Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Both Freud and Hoffman Are Right: Anxious-Aggressive and Empathic Dimensions of Guilt

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Both Freud and Hoffman Are Right: Anxious-Aggressive and Empathic Dimensions of Guilt

Article excerpt

The purpose of the study was to confirm a model which proposed two basic dimensions in the subjective experience of guilt, one anxious-aggressive and the other empathic, as well as another dimension associated but not intrinsic to it, namely, the associated negative emotions dimension. Participants were 360 adolescents, young adults and adults of both sexes. They were asked to relate one of the situations that most frequently caused them to experience feelings of guilt and to specify its intensity and that of 9 other emotions that they may have experienced, to a greater or lesser extent, at the same time on a 7- point scale. The proposed model was shown to adequately fit the data and to be better than other alternative nested models. This result supports the views of both Freud and Hoffman regarding the nature of guilt, contradictory only at a first glance.

Keywords: guilt, empathy, anxiety, emotion

El objetivo de este estudio fue confirmar un modelo que proponía dos dimensiones básicas de le experiencia subjetive de la culpa, una ansiosa-agresiva y la otra empática, además de otra dimensión asociada pero no intrínseca a la culpa, es decir, la dimensión de las emociones negativas asociadas. Participaron en el estudio 360 adolescentes, jóvenes y adultos de ambos sexos. Se les pidió que relataran una de las situaciones que les hacían sentirse culpables con mayor frecuencia y que especificaran su intensidad y la de otras 9 emociones que hubieran podido experimentar, en mayor o menor grado, al mismo tiempo en una escala de 7 puntos. El modelo propuesto se ajustaba a los datos y se observó que era mejor que otros modelos alternativos anidados. Este resultado apoya los puntos de vista tanto de Freud como de Hoffman con respecto a la naturaleza de la culpa, sólo aparentemente contradictorios.

Palabras clave: culpa, empatía, ansiedad, emoción

After a long period of neglect, the study of guilt has once again become the object of much attention over the last decade. From the 1990s onwards, a number of theoretical and empirical studies have focused on fundamental aspects of this emotion such as the cognitive content of the experience and its actual antecedents (Frijda, 1993; Kroon, 1988), its interpersonal roots and functions (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1994; Berndsen, van der Pligt, Doosje, & Manstead, 2004; Jones, Kugler, & Adams, 1995), the difference between guilt and shame and the implications of such differences (Abe, 2004; Buss, 1980, 2001; Lewis, 1971; Lewis, 2000; Smith, Webster, Parrott, & Eyre, 2002; Tangney, 1995; Tangney & Dearing, 2002; Tracy & Robins, 2004), its early development (Barret, 1998; Ferguson & Stegge, 1995; Kochanska, Gross, Lin, & Nichols, 2002; Zahn- Waxler & Kochanska, 1990; Zahn-Waxler & Robinson, 1995) and its relation with psychopathology (Bybee & Quiles, 1998; Harder, 1995; Tangney, Burggraf, & Wagner, 1995), etc. Nevertheless, hardly any research has been carried out on an equally important question: the emotional quality of the subjective experience of guilt. What is the nature of the most common experience of guilt? What emotional components are involved? Are there clearly differentiated types?

Although empirical research is scarce, theoretical approaches to the emotional quality of the subjective experience of guilt abound. However, these theoretical approaches vary widely, resulting in a somewhat confusing theoretical panorama. Our aim when designing this study was to provide empirical data to help clarify the aforementioned panorama. The following is a brief overview of the most notable theoretical approaches.

Firstly, we should highlight those theories postulated by Freud, who dedicated many of his analyses to unraveling the nature and effects of feelings of guilt. According to Freud (1923/1961, 1930/1961), at first, the feeling of guilt (Schuldgefühl) is nothing more than the anxiety felt by a child in response to the loss of parents' love when s/he fails to behave as they would like. …

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