Friday, November 11, 2011


I started to watch the latest in Derren Brown's Experiments series. He had set up a fake conference in a country-house hotel with the aim of convincing a perfectly innocent man that he had committed a murder, and getting him to confess to it - - just to see whether this could, indeed, be done.

I could only watch the first five minutes. Early on, they were going to plant feelings of guilt in him by persuading him to think that he had really, really annoyed someone he admired.

And that was it: I could watch no more. I usually find this kind of thing interesting but I just could not bear the idea of this poor man thinking he'd done something to upset someone he admired.

It's one of my big worries. I think that someone I love or admire or both will suddenly be furious with me for no reason that I can think of: I simply won't understand what I am supposed to have done, and will be given no chance to explain, and they will be furious with me for ever and ever.

Has this ever happened to me? Well, no, not that I can think of. But it's such an ongoing, deep-seated fear and I can't quite put my finger on why. Just a nameless, stomach-churning guilt that I have DONE SOMETHING TERRIBLE.

If I'd been the chap in that house, I'm sure I would have confessed to the murder very easily. It wouldn't take much to persuade me it was me wot dunnit. I am constantly awash with guilt.

And yet I'm not sure why. I know such feelings are often rooted in the dim and distant past. Looking back into my childhood, did I do anything that I'm terribly ashamed of?

When I was ten - and I feel so bad about this story still that I can hardly bring myself to mention it - I loved having pets and had as many as my parents would let me have. I did always look after them myself but when I was ten I asked if I could have some mice, and they said no. They thought I had enough animals what with the dog and the tortoise and the tank of fish and the tadpoles that I was rearing and the two terrapins.

A friend of mine gave me two mice. I kept them in my den in the garage, in secret, for some weeks, until I could bear the secrecy no more and confessed.

That was the worst thing I did as a child. Any of the more usual things that children do that are naughty - - well, I never did them. I was a Good Girl.

What does annoy me slightly is that nobody seemed to notice. It was just expected of me. I was the eldest child and they had nothing to compare me with. Okay, sometimes - probably often - I said "Just let me finish this chapter" when asked to come and do some household task - - but that was it.

The only possible thing that I can remember as a cause of my guilt dates from soon after we'd moved into this house. My Grandma, who lived with us, must have thought I was being too demanding - I'm not sure what I was doing, because I was only three - and, being a Victorian, she told me that if I continued to behave in this way, I would wear my mother out and she would disappear.

Nightmares of my mother disappearing in a small explosion woke me for some time after that, and can't have been very enjoyable for my parents to deal with, so Grandma's story was really somewhat counterproductive.

When we got to be teenagers, others did drink and loud music and backchat and rebellion.

What did I do? My homework, that was what. The school I was at was all very "I got eighty-nine per cent, what did you get?" and I just worked like crazy to make sure I was up there. To me, failing an exam would have been like the end of the world and I was going to make sure I never did.

In a reversal of the usual teenage issues, I remember my mother constantly telling me to stop doing my homework (they did give us lots of it!) and go to bed. One of my favourite programmes was Star Trek - the Sixties version with Captain Kirk and Spock of course - and I have only to hear the theme music in order to feel guilty - - because I would watch it and put off doing my homework until after I'd seen it.

I tell myself that I work hard and that I shouldn't have to work hard all the time - - and yet, even now, if I'm in front of the television and not simultaneously doing a pile of ironing I feel vague stirrings of guilt. As for my guilt about my mother and how much more I could do to improve her life - - ohhhh - don't get me started, you really don't want to know.

Perhaps I did something very, very wrong in a previous life. Or perhaps it was in this one, and I just haven't worked out what it was yet.


Blogger Silverback said...

How bizarre. Only this morning, given the day of Remembrance, I WAS going to finally tell you what you'd done to really upset me.

Now I won't.

10:00 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I was like that too but I think my counselling training has helped and now, I just think that if I have acted from good intentions and someone is still upset with me, it's their issue, not mine, so I mentally 'hand it back' to them.

8:27 am  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Grrr! You have made me so mad! How could you? Nobody and I mean nobody has ever upset me before like this! I feel like a human volcano that had lain dormant for millennia but now I'm seething with unbridled ire! Grrr!

4:15 pm  
Blogger Jan Blawat said...

Someone explained to me once that folks are either neurotic or psychotic. The psychotic ones cause all the trouble and we neurotics blame ourselves for it.

11:08 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Your new five-year mission, to stop exploring old words, to boldly stop going where you have gone before...

Oh, yeah, live long and prosper.

1:19 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...


6:47 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home