My two cents, as someone who struggles with this same guilt from inherited financial privilege my whole life - guilt is guilt is guilt. It's the same feeling, whatever the apparent form of the cause. Survivor's guilt, financial guilt, white guilt. It all comes from the erroneous notion that good things are somehow earned or deserved, which comes from the erroneous notion (not to get too woo woo here) that the self is separate. The truth, of course, is that what we call our "selves" are the conditioned products of literally everything that has ever happened, from the Big Bang (or Adam n' Eve, depending on your persuasion) to your parents' DNA to your upbringing to what you ate for dinner last night. You are literally nothing but everything that isn't you.

Standing in the knowledge that each of us is, quite literally, the direct result of everyone and everything beyond our control makes the whole notion of guilt feel a bit farcical. Cruelty and addiction both come from unhealed trauma. Being a victim of trauma is not the victim's fault. So the entire notion of guilt is just plain incorrect.

Of course, this understanding is easy to intellectualize and pretty impossible to live in.

The practical steps to undoing guilt, for me, have been to:

1) understand that responsibility means nothing more or less than "ability to respond." There is no "should" about any of it. What ability do you actually have to respond to a situation of suffering? Pro tip: I've found it helps my sanity to spend less time reading national news and more time reading news I can personally do something to change (industry/trade or local). As they say, all politics is local.

2) Blame it on guilt, and focus on empathy. Lack of empathy creates lack of love, and lack of love creates fear and suffering. In any conflict, I can choose whether my goal is to conquer (assert my rightness and dominance) or to empathize and experience actual connection. Turns out, the latter one is what actually heals.

As someone who has made a career out of focusing on the systemic / political sources of suffering, it's been a bit of a kick in the ass to realize that suffering is only ever a state of mind, and can never be eradicated by focusing externally. The external work, the money, the world peace, the systemic justice - all this can only help condition us and make it easier to feel happy and satisfied. The external world can lead us to water; to drink, we must always go within.

Thanks for writing this, and hope you don't mind my long-winded reply :)

Conviviologist. Disorderly organizer. Writing for a world where many worlds fit ||

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