The Feeling of Guilt

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According to psychologist Robert Plutchik, the feeling of guilt is a blend of our primary emotions: joy and fear. Does that make sense?   Not to me, not at first blush.

Guilt to me is doing something I shouldn’t or doing nothing when I should.  Overeating and not exercising are examples come to mind.  Joy and fear?

Joy is a positive emotion.  Just last month, we see “Joy to the world” everywhere there was Christmas celebration.  Can’t get too much of it, can we?  Even overjoyed seems always welcome to me.  So how does it relate to guilt?

Let’s bring in its strange bedfellow, fear, the other emotion that we are accustomed to since our tender age.  And it is not necessarily a negative feeling. Because fear keeps us alive.  It’s a learned instinct to avoid the bad things such as poison or burning house.

I presume the joy is what initiates the guilt trip.  When we are over the “boundary” (however that is defined) the fear takes over.  Like the candy tastes so yummy, I keep on eating them.  Until my toothaches or tummy hurts, I become panic and feeling guilty.

How do you see the connection between joy and fear in making us feel guilty?

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2 Responses to The Feeling of Guilt

  1. OmniRunner says:

    Maybe in some way we don’t feel that we deserve to feel joy? It’s either unearned or we see that others are not experiencing it and so we feel guilty.


    • terryshen says:

      Interesting perspective, Andy. Kinda like we should suffer along with others, otherwise something bad may happen to us (the fear)? Or we must share our joy with others to avoid the guilt? Thanks for sharing.


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