A profound sense of guilt and of worthlessness can develop within us if we experienced significant trauma during our childhood as has been written about extensively elsewhere on this site. One way in which this can manifest itself is that it can make us feel guilty and undeserving about experiencing good things in life such as relationships, career success or simply enjoying ourselves.
Occasionally, a kind of irrational, superstitious belief system can develop around this; for example, an individual might think something along the following lines: ‘if I dare to enjoy myself something bad is bound to happen to me.’ Indeed, such faulty thinking can take on dramatic dimensions, such as, ‘there’s no point in me trying to form a relationship with someone – if I do, I’m bound to be immediately struck down by terminal cancer.’
The guilt we feel that produces such distorted thinking is very likely to have its roots in the childhood trauma we experienced; specifically, we may consciously, or subconsciously, irrationally believe that the bad things we experienced in childhood ‘were our own fault.’ This phenomenon is sometimes referred to by psychologists as ‘MAGICAL GUILT.’ (Click here to read my article about overcoming the guilt that is linked to the experience of childhood trauma.)
If we do become successful, and such guilt has not been resolved, we may unconsciously punish ourselves by, for example, by becoming depressed or developing psychosomatic illnesses.
Another cause of this ‘magical guilt’ may be that we feel luckier than another member of our family. For example, if, say, one of our parents is suffering from serious clinical depression during a period of our lives when we feel relatively well, we may develop the false belief that we are only well at their expense. Again, this leads us to believe we are not entitled to our relative good fortune.
THE BURDEN OF GUILT
The burden of guilt that we take on in the ways explained above leads to us constantly denying ourselves pleasure or unconsciously spoiling it should we inadvertently stumble upon it.
Anhedonia, which often accompanies depression, refers to the inability to feel pleasure and can be split into two main categories: physical and social. Physical anhedonia refers to no longer being able to enjoy the physical sensations one was capable of deriving pleasure from in the past (e.g swimming, sunbathing, hugging, sexual activity). Social anhedonia refers to the inability to feel pleasure or comfort in other people’s company, no matter how close they used to be to us. In relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article: Childhood Trauma And Anhedonia (Inability To Feel Pleasure).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)