Guilt is primarily an emotion experienced by people who believe they have done something wrong. From a legal perspective it can also refer to the condition of having done something morally or legally wrong, regardless of how one feels about it.
In psychology and ordinary language, guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something one believes one should not have done. It gives rise to a feeling that does not go away easily, driven by conscience. Freud described this as the result of a struggle between the id (instinctive desires) and the superego (parental imprinting). Guilt and its causes, merits, and demerits is a common theme in psychology and psychiatry. It is often associated with depression.
CAUSES OF GUILT
Some thinkers have theorized that guilt is used as a tool of social control. Since guilty people feel they are undeserving, they are less likely to assert their rights and prerogatives. Thus, those in power seek to cultivate a sense of guilt among the populace, in order to make them more tractable. This was a theme in Eric Hoffer's The True Believer. Ayn Rand claimed that Christian sexual morality served a similar purpose.
Some evolutionary psychologists have said that guilt is a rational human emotion selected by evolution. If a person feels guilty when he harms another or even fails to reciprocate kindness, he is more likely not to harm others or become too selfish; in this way, he reduces the chances of retaliation by members of his tribe and thereby increases his survival prospects, and those of the tribe. As with any other emotion, guilt can be manipulated to control or influence others.
Another common notion is that guilt is assigned by social processes such as a jury trial, i.e. that it is a strictly legal concept. Thus the ruling of a jury that O. J. Simpson or Julius Rosenberg was "guilty" or "not guilty" is taken as an actual judgement by the whole society that they must act as if they were so. By corollary, the ruling that such a person is "not guilty" may not be so taken, due to the asymmetry that assumes one is innocent until proven guilty and prefers to take the risk of freeing a guilty party over convicting innocents.
Still others -- often, but not always, theists of one type or another -- believe that the origin of guilt comes from violating universal principles of right and wrong. In most instances, people who believe this also acknowledge that, even though there is proper guilt from doing 'wrong' instead of doing 'right,' people endure all sorts of guilty feelings that don't stem from violating universal moral principles.
Guilt can sometimes be remedied by punishment (a common action and advised or required in many legal and moral codes), by forgiveness (as in transformative justice), or by sincere remorse (as with confession in Catholicism or restorative justice). Law does not usually accept the agent's self-punishment, but some ancient codes did so: in Athens the accused was permitted to propose his or her own remedy, which might in fact be a reward, while the accuser proposed another, and the jury chose between. This forced the accused to effectively bet on his support in the community - as Socrates did when he proposed "room and board in the town hall" as his fate. He lost, and drank hemlock, a poison, as advised by his accuser. Some people argue that if you feel remorse, or a desire for remorse, then you are showing you are better than your act.
People lacking all sense of guilt
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