Therefore, when the feelings of guilt arise it is best to immediately tackle the issue. Here are a couple options to consider:

Stop participating in the experience if the guilt association is inevitable or it is not in your best interest.

Take a deep breath and accept each moment of experience for just that moment. Your assessment of potential scenarios is now complete, and the step-wise sequence of future events may or may not take place as you have foreseen. Either way it will be a learning experience and it will be a valuable experience for you.

The fix will not happen overnight, and you will have to remake your choice hundreds of times until it becomes natural for you. As you practice the valuable experience of self-growth, it is always helpful to focus on the positives. This applies to yourself and the potential situations which trigger the fear/guilt response.

What positive qualities are you bringing to the situation which may present potential challenges?

What characteristics about the upcoming situation may be interesting, valuable, or beneficial to yourself or others?

If you believe you will start to see progress, that is likely what will happen. However, if there are specific situations which you cannot overcome, it may be beneficial to ask yourself the deeper question: What are the specific reasons I cannot overcome the cycle of guilt within that specific situation? More importantly: What steps do I need to take to overcome the cycle of guilt for that specific situation?

As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Diet Trends

There are already thousands of articles presenting a topical analysis of the popular trend, the Nordic diet. As usual, there are lists of what you can eat and what you cannot eat followed by comments regarding what should be eaten in moderation. Plenty of books have already been published on the topic, many of which follow the ‘weight loss’ sales trend in the title. Here is a screenshot of a google search:

Google Search Results for the re-emerging Nordic Diet

I don’t have a problem with the Nordic diet, but I do question the purpose of the obsession. This is remarkably similar to the Mediterranean diet, which was also covered in thousands of articles and books. One of the few differences is the choice of oil: Canola oil is preferred in the Nordic diet, and olive oil is preferred in the Mediterranean diet. Hundreds of additional articles will analyze the difference in omega 3/6 ratios between the two.

Why is healthy eating labeled as a diet?

Choosing to eat a normal range of foods which are beneficial to the body should not be considered a diet. Both the Nordic and Mediterranean plans certainly lean in that direction. Additional trends including Vegan, Vegetarian, and Paleo diets aren’t usually discussed in the same sentence, but those lean closer to an appropriate ‘diet’ label. The Vegan and Vegetarian diets avoid all meats, while the paleo diet usually results in the over consumption of meats while avoiding all grains. The Ketogenic diet is another interesting extreme.

For two years I was on a ketogenic diet which helped me optimize control of neuron firing in my brain (aka avoid experiencing complex partial seizures). My caloric intake was about 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. It was certainly fair to call that a diet. If I was eating at a restaurant I saved up my 20% protein allocation for the fish or steak I would order. For the first time I saw food as a necessary means of energy intake to optimize my function. It was remarkably easy to buy only whole, unprocessed foods.

Food manufacturers love to follow the diet trends and produce packaged foods which fit the numerical criteria for diet trends. ‘Cut the Carbs’, although fitting for the Ketogenic diet, is one of my least favorite diet labels, especially since the carbohydrate calories are usually replaced with bulk fillers and/or artificial ingredients. A few other idiotic pet peeves include the ‘no added sugar’ label on nuts or any other whole food as well as the ‘fat free’ label on fruit drinks and pure sugar candy. The human body requires unaltered calories including carbohydrates, fat, and protein as well as nutrients for healthy function.

Processed Foods are Outpacing (over-generous word choice) Human Evolution

For thousands of years humans ate foods which had undergone minimal processing, and the biological human system adapted to the consistent habit. Within the last 70 years the human race has transitioned to processed foodstuff replacements which taste different, last longer, and fund the food manufacturer that ‘built it’. Unfortunately, our metabolic systems have not been able to adapt that quickly. As issues including obesity, diabetes, chron’s, alzheimer’s, etc. are becoming the norm, we are introducing plenty of revolutionary drugs to treat them. Yes, that was off topic: WE ARE OVERLOOKING THE CAUSE.

I started to question the purpose of foodstuff replacements such as soft drinks (LOW FAT!) and chips (LOW SALT!).

Soft Drinks: I once paid a food manufacturer $1 to add carbon dioxide gas, 10-30 grams of sugar, food coloring, and stabilizers to water. I drank the beverage which spiked my blood sugar, forced my liver to process additives, and forced my fat tissues to store additives which my GI tract absorbed but couldn’t digest.

Chips: I once paid a manufacturer $3 to overheat and chemically modify potato, corn, and wheat starches with inexpensive oils which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats. I ate the chips which spiked my blood sugar, forced my liver to process chemically modified proteins (acrylamide), high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fats. As my body was overloaded with these foreign chemicals, cholesterol was my last resort to neutralize them. Unfortunately, my oxidized cholesterol and LDL blood levels increased.

What benefit was I attaining from eating these foods? The isolated time-frame of satisfaction is a decent argument, but that was only there if I consistently ate them. Now, it is fairly repulsive to taste either option since my taste buds aren’t attuned to eating food replacements. I was paying additional money to lower my potentials.

My Personal Dietary Conclusion

Eventually, I switched from the ketogenic diet back to more regular eating habits. In my ‘regular diet’, if the food contains added sugar, heated starches, processed oils, trans fats, artificial coloring, chemically modified additives, mono and diglycerides, added emulsifiers, etc., I will not eat it. I eat food, and I will stay on this diet until I lose at least 5 more pounds of muscle mass due to inactivity and lack of required nutrient supplies since I desire to maintain optimal health. I would rather not pay a food manufacturer to reconstruct, modify, and overprice modified foodstuffs, and I don’t believe my body ever adapted to the foodstuff replacements I used to eat.

It could be argued that my diet is similar to the Nordic, Mediterranean, or Paleo diet, but it is certainly higher in fat than what is considered ideal by many (I’d love to hear your arguments!). Vegetables and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and oils) are my main food focus for every meal. My caloric intake of protein is still about 20%, carbohydrate intake has increased to about 30%, and fat intake is at about 50%. Most of my carbohydrate intake comes from vegetables, rice, beans, and lentils as well as occasional berries and other fruit. Most of my protein intake comes from nuts, seeds, lentils, bone broth, local eggs, and occasional meat. I am also a huge fan of healthy spices including turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, ginger, and garlic to name a few.

Please let me know if you would like me to cover any of these topics in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.

Self Awareness

Self-awareness is a general term which fully encompasses the topics I have specified within this blog. As this content continues to grow; more importantly, as you continue to learn, do not forget to step back and re-assess how the knowledge and content relates to your sense of self. Self-awareness is a cyclic process of continuous growth. As children, we experience these cycles for the first time. I am watching my daughter, Madelyn, begin to experience more physical potentials (sitting and crawling) followed by her emotional experiences in response to them. Eventually she will be able to talk about her actions, and one day she will ask about the purpose of learning her next task. The valuable cycles will continue as she begins to apply her physical self to mastering more complex tasks. She will experience more intertwined psychological responses, and she will have a better grasp of the rational pathway of achieving her goals. Her greater purpose will hopefully become more clear as she expands her interactions with the people around her.

How can I improve my sense of self awareness?

Self awareness is a broad and potentially daunting topic, hence why it is minimized and often overlooked by many. To tackle this challenging task it may be useful to itemize the components of who you are as a person. I look forward to relating a few well known references including Maslow’s hierarchy, Erikson’s stages of development, Piaget’s model, and Kohlberg’s theory in later posts. For now it is best to start with a more simple overview.

1. What are your physical health needs?

Many people overlook the critical needs of the human body. We are all dependent on the oxygen in clean air to breath, clean water to hydrate our body, healthy foods to nourish our body, a good night sleep to repair our physical body, and maintenance of the homeostasis potentials within our body. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook these necessities as more complex social challenges inevitably become prioritized. It is always important to keep in touch with your health.

2. What are your psychological needs?

Once your health is optimized, you are able to fully and completely experience the psychology of yourself. You have a psychological need to feel secure and comfortable with yourself, and this allows you to develop healthy relationships with the people around you. This drive to improve yourself and your relationships will also motivate you to follow at least a few social trends which may or may not be optimal for your health.

3. What are your rational needs?

Learning is a lifelong process, and the amount of knowledge which can be attained does not have limits similar to physical potentials. Whether you are eating a meal, interacting with other people, studying a book, or meditating in silence, the ongoing stream rational processing will continue. Each moment you are blessed with the option of applying that stream positively and productively for yourself and for those around you.

4. What are your spiritual needs?

The robotic and repetitive nature of socially defined productivity has minimal value unless there is a greater purpose. While churches aim to assist in helping to define spirituality, it is up to you to truly connect with something more. The support of your spiritual needs helps to fulfill the sense of the human self, beyond the human body and beyond the psychological ego. Spirituality fully encompasses the physical, psychological, and rational self in order to relate with the soul which will be carried into eternity (the ‘location’/specific definitions are up for debate).

As my first blog post I left this fairly general, but please let me know if you have any topics you would like me to discuss in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.