A guilt sense?

January 24, 2008

I have been reading a novel by a celebrated British author and one phrase caught my attention: ” …, most guilt is irrational.”

Rational beings, among whom humans find themselves, in the present days receive an education, are taught to discern which is good and which is bad, which is honest and which is dishonest. This education started in the early years of our lives set a code of conduct for the rest of it, a code of conduct that, depending on how ingrained it is in our consciences, serve us to be admitted in the folds of our societies. Fortunately much of this code contents have been erased, modified or perfected to make this world of ours a more livable, nicer place – not always achieved as we all know.

Do we have a sense of guilt, as we have those of sight, taste, hearing, touch and smell, to which the sixth sense has been added although I believe this extra sense is a combination of the other five.

Is there really the likelihood of having irrational guilt? In my opinion there is not. Guilt is a term that defines admission of having done something badly or wrongly and be repentant for it, except in the cases where the guilt is not admitted by the individual but is considered to be it by others. In this connection Justice has much to say.

But coming back to the beginning of this post, I wonder why the author made this assertion and I am wondering whether any of the possible readers of this post has something to say, if really “most guilt is irrational”, or there may be irrational guilt to some degree in the human being.

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6 Responses to “A guilt sense?”

  1. […] bookmarks tagged irrational A guilt sense? saved by 1 others     Jimmyyuma bookmarked on 01/24/08 | […]

  2. earthpal said

    Hi Jose.

    I think guilt is sometimes irrational.

    My childhood friend was always told that TV’s were the work of the devil. As an adult, she still feels pangs of guilt for having one in her house.

    Parent, teachers, religious leaders . . . they all use guilt, misleadingly, as a means to control. These feelings of guilt that are instilled in us as children can often burden us in later life. Maybe that is a form of irrational guilt?

  3. seachanges said

    I think a lot of guilt is totally irrational and something that becomes a hangover from the way you are brought up. I am forever being chastised by friends and people close to me as well as children about being apologetic in an irrational way: it is because I was made to feel guilty about so many things that had nothing to do with me! I definitely think that a sense of guilt can be completely irrational.

  4. Jose said

    Don’t you think that the irrational “thing” are the education that we have received and outer influences through people who, in view of their outstanding position, we have believed to be true? I’d say that starting from it our reaction of guilt is really rational because it adapts to that education and influences.

    Psychiatrists and psychologists use to have a clinical treatment called regression in an effort to erase from their memories those negative aspects that may influence their professional careers. This is done through hypnosis.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to resorting to hypnosis to fix up the problem, perhaps we should leave a slice of our time aside every day to consider this question and try to re-conduct our minds in the right sense.

    Independence of mind is most important if we want to give every aspect of our lives its true significance.

  5. anticant said

    Jose, I think what we are speaking of here is the development of a healthy social conscience. I believe children are born with an instinctive sense of fairness, but they quickly discover that life isn’t fair. They then all too often encounter adult hypocrisy, and become cynical.

    If they are fortunate enough to have honest, loving parents and sincere teachers, they will develop a culturally sensitive conscience in which guilt plays a regulating role. But if guilt becomes obsessive snd irrational it is no longer benign but destructive. As Earthpal and Seachanges have said, there is a great deal of irrational guilt that is damaging to health and happiness. One frequently encounters it as a major factor in therapy.

    I know it is a counsel of perfection, but my own advice is: If you have done something which you believe to be wrong, or a mistake, make what amends you can and don’t wrack yourself with guilt over it. If you are tempted to do something you think will make you feel guilty, don’t do it. Regrets and self-punishment are futile. Sort out your feelings about the past, and move into the future with a clear conscience.

    If only it were all as simple as that!

    Glad to see you posting again.

  6. Jose said

    Perhaps you are not much off the path when you say “you believe children are born with an instinctive sense of fairness”, I wonder whether this trait is acquired through evolution of the species, but my thought might be belied by the second phrase of your sentence because it clearly points to a change in behaviour through experience: “…but they quickly discover that life isn’t fair.”, and you go on : “They then all too often encounter adult hypocrisy, and become cynical”.

    However I have always thought that the human being is born with a clean slate which as years elapse is filled with the premises she/he must live with. This happens with all civilisations as we have been able to read about. Not all civilisations hold the same sense of fairness.

    My view is that historians never wrote about the real circumstances and the reality of life in ancient times, they merely limited themselves to gather what information they got from those whom their thirst of adventure took to faraway countries and regions and with the scarce cerebral baggage they counted on got their own conclusions out of what they saw. We have been able to extract better ideas from modern science – much limited that this also is – to try and get theories about those times.

    But forcing myself back to the point I still think the clean slate I talked of is the responsible party of our sense of guilt, or rather those premises that little by little filled it along the course of our lives.

    If the ancient colonisers had had the necessary wisdom and education to teach “fairness” to those people they colonised, perhaps today we would not be encountering so much bigotry as we do today. But no, those “savages” they found were not worth being considered even “sons of God”. They were useful just for the task of loading their rich belongings on the galleons that brought them to the colonial empires.

    And believe me, they – of course the colonisers – experienced no sense of guilt.

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