C O N T R O L  S Y S T E M S

The Guilt System

New updated version - Sept 2008

Most of the unpleasantness of the “real world” – the competitiveness, hostility, resentment, anxiety – can be traced to the guilt system. In a sense we each created our own version of Hell from our first encounter with guilt. The fall from grace occurred during infancy when we received the message (usually from our parents) that we’re “bad” or “not good enough”. This led to our first “bad” thought, resulting in the Nightmare of Guilt from which we’ve been running ever since.

The depth of this guilt shouldn’t be underestimated. Relative to the infant’s previously innocent universe, doing something “bad” was equivalent to murdering all good. Not knowing how to dispel this gnawing sense of guilt, we eventually entered “normal society”, which functions essentially as a guilt-projection system for recirculating undigested guilt.

How does the Guilt System work?

We each carry a burden of unresolved guilt from our childhood. We repress it (ie hide it from ourselves, deny it) and we project it onto others. This projection takes the following form: We see ourselves in a competitive, threatening world, but we’re not guilty of creating this world; it’s them out there – those bastards – who are guilty of creating the unpleasantness.

Competitive society – with its constricting fear, pettiness and suppressed rage – can hurt us psychologically only if we participate in the guilt system. Our own buried guilt makes us vulnerable to the system’s effects – it creates an attenuated expectancy of punishment, which makes us defensive and easy to control.

Society’s most popular pastime is comparing oneself to others in ways that make us seem good-by-comparison. This is just a desperate, unsatisfying attempt to compensate for our lingering sense of "badness".*

You can accept the guilt-programming in your personality if you want life-long misery, but it seems insane to believe that a thought or action could leave a moral taint on consciousness. In fact, anything but a perception of your unconditional innocence – in the present moment of consciousness – leads to insanity.

Unfortunately, the socially-programmed personality rejects this perspective as "immoral". In other words, it can’t escape its evaluation of its own guilt: it judges rejection of guilt as the ultimate guilty act.

Guilt originally developed as a “religious” social-control mechanism, used for keeping the slaves and peasants in line. We can do without it.** But, I hear someone asking, how will people stop doing bad things if they don’t feel guilty? Guilt probably never stopped anyone doing “bad” things. Intelligence, compassion and democratic laws seem better candidates for that role.

But, but...?! I know, it’s blasphemous, irresponsible, dangerous, etc, to think in this way, and God will strike you down for it. Or at least that appears to be the belief of the “guilty” and the insane. This article isn’t a licence to be stupid and callous, but a licence to stop being guilty; to undo the social fiction of guilt; to wake up from your socially-programmed guilt-trance and feel the serene invulnerability of your innocence.

Your innocence cannot fail

Another way to undo guilt is to stop projecting it. We all follow destructive social programming to different degrees, occasionally leading to tragic consequences and large-scale suffering. To regard people “out there” as the guilty parties will only keep you enslaved to your own guilt (since it reflects your decision to accept guilt as an absolute reality). Better to innocently unravel and expose the faulty social programming.

So entrenched is the guilt system, that it will take more than one moment of sanity to undo its effects. The guilt will return – as will the projection of guilt. But every moment of remembered innocence weakens the guilt system and reduces its insane consequences.

** Except, perhaps, in a strictly legal sense for court proceedings, which is a different matter. Legal “guilt” is a formality; it has no direct relationship to the psychological guilt discussed in this article.