One way or another, all parents have to teach children to distinguish between right and wrong behavior, to explain how important it is to be able to control many of their desires, how much it is necessary to master the countless rules of social life. It is through this training that we transform the child that was born into a civilized person. No matter how charming he is, it is obvious that he enters life without even having the most vague idea of good and evil. He learns to distinguish these concepts from people, from those with whom he communicates in infancy. The true idea of good and evil, which gradually develops in a child, is called conscience. Of course, we all possess it to a greater or lesser extent. Conscience stops us when we rush to act under the influence of strong feelings, and although fear can act as a brake, conscience does not turn us into cowards. On the contrary, she teaches us that the best of virtues is a sense of proportion.
The complex of guilt is inevitably associated with the formation of a sense of responsibility to others. In essence, this is nothing more than an emotional aggravation of conscience. The guilt complex reminds that we have a conscience, but it does this only after we DON’T TAKE ADVICE. In a word, we realize that we made a mistake. Even to a small extent, this feeling is unpleasant, and when the feeling of guilt takes on a heightened shape, it turns out to be just as painful as punishment. Due to the deeply emotional nature, and also because of the reasons that give rise to this complex, it manifests itself in unexpected ways. And it arises not only after we commit any bad deed, but even in the case when our intentions are not carried out. Let’s say a child is angry with his parents and would like to take revenge on them, but does not do that. However, the very thought of revenge alone makes him feel guilty.
In other words, we are all able to judge ourselves more strictly than any court. But if by law we are found guilty of a misdemeanor, then for the court of conscience only the intention to commit evil is sufficient. After all, it is said in the Old Testament: “He who looked at a woman with lust, has already committed adultery in his soul.” This inner feeling that we have sinned or committed some unworthy act is a manifestation of the guilt complex, which causes reproaches of our conscience, sometimes even premature, but tenaciously holding us. Instead of getting an idea of ourselves and understanding how we manage to control our desires, we are upset by the very fact of their occurrence. To judge yourself so harshly is the same thing as thinking badly about yourself in order to do good. And here, before the birth of feelings of fear and despondency, just one step. In such circumstances, even our greatest effort is only a half measure, and the collapse to which it leads only sharpens and consolidates the guilt complex in us.
Attempting to avoid feelings of guilt gives rise to such forms of behavior that apparently seem to have nothing to do with our fear of doing something wrong. A child, for example, can turn into a little hypocrite. By doing what others are expecting from him, the cunning clings to their love, replacing it with a love for himself. Although it seems from the outside that everything is normal, too many needs remain unmet, and he cannot but feel the great emptiness in his life. Another way to get rid of guilt feelings can be recognized in some features of behavior and children and adults. If a person continually checks whether the gas is turned off, often he washes his hands, hurries to free the ashtray from cigarette butts, as soon as they appear in it, endlessly cleans up the apartment, often touches or pulls it – all these are signs (if they constantly repeat ) slavish dependence on habits, unwittingly arising from him in conditions of discomfort and internal stress. Undoubtedly, a significant proportion of this stress is generated by the guilt complex, even if we do not associate human behavior with this concept.
How does the guilt complex arise? Why is it more pronounced in some, weaker in others? The following happens. Raising our child, we often hurry to express our approval or disapproval so that he understands what is expected of him. At the same time, seeing how we are trying with all our strength to meet its basic needs, the child begins to perceive us as part of himself. He owns not only our name, but our hands. After all, they rock him, feed, wash, warm. Inevitably, in the end, and our thoughts are made his thoughts. And there comes a time when we no longer need to be around to explain to him which of his intentions are bad and which are good, very soon our judgments become his judgments.
This does not mean, however, that the child’s conscience, his ideas about good and evil, learned from us, will keep him from doing evil things. He can still do something bad, although he will be aware that he is not doing well and is able to go for it even in our presence, even hearing our reproaches. The fact is that the child’s conscience has already awakened, and the mere fact that he has one can cause a guilt complex. Indeed, we after all unequally condemn the child for his moral behavior and for his lack of awareness in certain issues. We will never, for example, claim that a child is bad only because he said that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1942. None of us boils with anger and declares that he does not love his 3-year-old kid for the fact that he still confuses the left and right sides.
In other words, the whole gulf lies between the mistakes that a child admits, not knowing something, and those relating to his real actions. If in the first case our reaction is calm and objective, then in the second our feelings take over. When we show anger, impatience and in addition apply punishment, we thereby say to the child that we do not love him. And even if we immediately assure him of the opposite, the child will still have his own opinion, since he will see our far from friendly and not affectionate attitude.
For the child, all this is very important and leaves a deep imprint on his mind for two reasons:
As long as he depends on us, he realizes that our love is the greatest guarantee that we will continue to meet all his needs.
As the child feels himself a part of us, he will soon begin to look at himself with our eyes. This means that he will feel bitterly bad, unworthy of parental love, and will decide that he is much worse than he thought of himself before.
If the parents are so harsh that they express their disapproval more emotionally and more often than they should, the child lacks their love. The consciousness that he is loved turns out to be a luxury for him, and not the norm, he begins to treat himself with less respect. A child who is not self-assured, lacking the necessary courage and deprived of many interests, the child experiences fear and the need to apologize or make excuses in advance to everyone.
Of course, it is impossible to raise children, does not express approval or disapproval of their actions, just as it is impossible to awaken a child’s conscience, without giving rise to a guilt complex. The best thing to do in this case is to observe a sense of proportion. We must do our best to reduce the guilt complex, and NOT ATTEMPT to achieve an unrealistic goal – to completely rid the child of it.
If our child is fearful and we see signs of increased nervous excitability, if he is at all UNCERTAINED in himself, as indicated by finger sucking and other symptoms of mental stress, then it is quite possible that he has already developed a guilt complex. Maybe we were too strict, overdone, reading him notations, or took a too categorical position when we found out that the child is engaged in masturbation. Perhaps, relying too much on his prudence, we were upset by his behavior and we made him a grand scandal. It is difficult to strike a balance of approval and disapproval on our part. Undoubtedly, we all tend to indulge children. Our applause is usually too short, and we all hope that we can repeat them every day. When a child accidentally drops something, we treat him as an adult who is obliged to prevent this. When he fights with his sister, we react as if he is the only child in the world to do this. When he does not want to go to sleep, we behave as if the child is the greatest obstacle in life to our happiness. Finally, when he tells us lies, we shout that he should be ashamed to lie, and thereby increase his guilt. A complex of guilt can prevent a child from getting the most out of life. Therefore, it is worth making an effort and trying to moderate the tone of our reproaches. Let us explain to the baby why we do not approve one or another of his actions, but we will do it briefly and calmly: and this is the best way. In addition, never tell your child that you no longer love him and in general “sell to vagrants”. On the contrary, we must give our children truly unlimited love and approve their good deeds as often as possible. In this case, any generosity is a guarantee that the guilt complex will be minimized.