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Panic Attacks, Guilt, and the Personality of Your Superego

Guilt can be absolutely crippling for anyone, but it hits panic attack and anxiety sufferers particularly hard. We’re so darned tough on ourselves, and hold ourselves accountable for so many things that simply aren’t fair or reasonable. And that makes guilt a major obstacle to overcome when it comes to recovery. Well, let’s have a look at this toxic phenomenon.

In any effort to examine guilt, Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalysts would submit one has to consider the superego; in effect, our active conscious. On the other end of Freud’s structural spectrum is the id, home of our primal wishes. For the record, according to Freud, the interplay of the superego and id is managed by the ego. Now, some theorists would propose that one’s superego can have, shall we say, a personality of its own; which can range from very easy-going to tough-as-nails. And within this context it would only make sense that a “mentally/emotionally healthy” person’s superego would lend a hand in feeling good about self. Yes, this particular superego, like a good parent, would administer discipline when one has thought or behaved badly; and the “punishment” is generally delivered in the form of guilt. But when the individual makes sincere attempts at making-right their transgressions, the superego awards due credit and forgives. This is the psychoanalytic dynamic of self-forgiveness.

It would follow, then, that the tough-as-nails superego isn’t so nurturing, as it pounds the individual with massive portions of guilt for a multiplicity of supposed offenses, causing one to constantly and desperately seek shelter. And each futile attempt at lightening the burden of guilt is greeted with truckloads of shame, instead of relief. Theoretically, it’s this dynamic that greatly inhibits any sort of “making things right,” and, ultimately, leaves the individual horribly trapped in infinite doses of self-disapproval and internal self-assault. Individuals with superegos this brutal are forced to find some way, any way, of relieving their overbearing burdens of guilt and shame. Sadly, this is accomplished by a variety of very unpleasant internal and external methodologies; the bottom-line being an extremely long and tragic life, suffocating in harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward self and others. Taken to the very extreme, physical harm to self and others may be an ultimate reality.

Now, the cognitivits, led by Aaron Beck, would agree with the psychoanalysts that guilt is a very powerful and potentially harmful emotion. They submit guilt is grounded in all matters real or perceived; and it’s highly influenced by genetics, life-experience, and learning. According to the cognitivists, one of the foundations of guilt is negative self-thought. That said, the guilt-ridden individual generally turns blame for unfortunate circumstances inward. Yes, though the behavior presentations associated with guilt hold the potential to be significantly outwardly harmful, it seems most of the harm is inflicted upon self. Any harm inflicted upon others is less directly aggressive, and more resentment or passive-aggressive based.

Well, for panic and anxiety sufferers, here’s the bottom-line. No matter what kind of personality your superego may happen to have, your first step in whipping guilt is to become proactive in making things right with yourself. Only then is it time to make things right with others. If, indeed, the task at hand involves another party, approach him/her and offer a sincere apology. If some sort of debt has been incurred, suggest and work out a settlement; and make sure you hold up your end of the deal. Then, move on with your life in an enlightened and recovery-driven manner. True friends and true loved and loving ones will gladly accept the sincerity of your thoughts and words, and the action backing them.

But, please, don’t ever forget to settle accounts with yourself. And now that you have insight into how absolutely cruel we can be to ourselves, and why; you may want to consider taking your circumstances to a therapist for resolution if you’re having a tough time pulling things together. Guilt can be absolutely crippling for anyone, but it hits panic attack and anxiety sufferers particularly hard. We’re so darned tough on ourselves, and hold ourselves accountable for so many things that simply aren’t fair or reasonable. And that makes guilt a major obstacle to overcome when it comes to recovery. Well, let’s have a look at this toxic phenomenon.

In any effort to examine guilt, Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalysts would submit one has to consider the superego; in effect, our active conscious. On the other end of Freud’s structural spectrum is the id, home of our primal wishes. For the record, according to Freud, the interplay of the superego and id is managed by the ego. Now, some theorists would propose that one’s superego can have, shall we say, a personality of its own; which can range from very easy-going to tough-as-nails. And within this context it would only make sense that a “mentally/emotionally healthy” person’s superego would lend a hand in feeling good about self. Yes, this particular superego, like a good parent, would administer discipline when one has thought or behaved badly; and the “punishment” is generally delivered in the form of guilt. But when the individual makes sincere attempts at making-right their transgressions, the superego awards due credit and forgives. This is the psychoanalytic dynamic of self-forgiveness.

It would follow, then, that the tough-as-nails superego isn’t so nurturing, as it pounds the individual with massive portions of guilt for a multiplicity of supposed offenses, causing one to constantly and desperately seek shelter. And each futile attempt at lightening the burden of guilt is greeted with truckloads of shame, instead of relief. Theoretically, it’s this dynamic that greatly inhibits any sort of “making things right,” and, ultimately, leaves the individual horribly trapped in infinite doses of self-disapproval and internal self-assault. Individuals with superegos this brutal are forced to find some way, any way, of relieving their overbearing burdens of guilt and shame. Sadly, this is accomplished by a variety of very unpleasant internal and external methodologies; the bottom-line being an extremely long and tragic life, suffocating in harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward self and others. Taken to the very extreme, physical harm to self and others may be an ultimate reality.

Now, the cognitivits, led by Aaron Beck, would agree with the psychoanalysts that guilt is a very powerful and potentially harmful emotion. They submit guilt is grounded in all matters real or perceived; and it’s highly influenced by genetics, life-experience, and learning. According to the cognitivists, one of the foundations of guilt is negative self-thought. That said, the guilt-ridden individual generally turns blame for unfortunate circumstances inward. Yes, though the behavior presentations associated with guilt hold the potential to be significantly outwardly harmful, it seems most of the harm is inflicted upon self. Any harm inflicted upon others is less directly aggressive, and more resentment or passive-aggressive based.

Well, for panic and anxiety sufferers, here’s the bottom-line. No matter what kind of personality your superego may happen to have, your first step in whipping guilt is to become proactive in making things right with yourself. Only then is it time to make things right with others. If, indeed, the task at hand involves another party, approach him/her and offer a sincere apology. If some sort of debt has been incurred, suggest and work out a settlement; and make sure you hold up your end of the deal. Then, move on with your life in an enlightened and recovery-driven manner. True friends and true loved and loving ones will gladly accept the sincerity of your thoughts and words, and the action backing them.

But, please, don’t ever forget to settle accounts with yourself. And now that you have insight into how absolutely cruel we can be to ourselves, and why; you may want to consider taking your circumstances to a therapist for resolution if you’re having a tough time pulling things together.

There’s no reason to accept domination by guilt. Except, of course, if you elect to do nothing about your situation.

Bill White Hi! I’m Bill White, founder and producer of Chipur – and a licensed counselor. Are you looking for help? The miles are irrelevant. Visit my Coaching|Mentoring page.