guilt_carry-man.jpgPerspective On Guilt
Guilt occurs when people deny their potentialities, fail to perceive the needs of others or are unaware of their dependency on the world. Both anxiety and guilt involve issues dealing with one’s being in the world. May mentioned they were ontological, meaning that they both refer to the nature of being and not to the feelings coming from situations. (Feist & Feist, 2008)

Feist and Feist (2008) outline May’s three forms of ontological guilt. Each form relates to one of the three modes of being, which are Unwelt, Miwelt and Eigenwelt. Unwelt’s form of guilt comes from a lack of awareness of one’s being in the world. May believed as the world becomes more technologically advanced, people are less concerned about nature and become removed from nature. This form of guilt is frequently found in modern societies where people use motorised means of transport and consume food that’s prepared by others. This oblivious reliance on others for many needs contributes to the first form of ontological guilt. May referred to this guilt as separation guilt as we have separated ourselves from nature.

Miwelt’s form of guilt comes from our inability to see things from other’s point of view. We only see others through our own eyes and so we can never judge the needs of others. Because we cannot anticipate the need of others accurately, we feel inadequate in our relations with them. This leads to a common form of guilt that we all experience to some extent.


Eigenwelt’s form of guilt is connected with the denial of our own potentialities or failure to fulfil them. This guilt is based in our relationship with the self (Eigenwelt). This is a universal form of guilt because no one completely fulfils all of their potentialities.

Ontological guilt, like anxiety can have either a positive or a negative effect on one’s personality. The positive effect involves using the guilt to develop a healthy sense of modesty, improving relationships with others and using our potentialities creatively. The negative effect involves us refusing to accept ontological guilt, which makes the guilt neurotic. Neurotic guilt leads to neurotic symptoms such as sexual impotence, depression, cruelty and the inability to make decisions.