The relationship between Acknowledgment and Guilt!

Many people are surprised by Principle #3 in The Power of Acknowledgment, which states: “Acknowledgment neutralizes, defuses, deactivates, and reduces the effect of jealousy and envy!” It takes a little while, but most people “get it” and want to test it out in their own professional and personal lives. They tell me that it works, which makes me very happy.

 But now I may be on to something else, which even surprises me. When you write a book like mine, you are fair game for anyone who finds your real life behavior the least bit contrary to what the book espouses. The other night I was with dear friends, and spoke of my sick, elderly parents and the guilt I feel about not doing more for them. My Dad is in assisted living and my Mom, unfortunately, had to be placed in a nursing home due to medical needs she has.  So after 63 years of marriage, they are now living separately, which breaks my heart. And although I do a great deal for them, it never feels like I am doing enough. I also have a very stressful and exciting job, a typically challenging teenage son, an adult daughter who is just finding her place in society and more (e.g. my 17 year old dog is blind, slightly deaf and has dementia).  My wise friend Jerry reminded me that I had written a book about acknowledgment, and that guilt was simply a distraction — a way of avoiding the need to acknowledge myself for all that I am doing. In fact, he said, I could make changes in my life in order to get rid of the guilt, such as changing my work situation, etc. But that as long as I was going to keep things going as they are, then the guilt is useless and purposeless. Guilt only has any value, he said, when it steers us to make new choices. Since I really love the life I have, the work I do, I decided that he is right. Because I don’t want to make any serious changes in my life situation, there is no need for guilt. I have a colleague who is very well known and well respected in our field, and in a similar situation with her parents,  she took a year off from work to get them situated as best she could. I do not choose to do this, even though the luxury of time to handle everything for them and to be with them as much as I want to, is attractive. Without committing to making changes in my basic situation,  the guilt is indeed purposeless. So I have been acknowledging myself for what I AM doing for my parents (a lot), rather than feeling guilty for what I am NOT doing, since then (although I do slip occasionally). Isn’t this an interesting connection between acknowledgment and guilt? It is very curious. I thank my friend Jerry for that insight — it may become another chapter in the next edition of my book.