Guilt as Motivation

Motivating yourself with guilt (which is what this article suggests, albeit in a slightly veiled way) is just as unhealthy as motivating yourself with masochistic efforts of “willpower.” What’s really sad is that the author is a professor of psychology who is so utterly clueless that he is unaware of the harm his advice will cause to the people who were manipulated with guilt in childhood and told they are ungrateful little bastards, etc. And I’m guessing that is quite a few people.

In reality, the only way of leaving aside harmful habits and picking up healthy ones is to find the reason why one actively tries to self-destroy and self-sabotage. It’s all about undoing the original hurt, not exacerbating it. 


5 thoughts on “Guilt as Motivation”

  1. I thought the article was more about leveraging your personal psychology in order compete in liquid capitalism with “resume values” and “eulogy values.”

    The marshmallow test falls apart when participants perceive the environment to be unreliable such as children who grow up in a shelter or adults who keep getting palmed off with promises of raises and 401(k)s.

    In a version of the marshmallow test adapted for adults, we had people take a few minutes to recall an event that made them feel grateful, neutral or happy. Next, we had them answer a series of questions of the form “Would you rather have $X now or $Y in Z days?” with Y always being bigger than X, and Z varying over weeks to months. From these questions, we could calculate how much people discounted the value of the future.

    Those feeling neutral or happy were pretty impatient. They were willing to forgo receiving $100 in a year if we gave them $18 today. Those who were feeling gratitude, however, showed nearly double the self-control. They required at least $30 to forgo the later reward.

    So…feeling grateful means you’re more likely to demand more money upfront?
    Good thing none of those adults were freelancers because they’d be like “50 upfront and 50 later. I usually require everyone to pay within 30 days.”


    1. Shakti, I think it’s the idea of “tools” to make yourself do stuff. Willpower doesn’t work well enough, so you try gratitude and compassion. But it’s still about forcing yourself to do stuff.

      I don’t remember ever having to force myself to do things that were of interest to me or that seemed beneficial to me. I do have to force myself to go to my professor job, to work in the garden and do home repair, and also to stay put in the state where I live rather than just take to the highway, but that is only because I am not happy and I have better ideas. Otherwise it would be easy to get things done and also to enjoy myself. If I could live in an apartment and walk out down the stairs each morning to a humming sidewalk, I would get energy from that and nothing would seem so hard.


  2. Well, I have a lot of willpower. It’s in my nature. Recommendations to increase it aren’t the right recommendations because it isn’t balanced to be all one thing. I try to step up willpower, all I get is anxiety. I also have lot of relaxation power. So the exhortations to relax more are kind of superfluous … I’m born with a great combination (Capricorn sun/Mars in Aries, I can work; Libra moon, Jupiter in the 5th house, I can relax) and if I try to follow fads and change the balance I come to grief.

    Self-sabotage: I do it to please my mother and, I suppose, anyone else who might be envious and therefore destructive. My mother knew I was more book-smart and also more balanced than she was, and envied this; a large part of why she envied it was that it made me resemble my father and his family and fit in with them in a way she did not; my father and I instantly recognized each other as philology freaks (much of his family is) so he just said all right, here is another one and I just said all right, here are my people; my mother was SO angry about this identification and SO envious of mental health; I self-sabotage to make it up to her….


  3. Happy Birthday (+ 15/- 13 days) to you then, Z!

    I’m beginning to think that any work ethic I may have is in spite of what my parents have done and not because of it. At best they are superfluous to it and have been since an early age.

    I have never found an application of conscious willpower or effort to better my results. Most often it backfires & spectacularly.

    Leveraging social emotions in this way annoys me because it turns the person into a relationship accountant, and I’ve heard enough of that from my mother. Any exercise which tells me how to feel enrages me. In light of this past year I’m definitely less likely to see “oh they might help you in the future” as an argument for doing anything for anyone, especially in a professional context.

    Liked by 1 person

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