Thursday, December 28, 2006

Existential Guilt – the Betrayal of Self

This is the time of year when many people are considering New Years resolutions and in the process reflecting on 2006. In terms of the latter, many of us are thinking about things such as: What did I do in 2006? What didn’t I do in 2006? What did I accomplish or not accomplish in 2006? In such processes, nonetheless, it is not uncommon to experience some guilt (even in addition to the guilt some of carry around every day in our knapsack). Let’s pause a moment and look at this phenomenon called guilt.

Guilt is primarily an emotion experienced by people who believe they have done something wrong” (wikipedia). Fittingly, if you think you did something wrong (or it was wrong for you to not do something), you may indeed experience some guilt. There is another type of guilt, nonetheless, that also can weigh heavily on us – Existential Guilt. This form of guilt is not necessarily concerned with the betrayal of others – this is concerning the betrayal of self.

In her enlightening article, “Are you living a life of self-betrayal?” Jane Powell asks some excellent questions; for example, “So ask yourself ‘Am I living my life by my inner most convictions? Are you doing what YOU want, or are living a life scripted or prescribed by others?’” (selfgrowth)

Interestingly, Existential psychotherapists tend to believe that “The awareness that we are not true to our full human ability and that we live inauthentically will lead to the experience of existential guilt. In existential guilt we hear the voice of our conscience and this must be taken extremely seriously.” (existentialpsychotherapy).

In my pop psych book, Living Life, Anyway, I raise numerous important questions in life and offer pertinent considerations to ponder. Overall, I suggest that while life at times life hands us dirty deals – things that we didn’t ask for or deserve – the question nonetheless remains: can we move on and live life anyway? In my latest pop psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em (amazon), I refer to the time when my mother said to me, way before it became a popular cliché, ‘Follow your dream’.”

If this intrigues you in any way, try an experiment: Ask yourself questions such as: (1) What do I want in life? (2) What kind of life do I want to live? And, (3) How and with whom do I want to spend my time? Then look in the mirror and ask the person looking back at you if he or she is living his or her life consistent with his or her answers to these three questions. And if the answer is “No,” then there’s a good chance that you are betraying yourself and suffering from existential guilt.

And for the record, I don’t feel bad about raising these issues… Bill

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