Living Above Neurotic Guilt
A True Story
on Feb 19, 2021
While roaming the World Wide Web a couple of years ago, I came across an interesting blog article written by a 24-year old Kenyan female blogger. In the article, the blogger enumerated 24 lessons that she had learnt in her 24 years of living on this planet. As I read the lessons, I thought that that was too much wisdom coming from a 24-year old. I really was impressed and inspired by her article.
The lessons? Well, the ones I remember is her saying she had discovered God is real; she therefore advised people to trust in Him. She also said that everything in our lives will eventually work out, a lesson of hers that has instilled me with hope. And she encouraged young people to find their own voice instead of imitating others.
But the lesson of hers that stuck in me most was her claim that all people get corrupted at some point in life and begin experiencing neurotic guilt. That lesson has come as a surprise to me because I have thought the neurotic guilt I have suffered every now and then since 2009 has been as a result of the way I messed up when I was at the university in JKUAT.
Yes, I have suffered from neurotic guilt occasionally since that time in 2009 when I was dropping out of JKUAT where I had been pursuing a degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering. Sometimes the guilt has become so intense that I have become afraid of being seen by people in the streets.
Thankfully, for the past one year since I developed a disciplined lifestyle, I have almost succeeded in living a guilt-free life given the way I have been feeling at peace most of the time. I have used the word "almost" because I still do feel a minor guilt feeling on some evenings when I go for my daily walks to my hometown of Kiserian. I believe that I will soon overcome that minor guilt feeling through God's redeeming grace.
Over the last few days, I have thought long and hard on the tactics I can use to totally overcome neurotic guilt. And today, I have decided to share with you the tactics I came up with, hoping that you will also benefit from them.
First is silencing the inner critic. There is this voice inside our heads that tries to put us down by reminding ourselves of our weaknesses and past mistakes. As for me, I have resolved to silence that inner critic by speaking encouraging words to myself, like reminding myself of my strengths and past successes. And I know I will find lots of good things to say about myself to myself.
Second is developing a healthy self-love. We must love ourselves to be truly happy - and that's a point most people don't seem to understand. As for me, I will say some nice things about myself when I see my reflection on a mirror. Like how I am kind, compassionate and empathetic - qualities of the heart from which true self-worth stems.
And loving myself includes overlooking my imperfections. I will endeavor to remind myself that no one is perfect apart from God. So I will not be hard on myself for the imperfections I see in myself in my day-to-day living. I will appreciate myself as I am. Different ... yes. Imperfect ... certainly. But nonetheless valuable.
Third is not letting the negativity around me get inside my heart and weigh me down. I have heard it said that ships don't sink because of the waters around them; they sink when the water gets inside them. Similarly, I won't let the insults and complainings of my work colleagues and family members get into my heart and contribute to my guilt feelings.
And lastly is cushioning myself against the acid cruelty of the world: that is, the unkindness of others. This world is full of negative people who try to put us down at every turn. When I find myself the victim of such negative attacks, I will understand the problem is with the critic, not with myself.
Well, I admit some of the criticism we receive is fair and can be helpful to our growth. But much of the criticism is due to the pecking order of the society: others want to escape from their own insecurities by pointing out how they are better than us. The best way to deal with such unfair criticism is to ignore and forgive it, however hard that maybe, because if we don't, it might fuel our emotions of neurotic guilt.
As I strive to implement those tactics in my day-to-day living, I will adopt the attitude of Abraham Lincoln, the great American president who was elected on a Republican ticket. Lincoln was not such a handsome man. Had he lived in these media-crazy days when looks seem to matter more than character, he probably wouldn't win the Republican primary, much less the presidency. But Lincoln would have been happy anyway. He once said, "It's up to me to whittle what I can with what I've got. I am ready to admit you can make a better looking dog out of the same raw material, but what I am, I am. So this will just have to do." Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on living above neurotic guilt, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about three years ago on "Slaying the Dragon of Guilt". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A True Story
on Feb 14, 2021
As I narrated in my previous story on this lovely blog of mine, I used to suffer from bipolar disorder - a mental illness that would make me feel overexcited at times and depressed at other times for no apparent reason. Although I disliked the phases of depression, I enjoyed my moments of excitement because of the way they made me feel energized and overactive.
Whenever I felt high, I would sometimes laugh boisterously over some old silly jokes. Like on one evening in 2016 when I felt high in spirits, I sat down on the floor of my room and began laughing uncontrollably - something that worried my sick mother. She thought it abnormal for me to laugh that much while alone in my room.
Another tendency I had when feeling high was talking too much, often jumping from one idea to another in quick succession. If I didn't have someone to talk to, I would turn to my phone and call or message my friends. By sending my friends lots of silly messages, I ended up annoying some of them. The book of Proverbs is right when it says "when words are many, sin is not absent". It truly is right.
Besides laughing and talking too much, I would also have delusions of grandeur during my moments of excitement. I would, for instance, imagine myself addressing the Kenyan parliament on an occasion aired live on TV. And I would imagine myself delivering the speech with the clarity and eloquence of Ronald Reagan, one of my favourite American presidents whose 1981 inaugural speech I loved listening to again and again on a computer during my high moments.
Perhaps the worst deed I did in my moments of excitement was visiting places. I would go to my former schools to greet teachers, to the churches I once attended to catch up with old friends, or to the homes of neighbours and relatives to swap stories. And whenever I found myself with an extra reserve of energy, I would walk and walk in my neighbourhood for what seemed like endless hours with the vitality of a lamb.
On mature reflection, I now think that all the laughing, talking, thinking and walking that I did when I felt over-excited was a chase after fantasies. And the book of Proverbs warns us that he who chases fantasies ends up in poverty. Luckily for me, I had my family providing for my needs - otherwise I would have ended up in want.
I am now of the opinion that instead of going to visit places when I felt overexcited, I should have stayed at home and used that energy to develop my mind. How? By reading, writing and playing the piano. Or by improving my web-design and computer-programming skills. Had I used my energy that way, I would have become a better person - physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and financially.
Having learnt from those mistakes of the past, I have for the past one year worked hard to control my enthusiasm. I have restrained myself from walking and talking too much when feeling excited by channelling my energies into my hobbies. And my efforts are bearing fruit because I have not been feeling depressed as frequently as I used to do.
I have vowed to keep controlling my enthusiasm as the hands of time keep ticking. The Bible calls it self-control and it's one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. By practising self-control, I hope to become a productive member of the society. Just like the way a farmer grows vegetables for sale, I will use my energies to create something that will improve the lives of others - something like writing a great story or composing an inspirational song.
My dear reader, if you go through moments of depression and over-excitement, you suffer from bipolar disorder. And trust me, you won't go anywhere with such fluctuating moods; they might even lead you to misery and poverty. So I urge you to control your feelings like the way a diode converts alternating currents into stable direct currents. (Pardon my engineering jargon.)
A great way of controlling your feelings is by engaging in a hobby that gives you a sense of achievement. It could be writing, singing or tinkering with machines. And if you have no hobbies to work on, you can seek medical attention as there are medicinal drugs for people suffering from bipolar disorder. But let seeking medical attention be the last resort.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on practising self-control, you might also enjoy another one I wrote more than two years ago on "Imitation is Limitation". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.