Getting Rid of the Guilt by Nina Bingham

Today, I would like to introduce my guest blogger, Nina Bingham whose article you can read below:

Getting Rid of the Guilt by Nina Bingham

Guilt is defined as: feeling responsible for wrongdoing. But isn’t it interesting that we can feel guilt simply for doing something that someone else doesn’t approve of? Guilt is a very confusing emotion. How do we know when it’s right to feel guilty? Freud was the first psychoanalyst to explain guilt; he theorized it as a function of the Superego; that part of our mind which is our moral gatekeeper; the “voice” which helps us distinguish what is right from what is wrong. Freud said that when parental morality was modeled for us in childhood, we internalize it. This internalized voice, better known as our “conscience,” then becomes the guiding force as we age. The average person has what I would call an exaggerated sense of guilt. I believe this is because of the rules which society has imposed on us. As example, an unspoken rule of society is that mental illness is shameful, and therefore should be hidden. I’d like to explore this further, because at least in America, research tells us that 26% of Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness. This number does not include innumerable people too afraid or ashamed to step forward. Case in point: My daughter was 11 when her father died, and as a result she developed depression. She was 15 before she would admit she needed help, because she was terrified of being stigmatized. She didn’t want to be seen as the “crazy girl” (her words). She’d only been on her anti-depressant for 3 weeks before she secretly stop taking it, and as a result, took her own life. She stopped taking it because she thought she looked too fat in a bathing suit, and was worried the medicine would make her gain weight. She didn’t want to be labeled as mentally ill, and she didn’t want other girls calling her fat. America’s obsession with unrealistic perfection is killing our children…but so is the stigma of mental illness. 90% of suicide completers are people who had a diagnosed mental illness. This should tell us that suicide completers are people who feel ashamed and misunderstood-afraid of being mentally ill because of the cultural stigma. So afraid they would rather not be here. So how do we get rid of the stigma of mental illness? How does the parent of a child that took their own life (due to a mental illness like depression), get free of blaming themselves? If everybody does their part to reduce the stigma, that is, to educate others that it’s a medical problem, not a weakness-perhaps those hiding their symptoms will feel safer talking about it. The best way to reduce the stigma is to get comfortable talking about your own symptoms. You see, stigma comes as a result of NOT talking about it, rather than talking about it. If everybody got comfortable talking about it, there would be no stigma. The next time you’re tempted to feel guilty about something, stop and take a real close look at what’s causing the guilt. Is it yours to take? If you are feeling guilty because you have a mental illness, or your child committed suicide due to a mental illness, the time is now to stand taller than ever before, and to tell the world what is true: mental illness causes suicide, and you have nothing to be guilty for.

Nina Bingham

Thanks very much, Nina.

1 thought on “Getting Rid of the Guilt by Nina Bingham

  1. Sara Jacobovici

    Nina, thank you for a very important article and thank you Jill for sharing Nina’s perspective. I just want too comment on what you said: as a function of the Superego; that part of our mind which is our moral gatekeeper; the “voice” which helps us distinguish what is right from what is wrong. Freud said that when parental morality was modeled for us in childhood, we internalize it. This internalized voice, better known as our “conscience,” then becomes the guiding force as we age. In my work as a therapist, I am always listening to hear whose voice is communicating. And much of my work is helping my clients be aware of whose voice is peaking or to whose voice they are listening. We internalize voices throughout our lives and they include more then our parents’. I agree with the notion that there is a “Superego” part of our ego; a part that makes as conscious of our behaviors and actions. I do not agree with the idea that this is where our sense of what is moral or ethical comes from or that it was we call our “conscience”. I know that this can be seen as a philosophical issue and I am just dealing with semantics. But for me it is important because these are aspects of our identity and who we are. and this returns to the first point of understanding who we are,our “authentic voice” and what aspects of who we are we have taken on because of those internalized voices. Thank you for the opportunity to share this comment with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s