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Guilt and Anxiety

Guilt and anxiety work in exactly opposite temporal directions, but formally analogous ways. Guilt is directed toward the past and anxiety is directed toward the future.

When the self relates to the future so as to symbolize its possibilities as a threat to values considered necessary for one's existence, then one experiences anxiety. Analogously, when the self relates to the past so as to symbolize remembered events as irresponsible negations of values considered necessary to one's existence, then one experiences guilt. Thus, it is literally impossible to be guilty toward an empty, future possibility. Likewise, it is impossible to be anxious toward an irretrievably fixed, immutable, certain, past actuality.

Reference: TSOA, p. 26

Images of Guilt

  • The guilt-creating deed is like owing a debt.
  • The experience of guilt is like falling.
  • Guilt is like being blamed for wrongdoing.
  • A guilt-creating event is like damaging something valuable.
Definition of Guilt and Anxiety
The Possibility of Knowledge of God
The Ontological Impossibility of Guilt Before God