How can I stop myself from feeling guilty and worrying about other people’s problems?
I often worried that I didn’t do enough for people close to me, and that they were disappointed in me for not solving their problems or being supportive enough. If someone asked me for advice or an opinion, I often got stressed and worried as to what I said was good enough.
However, since I started to meditate, I gained insight about this problem and I’ve now stopped worrying about other people’s problems.
Inferiority is the cause of our problem
Basically every problem we face in our psyche has to do with inferiority in one way or another. Inferiority is the root cause of surprisingly many pains in our mind. Due to our inferiority we set high standards for ourselves. We want to be good, we want to do the right thing, we want to be respected, we want to feel useful (just because we don’t feel good enough deep within).
However, often those standards don’t match our capability or our personality. This mismatch causes one or many of the following emotions to be triggered within: anxiety; sadness; irritation; anger; arrogance; self-importance; cold-heartedness; hopelessness; guilt; blame; self-victimization. Which emotion that gets triggered depends on the composition of the person’s mind. However, the root cause is always inferiority.
The problem you describe, i.e. feeling guilty and worrying about other people’s problems, happens because we want to be a “better” or a “different” person than who we actually are. This leads us to take on responsibilities that are greater than we realistically can bear. Since there is nothing we can do to fulfill this “responsibility” we feel guilty and powerless. We hate to feel that way (i.e. we can’t accept ourselves), so we end up in a constant struggle trying to appease these feelings of inferiority in various ways. One such way is to worry about other people’s problems since that gives us a sense of self-importance.
Meditate and root out the feelings of inferiority
In order to bring about a change to our situation, we need to root out all our feelings of inferiority in our mind. Meditation is an extremely powerful tool for this purpose, and it is not complicated. Simply start by honestly reflecting on yourself. See all the times you haven’t felt good enough. After some time, you will be able to locate the undercurrents of inferior emotions related to these events. Let those inferior emotions surface without denying or pushing them down. This way, you start to release the inferiority from the mind, which is a very good start. You have now started a process of true change. From here on, you should learn a technique to more actively throw these feelings out. There are meditation centers that teach such techniques.
My journey: from guilt to authenticity
As I travelled this journey of introspection and meditation, I was able to become aware of the constant “background noise of guilt” in my mind. It was always there, ready to come to the surface when being triggered. I found that the reason I felt like this was that I deeply inside, and mostly subconsciously, was convinced that I was completely useless as a human being. I was terrified of facing this aspect of myself, so I did everything I could to feel useful. One of the things I did was to create a standard for myself that I should be a caring and understanding person, a good son, a good friend, a good boyfriend, etc. I constantly worried whether I was able to meet those requirements. I was always watching and evaluating other people’s feelings, looking for signals as to whether they approved of me or not.
It became evident to me that worrying and feeling guilty about other people’s feelings is not an indication that you actually care about those people. I realized that I did not genuinely care about others at all; the objective of my “care” was merely to make sure that I hadn’t done anything to upset them or that I had done “enough” in terms of what was expected from me. Of course, as long as you hold a mind like that, your relationships will always suffer in one way or the other and they will never become truly sincere and genuine.
Through meditation it was possible to see all the mechanisms at play in my mind. It was a very liberating process. In my case, I realized how obsessed I was with my image, how I was perceived by others, and how little I cared about other people’s actual needs. As I saw this and began to let go of those minds with help of the meditation method, a change started to occur within. The first thing I noticed was that I was able to accept myself as I was, namely a very self-centered person. As I accepted this fact, I felt more at ease with focusing on my own stuff and letting people be who they were and deal with their own problems. It may sound harsh, but it is not a bad thing. People are more capable than you think; they will find their ways and they have their lessons to learn from life. Their burdens are in most cases not for you to bear.
As time went by, I could also start to support people without necessarily trying to be a “good person”. I could offer my help when I felt like it, and with no burden. Also, I could say no without feeling guilty. This meant that my help was offered from a place of authenticity, and not from a place of guilt. A sense of freedom emerged from within; I became happier and more energized. One day, I got a glimpse of what I would like to call “true compassion”. This was a marvelous thing; it is a sense of togetherness and gratitude for a fellow person’s mere existence, and a sincere wanting to act for that person to realize and live his/her true meaning and purpose.
I know I have a long way to go still, and this might sound pretentious, but I would like to say that meditation has helped me to start understanding the principles of humankind. It is to naturally coexist with one another. This can only be done when we let go of our frames and standards. Since our man-made standards are based on inferiority, they can never be compatible or flexible enough to allow for coexistence and acceptance of ourselves and other people. However, by letting go and emptying our mind, our standards will naturally be those of coexistence and life.
Check out the video below. It describes well what I try to explain.