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Coltart, N. (1992). The super-ego, anxiety and guilt. Free Associations, 3(2):243-259.

(1992). Free Associations, 3(2):243-259

Theory

The super-ego, anxiety and guilt

Nina Coltart

We all know something about guilt and anxiety. We have all experienced both, and perhaps realized that there can be links between them. We may have a rather fuzzy feeling at times that we become anxious for fear of becoming guilty and we may have noticed that this small, fleeting apprehension can lead to avoiding an occasion of guilt. We notice the prickings of conscience which may accompany an aggressive idea or fantasy, and which may well inhibit us from turning it into a reality. We have a direct awareness of the existence of the conscience, and we can sense causality between its ways of telling us things and the arousal of anxiety, and we know for sure the intimate bonds between it and the experience of guilt. It may be said that we could all have a stab at writing an essay in personal or cultural terms on the subject of this paper. While I was reading for it, I came across a sentence in one of Freud's New Introductory Lectures, No. 33, where he says: For analysts I am saying too little and nothing at all that is new; for the rest of you I am saying too much and saying things which are not in your province. So if I may use that as my introduction, I ask you to forgive me if either of these things is true.

Perhaps the first thing we must try to get clear is that the conscience is not a synonym for the super-ego. Generally speaking, the conscience is held to be available to conscious inspection, and to conscious response; we may nurture it, attend to it, ignore it or

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