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What Is Guilt?

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image of Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

This summary is offered as a psychological definition of being-guilty. Guilt is lived pre-reflectively in a context of real or imaginary accusatory others, and is constituted as a person accepts responsibility for damaged world-relationships whose meanings constitute shared and personally appropriated values. The contradiction between valued and damaged world-relationships is lived existentially as a rupture between revealed and hidden modalities, in which an appearance of harmony and integrity is maintained by concealing both the hidden, damaged world-relationships to which the person feels guiltily indebted, and the fact of the existential rupture. Guilt's mood is constituted as feelings, not necessarily clearly articulate, of lack of self-acceptance. Guilt is resolved as, and to the extent that, the existential rupture is closed, and the person is able to be fully and unambiguously present in his openness to the world.


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