Is This Normal?: Lisa

Can't Get Over the Guilt
Dr. Phil talks to a woman who still feels guilty for putting her dog to sleep almost 30 years ago.

At 18, Lisa put her dog to sleep on an impulse. She says that her parents wanted her to get rid of the dog, so she took it to the pound. That was almost 30 years ago. "I remember them walking her away," Lisa explains. "I had the chance to say 'No, don't take her.' But I didn't."

"She looked back at me as they were walking her away," says Lisa. "I still feel guilt after all this time. I think about her at night when I'm falling asleep. My life is worthless at times. If I could take some other being's life, then why is my life any more important? Her face still haunts me to this day. Dr. Phil, is it normal for me to be mourning an animal I put to sleep 29 years ago?"

"I don't think this is about the loss of the dog," says Dr. Phil. "Although you loved the dog, you are grieving about your act " the fact that you put the dog to sleep. That's what you're upset about. Take the dog out of it. Aren't you interpreting your behavior as evidence that you're not a good person? It indicates you have no worth, value and have no permission to be happy in your life."

Dr. Phil continues, "This is a big deal. I get that. Isn't that event a symbol for all of the anger and frustration that you have for yourself? You made this your crown jewel of your worthlessness. It was the ultimate act of betrayal for a helpless animal that trusted you. And you still see that dog looking back at you as the vet leads it away."

"Correct," says Lisa. "That's what I feel."

"And you still feel you're being punished for it, don't you?" asks Dr. Phil. "You've been divorced, had three miscarriages, and your theory is that this is your punishment."

"In the back of my mind, yes," says Lisa.

"It's convenient to say, 'I've done bad things and therefore give myself permission to sit on the sidelines,'" says Dr. Phil.

"Yes," admits Lisa. "It's easy for me to say I won't make a decision because I've made bad decisions."
"Make the choice to forgive yourself," says Dr. Phil. "There is a lot of good you can do in this world."