guilt, in psychology, a term denoting an unpleasant feeling associated with unfulfilled wishes. Sigmund Freud initially contended that sexual drives produce sense of guilt in the superego, the moral conscience of the mind. He later maintained, however, that guilt was associated with aggressive impulses. Freud felt that guilt was often confused with remorse, the former being an emotion signaling the presence of aggressive wishes, the latter a self-imposed punishment which occurs if the aggressive wish is fulfilled. Individuals suffering from various neurotic disorders may experience feelings of guilt and remorse even when they have not acted on their aggressive impulses. The term guilt is most commonly used in traditional psychoanalysis, as a way of describing unconscious processes which may lead to neurotic reactions. It is also used in criminal law, in cases where a defendant is found to be responsible for the crime for which he is on trial.
See L. Wurmser, The Mask of Shame (1981).