But just in time for Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season of penance, new research shows that some form of “mortification of the flesh” — the old-fashioned term for inflicting physical discom
fort for spiritual growth — can in fact alleviate feel
ings of guilt.
The old Christian ascetics knew it, and now social scientists have some proof that it’s true — and some explanation as to why that’s so.
“One reason may be that the experience of physical pain alleviates feelings of guilt associated with immoral behavior,” Brock Bastian writes in an article titled “Cleansing the Soul by Hurting the Flesh,” which appears in the latest edition of
the journal Psychological Science.