"Guilt is our inner police force, but if we give it too much emotional power, we risk turning into a police state."

#Opinion

Wed, Feb 13th, 2013 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

In The New York Times' Opinionator page, Ruth Whippman looks at the often disregarded emotion of guilt. Yet, as she notes, "this peevish little C-lister of the emotional spectrum manages to punch way above its weight."

It is so powerful, we do almost anything to avoid it. Guilt is the driver of our internal system of checks and balances, the stubborn little inner voice that stops us from eating 19 Twinkies in a row or telling our neighbor's husband that his story about the company team-building session wasn't funny the first time. Its specter is what drives the midnight diaper change (those who say that the urge to run to a child squirming in its own feces at 3 a.m. is brought about by adoration have probably never had children). We need guilt, that dreary engine of morality, in order for society to function. Without its looming prospect, we would turn into sociopaths. Or politicians.

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