Psychological Self-Help

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It would be nice, perhaps, but impossible to be "pure" of heart
(emotions) and mind. However, to the extent you use your thoughts
and values to resist or diminish your immoral-inconsiderate emotional
urges (as defined by you and/or society), you could be considered
good and moral. Indeed, there is evidence that a stern conscience
which carefully monitors our thoughts and urges is more likely than a
weak one to stop us from being immoral (David, 1977). So, maybe
evil thoughts and feelings aren't morally bad unless they start to
overpower (or slip around) our conscience. Thus, the weaker our
immoral impulses and the stronger our healthy guilt (or moral
character), the safer we are from "sin" or unhealthy guilt. 
Guilt may also come from comparing your living conditions to
others and from not living up to our own standards. Many adults feel
some guilt for living better than their parents. Some people feel
unworthy of their successes. Some men and women in their forties,
fifties, and sixties are now experiencing guilt about not serving in the
military service in Korea and Vietnam. How can over 50% of us
Americans go to fantastic colleges, while millions of children around
the world get little or no education at all (one billion people are
illiterate), without feeling some guilt underneath the denial and
rationalizations? It's healthy and reasonable to have some guilt. 
Where did your conscience come from? According to Erikson, in the
first year of life you learned to trust or distrust people depending on
how well your needs were met. If trust developed with someone in
your first year, then during your terrible two's, when you were learning
to eat with a spoon, to walk, to talk, to use the bathroom, and so on,
you were able to develop an emotional relationship with someone. If
from the caretaker you learned that you were capable, that you have
limits but you're okay as a person, that you could test the limits,
explore, get mad, etc. and still be loved, you acquired healthy shame.
On the other hand, if during your 2's and 3's the caretaker was critical,
impatient, mean, or humiliating, you would probably doubt your ability
and feel defective or shame as a person. The "I'm defective" self-
concept learned at such an early age makes it especially hard to
handle the subsequent stages of development (see stages of
development in chapter 9). 
From ages 3 to 5 you were learning to do lots of things:
communicate, eat without making a mess, ride a tricycle, throw a ball,
ask lots of questions, etc. If you already had experienced love,
developed trust and self-acceptance, and were continuing to receive
encouragement and praise, your self-confidence and self-concept
developed further. But, if you were further ridiculed and told "you can't
do anything right," you learned to feel self-critical, guilty, and
insecure. Remember, according to Freud and Erikson, at ages 5 or 6
you normally would start to identify more with your same-sexed
parent, automatically and unthinkingly incorporating his/her values
and moral thinking in the process (see chapter 5). 
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