It was mentioned to be informational.
It wasn’t directed at me or directly at anyone else for that matter. She was thinking about it because she was drinking from the mug, so she said it.
“This mug that I just got as a present must be hand-washed, it shouldn’t go in the dishwasher.”
My mind immediately jumped to “I must have done something to the mug.” Now it wasn’t said in an accusatory manner, and it wasn’t said just to me. Which leads me to why I would think something that hadn’t even happened was my fault?
Why was I feeling guilty?
My mind is racing trying to figure out if I had done anything with the mug. I was there the day she got the package and opened the mug. I had seen it on the kitchen table for a day or two after that. And then today I saw her with it in her hand.
So why would I think that maybe I had put it in the dishwasher?
This is unhelpful thinking on a whole new level. It doesn’t make sense. A “normal person” wouldn’t jump to that conclusion based on the evidence. They would not feel “attacked,” or that they had done something wrong. They would hear the person saying, “please hand-wash this mug, don’t put it in the dishwasher.”
And that is all they would hear.
They would not add to it a caveat and hear the person saying, “I know you must have done something to this mug, I can tell it has been in the dishwasher. How could you possibly have done that to my new mug?” All of that bounced around in my brain the split second after I heard “please hand -wash…”
I asked my therapist about this feeling of guilt for something I might have done but didn’t.
She had me think back to my little self. What had taken place in my young life that made me feel that I am responsible for the entire world? She wanted me to think about that and then had me shine the light of compassion on my little self.
Being responsible for the entire world is not easy.
And, it is an unrealistic and unhelpful thinking style to believe you know what everyone else needs and what they are thinking. And then to feel like I must solve whatever the problem is that I think they have going on is really unheard of, unhelpful, and unhealthy.
And that I should own and solve their problem is border-line crazy. In my mind, they don’t get to do it, to solve their own problems; I get to be the hero and sweep in and save the day.
This feeling of being responsible could have come from my childhood.
When my father was offered a position in another state, he started the job over a year before we joined him. We stayed one more school year where we were. This gave my parents the time needed to sell our house and build a new one in the new state.
So, my Dad would leave Sunday afternoon and come back on Friday night. And occasionally, it would be two weeks before he came for the weekend.
I remember hearing that as the oldest child I was now “the man of the house.”
Being 12 years old, I felt excited knowing that I was going to do that. I had a positive, can-do attitude, so why not think I could be the man of the house. I don’t recall at the time feeling any pressure. In fact, it was more pride.
And since I was there to solve problems, I wasn’t a dictator with my brother and sisters, although I cannot speak for them and their memories of that year. I’m sure their memories are quite different than mine. As I grew into adulthood, this childhood experience was shelved by me.
I shelved it in an unproductive way, “riding it hard and putting it away wet.”
There was no resolution of the feeling that I needed to be perfect and solve all the problems after we moved. In that year, I learned what was expected. I was to be “evergreen,” always ok, always in charge, always the one who could be counted on.
So, it turns out, I had learned very well that I was the head of the household. As I think about this, I see that this concept may have been part of the reason I concealed my depression for over 40 years.
I had to be the man of the house, and how could I do that if I had depression?
It became my job to not let anything get in the way of being personally responsible for the entire world, even if no one was asking me too. And it became my job to never, ever have depression, to never ever, acknowledge its existence, and to never ever stop being responsible for the entire world.
It’s no wonder I’m tired now.
Seeing this, hearing this, and understanding this is just the beginning. Now I need to forgive myself and let go of this idea. I need to shine the light of compassion on myself, on my little-self and let go of this idea that I am responsible for the entire world.
I am working on letting this go. I can see the unhelpful thinking that this idea is manifesting. And I see how destructive this idea has been. I have done this at the expense of myself.
Next week, I have an appointment with my therapist who is trained in CBT. I am going to discuss this with him. We have already looked at another issue from junior high school. My 12-year-old issue may have been the catalyst for the feelings I had when I didn’t run that race. Wow, that explains a lot.
Getting this out into the light of day is painful.
But not nearly as painful as carrying it around for over 40 years, acting it out without understanding why. And then when I would have periods of depression, I would find myself working incredibly hard to not face it and to conceal it, so I could get through the day.
I will no longer be responsible for the entire world, feeling I must solve everyone’s problems. This idea is from my past, and I need to let it go, to move on, to live in the present and focus on what is in front of me now, not live in the past.
My job is to be the best I can be. To do the right things, and not put the mug in the dishwasher.
Not because I feel guilty, but because it needs to be hand-washed so the writing doesn’t wash off.
I can do that!