Archive for the ‘The Magic of Guilt’ Category

The Magic of Guilt   4 comments

I remember watching  Master Magician David Copperfield tie himself up in chains and have someone sink him in a tank of water to make his miraculous escape in front of millions of gaping mouthed television viewers.  My mouth was gaping too, because I was lusting over a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.  Same thing when he had someone saw him in half while in a coffin.  While everyone oohed and aahed I was in the bathroom trying to pop a zit.  The guy had a cover over the escape tank and who knows how many trick compartments were in that coffin?  Now having David Copperfield simply stand there naked on stage while a random audience member holding on with both hands runs a chain saw through his torso and he remains whole, that would have been a real feat of magic.  Or, a really gory viral video on YouTube.

However, I do believe we all posses a magical power within us.  Some are really adept at using it and others just let it chain them up and drown them.  It’s called guilt.  You can use it to manipulate others to do what you want or others can control you with it.  And it doesn’t involve slight of hand, fire, white doves, rabbits or coffins.  Anybody can use the power of guilt with little to no instruction.  In fact, it’s an innate ability some say given by God.  God is actually the embodiment of guilt.  If you don’t believe, bad things will happen.

Coming from a Jewish background, tossing around guilt was practically a sport in my family.  I remember around twelve years old I formally started studying for my Bar Mitzvah.  Even at that tender young age religion and God just didn’t seem believable to me.  I needed to see something concrete.  However four years earlier I’d say the same bedtime prayer up to ten times in a row until it was perfect.  I wanted to make sure God accepted it so all the people I wanted him to bless would not die the next day.  Notice a little OCD working here?

So since I had no more faith, getting Bar Mitzvahed seemed like nothing more than a chance for my battling divorced parents to throw a big party so my embittered waring relatives could shower me with money and gifts and kill each other in a caged wrestling match.  And when I began to push back about having to sing from a prayerbook written backwards and in Hebrew and walk around the synagogue holding a Torah over my head which looked like a double roll of paper towels in an ornate blue velvet and gold cover, my parents threatened me with no Bar Mitzvah.  I took a deep adolescent sign of relief and thanked them.  Now I had more time to masturbate.

Then came out the magical powers.  “How could I be so selfish.  I would break my great grandfather’s heart, who was smuggled into this country from Russia on a boat, not to see his great grandson Bar Mitzvahed.   And being one of only a handful of Jews in my private school, it was my duty to stand up  and accept manhood as a Jew.  It was up to me to represent my religion.”  Then my father snapped his fingers and my mother wiggled her nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and I was guilted into having a Bar Mitzvah.  They never even pulled the word God out of their parental quiver.

But here is the thing that many people don’t realize about guilt;  You don’t have to feel it.  You allow yourself to be guilted into something.  If you don’t feel guilty about something, nobody’s words can make you adopt the emotion.  Feeling guilt is your choice.  But please don’t misunderstand, just because you can chose not to feel guilt, it doesn’t make it an invalid emotion.  If you steal, you should feel guilty.  You took something that wasn’t yours.  If you don’t feel guilt there is something wrong with you.  But if you decide not to go to a party because you’re depressed and really don’t have the capacity to interact with others, you should not assume guilt over being bipolar and needing to take care of yourself.

Now of course there are selfish people who do whatever they please and don’t feel a lick of guilt, even when they should.  I have a friend who has cancels on me every single time we are supposed to get together.  This has happened at least ten times.  I’d be utterly embarrassed if I were her.  I doubt she feels guilt or she wouldn’t treat me like this.  The worst part is I really don’t have a burning desired get together with her in the first place.  She was asking me to help her with something.  The humorous part is that she is a deeply religious Christian.   Christians are almost as good as Jews with at assigning guilt.  Doesn’t she know  “Jesus died for her sins.”  That’s some pretty powerful guilt.

I think bipolar people are more susceptible to taking on guilt.  So many times because of depression, medication side effects, mania or just needing to rest our complicated brains, we opt out of social activities and now and then work related events.  We feel guilty because we lie about why we did not participate.  “I have food poisoning.”  “The house flooded and I have to stay with the plumber.”  “My car died.”  Why should we be required to broadcast to the world we are bipolar and need some time to get our heads together?  Women having painful cramps don’t announce their periods in public.  It’s fine to just say they are a little under the weather.  I doubt they feel any guilt.  But because you can’t see Bipolar Illness, we allow ourselves to feel guilty when we have to opt out of certain activities and tell a little white lie. This is the kind of guilt we should chose not to feel.

Unfortunately, one of the fun things about being bipolar is that we often feel things we do not want to feel but they stick in our minds disproportionately magnified until they dominate our thoughts.  We second guess everything we do or say and play it over and over in our heads ad infinitem.  And if someone drops the guilt bomb on us, or we do it to ourselves, we find ourselves in a web of mixed emotions from which not even Spiderman can untangle.  If you are bipolar, it’s very hard to simply chose not to feel that kind of guilt no matter how justified.

It’s like when someone walks up to you who knows you are bipolar and says, “Snap out of it.”  My new response is “Sure, and let me tie you up in chains and submerse you head first in a tank of water like David Copperfeild.   That’s kind of what it feels like to be bipolar.  Then you can show me how easy it is to snap out of it.”   Of course I’ll jump in and save him before he drowns.  Can you imagine the guilt I’d feel if I let someone die in one of David Copperfeilds magic props without permission?

Advertisements