I sit on the chair and think: If I worked now instead of resting for a few minutes, how much money I could make, considering minimum wage, and how many lives I could save with it! What is this! Don't rest! Hurry up and get to work!! This is a thought I actually have often. It's difficult for me to give a clear solution to this.

It is predictable that this type of guilt or tension will have a impact within the community. According to research, guilt-prone people make excellent colleagues and leaders because they contribute more than their fair share, and they don’t free-ride on others’ contributions, but has the avoidance of interdependence. 

I am writing this post because I feel the need to alleviate these symptoms. This post is not a solution, but a suggestion for finding a solution. So, instead of presenting a detailed case study, I will discuss my personal story about my guilt.

First, I am not a vegetarian yet. Despite reading and strongly agreeing with Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, I failed to become a vegetarian. Talking to my parents was disappointing, and as a teenager I didn't have a lot of autonomy over my diet from my parents or my school (I don't know if there are cultural differences on this, but in Korea it is).

Second, although I tend to spend time on abstract ideas (my current interest is modal logic), I tend to refrain from doing so. There is a tendency to put effort into things that are too “direct.” I used to read books comfortably, but these days even that feels uncomfortable.

Third, I definitely spend more time with people who are related to me than with people who are not related to me. I feel uncomfortable about it and feel the urge to justify it.

Fourth, the accompanying resentment and anger. While I am going through this kind of suffering, people who don't care about EA enjoy life while ignoring the suffering of others as they should. I often feel unfair and frustrated when I see it.

Fifth, I no longer feel comfortable going out to play or having fun experiences. 

This kind of symptom can be called happiness guilt. I did a little research on this issue, but found that there was no concrete research at all, just full of vague articles.

 I believe that these cases are not solved by solving one case. [1]So,my suggestions are two-fold. First, research on happiness guilt is needed. Second, the cases I presented are situations that anyone can experience. I propose to compile these cases and create an EA emotional first aid kit. Although there have been many attempts to help members within EA, comprehensive guidelines are lacking.


  1. Wiltermuth, S. S., & Cohen, T. R. (2014). “I’d only let you down”: Guilt proneness and the avoidance of harmful interdependence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(5), 925–942. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037523
  1. ^

    See "resolved unrensolved issues". If you want, I'll write a detailed issue about this as well.




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Hey there. Thanks for this post; I am sure many people can relate to your experience. I have found many EA's, especially within the first few years of encountering EA, are incredibly harsh with themselves - often to a highly unproductive degree. I think part of this may be related to moral burnout: as one starts embracing a very demanding ethical theory, there is no longer a clearly visible threshold above which one is 'safe', and can stop worrying. After all, every dollar or minute spent could be better spent elsewhere, or so our short-sighted brains tell us. Suddenly, every decision must be justified. 

I suspect a lot of this comes from a somewhat unfortunate framing. Rather than seeing EA as a way of having an outsized positive impact even with rather limited means, many people seem to see EA as an ideal of how to prioritize their every decision and see themselves as failing when not being able to optimize each and every decision. Your post sounds a bit as if you adopt the latter mindset, scolding yourself for failing to become vegetarian or hanging out with people you are related to (which no Utilitarian would object to!). But notice that there are many ways of helping animals and strangers that don't require you to be a vegetarian/ignoring those you are related to, such as via donations or volunteering. 

I have come to believe that this phenomenon is quite well-studied in other professions that frequently require tradeoffs and unfullfillable moral obligations, such as in healthcare settings. There, it is discussed under the monicker of moral burnout. I am currently working on a research project relating moral burnout and the demandingness of EA and other utilitarian theories. I have presented it to a few academic audiences (I am a philosopher), and I hope to finish the project this year. If I do, I'll post about it on the forum.

I'd also be very interested in compiling different such reports by EAs. I think an emotional first-aid kit may also make sense, but I would not be qualified to help with that.

I find Julia Wise very insightful on this topic. I recommend you check out her work, or maybe even reach out to her!

Thank you for sharing some of your struggle. I’ve done a fair amount of personal development work in my life, and it greatly helped me get over work-related stress. Perhaps some of the references in this post could help you with your situation.

In particular, I’d recommend Guttormsen’s udemy course, which you can often get on sale for <$20. I hope that helps some.

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