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click image to go to her site
Copyright 1997
Cathy Guisewite

 

Women with leaping minds get a double dose of this double bind

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I suspect the guilt has an adaptive effect for brains that are wired to wander.

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The Good Girl/Bad Girl
Gotcha Trip

by carla nelson

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 wander.

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, culturally.

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 good friend.


Copyright 1997, the Professional Resource Group, and the individual authors who reserve all rights to their own works. So long as this copyright notice remains intact, permission is given to copy this article for personal use, or for viewing by members of non-profit groups if no cost is attached. Web links are encouraged, just please let us know via email link below as we may wish to cross-link with you. For all other uses, including reprinting for any commercial purposes, please also inquire via email to: bouncingbrains@yahoo.com

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About the author:

Carla (Nelson) Berg, host of www.hyperthought.net and publisher of its magazine, HYPERTHINK_INK, is a California science and health writer, veteran newspaper columnist, and author of the forthcoming Surviving Sane With a Bouncing Brain. Online she is also leader of GO MIND, the Mind-Brain Sciences Forum on CompuServe, and co-leader of GO ADD, where she has been a "Dear Abby" style advisor to adults and parents dealing with attention differences as well as a virtual talk show host interviewing dozens of specialists. The mother of two ADD teens, she is also, as she jokes, "clearly a source of their genes."