I am physically incapable of remembering a moral harm I committed. Help define the discussion....

This is a spinoff of a thought prompted by a current thread on sociopathy and empathy, with morality flitting lightly throughout.

I was informed, and have no reason to doubt, that I slept with a close friend’s girlfriend, not long before I was sent to a mental hospital and elected to have ECT (which, BTW, saved my life). As a result I cannot and will never remember the one-nighter or the wretched guilt it undoubtedly engendered. I presume. I hope.

The friend has never spoken to me since. To me the whole issue is a moral chestnut of some kind and has bothered me for 30 years. I don’t even know how to approach it, but have decided it isn’t worth zillions of dollars of shrink time. From a long time ago the issue is 98% philosophical.

Considered as a tort, and it’s recompense, whatever that may be, it is immaterial, i think, that I can’t remember it. It really did occur, I have no doubt.

I don’t know how a lawyer would play that. It undoubtedly arises often in civil and criminal cases.

But as to contrition, in the Jewish and Christian conception to which I am atune, I’m left high and dry. When you repent, you figure the minimum is to feel, emotionally, what you’ve done, and “feel bad” (if deemed a correct emotional response) after immersing yourself in the memory of the event and your emotional knowledge of what hurt you’ve caused.

But I can’t. Some other guy named Leo Bloom did that, and I can certainly sympathize–what went around came around with some cast changes, believe you me–but as to that particular event I’m at a loss.

How would one go about framing this affair?

If (for your own emotional well being) it seems necessary to say “I’m not morally responsible for acts I cannot remember”, then forget about it. It’s a non-issue.

If you decide to “own” that behavior even though you were deranged (which the law requires legally transgeressing individuals to do even if they were high, out of their minds etc) then you should feel a responsibility to apologize.

The reality, however, per your OP is that this was 30 years ago, it was a social transgression, but was not a high crime or even a misdemeanor. IMO beating a horse this dead and this old is pointless unless you need to satisfy some fetish.

I’m not beating the horse. Thinking about morality is for many people a vocation and a (usually low-paying) profession. For me, here, it’s an occasionally indulged hobby, not a hobby horse.

Your main problem is that you keep trying to frame this as a moral issue. It’s a relatively petty behavioral issue that lacks a useful moral purchase or frame due to unusual circumstances re your mental dysfunction at the time and the memory robbing therapy. Trying to assemble these old Tinkertoy pieces of obnoxious behavior while mentally dysfunctional into a useful moral paradigm is (IMO) a waste of time and effort.

ISTM that the purpose of contrition is to learn appropriate behavior. If you regret the effects of an action, you will be inspired to not do that kind of thing again, in order to avoid feeling bad again. Problem is, if your defective memory cannot tell you what put you in that situation in the first place (I think there is usually more to it than raw horniness), what can you learn? Regression might help, but what if it does not? Will you end up with bleeding emotional wounds from the therapy?

If you think you are stable and sensible enough to use due wisdom in personal matters, just go with that. Letting this bother you in this vague way serves no useful purpose. That was then, this is when you have to live, now, put the past behind you.

Or go have some dianetics done to clear the evil engrams (no, I did not really suggest that, stay away from that stuff, really).

Look at it this way: What did you learn from this? Presumably you’ve learned that you have mental problems, but they are ones which you can keep under control most of the time if you get help. You now know that if you don’t get help (by things like having an ECT), you will do things (like sleeping with a friend’s girlfriend) that may not be illegal but which are definitely bad things to do. In a sense it’s like what happens to some people when they take drugs or get drunk. They will do bad things that they can’t remember afterwards. They may not be responsible for those things, but they are responsible for taking the drugs or getting drunk. Perhaps they can’t be blamed for those bad actions which they can’t remember, but they can be blamed for getting drunk or taking drugs when they know that they will lose control.

You can’t even be blamed for what happened before the ECT, since you didn’t even realize the extent of your mental problems (I assume). Now you know though, so you’re morally obliged to do whatever’s necessary to keep yourself in good mental health. It may be impossible to completely cure your mental condition (whatever it is), but you should consider yourself obliged to do the best you can to take care of that condition.

The OP is better suited to IMHO rather than General Questions. Moved.

samclem, moderator

It it was consensual, I’d day morality wasn’t a real issue.

But why single this incident out? Haven’t you even done anything you consider immoral that you DO remember?

Repent doesn’t just mean “feel bad about it” - it means you recognize the error and change your behavior. This is why there’s a difference between repentance and guilt/shame.

If you can recognize that sleeping with your friend’s girlfriend was bad behavior and you can empathize with the hurts other people felt, I’d say that’s as much in the “recognize your error” department as you need. You don’t have to be reduced to tears and self-flagellation for it to count.

And it appears that you have genuinely changed your behavior, so you’re living up to that end of repentance as well.

This is all especially true for people who have some kind of mental impairment. If someone was born without emotion, I can’t believe they’re automatically off to hell just because they can’t feel bad enough about what they’ve done. This person can still recognize the error, ask for forgiveness and change their ways, even if the emotional experience is different for them than for other people. The same ought to go for someone who can’t remember it.

Let me get this straight. You slept with a woman, then shortly thereafter ended up in a mental institution.

And this is bad?

I high five you…you long ago, found a woman who screwed your brains out…and have never been the same since…am so relieved that i wasn’t the only one.