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Seven Deadly Sentiments
January 12, 2004 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Seven Deadly Sentiments - Psychology Today explores seven "guilt-provoking, squirm-inducing, I'm-such-a-lousy-person thoughts... At worst, they remind us that we're not quite as nice as we'd like to believe we are. And at best, they may be able to help us understand the deeper reasons behind our wicked thoughts--and forgive ourselves our own trespasses." A long, but interesting read.
posted by Irontom (10 comments total)

 
Guilt is the emotional equivalent of barring the barn door after the horse is gone. Such a blatant behavior control mechanism is more than a little demeaning and, from what I've seen, usually does more harm than good. One should admit his or her mistakes freely but not wallow in them: correcting the behavior is productive and healthy; beating yourself up over it is not.
posted by rushmc at 8:28 AM on January 12, 2004


The Seven Deadly Sentiments, in a single paragraph:

"I've been asked to say a few words here at the occasion of my sister-in-law's death, one of the most entertaining funerals I've attended in a while.

What can I say about the deceased, except that she had it coming to her. Honey, why can't you be like your sister: dead?

But seriously, we're all trying to heal from our loss of my sister-in-law: personally, I take solace in the fact that I make way more money than she did, so at least I know I'm worth more as a person.

We all wondered when she'd get her life together: at least now we can stop wondering, and I can fully indulge in sexual fantasies about her without endangering my marriage."
posted by basilwhite at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2004


Guilt is buying in to someone else's expectations of how you 'should' feel - external. And that's a guaranteed mind fuck. The feeling that you want over these sentiments is one of shame. You know you've done something that you are shameful of - internal. It's not a mind fuck because, deep down, you know how you're feeling.
posted by drinkmaildave at 11:44 AM on January 12, 2004


Evolutionary psychologists argue that the public expression of grief boosts your reputation as a trustworthy member of the community.

This sentence stuck with me because I've seen this dynamic play out quite a bit right here. Not in the designated funeral threads so much, but in other contexts, usually when someone expresses spite and gets dogpiled for showing less than saintly respect for human life. The whole process is understandable but has always struck me as... rote, somehow, the kind of ritual that gives evolutionary psychologists something to study, and I usually get annoyed with the dogpilers because when people assert their greiving superiority they don't bother to acknowledge the messiness of human emotion. Oh, what am I blathering about: sometimes, I'm glad when somebody dies, and with some other people I wish they would already.
posted by furiousthought at 8:34 PM on January 12, 2004


"That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ--all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself--that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness--that I myself am the enemy who must be loved--what then? As a rule, the Christian's attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us "Raca," and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves. Had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed."

? – Carl Jung Psychotherapists or the Clergy - A Dilemma,
Collected Works, Vol. 11, 1932.

posted by weston at 8:55 PM on January 12, 2004


One should admit his or her mistakes freely but not wallow in them: correcting the behavior is productive and healthy; beating yourself up over it is not.

rushmc, don't you think that beating oneself up over it is an attempt to use the power of emotions to deter oneself from doing it again?

There's also the possibility that there are real psychic wounds that result from personal behavior -- the kinds of things that make you sit agape wondering "How is it that I did such a thing?" So the guilt/shame/pain would not be necessarily a volition driven process.

But I also think what drinkmaildave said is an important distinction.

On preview: cool Jung quote
posted by namespan at 9:01 PM on January 12, 2004


On second thought, somewhat offtopic, though
posted by namespan at 9:07 PM on January 12, 2004


rushmc, don't you think that beating oneself up over it is an attempt to use the power of emotions to deter oneself from doing it again?

I think it can probably begin that way, but I think it is a blunt and imprecise tool that more often than not causes more damage than it mitigates.
posted by rushmc at 9:07 PM on January 12, 2004


I think it is a blunt and imprecise tool that more often than not causes more damage than it mitigates.

I don't know. I think you might be right... but then I also think about the number of times that I've tried or seen someone else try a very rational (but only mildly emotionally backed) plan for changing bad behavior or cultivating a good habit.. and it fails. It may well be that powerful bitter emotions easily become too much... but I've seen them fuel some changes that have failed before.

Still, at the crux, you and drinkmaildave and weston channeling jung are probably right... there's a difference between a productive shame and corrosive guilt.
posted by namespan at 10:03 PM on January 12, 2004


I'm not sure about the semantic difference between shame and guilt -- I always thought that shame was public and guilt was private.

In any case, what I call "real" guilt is about facing the fact that you can't live up to your own expectations of who you are. Sometimes life hands you an opportunity to discover that you're not as ethical/generous/loving/(insert personal value here) as you thought you were. Even harder to face is the discovery that you are happier not being the kind of person you thought you wanted to be.

Guilt is the process of figuring out a way to accept that, and it ends when you can fundamentally change your vision of what it means to be a valuable person. That's not a trivial, useless, or neurotic process. Real guilt is about a genuine inner conflict that you need to resolve about how you see yourself and what values are important to you.
posted by fuzz at 10:21 PM on January 12, 2004


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