Reframing Guilt in Faith

I once worked with a Catholic woman in her 40s who felt that her history of serial monogamy had ruined her desire of dating in the future because it was in the way of her relationship with God. She felt that her four 5-year relationships were “failed” as they were all ended, and she did not know if she would or should ever date again as a result. She was erroneously linking past relationship with future relationships as if a pattern existed, and that it was a repetitive fractal.

We began with reframing the thought of “failed” versus “ended.” There were good things about the relationships that made each of them last for many years. There were also things about them that were not so good that made them worth ending. I challenged her belief that just because something doesn’t last forever, it does not mean it was failed. After all, she does not have the same job now that she had in high school. She agreed and it clicked. 
She responded “it must be the Catholic guilt.” I asked what was “Catholic” about guilt? She told me that, in her understanding, you are supposed to be with someone forever. I asked if she meant her first crush or the boy she lost her virginity to? She laughed again. “Well, neither…”
I asked her about her concept of God in order for her to envision her deity exactly as was true to her faith, and let that model do the reflection for her. I wanted to know what he/she looked like, wore, got around, and did for fun? She said that he wears Birkenstocks and rides a bicycle, and probably has flowers in his beard. She laughed and smiled; you could see the spiritual connection, strong in that moment. I asked about his personality – was he forgiving and kind or vengeful and smiting – as certainly both versions exist in Catholicism? She said “he is hip, but not a hipster.” I asked if he is with the times and gets what modern life is like, and she said he changes with the times. 
“So then, to him, does he get what dating is like?” She said he does.
“Does he think all first dates should be marriages?” She said he’d find that ridiculous, that you have to try people out for awhile to see what they are like and if they will be a good fit. “And if they are going to be a long-term good fit? Say, longer than the relationships you’ve had thus far? Even if it takes a few tries, even in your 40s?” She said he does.
“So you were guilty over what, again?” Nothing but smiles.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New York, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

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