Monday, November 22, 2010

Remorse, Regret & Guilt.

On the topic of...

Regret, Remorse & Guilt.


Psychopaths are said to not be able to feel Remorse. They are also said to not feel Guilt. But can they feel Regret?

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Regret.

I have in the past done things which at the time when I did them seemed to be the only right thing to do, but in hindsight I can see I overlooked important details and as a concequence ended up doing something that was wrong in some way or another. Doing something wrong can pertain to almost everything in existence, from making the wrong bet because you didn't know the stakes were fixed, firing the wrong employee because you had been fed the wrong information for a long time, or by causing pain to someone because you either didn't know they would be able to retaliate later or because your impression of them as a person was wrong and later you learned that you liked them well enough to not wish the pain on them that you inflicted. ..Etc. etc. etc...

Though there are cases where I have felt regret without a shadow of a doubt, mostly I would say 'regret' is perhaps a strong word for how I feel about having done something wrong. After all, what's the point in regret when I can't change it anyway?! I think that's the word 'regret' means to 'SEE', or 'THINK', I was wrong/stupid(naive/inexperienced)/etc., whereas remorse has a larger emphasis on dwelling on what I did wrong, and on feeling the embarrassment/sadness/etc. this generates.

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Remorse.

The Oxford Dictionary reads: 'Deep regret for wrongs committed, compunction, compassionate reluctance to inflict pain (especially without remorse).'

Okay, remorse is a form of strong regret. I think it's what I mean when I say: Remorse is the same as Regret, but with emphasis on focusing on the past wrongs committed rather than on doing better or good in the present. I acknowledge that it is not a question about wasting energy on feelings that can't change anything, because the person who feels remorse does not choose to do so. They simply cannot help it! A person who feels true remorse had no choice or say in the matter. And I bet most people, if they could choose, would choose not to feel remorse. It's horrible feeling where the "victim" accuses themselves, feel embarrassed, feel stupid or bad, and are not able to shake this devastation of their self-esteem.

In my view, remorse is good for punishment on individuals who's energy cannot be put to better use in any way, and provided the society can affort to indulge in letting an individual suffer solely for the sake of retribution.

That said, my true feelings about punishment are that punishing a wrongdoer should be done by the wronged, not by any society or coercive enforcement of law - provided the wrong deed was targeted at an individual or group of individuals, or a minority. But then, this is probably always the case, expcept for actions of war.

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Guilt.

I believe Guilt is an abstraction, it is not a feeling, but an adjective that applies to people who act in certain ways in certain situations according norms and rules in their society at the time.

4 comments:

Loki said...

Glad I found this.

Remorse:
Describes the feeling one receives after doing/saying something "wrong". This involves the actual feeling over the action mentioned because it has caused harm in some way to an object connected with the person (normal empathy). This does not apply to the consequences, and usually takes place immediately or shortly after the action.

Guilt:
Describes the feeling one receives after doing/saying something "wrong" and feeling negatively over the consequences. This is sometimes confused with regret or remorse (and I believe it can almost be intertwined with shame).

For example: If I lied to my friend over something I perceived to be unimportant whereas they felt differently, I would not feel remorse over the action of lying or the words said specifically. I saw nothing wrong with doing this, no matter what society dictates to be moral. I may, however, intellectually and emotionally understand that these actions have caused a negative response. Immediately (or sometimes not so much), I feel guilt over what was said and done. This is not because of remorse or regret, but because I feel bad for what the action has done. More often than not, this refers to the relationship with said person, rather than the person themselves. This can be selfish or selfless.

Regret:
This is something often confused with guilt, but [i]everyone[/i] experiences this (unless you have a major neurological disability). This usually takes place shortly or long after the incident. This is more of an intellectual understanding of the action and the consequences. The feeling arises from anxiety (again, occurs in just about everyone)and one regrets the action, wishing they could take it back simply because it would have made life easier. This is an almost purely selfish emotion.

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That's what I've discerned through all of my readings and texts.

Anonymous said...

Regret is not the same as guilt. There are people who have caused pain and then say: "Well I'm sorry you feel that way" . I won't do it again. Inside they're thinking oh jesus, not another one of these people that are going to twist things around to make it all about them. They apologize and make it up to the person with something the person likes, but only because they want the person in their good graces. Asked if they'd do the same again, they'll say well not to THAT person, at least not if I'm getting all this flack. It's not guilt at all.

Guilt would imply genuine sorrow, I think, like when you lost our damned mind and struck your kid. Remorse about hurting something you sincerely didn't mean to hurt. It caused a dear loved one pain.

Anonymous said...

your* damned mind.

Daniel Knight said...

Guilt does not imply genuine sorry which is what the last person said. You can read my comment here:

http://eternian.wordpress.com/regret