Guilt sometimes involves self-criticism, which was described in an earlier post. However, the kind of self-criticism I described involved tearing your work apart, condemning yourself for even thinking talent lurks somewhere within you, and similar acts of self-sabotage.
Guilt as it relates to creativity, is less related to the actual creative project. It has much more to do with stepping beyond the limitations you may have learned as a child.
Here’s an example from my childhood. My father had dreams of becoming a minister. However, he made what he thought was a more practical choice, graduating from college with an engineering degree. Because he made a choice that didn’t come from his deepest desires, he went into his work life with an attitude of resentment that deepened into total dislike of his job, a dislike that he never hesitated to share with the family that depended on his income for survival.
Even though his career decision had been made before he got married and had children, in telling us how he’d had to give up his dreams, he made us the cause of his great life’s disappointments. Illogical as this was, young children, who rely on their parents for their understanding of the world, are inclined to choose loyalty over logic.
It took me years to figure out how thoroughly I’d been programmed to believe that you weren’t supposed to like your job. Whenever I had the opportunity to switch careers and choose one I would enjoy, I managed to talk myself out of doing so.
Finally I uncovered the truth: that I felt guilty about the idea that I could enjoy my work life much more than my father (who had allegedly sacrificed his happiness for his children) ever did. Once I managed to cut the unconscious ties of guilt, it was surprisingly easy to make creative choices and create a career that totally thrilled me.
Ask yourself if you’re afraid of having too much fun in your career/work life and why this is so.
If you can relate this to dissatisfaction on the part of either of your parents in their jobs, explore this connection.
Ask yourself how your dissatisfaction can increase their happiness. You may find reasons: Your success could make them feel like failures. They could feel that you are disloyal to the family.
You can tease out answers by imagining telling your parents how happy you are in your career, how much you enjoy the money you make and the creative opportunities. Imagine their responses. (This works whether they are alive or not.)
Finally, make a choice. You can choose to be loyal to your family or you can take the risk of independence and happiness.