May Recognized Three Forms Of Ontological Guikt

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Anxiety arises when people are faced with the problem of fulfilling their potentialities. Guilt arises when people deny then potentialities, fail to accurately perceive the needs of fellow humans, or remain oblivious to their dependence on the natural world (May, 1958a). Just as May used the term "anxiety" to refer to large issues dealing with one's being-in-the-world, so too did he employ the concept of guilt, hi this sense, both anxiety and guilt are ontological; that is, they refer to the nature of being and not to feelings arising from specific situations or transgressions.

In all, May (1958a) recognized tlnee forms of ontological guilt, each corresponding to one of the tlnee modes of being-in-the-world, that is, Umwelt, Mi! well, and Eigenwelt. To understand the form of guilt that corresponds to Umwelt, recall that ontological guilt need not stem from one's own actions or failures to act; it can arise from a lack of awareness of one's being-in-the-world. As civilization advances technologically, people become more and more removed from nature, that is, from Umwelt. This alienation leads to a form of ontological guilt that is especially prevalent hi "advanced" societies where people live hi heated or cooled dwellings, use motorized means of transportation, and consume food gathered and prepared by others. People's undiscerning reliance on others for these and other needs contributes to ones first form of ontological guilt. Because this type of guilt is a result of our separation from nature, May (1958a) also referred to it as separation guilt, a concept shnilar to Fromm's notion of the human dilemma (see Chapter 7).

The second form of guilt stems from our inability to perceive accurately the world of others (Mih\>elt). We can see other people only through our own eyes and can never perfectly judge the needs of these other people. Thus, we do violence to then true identity. Because we cannot unerringly anticipate the needs of others, we feel madequate hi our relations with them. This then leads to a pervasive condition of guilt, which is experienced by all of us to some extent. May (1958a) wrote that "this is not a question of moral failure ... it is an inescapable result of the fact that each of us is a separate individuality and has no choice but to look at the world through [our] own eyes" (p. 54).

The third form of ontological guilt is associated with our denial of our own potentialities or with our failure to fulfill them. In other words, this guilt is grounded hi our relationship with self (Eigenwelt). Agahi, this form of guilt is universal, because none of us can completely fulfill all our potentials. This third type of guilt is reminiscent of Maslow's concept of the Jonah complex, or the fear of behig or doing ones best (see Chapter 10).

Like anxiety, ontological guilt can have either a positive or a negative effect on personality. We can use this guilt to develop a healthy sense of humility, to improve our relations with others, and to creatively use our potentialities. However, when we refuse to accept ontological guilt, it becomes neurotic or morbid. Neurotic guilt, like neurotic anxiety, leads to nonproductive or neurotic symptoms such as sexual impotence, depression, cruelty to others, or inability to make a choice.

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