Home | Guilt | Guilt Trips
Guilt and Guilt
This is an article I found on the net a while
back. I edited it a little. My comments are in blue. I
have go find it again to get the citation. I have a lot
of comments about it, but overall it is a good article
with good suggestions.
What is guilt? Guilt is
your feeling about your personal failure to live up to
your or someone else's standard of behavior.
There are times when we should feel guilty. On those
occasions a good friend may gently help us see our
inconsistency between what we say we believe and how we
What is a guilt trip?
Guilt trips are about control. It is a way of
manipulating people to get a desired outcome through
indirect and passive-aggressive tactics.
say Guilt trips are
about violating boundaries but I am not sure what they mean.
I guess it means that someone invades your mind to use
you in some way to try to get what they want. So your
mind is your boundary I guess they mean.
Inflicting guilt is used
more frequently in families and small communities and
organizations where direct conflict or confrontation
might upset ties and working relationships. Using guilt
unabashedly to control others gets passed on in families
as surely as genes. Some families do it, some don't.
Families that use guilt may not even be aware of how
often they use it or how wrong it really is.
Why do people
use such indirect methods? Could it be their fear of
destroying the relationship if they were more direct? Or
their fear of exposing themselves and their own needs? Or
of appearing needy or weak? Or are they afraid of not
getting their needs met if they ask directly for what
they need or want?
often use guilt trips to control indirectly. They don't
want to use physical force for several reasons. One it is
not legal so they don't want to get in trouble
themselves. Another is because it may not be socially
acceptable. Another is because they might feel guilty.
respect to awareness, if we teach about how guilt trips
are used, the children may be less likely to repeat the
pattern with their own kids and teens.
Expecting people to give
up a control tactic they've used "effectively"
over a lifetime with each other may not be realistic.
Usually we don't need much help from others to know when
we've failed to live up to our own code of moral conduct.
To deal with
anothers' agenda for our behavior, we need to be
clear about who we are, what we want and what we are
willing to do.
clear who we are, what we believe, what we want, need.
If we understand and are
secure about ourselves, we become less vulnerable to
attempts to control our behavior.
makes us vulnerable.
Setting boundaries is
about being clear on personal and family goals,
priorities and responsibilities.
It is about saying "no" when it is necessary.
It is about communicating limits and taking control when
others may want to control you. It is about agreeing to
disagree in a pleasant manner.
The other person may not let you do it in a
"pleasant" manner, though. Or they may not
agree to disagree. Then it is harder to not feel guilty.
They might not forgive you or accept you. Then it is more
important that you forgive and accept yourself after
doing all you can without sacrificing yourself.
Here are some tips on what
to do when someone is trying to inflict guilt.
- Mirror back to them
the essence of what they are saying. "Are you
telling me that if I dont come and see you
everyday I am not being a good daughter?"
Confront them with their own words. "I have the
feeling that you are upset because . . . Is that
- State your position
on the subject and recognize that they have a right
to their opinion. "I understand that you feel
differently, but let me explain why we chose to do
thus and so."
only works easily if the other person is willing to
even listen to you. Many people who use guilt trips
will just end the conversation. They will walk away
or say something direct and controlling like
"This conversation is over" or "I
don't want to talk about it anymore". They will
probably use there way of ending the conversation by
trying again to make you feel guilty. For example
they may say "There is no point in trying to
talk to you.. " or "You are impossible to
talk to." "You don't care how I feel!"
- Find out what they
want or what would help them feel better. Tell them a range of options
you are willing to do and see which one they favor.
Be clear about what you are not willing to do. State
your conditions and see if they are willing to meet
them or make counter-proposals.
this only works if they are willing to listen and
treat you with a basic level of respect. Many
teenagers can't do this with their parents, teachers
or school authorities. And many emplolyees can't do
with their bosses. And many people can't even do it
with their own partners.
- Don't let them suck
you into their plans. Make plans and be clear about
them. Discuss with them how their plans and yours
might match up. Negotiate from a position of
strength. If they catch you off guard, tell them you
need time to think about it and when you will get
back to them.
problem as above. Many people are simply not in any
kind of position of power to do this. In at least
several countries in South America, for example, it
would be unheard of for a teenager to try to do this
with a parent. They would simply be physically hit.
In England or the USA a parent may not hit a
teenager, but they have many other ways of exercising
is hard for you to do the things recommened by this
author, it may well be because your parents abused or
mis-used their power over you.
- Recognize that every
relationship has give and take to it. Do your part.
It is when the relationship becomes unbalanced that
you have to draw the line.
- Have thick skin. So what if they inflict a lot of
guilt. That is their way. You don't have to take it
personally. So what if they are disappointed or angry
with you. That is their problem. Be loving and
matter-of-fact with them. "I'm sorry you feel
that way. I hope it won't be a big problem between
it is not that easy for sensitive people. Sensitive
people who have been manipulated with guilt trips for
years simply can't just not take it personally. They
have been taught to believe everything is their fault
and they are responsible for the other person's
emotions. Many parents teach their children and teens
to be responsible for the parents' feelings. This is
one of the most basic characteristics of a classic
dysfunctional family. A family which creates
codependent teens and adults.
it is not that easy for people who are dependent on
someone else, as teenagers or many employees are.
Likewise for many women in the world who are still
financially dependent on their partners. Or even
graduate students working on their PhD's who don't
want to rock the boat for fear of not getting their
- Dont be afraid
to say no and explain your reasons why. You owe them
an explanation. Thats all. Listen to their
attempts at persuasion. If they persist, be a broken
record. State your own reasons over and over again if
they keep coming back to the same point. "Like I
said before, Bob and I decided that this year we
it is not that easy for many people, depending on
their situations, although these are good suggestions
for when you are a legally free, even if not
financially free or psychologically free
"adult". And I suppose they are worth
trying even when you aren't. What is likely to happen
though is that the person will quickly turn to more
direct ways of controling you when you show that you
are not going to be as easily controlled with
manipulation. Imagine a slave trying to use these
- Get the issue
defined clearly and on the table rather than let
innuendo or snide remarks pass. "What did you
mean by that?" or, "Are you saying that I
am not being responsible when?"
- If they have a valid point, acknowledge it,
apologize and make amends if possible. Addressing
your own faults openly will make it easier to draw
the line when it is their perception or
interpretation that seems to be the problem.
is a good suggestion. I have found when I apologize
for something the other person is more likely to
apologize also. On the other hand, some people will
just take your apology as a sign that they have
"won" and it will maintain their feeling of
superiority and maintain the imbalance of power.
It may be a painful
process, but being clear about boundaries helps create
healthy and respectful relationships. Other people's
feelings count. But they don't have the right to control
you with those feelings. As long as you are in control,
it is their problem, not yours. Even if the other party
doesn't change, at least you'll be more at peace - and
more in control.
If you take guilt trips, you are choosing to go along for
the ride. How is that for a guilt trip?
find the ending a little humorous, but for people like
teens the ones we work with at EQI, who live in
emotionally abusive homes, they really are not in control
and won't be till they get out of the house. It only
makes them feel worse to make it sound so simple. If it
were that simple, they would have done it already. Also
many adults say something like "it is your
choice" when in fact the teenager has very few
choices, or can only choose between doing what the adult
says or being punished or made to feel bad about
words, the author fails to show understanding for many
people in many situations which are very different than
his own. I am pretty sure the author is a free-lance
writer. There are few people in the world with more
freedom than a free-lance writer. A free-lance writer
doesn't have a particular boss, so they have less fear of
getting fired for "talking back", disobeying
other hand these are good suggestions for someone who has
some degree of freedom and wants to feel more free and in
control of their own lives. Or in other words both
happier and more guilt-free.
Feb. 6, 2006