What Is Guilt? Essay, Research Paper
What is Guilt?
Table of Contents
Foundation for Guilt
Living Without Guilt
Guilt is an emotion associated with being remorseful. We scrutinize ourselves against an internally established code of conduct and may find that it becomes necessary to feel guilt for something said, done or possibly even thought. Guilt can be an incredibly powerful emotion with very little tangible reason as to why it should be. The following material deals with the source of this emotion and pursues potential reasons for it’s power. Hopefully this will remove some of the shroud of ambiguity surrounding the mechanism of guilt while leading to practical methods of resolving this emotion.
Foundation for Guilt
Before we can experience the sensation of guilt there must exist a foundation to establish its necessity. The source of this foundation comes from the interaction with every other person in our lives. Throughout our lifetime we are instilled with a code of conduct. Initially we are totally dependent on primary care givers to establish the expected protocol. Environmental situations present an initiative to synthesize an extended protocol as our experiences involving more people expand our sphere of social interaction and we culturally mature.
Motivation for adhering to the code of conduct range from deterrents with known reprimand to rational attractions with known rewards. Following the complete cycle of any particular aspect of the code of conduct educates and conditions the individual to respect it. We can use extrapolation of previous experiences to visualize the consequences of the code of conduct to decide weather a raw, untried venture would be beneficial or detrimental.
Ultimately, however, it can be said that the primary purpose of the code of conduct is to promote predictable and mutually beneficial social interaction which is conducive to the survival of the both individual within the group and the entire group. The primary purpose of the code of conduct is not an overt feature of it. We become more familiar with the code in terms of its causal relationships to our own behaviors. In other words, we only see it for its consequences and not for why it is there in the first place. Naturally the code of conduct was instituted to address infractions against humanity while at the same time inadvertently establishing a protocol for peaceful cohabitation. The fact that the code of conduct enforces socialization towards effective survival of the group is really the construct of a post-rationalization. Thus the code of conduct becomes our guidelines for social interaction that maintains our survival within society and allows continued survival of the society in its entirety.
Our intimacy with the code of conduct forms the basis onto which we project our behaviors and measure our standing within society. By the time that we have come to terms with the responsibilities of our own actions in accordance with the code of conduct we have constructed an internal model of all of those entities which have served as an influence in creating that model. We have essentially internalized the roles of those that molded our model of the code of conduct to the extent that the are always present for us. The internalization of those roles allows us to examine our motives, thoughts, desires and behaviors when the actual people representing those roles are not actually present. Our conscience then is the internalization of all of the roles in our lives that played an active part in molding our model of the code of conduct.
In light of its primary purpose we see our infractions of the code of conduct as a threat to our social standing. If our social standing becomes disturbed it may jeopardize our ability to survive with those around us. This then translates into a fear stimulated by our own desire for self preservation in conjunction with an instinctive propensity towards socialization. The power of self preservation is paramount and becomes the driving force of the guilt complex.
Our sensation of guilt is the appeasement process that we make to the internalized roles of the players involved in the formation of our code of conduct. It is intended that appeasing the conscience will regain favorable standing with the internalized roles of the code of conduct educators. The appeal process takes the form of justification and extenuation of our behavior. However, if our internalized roles are affirmed by the actions of those around us then the conflict will be reinforced. In some cases those around us can stimulate the sensation through disapproval of our actions.
Until we can thoroughly absolve this complex we will be reminded of our threatened survival and continue to experience the sensation of guilt.
To deal with guilt requires appeasing the roles of our conscience.
Conversion attempts to resolve guilt by rationalizing that other efforts in our life can be used as an extenuating circumstance. Conversion also attempts to use the tribulations of our sacrifices as a rational replacement for the punitive measures we perceive to be appropriate for appeasing the internal roles of our conscience. In other cases we may emphasize the magnitude or our accomplishments as an attempt to overshadow the severity of our transgressions. The irony of conversion is that we acknowledge our guilt by virtue of our attempts to appease our guilt with substitutes but still refuse to acknowledge the root of the sensation.
Conversion is a dangerous recourse to absolution when it is accepted as a viable technique of resolution as it usually leads to a process of trivialization associated with the initial conflict. Positively rewarded conversion enables the reconstruction of the rules of the code of conduct to minimize the severity of the original conflict. Successful resolution through conversion causes us to second guess the severity of our guilt once it is realized how easily the guilt could be thwarted. Eventually this will lead to the erosion of the code of conduct as more aspects of it are successfully resolved with conversion.
Evasion could also be called denial. Evasion ignores the conflict in favor of individual survival priorities. A prominent feature of evasion involves reducing the significance to survival of the roles involved in the conflict. This type of resolution is typified by a complete disregard for the importance to our survival of those roles in our life.
In its purest form true evasion doesn’t allow the sensation of guilt to occur. It is known that guilt should be experienced but completely denied. Behaviors incorporated to facilitate this variation of evasion include immersion in totally unrelated sensory overload or possibly even entertaining more of the same behavior that lead to the original conflict. It is easy to see how evasion by continued transgression leads to a cyclic resolution behavior.
Cyclic resolution is a result of an ineffective strategy for dealing with guilt which leads to a repetition of the actions attempted to resolve the guilt. The other aspect of this resolution strategy is that the actions used eventually lead to the same realizations of the conflicts involved and repeated use of the strategies attempted to resolve the conflict. This type of resolution usually occurs in rather large time spans which makes it difficult to realize when it occurs. Indeed cyclic resolution may also be correlated with external environmental cyclic factors.
Cyclic resolution can be an incorporation of conversion and evasion in a manner that eventually leads back to the original conflict presenting itself to the conscience. When this happens it is highly likely that a cyclic resolution habit will form.
Definite resolution of guilt is the complete elimination of the perceived threat to our survival by addressing all of the conflicts both internal, the internalized roles, and external, the actual people representing them. Once definite resolution has been achieved the individual has completely absolved themselves and is completely reassured that any others involved will not take any action towards jeopardizing there survival.
Living Without Guilt
We will only ever see glimpses of the internalized portions of our personality as it is exposed to us. Those portions of our internalized mind that we are exposed to us are brought forth to our conscious mind on a priority basis with direct relation to current survival issues. It would be overwhelming to be completely aware of all of the internalized roles of our conscience. To embrace the complexity of our internalized roles we will graciously relinquish the subtleties of the expression of them to an all encompassing sensation, or in the case of guilt, an anxiety response. While this simplification makes it easier for our conscience mind to deal with the complexity of our thoughts it looses the specific nature of the reason for the sensation in the first place. As our code of conduct incorporates more rules the sensation of guilt becomes more and more vague. Effective absolution of guilt may require a meticulous exploration of the roles involved with the instillation of our codes of conduct. Therapy in this case is directed towards exposing the specific roles and there pertinence to the most recent sensation of guilt.
Once the conflict has been identified absolution can be expedited by developing strategies to appease both the internal roles and the actual people representing those roles. These strategies are aimed at creating an agreement amongst all of the entities where the fear of jeopardized survival can be minimized by those experiencing the guilt.
By exercising an ability to elaborate on the reasons for our guilt as it relates to irritating the roles of our conscience we can quickly and specifically address our guilt. At times it may become necessary to abandon portions of our conscience when it can be shown that the postulates of the roles are no longer rational in the context of our present life. This is not to be confused with conversion as mentioned above.
Effective absolution requires directly confronting our conflicts with the roles of our conscience.