I guess I am not the only one who suffers from this disease called “I should’ve Done That Instead of This”. We all suffer from that to a greater or lesser extent. Ifs and Buts are integral part of our lives – especially in retrospection. If at all (again!!!) we understood how much control we have on things than happen around us – that happen to us. We don’t – terribly!!
The other day I was watching House MD (Season 2, Episode 3) where the episode focused on Cuddy’s self-loathing and perverted sense of guilt for her handyman’s medical condition – which, eventually, had nothing to do with his accident at her place. Three conversations made a mark (edited to remove fillers):
Stacy: How’s Cuddy doing?
House: She’s not acting like Cuddy. It’s a pleasure.
Stacy: You know her. She has trouble with these situations. Feels personally responsible.
House: The technical term is narcissism. You can’t believe that everything is your fault unless you also believe you’re all-powerful. I don’t think I can fix everything. And I don’t lie awake at night tormented by that fact.
Conversation 2 (House trying to convince Cuddy that chopping of handyman’s hand is the only option to prevent him from dying):
Cuddy: His hand still has an arterial pulse.
House: His hand is a cesspool. And the crap is spreading.
Cuddy: You are being pretty aggressive about destroying a man’s livelihood.
House: Don’t give a damn about his livelihood.
Cuddy: He loses that hand, he loses his job–all of his jobs.
House: He’s not like us. Can’t work as a cripple?
Cuddy: He loses his home, his kid brother drops out.
House: An American dream destroyed. Very sad. Very emotional. Not one medical fact in the whole pathetic tale. You’ve lost perspective, Cuddy. You’ve stopped looking at this as a doctor. You’re acting like someone who shoved somebody off their roof. You wanna make things right? Too bad. Nothing’s ever right.
Conversation 3 (Final scene):
House: Cuddy… Your guilt. It’s perverse and it makes you a crappy doctor. It also makes you okay at what you do.
Cuddy: You figure a perverted sense of guilt makes me a good boss.
House: Well, would the world be a better place if people never felt guilty? I know this wasn’t just because it was your roof. You see the world as it is and you see the world as it could be. What you don’t see is what everybody else sees: the giant gaping chasm in-between. You’re not happy unless things are just right, which means two things – you’re a good boss and you’ll never be happy!
People often think they are more powerful than they actually are. It feels great to think that. But unfortunately the world revolves around sun – not you. One can only do as much as one can actually do. Problem happens when we regret. Easier said than done. It’s a natural human tendency. We want to always make things right – unfortunately things are never right. We’re not living in a perfect idealistic world.
There is no quantitative way to define how much you control and how much you don’t. For things that went wrong – who is to be blamed? Should you be feeling guilty about it? What is guilt? And as we do for even smallest of the things – I google. Top results show – Guilt is often a result of:
- Feeling responsible of other’s failures
- Being angry with oneself
- Questioning if something could have been done to save the current situation
- Social expectations
- Trying to please people and
- Having unrealistic expectations from ourselves
But, the fact is:
- Nobody on this earth has NOT FAILED
- If you’re responsible for your failures, others are only responsible for their failures
- Anger comes when your false sense of power doesn’t allow you to accept that you don’t control certain things
- If something could’ve been done, something would’ve been done
- No matter what you do, society will blame you anyway
- You can never please everybody and you’re not living to please anybody
- Be real and realistic to yourself
The fact that there is this gigantic part of the world which we cannot control, it is only possible to have an idea of a perfect world. Just that you cannot force it to be like that. And when things don’t go the way you want it in spite of all your efforts, it’s just because it was meant to be like that.