In An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud discussed the concept of resistance, stating that the patient is unconscious not only of his resistance, but also of his motives for resistance, and that people with an excessively powerful unconscious sense of guilt can be difficult to treat.

When a person has an unconscious sense of guilt, the individual will remain sick, because there is an unconscious belief that he or she does not deserve to be healthy, or that he or she deserves nothing better than to be 'punished'. If one type of illness or symptom goes away, it may be replaced by another. Sometimes such a person can be helped or improved if they experience severe misfortune - since they unconsciously accept that they deserve it, they will not complain, but try to make the most of it.

I can think of a few areas in which my conscious mind has not accepted guilt, but in which unconscious guilt might have affected my life.

The first relates to expense. Children are expensive. My parents were always fighting about money, and I became hypersensitive about being a financial burden.

The second relates to my mother, but perhaps in a few different ways. I found out, at age 16, that I was pregnant only days before my mother died. It could be that I (unconsciously) think I 'caused' her death through getting pregnant. Also, not long after she died, my father made a pass at me, and unconsciously, this could represent a kind of Oedipal conflict - I killed off my mother to pave the way for my father's attention.

One thing that most people forget when they think of Freud's theories is that the unconscious familial dramas - which often have a sexual nature - are unconscious. They are not usually available to conscious awareness, and if development occurs normally, they don't affect us in 'unhealthy' ways.

I was raised Catholic, but had an abortion. I did not consider myself Catholic, and I consciously believed that the abortion was the right decision for me. It could be that unconsciously, I believed I was committing murder, and that I deserved to be punished - a 'fair' punishment being that I myself did not deserve to have a life, or happiness.

However, I can't help but think that this might also have at least something to do with my perception of how my parents saw me - that it would have been better if I had not been born. I felt guilt about being a burden and source of unhappiness to them. It was myself I was aborting without regret.

Another issue that springs to mind is that in some cultures and religions, if a female has sex before marriage, she is considered ruined and of less value. Catholics are supposed to forgive sinners, but it could be that there was an influence in my mother's superego that would have judged my situation very harshly, such that I knew it would have been devastating for her to know I was pregnant. She 'conveniently' died before finding out, and perhaps some of my guilt is related to that, as if I killed her off to cover up my mistakes, or not have to face the consequences and had to create consequences that fit the 'crime' of killing her off. The timing of me finding out I was pregnant and her dying was really a matter of days. Also, although she didn't have conscious knowledge, perhaps some part of her knew or guessed, and that was what killed her. She felt like a failure as a mother, she felt horrified.

I could also have felt guilt about the unfairness of my mother's death at such a young age and the fact that her contributions had been undervalued, not only by me, but by my father. It may partly be related to the hurt I caused her in choosing to live with my father. As a result, I may have decided to 'prove' that her contributions had been essential, by showing that I was not able to function properly or grow up and become a contributing member of society without her help.

Also, my inability to maintain thinness could relate to guilt. I could be proving to my mother and myself that without her help, I was unable to manage the 'problem' of my unattractiveness. While I lived with her, she had provided enough structure that I did 'eat like a normal person', and was able to maintain a somewhat thin appearance considering my particular frame.

The last source of guilt is not so unconscious: throughout my life I have felt extreme guilt related to my gluttony and slothfulness. The years of staying in and draining resources. The shame of being controlled by my drive to eat. This guilt makes it difficult to face others, to start relationships, to go out in society. It doesn't seem that there is any way to make up for all the waste, or all that I have taken without 'giving back', and for not taking responsibility for my own life.

It is a kind of encouragement that I, however slowly, developed the ability to find the people and resources necessary to help me progress to a new stage of understanding. The people I have so far been drawn to have all added something necessary, they have all been part of my individual alternative solution.

But if I have some kind of excessive unconscious guilt that keeps throwing obstacles and delays my way, when I think I'm making progress, it seems like there is some kind of unconscious hostility or viciousness directed against me such that I am not allowed to enjoy too much, get too full of myself - I have to have these reminders of how little power I really have.

The superego is to be questioned by conscious intent. Ideas that seem irrational to me consciously, things that I would find difficult to believe had an effect on me apparently must be examined carefully. It seems like it should be easy to dismiss the 'input' from ancestors with which I don't consciously identify or agree, but this doesn't seem to be the case in practice.

If a person has had unconscious guilt related to a parent, what does it take to resolve it? For instance, if unconsciously I had a need to punish myself by proving my mother's worth through throwing away my own life - 'I could not make it without her' - how would I go about changing that internal idea? By openly recognizing her contributions? But haven't I done that already through the years? Perhaps not enough for the superego.

Our forbidden desires cannot be hidden from the superego (Freud) - so even if you don't try to satisfy your drives, the superego will attempt to punish you just for having the desires in the first place.

Renouncing aggression leads to the superego taking aggression out on the ego - the amount of aggression is not representative of father's aggression, but of child's toward father.

Guilt about this aggression is repressed and turned on oneself?

The idea of an all-knowing, all-seeing God who pronounces judgment on our actions, thoughts and desires - in me guilt related to what I have mentioned may have resulted in this original idea of God developing such that I could not escape his wrath. My creation of an observation-delusion might be related to this idea that I had escaped punishment for something I deserved to be punished for.

Throughout my life, I destroyed what I wrote. I didn't really have the chance when young to develop as a writer, because I was not able to truly examine my thoughts. They were all judged and discarded with an extreme sense of shame. Where did this come from? Guilt related to my thoughts making my parents feel bad? Or guilt related to making anyone feel bad? Was it only self-consciousness about possible stupidity, or was it actually guilt related to my thoughts and feelings? If I did feel guilty about my thoughts and feelings, to the extent that I needed to destroy them, what does that say about how likely I was to accept myself?

inferiority complex:

To Freud this was not a simple perception of a defect. "The child feels inferior if it notices that it is not loved; and the same goes for the adult."

It is difficult to distinguish between a feeling of inferiority and one of guilt, but both are expressions of conflict or tension between the superego and the ego.

...All who seek to be nobler than their constitution permits succumb to neurosis; they would have been better in health if they had found it possible to be morally worse...

Sigmund Freud

I wonder if guilt contributes to my efforts to explain myself. I have done it before, I have put in the best effort I am able at the time, and for what? To absolve myself of guilt? To help others to understand? To become more conscious of unconscious guilt so that I can do something about it?















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