A Dark Trace
Sigmund Freud on the Sense of Guilt
Figures of the Unconscious, No. 8
Sigmund Freud, in his search for the origins of the sense of guilt in individual life and culture, regularly speaks of "reading a dark trace," thus referring to the Oedipus myth as a myth about the problem of human guilt. In Freud's view, this sense of guilt is a trace, a path, that leads deep into the individual's mental state, into childhood memories, and into the prehistory of culture and religion.
Herman Westerink follows this trace and analyzes Freud's thought on the sense of guilt as a central issue in his work, from the earliest studies on the moral and "guilty" characters of the hysterics, via later complex differentiations within the concept of the sense of guilt, and finally to Freud's conception of civilization's discontents and Jewish sense of guilt. The sense of guilt is a key issue in Freudian psychoanalysis, not only in relation to other key concepts in psychoanalytic theory but also in relation to Freud's debates with other psychoanalysts, including Carl Jung and Melanie Klein.