It was really interesting to me that Messner was insisting that the generals surrender that day, that it was urgent the generals needed to come to some sort of an agreement right then. I think that Messner knew of the plan to infiltrate the home and kill the terrorists. I found it interesting that they spoke about the toll this situation has taken on him. The only guy on the outside was looking worse while everyone inside the walls were happy and actually “living”. Also, I noticed that Messner would make comments like they’d be put in jail “at best”. Messner did grow fond of all in the home and saw that they were people with lives, families and good qualities. He was trying to warn them without giving the plans away of the attack. After the realization of the many hints throughout this chapter I became interested in guilt. What is it, how it works, the power it holds, and the physical and mental effects of guilt.
To begin my research I wanted to have a working definition of guilt. While many of us understand the idea of guilt and can relate to the feeling I wanted a better understanding of the term on a more intellectual level. Dictionary.com’s defines guilt as “the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law and a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” Further research led me to many theories and notions of guilt. Guilt is commonly categorized with shame but it is not the same. Guilt is an internalized system of moral conscience and comes from a negative evaluation of your own actions. While shame, is not full internalized and is more of a painful condemnation of your whole self (Giner-Sorolla 103). A theory says guilt is a fundamental emotion. The experience of guilt, like experience of fear, is unlearned (Izard 355). When thinking back to the situation of Messner and why I believe he was experiencing guilt is solidified with learning that sadness and fear are likely to be significant motivations in the guilt situation (Izard 358). Understanding guilt on a physiological level leads me to wondering the physical effects guilt has on us.
Along with a large impact on your mental health and overall happiness guilt can have detrimental effects to your physical health. Many studies have shown that guilt affects many areas of your health. Scientists have proven that guilt compromises the immune system. In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, test subjects were asked to write about traumatic experiences for which they felt guilt. They were assessed before and after for two substances associated with immune system activity–tumor necrosis factor receptor levels and 2-microglobulin–as well as cortisol, the stress hormone. After the test, participants showed elevated levels of all three substances (Nani 1). Guilt can make someone self-destructive along with making them do things such as try hard to make things right by overworking and over-giving in an attempt to make everyone happy, ignore your needs and desires in order to avoid upsetting others, become emotionally closed off and only able to see the negative aspects of life, and many others. The most common result of guilt is anxiety and depression. In an attempt to escape these negative emotions, the guilty person will often choose to deny, disown or repress their guilt by trying to forget about the event/action/thought that caused their guilt to occur in the first place. (EruptingMind). Physical affects associated with anxiety and depression are: problems sleeping, exhaustion/fatigue, irritability, the list goes on and on (Orenstein 1). It seems that in extreme cases guilt can cause many issues within our lives. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what is causing your guilt to return to a health state of mind and body.
In conclusion, guilt is a multi-faceted psychological emotion we all face at some point. Guilt can put a lot of stress on us emotionally which can lead to a list of negative physical effects. Throughout this class I have became really interested in psychology and why we are the way we are and why we need or feel particular ways. Guilt is a really interesting topic to me especially since it was stated that is in a fundamental unlearned emotion. I experience guilt frequently and I enjoy learning why I act and respond to particular situations.
Izard, Carroll E. The Psychology of Emotions. New York: Plenum, 1991.
Nani, Christel. “Feeling Bad: The Health Risks of Guilt.” New Connexion, Pacific Northwest’s Journal of Conscious Living. Alternative Health, 1 May 2007. 18 Nov. 2015.
Orenstein, Beth. “Physical Symptoms of Depression.” EverydayHealth.com. 16 Sept. 2011. 18 Nov. 2015.
Sorolla, Roger. Judging Passions: Moral Emotions in Persons and Groups. London: Psychology, 2012.
“Understanding the Psychology of Guilt.” Understanding the Psychology of Guilt. 18 Nov. 2015.