The Good Girl/Bad Girl
I sometimes joke Cathy
Guisewhite (creator of the strip at the left for those who don't know her by name) should
join me in starting a support group called Overthinkers Anonymous.
Whatever it is we are
doing, it seems we rarely shut off that voice in the back of our brains that lives to
heckle us about whatever it is we're not doing.
Guilt is always there,
thumping like a drum in the background.
Do most guys suffer the same pangs when
they duck dishes and laundry? I doubt it. We've always made space for males to be less
competent around the camp fire so long as they brought home some wampum.
The sense of a No-Win double bind became
especially clear in the Cathy character when she started working from home. The undone
chores around the house call "bad girl" much more loudly when you don't leave
home during business hours, no matter what else you're doing.
Women with leaping minds get a double
dose of this double bind. If we turn into ditzes around the Little Life Details that
females are "supposed to" handle with ease, it puts a pall on the rest of our
esteem no matter what else we achieve.
Good & Bad Guilt:
Even when we learn to laugh off our domestic incompetence and
bounce on, we can't completely escape the sense that others feel let down. Particularly
not if we are wives and mothers at the same time we're doing the wampum thing.
Not that this is always logical. Like
most of our biological and cultural templates, the feelings may have little to do with
what we know with our intellects, and lots to do with what springs forth from the
back shelves of our brains.
I am sure I learned to guilt-trip as part of my female
heritage. But at the same time, I
also suspect the guilt-tripping has an adaptive effect, especially for brains wired to
I think my psychic hair shirt plays a role in keeping my
psyche in line. If my boundaries about "should" and "must" were any
more fluid than they already are, my leaping mind might never stand still long enough to
get any chores done.
Guilt can have its benefits. It just needs to restrained
in a fairly small cage where you can open and shut the door.
Context & Degree:
The key words in that last paragraph were "open and shut the door." In
matters of guilt, as with all things mental, degree and context are everything.
We overthinkers with racing thoughts on multiple tracks
often need to turn it down. Our underfocused *
counterparts might need to turn up the volume instead.Whether any one bouncing brain needs
to lighten up or tighten up is relative to where it begins.
That relativity is what's missing in so many
psychological recipes, especially the ones we prescribe for ourselves en masse,
If the nagging voice in the back of your head rarely
serves to rein your roving side, then maybe you need to learn how to let it be heard
without it letting it beat you down.
But if it's already an affectionate nag with an override
switch that lets you tune it down to a background beat, then guilt might also just be a