Guilt: the question of culture

Everywhere guilt is born out of fear of punishment. However, the punishment depends on the characteristics of the society in which one lives. Explains psychologist Galina Soldatov and French psychotherapist Toby Nathan.

Guilt: the question of culture

Galina Soldatov - a professor of the Faculty of Psychology of. MV Lomonosov Moscow State University, author of "The Psychology of inter-ethnic tensions" (meaning 1998) and "Training increasing intercultural competence" (Moscow State University, 2006).

Toby Nathan (Tobie Nathan) - clinical psychology professor at the University of Paris-VIII, the author of research works on ethnopsychiatry.

Guilt: the question of culture

Toby Nathan

Psychologies: Do people equally experiencing guilt in different societies, civilizations, ethnic groups?

Toby Nathan: No, in different ways. Much of this depends on what in a given society are determined standards of conduct and penalties for those who violate them. Also important is how to ensure compliance with the law, how the court and penal system. Fear is a feeling of guilt, and this principle works in any society.

Galina Soldatov: Cultural Features in the experience of guilt depend on the tradition and style of education in the family. Where children are taught early to independence, self-reliance, more intensively develop the ability to feel guilt. But, of course, the feeling is more experienced by those who are brought up in a culture oriented to the interests of the group and not the individual. In such a society is more pronounced social control, much more "police": the family (genus), a community (clan teip), state religious institutions. And even if we avoid the official "sanctions", the sense of guilt (as a psychological - internal - the punishment) will be with us. Although we feel it, I think the same way, because it is a universal, basic emotions, the same as the fun and excitement, interest and sadness, fear and love. Does the strength of feeling on the type of culture?

N .: T. Of course. Here is an example: One of my students was driving in Cameroon and knocked down a child who, according to him, literally threw himself under the wheels. Shocked by what had happened, he went to the police station. There also came the excited parents. After discussing the situation, everyone, including the police, came to the conclusion that my student ... absolutely innocent. They decided that the child was a victim of witchcraft. In their view, the real culprit of the accident was a sorcerer who put a spell on the boy. What is the result? In a society where ancient traditions are still operating on a legal level, my students do not even questioned, while in many other countries it would be considered guilty. Consequently, the feeling of guilt that had the young man was much less than what he would have felt if it happened in a European country.

Guilt: the question of culture

Galina Soldatov

GS .: But it is important not to confuse guilt with shame. Both of these emotions are associated with the notion of conscience and sense of responsibility, but in different ways are presented in consciousness. Shame extrovert (directed outwards) and is associated with social responsibility. This is a reaction to the external environment, when our offense committed contrary to accepted standards and therefore concealed by us, is on public display. As for guilt, she introverted, refers to the inner world of man, this is our personal experience generated by a sense of personal responsibility. In the first half of the twentieth century the largest American anthropologist Ruth Benedict (Ruth Benedict) in opposition to Western culture experiences guilt Japanese culture of shame. The Japanese are very important as it would react to misconduct by others. "Knowing shame" - as in Japan say about a man of honor. And in some primitive societies, such as the Australian aborigines, to describe the shame is not even a single word, but there is an umbrella term that also means horror, fear, shyness, fear and shame. It turns out that the determining factor is the cultural level of the society in which one lives?

N .: T. Yes, because the sense of guilt in the first place due to the action of a third party - the guardian of order. In the south of Togo, as in many other African regions with a traditional way of life, the wife is automatically considered guilty in the case of her husband's death. It is suspected that she had "picked up", such as secretly slipped him a drug or poison. To live, the widow must "wash" of his guilt by a long and cruel rites. I knew a widow, living in Paris, who was born in the south of Togo. This woman is absolutely not guilty of the death of her husband, tormented by remorse. And all because not passed the rite of "initiation of widows" and has not been "laundered" by their relatives.

"GUILT is primarily due to the sensitization - this" cop "sits inside each of us."

GS .: More precisely, not the level, and the particular culture and influence on the formation of personal responsibility. Guilt is primarily due to its knowledge - is a "cop" who is sitting within us. Condemning our action, he forces us to treat him with the utmost rigor, so that we can draw conclusions and become better. No matter what culture we belong to.