Definition of Guilt and Anxiety
The Definition of Guilt. In its most elemental sense guilt is
the awareness of irresponsible value negation. It is the awareness
that we have said a tragic no to some valued relationship amid the process
of attempting to say a self-actualizing yes to some other valued relationship.
Guilt is not merely a generalized awareness that values are being lost,
but the specific awareness that my values are being denied due
to my irresponsible decision. That which makes a certain person
feel guilty thus depends entirely upon his own unique ethical frame
Choice demands negation. Whenever I choose to actualize one
set of values, I neglect other potential values. Every pursued good
implies a dozen unpursued goods. Every moment spent on the achievement
of one goal is time lost on the achievement of numerous other potential
goals. I cannot be a chooser without being a denier. If this is so,
then I must live constantly with many forms of painful memory that I
have failed to be what I might have been and that repeatedly I have
had to deny numerous values which I earnestly embrace. Every choice
in a sense is a tragic choice, since it is impossible to be a human
being without choosing and it is impossible to choose without the negation
of value and it is impossible to negate values without guilt.
The Anxiety-creating Consequences of Guilt. Anxiety is an
inevitable consequence and companion of every guilt-creating deed.
Wherever there is remembered value negation, there lives alongside it
the anxiety of being discovered as a value negator. Anxiety follows
upon guilt with dogged inevitability. For the valuing individual fears
being discovered as a value negator by others who share these same cherished
values. Consequently, a major preoccupation of the guilt sufferer is
his corresponding battle with anxiety. The sufferer runs, hides, deceives,
tries to prevent detection as a value negator. He may develop elaborate
strategies by which he can conceal his past from view.
Reference: TSOA, pp. 44, 47, 53.