The Negative Zone
The Zone : The Guilt Zone

The Zone

The Guilt Zone

By Tom Evans

« #12 The Sadness Zone

Guilt comes at us from two directions. It can be externally applied or internally generated. The former kind of guilt leads to the latter.

Externally applied guilt comes from the collective. It comes historically from religions, governments and the legal profession and latterly from the media and even from competitive sports.

We have laws and rules to keep us on the safe and narrow. We are introduced to them from an early age and throughout our schooling. We are told what we should ‘not’ do. These rules are often phrased in the negative. For example, seven of the ten commandments include a “shalt not”. In the classroom, and many homes around the world, we can imagine exasperated teachers or parents shouting, “Don’t do that”. These admonishments might be echoed back negatively with, “No” or “Shan’t”.

Many lawyers make fortunes from assigning and ascribing guilt. The news media predominately report on the negative aspects of our society. Many journalists are continually on the hunt for the guilty party and scapegoat.

In sport, if a team loses, the manager can be heard in the post match interview coming up with all sorts of excuses to save his job. Rarely do you hear them say that the other team was simply better than them, or how exciting and how much fun the game was. So much emphasis is on winning these days, not taking part. The losers can feel guilty simply as a result of not winning. We live in a culture of blame where everything has to be someone else’s fault.

So what chance does a child have but to grow up with some aspect of guilt when they are surrounded by it? Some churches even use the concept of original sin as a central tenet of their dogma. This means that an innocent baby has sinned before they have a chance to take their first breath. I remember being a relatively good boy, not so much so I would have a chance to go to heaven, but so that I wouldn’t go to hell. If I though I sinned in some way, I would agonise about even the most minor of transgressions for days afterwards. I know some of this entrenched and embedded guilt affects my behaviour fifty years later.

When we have done something against the law of the land and it can be proven that we did so, we are labelled as being “Guilty” or “the guilty party”. We even have to ‘plead guilty’ as if we are begging for forgiveness.

For some people transgressions can become habit and misconduct a way of life. Their moral compass has lost any connection with the ’True North of Righteousness’. They don't even suffer from guilt and may act from a position of their own self-righteousness, which may be way out of kilter with mainstream society. Indeed they will often operate in clandestine, guilt-free groups where lawlessness is the norm.

While those outside the group may see them as being ’sin-full’, they will consider themselves as ‘sin-less’. Some of them will be revolutionaries, some even terrorists. Only history will later decide who were the heroes and which were the villains.

Any counteraction of feelings of guilt has to be dealt with from both a personal and a group perspective.

First, we must forgive ourselves for any transgressions we still carry with us. A spell in the Learning Zone is what’s needed. Once we learn the seed cause, and acknowledge it, we find that the circumstances where you could be guilty of anything tend to vaporise.

Next, guilt at a societal level has to be addressed. Religions would be more popular if they came into the twenty-first century, dropping all fear-based dogma and fully embracing the Loving Zone. While many purport and strive to work from a position of love, a close look and revision of underlying doctrine is overdue in many cases.

The legal system and the media could both benefit from a period of introspection and a phase of revolution. People really should be innocent until proven guilty, not clandestinely branded as guilty before the fact. •

Next: The Addiction Zone »

Tom Evans Renaissance Man and Imagineer Tom Evans is the author of four books and counting about creativity. More »

Updated 1/18/15

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