Your Bridge Between Choosing and Being Chosen By Guilt


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Self-Care Tip #227 – Find out about your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt.


Sometimes we think people who do wrong should feel guilt.  But how many of us improve ourselves or others in response to guilt?  And because this is a self-care blog (wink), I have tooled around with what it is all about and if it is a positive self-service.  In my meanderings I remembered, Schadenfreude.  (Isn’t that a marvelous Americanized German word?!)

Schadenfreude is different from guilt, although often in the same company.  It is a natural response in which we find pleasure at observing another’s demise or suffering.  I speculate that when we see someone feeling guilty and suffering from that guilt, even against our better natures we experience a degree of Schadenfreude, i.e. pleasure.  Because we moralize things, we responsibly feel shame when insight dawns on Schadenfreude, but “it just is.”  It is a part of who we are in this time of humankind’s history.

However would we go so far as to say that we want people to feel guilty when they do wrong because of the motivating reward that Schadenfreude has on us?  For example, Mom is disciplining her children and just won’t stop until someone cries.  I remember hearing jokes about this in mommy groups when my kids were a bit younger.  …Mom thinks silently,

I’m suffering so I want to see you suffer.

Even though we maturely and grandly empathize (the counterpart to Schadenfreude) with the kids, there is a simultaneous “secret Schadenfreude” (a private feeling) that goes on at their failure.  The blend of both can be confusing.

As we continue to travel the bridge between voluntary and involuntary, we are learning more about how choice remains regardless which side we are looking at.  For example, if guilt and Schadenfreude are so natural, so biological, so reflexive, we look for our choice.

Cathy wrote on the blog-post, Choosing Perspective,

I become trapped in my own guilt. Yes it is about perspective but what to do when even changing your perspective provides no relief, only a different source of constraint?

Questions:  I can’t help but wonder what you think about this?  Where and what is your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt and other negative emotions?  How do you choose when guilt and other negative emotions come involuntarily and inappropriately to context?  Please tell me your story.

20 thoughts on “Your Bridge Between Choosing and Being Chosen By Guilt

  1. I think there is a big difference between guilt and regret. People who take pleasure in others’ demise is usually because it makes them feel better in comparison, or eases their own feelings of guilt in feeling like they don’t stand alone. Deep post.

  2. Schadenfreud – My father saying, as he stripped us and “spanked” us for what seemed like forever, “This is hurting me more than it’s hurting you!” Enjoying his guilt…although I actually think somewhere in there he felt guilty, eventually.

    Didn’t exactly answer your question, but it was the first thing I thought of and now I’d like to stop shaking. Interesting post, though.

    • oh nancy. how do u make me smile so often despite the clearly horrible content of what u right? u combine the horrible w the relief and hope that is so naturally a part of your life and share it here for all of us to b present w. hope the shakes have stopped. thank u for your response!

  3. I’m very anti-revenge myself, but when someone who wronged me comes upon a misfortune I do tend to feel rather glad. Though it’s petty, I often wish someone would get the same thing thing done to them as they did to me. Great post!

  4. I don’t know how to answer this. I’m not sure I really understand the question. I don’t think I feel good when someone else suffers, even if they may have earned it. I like mercy. I want mercy. I did spank my kids, but maybe I wasn’t mean enough. I gave them their choice once, when they did something that I’d warned them not to do. I let them choose. They could go to bed early or I could spank them. They both grinned and said – spank me. That wasn’t the choice I wanted to hear. Blessings, Sana…

  5. I read some where Sana that guilt is a wasted emotion. That would imply that we can refuse the feelimg. I think from experience this to be true. However Schadenfruede (spelling?) Is not so easy. When I see a good friend gaining weight and I am not that delicious tickle if satisfaction arrives. As soon as I recognize it I think of what is impacting her life right and I become compassionate. It doesn’t stop it happening. I am just getting better at turning it around.

    • so true chris. all this hard work, this self-care, this going to the real core of things, this humbling process of accountability – all this does, as u say, improve our experience in life and those around us/friends. thank u chris for being one of ours! keep on.

  6. Schadenfruede. I love it. Because I can relish in the suffering of another that has done me great harm and not be guilty of being the source of the creature’s misfortune. I don’t have to get even or take revenge because that person’s fate does it for me. Hey. if it God’s will that the rotten creep suffers I submit to the will of God.

  7. I agree with Tracy… I hadn’t looked at it like that before. I used to want people who hurt me to hurt in return…how petty of me. Now, I only want those people to realize when they hurt others and change their behavior. I try to act and react in ways that I do not regret or feel guilt over my choices…of course, I do still feel guilty at times. They say no one can make us feel guilty unless we allow it. If you think about it, most of our guilt does come from our own questioning within.

    • yes the ick factor. being a soiled creature after all. however, like so many before and including u n tracy now, we can be in the point of grace we now find ourselves. u r such an inspiration suzicate.

      everyone – run to suzicates blog and give her a collective hug and prayer. blessings friend.

  8. I have different perspectives. I am practical and a consequentialist. I believe in wright or wrong. The view that a person is equally responsible for the intended consequences of an act, and its unintended but foreseen consequences.

    In the extreme case of a criminal found guilty, I find comfort in the logic that this person will pay his debt to society. But I am also capable of feeling compassion for him and his loved ones who will suffer along with him as he remains locked in a box.

    One of my brothers killed himself in 1997, mostly in part because our dad discontinued his medications and therapy. He wanted to make a man out of him the old fashion way. Naturally my brother took the foreseen consequences of my father’s actions, and killed himself when the meds wore off. Like many others in my family, we were upset at my father; we wanted him to suffer, I guess experience Schadenfreude. But after a few years, maybe because my kids were getting older and I could see the consequences of his action from a parents’ perspective, I began to feel great pity for my dad. It must has been horrible for him to carry on that guilt for the last 12 yrs until his death. He was ostracized from the family. He made one of those mistake than you can never take back.

    Like many parents, I too felt into that trap of disciplining the kids, sometimes too harshly, and feeling no remorse. I was just following what I was taught as a child. But now that my kids are 18 and 20 yrs old, I am ofter overcome with remorse and guilt for my past behavior. I have asked my kids for forgiveness, I have made them promised me never to treat their children, in the bad moments, the way I did to them. This is my attempt to break the cycle.

    Just like the quote above, I have become trapped in my own guilt. It is not good for my mental health, but nevertheless it is a trap that has completely engulfed me. And then there are a few times when the fabric that surrounds me has little tears that allows the sunshine to come through letting me know there is still hope for me, waiting for when I am ready to break out of my own prison.

    Sometimes is learned guilt; sometimes is guilt by choice.

    • wow mr. survivor. thank u so very much for sharing this part of your life. i’m sorry about the pain. u sharing it demystifies what pain others feel though and because of your life now, they feel less alone.
      guilt is a terrible symptom and i’m sorry u r suffering. blessing and keep talking!

  9. In my study of myself I have given guilt a choice. One chooses guilt. My mother would often ‘guilt me; into doing something I did not want to do. I changed that cycle for my boys and hope it is broken. now that i know it;s a choice, I just change my thoughts and feelings if I feel guilty about something.
    specially petty things that I can control. It;s just the ego after all. Not our spirit that feels guilt.

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