Musings on Guilt

Guilt is a funny emotion don’t you think?

My sociology brain tells me that its something that’s socialised, something specific to the culture and society that you live in.

But my normal average human brain just thinks about how diverse it is.

You experience guilt over both big and small things; over things that you are to blame for and things that you had no influence or control over; you feel guilty about things that just affect you as well as things that only affect others; you can experience it about things that have happened just as readily as you feel it about things that have yet to come to pass; you can feel enormous guilt over something huge just as easily as you can feel enormous guilt over something miniscule like breaking your diet by eating a doughnut.

Guilt is diverse.

And more than that, isn’t guilt pointless?

Feeling guilty means feeling sad/bad about something that either you had no control over to begin with and still don’t or that has already happened and can’t be changed (unless of course you have a TARDIS.) Although having said that you could feel guilty about something you are going to do and that guilt could stop you from doing that thing, so maybe its not completely pointless.

I think my main problem with guilt is that so often the guilt we feel is of our invention, its a guilt based on something that wasn’t are doing, something we shouldn’t feel guilty about. And that’s my problem, guilt doesn’t discriminate based on accuracy – but it does based on the person.

Let me explain.

Someone who got ill and couldn’t go to an event and so gave her ticket to a good friend, only for that event to be the target of an attack and the friend gets hurt. The original person is going to feel guilty, even though she is not at fault, the attacker is. Guilt is based on the person, not the reality of the situation.

You then have the opposite end of the scale – people who commit atrocities and feel no guilt even though we declare them guilty. The feeling of guilt is about the person feeling it and that just sucks because an innocent person can feel terrible about something that wasn’t their fault, while the true person to blame can be feeling perfectly happy and content.

Guilt is a sucky emotion.

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