I have struggled all my life with a hyperactive conscience. I feel a vague to intense sense of guilt constantly. I’m writing this series of articles to reach out to any of you who suffer from guilt complex and overactive conscience. Part one; What is a guilt complex?
You remember the T-A, Transactional Analysis school of psychology, which delineated the self as three two personas, the parent and the child, struggling for control. It was only when the healthier adult persona was able to take control that the other two were able to take a healthier back seat. This is based upon the Freudian (one of my personal heroes) model of Id (child), superego (parent) and ego (adult). The id is childish and totally self-serving. The superego is parental, ultra-controlled and highly critical. The ego or adult is a whole, balanced person. Well, we with guilt complexes and overactive consciences are stuck in superego- parental mode and fight it daily.
Don’t be fooled. People with overactive consciences have no more to feel guilty about than anyone else. Less, usually. We’ve done our time, paid our penances, said our Mea Culpaes, received absolution. But we struggle to shake the nagging feeling that we’ve left something undone. Our apologies and restitution, despite their agonizing sincerity, never satisfy us. We don’t have prickings of conscience, we have brutal stabbings. Other people in our life don’t hold us responsible or accuse us. We accuse ourselves, sometimes to the point of dreaming up sins. Yes. I have a recurrent dream in which I have done something unspeakable, willful murder, violent assault, terrible injury. When I wake, I feel sick and terrified, and it takes conscience effort for me to convince myself that it was just a dream (how’s that for Freudian? I’m a prime candidate for his rug draped couch).
Overactive conscience always second guesses its decisions and actions. Guilt complex causes us to be pathologically self-critical. And like so many other emotional issues, guilt complex and overactive conscience are fear driven. Fear of offending, fear of upsetting others, fear of our own emotions, fear and self-loathing, fear of consequences. People with guilt complexes will sometimes lie or cheat to prevent imagined consequences. Will these consequences actually take place? Not likely. Guilt complex is based on irrational fear.
So know you know what a guilt complex looks and feels like. You’re wondering, ‘great, she tells us what it is and leaves us with nothing.’ Fear not, in my other articles we look at ways heal if you suffer from guilt complex and ways to help if you love someone with overactive conscience. To follow this series, look for new installments on www.emotionalhealthhelp.blogspot.com.