Guilt Furiously Chasing You Is Commonly Experienced In Illnesses Of The Brain

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer ...

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Self-Care Tip #221 – If you feel chased down by guilt, stop running and get friendly with yourself.

I’m so busy!  I am trying to work, raise three kids, and be a wife!  …and I’m just spread so thin!

It was new for Connie to think that where she was at in life was linked with her choices.  Somehow she intuitively felt taken along by it all, a current of life as people say, of either randomness or design.  Who could know, but it was more than her choices, she was sure, and she resented the influence on her life’s design.  Not that she had intended on taking over what was playing on her.  She just simmered in the house of cards hoping that when she got to make a play of her own, she’d make a good one and come out better for it.  In the mean time, she just had to keep moving fast.

Things would have been fine, except that over the past six months, she hadn’t been enjoying what she was living for, her kids, parenting, being a wife or her employment.  Yes, she was also  living for God but no, she wasn’t enjoying Him either.  Did she want to?  Did she feel guilty about it?

I feel guilty all the time.  It’s the guilt that gets to me.  It’s like I can’t see or feel much else.  Just when I think I’m about to get into what I’m doing, guilt comes chasing at me in a fury!  Distracting me and worrying me.  I’m on edge more and irritable from feeling defensive, and trying to get away from whatever this is.

Connie looked at me when I said,

Self-care begins and starts with “Me.”  Although we may be living for others and other things, even living for God, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our health first, our emotions and behavioral health included, we can’t give much, in the way of living, to those others.

I could see her pupils change and I got a little excited.  She was hearing something that affected her whole body and I sensed it was hope.  (See, I am an Emotions Jedi.)

We talked more about approaches she was using, prayer/meditation, exercise, grit and determination, waiting it out for better days to come and others.  Then I introduced the medical paradigm.  (You’ve heard me say it.)

Behaviors and emotions come from the brain.  We culturally think that they are volitional, under our control.  But how much can we really control of what the brain does?  Some.  But when we do the best we can with what we can control, and our behaviors and emotions are still hurting us, affecting our quality of life, damaging our relationships and connections – we need to look for biological reasons.  That’s where choice can still come into play.

She was looking and nodding.  This was at her “consideration stage” of introducing these new ideas.  I said,

I thought of telling you about this when you talked about guilt Connie because maybe your guilt is coming because of a brain illness.  It’s common in several emotional illnesses, like depression or anxiety, and in these illnesses it commonly comes in force, like you’ve described.

Her pupils had reduced to their earlier size, and her posture said she was winding down for that visit.  Whatever we discussed after that would be low yield, so we made a follow-up appointment and called it a day.

These days later, remembering Connie gets me thinking about what I would have said if she had been available to still hear more.  This bit about freedom to choose self-care, yet saying we have little to do with how our brain works can get confusing.  It might seem contradictory.  Tomorrow, I’m going to discuss it more, but for today, it would be wonderful to hear what you think.

Questions:  With behaviors and emotions coming from a material biological organ, the brain, yet knowing that we are free to choose for our self-care, what gives?  How do these ideas jive?  How have you seen it play out in your life?  Please tell me your story.

28 thoughts on “Guilt Furiously Chasing You Is Commonly Experienced In Illnesses Of The Brain

  1. Poor Connie, I can relate to an extent, but I never considered the brain illness aspect of guilt. In my case I consider my guilt the result of a (healthy) Calvinist work ethic.
    Happy Tuesday, Doc.

    • hello view. guilt is a normal feeling to some behaviors but only until it becomes “not” normal. sometimes, guilt becomes “inappropriate” to the behavior – known as “inappropriate guilt” and is a symptom of medical illness of the brain. interesting huh? hard to “trust” ourselves sometimes but that’s why we stay in each other’s company of those trusted others who tell us when we are wearing our underwear in public ;).

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  4. I think our thoughts affect the chemicals our brains produce, to which we react. If this is true, our brains, may be biologically affected by our thoughts. If so, our correct, healing thoughts may cure our biological brain problems. Our continued infectious thoughts that produced bad chemicals must be changed. We must change them by thinking the right thoughts. The truth. The truth is that Jesus paid for our sin so that we could be free of guilt. Embracing this truth fully will pour healing chemicals into the brain. This is what I think. Just saying…

    • i’m down w that carol. i love this beauty in u and want to stay close because u r contagious :) too! in a good way of course.
      however just for the sake of this bit of medical knowledge, negative feeling, such as guilt, might be as causally related to sin as bladder cancer or inversely,not. why Jesus doesn’t heal sometimes the way we hope and pray… gulp… what do you think?

      • God’s ways are higher than our ways, and the Bible says His ways are past finding out. I think that means that he has purposes sometimes that we don’t understand and He doesn’t explain. The Apostle Paul prayed earnestly three times for God to heal him from some thorn in his flesh, to which God answer that His grace was sufficient. He didn’t heal Paul.

        I agree totally with what you said , that saying guilty thoughts could be causally related to sin would lead to saying that bladder cancer could be causally related to sin. All illnesses stem from original sin, so all disease causally relates to sin, ours or someone else’s; sometimes it is only a genetic relationship. We are all flawed, physically, mentally, and spiritually. God’s grace is sufficient for us, too, apparently, since we are not always healed.

  5. I know the guilt all to well, never attributed to the brain but more from upbringing…feeling I needed to be everything for everyone else. Hmmm, thoughts to ponder now!

  6. I am a person who loves and cares for others more than myself and need to learn more self care. I enjoy your blog. I will be back.

  7. It was so interesting to read this post today, because just a few hours ago I said to a friend that all my life, guilt has been like my shadow. And even though I’ve been making claims lately about freeing myself from excessive guilt, it isn’t so easy to do. One of the problems, I think, is that we need some level of guilt (a conscience) to function in society. But too much is debilitating.

    Thank you for this discussion.

  8. The worst thing a friend ever did was sneeze at church while the minister was talking from the pulpit. He’s got the guilt thing bad. Not because if that one lone incident of course.Yes it has to be an illness or imbalance because good caring people suffer. The key to all these types of things is to know we have it and know it isn’t real and we can fortify ourselves. If we have done horrible things we should have a sense of profound guilt in my opinion. Many people that suffer from guilt do not fall into that category and the nasty part is that many evil people have no guilt at all.

  9. I missed a few days and am reading backwards….should have read this one first before I commented on the next…..I’m guilty.

  10. with me i think my brain wants to see what it wants to see at any given time and if it dosnt see what it dosent want to see it doesnt play ball i tihnk guilt is a good thing with the brain becuase it tells us we have done something wrong but when i feel guilty maybee i should deal with this rather than reacting

  11. Is this true? I mean… I have those moments when my thoughts are just so overwhelming, cluttering, caustic! I just don’t know if I ever thought about it overtly. I know I have these moments of being overwhelmed with my chatter, but I guess I’d like to know if others have this as well? Is it just people with mental illness?

    • yes be sure, u r not alone. many have it.

      but i’m not sure how to answer that last question. just… i’m uncomfortable w it. an ultimate. only, just, never, always, …these extreme words r to far from the gray if u know what i mean…
      thank us so much for reading and commenting w us.

      i wonder what others would say to your question who r “listening…”? anyone?

  12. Wow, I am all over this concept, have been for many years. Sitting deeply in it right now. A quote from yesterday (well truly millennium old) “the spirit is willing the flesh is weak”. I am so damned sick and tired of white knuckling my way through my eating addiction. I know so many others. I eat so well all day long and then I start to eat. I have looked at the whys, the stressors and triggers, the old habits, being totally in the moment. Giving and loving myself. All of these things have helped and the addictive behavior is getting easier and easier. I am so willing and there is that little voice in my head literally the brain chirping away. Reading Tolle has helped me immensely.
    I was looking up building character and some how ended up here. No mistakes. I truly believe in everything you have written and its so affirming to me that these things I have figured out for myself a professional is telling me to be true as well. I am blessed with great books, the internet, very good friends, and over the years some good counselors and advisers.
    This is what I have truly figured out for me: The ego (brain) lives in the past and the future, so if I live in the present (where we should all be) there is no ego or brain, just me the Spirit. Works for me.

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