I feel guilty that my life is going so well while the aftereffects of 9/11 are still affecting so many people. What should I do?
(Column: Ask the Therapist)
First of all, you feel what you feel. It's important to acknowledge that your life is going well and you are pleased with its path.
Second, would there be any value in suffering because others are suffering? It is more important to behave in a way that reflects your empathy for others than it is for you to suffer because there has been tragedy. Certainly, the world doesn't need anyone to pretend to suffer. There is enough real suffering. We need those who are doing well to serve as an example, a role model for recovery.
Perhaps the problem of guilt is really a problem of shame. That is, am I ashamed at the smugness or self-satisfaction that I feel because I am doing well when others are not?
We didn't make this tragedy. Nor are we able to undo the scope of it. We can go forward by doing what we need to do in our relationships and our work. We help our friends and acquaintances by being willing to listen if they need to tell their stories of trauma.
We can go forward by volunteering or giving money. But even volunteering or giving money directly to 9/11 charities is complicated by an abundance of resources going to those charities and too little going to the usual good causes. The lesson from this unequal giving may also be the answer to the original question-live a good life; pick up the threads of the good works you have been doing or have promised to do; and live life fully.