My t., who I respect, suggested other options for me and when she did fear and guilt came over me with such vengeance and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My little girl cringed within. We were able to discuss at the moment what I was feeling.
All my t. was doing was just giving me possible different options. I was looking at it (and always have) that if I do not "do" (like my mum expected me to do) what she suggested, then I was wrong and shame on me. I guess there is part of shame in this scenario as well. But, my t. told me that I had options. Not demands.
I did not know or believe I had an option to "decline." I always believed, especially coming from my controlling mum, with her scolding finger pointed at me "that what she "told" me I had to do in order not to feel guilty." My mum "always" expected me to obey her. No exceptions. I thought I had NO other option.
My mind was enlightened. This stronghold is so ingrained in me that I had to ask my t. a few times to explain over again what I am doing and not understanding.
My mind finally grasped it. When it did, I then felt myself overwhelmed. This is all new to me and I therefore need time to process. Because literally I did not know I had a choice. And I need not feel guilty.
My t. continued to remind and reassure me that "I was enough."
I found a wonderful article on False Guilt that best describes me with an "overactive conscience." Take a look. Maybe you see yourself here too:
The Source of False Guilt
Next, I would like to focus on the source of false guilt: an overactive conscience. What is an overactive conscience? How does it function? Steve Shores says, "The mission of a person's overactive conscience is to attract the expectations of others."
Imagine a light bulb glowing brightly on a warm summer's night. What do you see in your mind's eye? Bugs. Bugs of every variety are attracted to that light. The light bulb serves as a magnet for these insects. Imagine that light is an overactive conscience. The expectations of others are the "bugs" that are attracted to the "light" of an overactive conscience.
Now imagine a light bulb burning inside a screened porch. The bugs are still attracted, but they bounce off the screen. The overactive conscience has no screen. But it is more than that. The overactive conscience doesn't want a screen. The more "bugs" the better. Why? Because the whole purpose is to meet expectations in order to gain approval and fill up the emptiness of the soul. This is an overactive conscience, a light bulb with lots of bugs and no screen.
A key to understanding the overactive conscience is the word "active." Someone with false guilt has a conscience that is always on the go. False guilt makes a person restless, continually looking for a rule to be kept, a scruple to observe, an expectation to be fulfilled, or a way to be an asset to a person or a group.
The idea of being an asset is a crucial point. When I am an asset, then I am a "good" person and life works pretty well. When I fear I've let someone down, then I am a liability. My life falls apart, and I will work hard to win my way back into the favor of others.
So an overactive conscience is like a magnet for expectations. These expectations come from oneself, parents (whether alive or not), friends, bosses, peers, God, or distorted images of God. False guilt makes the overactive conscience voracious for expectations. False guilt is always looking for people to please and rules to be kept.
An overactive conscience is also seeking to keep the "carrot" of acceptance just out of reach. This "carrot" includes self-acceptance and acceptance from others and from God. The guilt-ridden conscience continually says, "Your efforts are not good enough. You must keep trying because, even if your attempts don't measure up, the trying itself counts as something."
For that reason, an overactive conscience is not happy at rest. Though rest is the birthright of the Christian, relaxing is just too dangerous, i.e., relaxing might bring down my guard, and I might miss signs of rejection. Besides, acceptance is conditional, and I must continually prove my worthiness to others. I can never be a liability if I am to expect acceptance to continue. It is hard to relax because I must be ever fearful of letting someone down and must constantly work to gain acceptance.
In summary, a person with false guilt and an overactive conscience spends much of his or her life worn out. Unrelenting efforts to meet the expectations of others can have some very negative consequences.
© 1996 Probe Ministries International