As an abuse survivor, I am left with a hyper sense of guilt and responsibility for simple daily events that others may not even think to be significant.
I have a perfect example of this today and will try to explain the cognitive distortions and spiral of worry that accompany simple decisions.
I know a famous musician. I used to idolize this man, and now that I know him personally, I still am blown away by his talent, but have been less than impressed with his character and actions towards some of my friends. One of my closest friends was hurt very badly by this man’s greedy, arrogant, and self serving actions. I personally did not feel his slight was as extreme as her reaction to it though, and took it all in stride. I have not written off this man as evil, like she has. I have not unfriended him in FB like she has.
So, today I see his post announcing he will be performing locally with his Broadway crew, and I was super excited for his chance to rejoin his group, as he not performed with them for a few years, he stopped touring for various reasons. My next thought was that I would like to go to the show. It is a group I have always loved, and have only seen on TV. This is the first year that I could even consider buying tickets. Although still quite expensive, it would not be impossible as it has been for so many years. My finances have much improved over the past decade. (understatement – I rarely talk about money, but we nearly lost everything when I lost my job and went through years of expensive medical care, and survived a bankruptcy, and well maybe this is for another post)
So cool, right? I should go. I immediately looked up the tickets and started picking out seats. And then the guilt. I thought of many other things to do with that money. I thought I don’t deserve this. I thought I didn’t work enough this year. I should have more in my savings. What if the van needs repairing? Or the dog gets sick? Or my hurting knee needs more than a bandage? And then I saw the price and realized I can not afford to take the whole family. But then I realized I didn’t want to take the kids, as they would decrease my enjoyment of it. They would enjoy it for a few minutes, and then I would likely spend most of the evening waiting in outside a public restroom as I hear the performance faintly through the walls. So then I felt guilty for not wanting to share it with the kids. But I don’t want to go alone, and I certainly can’t go with any of my friends that would tell this other friend that doesn’t like this man. So I should go with Hubby, and that means I need a sitter, and that’s not easy to do at all. And what if I spend all this money and the sitter backs out last minute?
And then the guilt for not supporting my friend who had her feelings hurt and the guilt for not supporting the performer. I understand her, but I don’t feel the same. I wanted to hit like and congratulate this man and go to his show. But I don’t want to risk a new friendship over this, and it is very likely to get back to her that I went if I run into another mutual friend. So complicated. So I know she wouldn’t actually unfriend me forever, because she is actually a friend, (I’m pretty sure, but don’t feel like testing this) but it would disappoint her. And here steps in my exaggerated sense of responsibility to consider everyone else’s feelings over my own. So I decided to send a personal message though, seemed to best way to congratulate one friend without hurting the other. And then I felt guilty about that too, like it was dishonest and deceitful. But I don’t think it was, it was polite and kind. I think.
So I did not buy the tickets yet. My bank account is quite low from buying Christmas gifts right now. I will add it to the budget, and if they don’t sell out, I will try to buy them next month. The show is not for a few months and I have no idea if I can secure a reliable sitter yet. But I am basing my decision on those, very practical reasons, not on all those other guilt and responsibility reactions I had. I can not prevent the cognitive distortions, but I can recognize them, and choose not to act on them. I’d say that’s good enough for me.