Guilt is a normal emotion, which should not be pathologized under any circumstances. It is an emotion immersed in all kinds of psychological processes, also in disorders. However, the analysis of guilt in this article seeks to contextualize itself with a psychosocial rootedness. It can be concluded that the feeling of guilt is one of the priority emotions at the present time throughout Western societies, since guilt is presented as the first-order counterpart to the need for success and frustrated expectations .

The current moment, that of a hyperstimulated individual, is revealed as the imposition of positive thoughts. Feelings like sadness have become taboo, undesirable, unwanted, and also pathologized . The dogma of beauty, happiness and success is the priority source of alterations in the functional course of life of citizens. The unattainable goals of success, presented in “the dreams” as a Hollywood invention to be pursued in perpetuity, born to be eternally unsatisfied. Thus, the development of life trajectories is also governed by the logic of consumerism: Marketing has become the art of generating an unsatisfied desire, which pushes to consume services or products in an insatiable way. Emotions and relationships are approached from exactly that same perspective, causing a claustrophobic feeling in an insatiable life.

The end is the impossible

This condemnation of broken dreams that governs the life of the postmodern citizen is combined with the paradox of urbanism: never have so many people lived so together and at the same time have found themselves more separated. the individualismit becomes the most genuine feature of neoliberal freedom that orders Western life: collectivist notions of freedom understand freedom found with dignity. Two subjects in solidarity with each other become freer by enriching each other’s dignity, reaching a qualitatively higher level of freedom than two isolated individuals. Neoliberal freedom is understood by reducing itself to individual economic levels: in the first place it is a freedom to produce and consume, which outlines a way of being at the present time. It is an individual freedom, which ends where that of the other begins, but never has the interest of collaboration. Neoliberal subjects are free because they are individual. This idea, in addition to being discussed in philosophical terms, is fundamentally pathological in psychological terms.

The last element that guilt relates to is attributional styles. In psychology, attributional styles refer to the explanation that the person gives to any event that affects him. For example, in the event of the loss of a job, the person may attribute this event to external factors: “The company is going badly”, or to internal factors: “My work has been bad lately.” Obviously, the attribution that the person develops is conditioned by the observable circumstances that revolve around that situation, but it also has a lot to do with the subjective experience of the person and their previous experiences.

By combining the elements exposed so far, the feeling of guilt can be understood in psychosocial terms. We are faced with an increasingly individualized context, with people subjected to a superlative degree of excellence in any field, always in order to achieve to have a life of success that is actually unattainable. Thus, the idea of ​​unsatisfied expectations, together with environments given to individualism, tend to conclude that people blame themselves for what happens to them with a greater tendency than is desirable.

The example of burnout

A practical example is found in burnout or “syndrome of being burned at work.” This phenomenon is one of the ones that Work Psychology has studied with the most attention in recent decades. It is explained as a phenomenon that arises from chronic stress linked to people who work in the service or community care sector: the relationship of these workers is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of the other and low performance in the work performed, as a consequence prolonged time without tools to deal with a highly stressful work environment. Burnout results in cognitive and emotional exhaustion, which translates into apathy, loss of illusion, and also irritating behaviors. It is also linked to psychological disorders such as depression , and also to chronic tiredness.

The interesting thing about all this for the present case is that guilt plays an essential role in the presence of Burnout, as a recent investigation showedfrom Figueiredo-Ferraz, Grau-Alberola and Gil-Monte in Spain. In it, a group of approximately 1,000 pre-university teachers was analyzed. Teachers are one of the professional groups most exposed to the phenomenon of burnout, as they represent the professional sectors with more external pressure and those subjected to a progressively worsening employment situation: an increasing number of students per class, with teachers in situations more precarious, and a teaching model that measures student success almost exclusively through merely academic results, neglecting the socializing function of the classroom. For these reasons, just a brushstroke of a very long list that is irrelevant, the situation of Spanish teachers at present is compromised,

Guilt and stressful environment

Burnout develops from feelings of guilt that the person experiences for not being able to give an adequate response to a high stress environment, and ends up resulting in a highly problematic and practically epidemic phenomenon in the service or community care sector. That is to say: the high self-demand of the worker in the face of a stressful work environment , therefore genuinely problematic, ends up associated with feelings of guilt, when the origin of the burnout is found in a highly demanding work environment and not in anything typical of the person that suffers.

Remember that guilt is a normal emotion. Natural. Necessary. Much needed, in fact. However, individualizing environments make guilt the protagonist, since it is linked to a feeling of failure as a result of narratives about identity and the unattainable expectations typical of consumer society.

When you see someone too smiling on social networks … be suspicious. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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