Do you ever feel like people in your life are trying to plow you over with guilt trips? Some blame this on their religious upbringings (though I have personally heard members of almost EVERY religion mention guilt trips, so I think they have more to do with human nature than a specific faith structure)! I have found that guilt trips have been a part of my life for my entire life, and have come at me from many angles (family, friends, co-workers, bosses, etc.) Guilt trips can be very challenging to manage, as they are often emotionally laden. In fact, the guilt trips often seem to be more about the emotions of a given situation, rather than the particular content of the situation.
What sort of circumstances spark guilt trips:
- There is always the standard, “call your mother!” We have ALL heard this one!
- “How dare you forget to invite aunt Bertha to the wedding, she is obnoxious, but she IS family!”
- “You did not take out that trash, again?!?”
- “How many times do I have to ask you to clean your own dishes?”
- “This weekend was supposed to be for ME, not for your work!”
More often than not, there is one main theme attached to these guilt trips, disappointment. The disappointment often stems for a lack of performance or a performance choice the person is not happy about. Some guilt trips are valid (like many of the ones above) and the person who is being guilt tripped would serve themselves best by quickly admitting their wrongdoings and making a concentrated effort to be more respectful.
However, sometimes guilt trips are NOT appropriate:
- “Why didn’t you invite me along too???” (It IS okay to have alone time with a friend or family member.)
- “Where is my fancy gift?” (Do not let someone guilt trip you into spending money you do not have on their momentary happiness.)
- “You have to work AGAIN, what about me?” (If you really have to work, then it is not fair of a family member to guilt trip you, particularly if this is what is supporting your family.)
- “Why won’t you visit more often?!?” (This can tie into many circumstances. It may be that you should visit more often – it may also be that you cannot afford it, there are psychological stresses associated with visits, etc. You need to know what category you fit into.)
I think it is important to either own (take responsibility) and apologize for a guilt trip when it is truly your fault, or to be able to walk away and not assume guilt that is unfairly placed upon you. I have found that when people attempt to unfairly place guilt trips on me, I get angry or shut down, so it is not at all an effective mode of communication or getting the results a person may want. There are ways that are more effective in getting the message across without provoking negative feelings between you and another person. Here are some examples:
- I really love you and want to spend time with you, I know that you have work to do at night, so can we work something out so that you are able to get it done early somehow so I can be with you?
- I really want fancy earrings, but I do know you cannot afford them. Could we save up over the next few holidays so that perhaps I can have them, or would you be willing to contribute to my purchasing them?
- I miss your visits, how can we work something out so that we can spend more time together without it being a burden on you?
- I was so sad that I was not invited to go with you and your other friend, but I understand your need to have alone time. Perhaps we could all hang out together sometime?
As they say, sometimes it is not the message, but the delivery. The way a message is shared can completely change the reaction to the message.
I have rarely found guilt trips to be an effective way to communicate wants and needs. Today, 346 days ’til 40, I want to challenge myself to remember to NOT use guilt trips as a way to communicate my needs or desires. I will also gently remind those around me that guilt trips are not the most effective way to communicate their desires and needs to me.
Ah, if we can live guilt free lives, this will bring tremendous emotional liberty to us all!
March 12, 2012 at 00:14
March 12, 2012 at 22:05
March 13, 2012 at 20:15
Hello, dear! Sorry for my ignorance, but what is a guilt trip? Is it the same as just feeling guilty?
March 13, 2012 at 22:35
Feeling guilty comes from within, a guilt trip is when others work very hard to try to MAKE us feel guilty!
Thanks for stopping by!
March 14, 2012 at 00:04
Thank you for the answer! 🙂
March 12, 2012 at 04:07
Very true…I would say that most of the time, guilt trips hurt more than they help, and should be avoided the vast majority of the time.
One interesting form of guilt trip that I dealt with for a while was the self-inflicted guilt trip where you beat yourself up over things and put yourself down. Never fun (thankfully, I’ve mostly put that behind me)
March 12, 2012 at 22:22
Very good point – in fact, we can be our own worse enemy and sometimes the self-inflicted guilt trip is far worse than the ones inflicted by others!
The Quiet Borderline
March 12, 2012 at 10:24
I’m with you on this one, for sure!
The Quiet Borderline
March 12, 2012 at 17:20
It would seem we’re on the same wavelength!
March 12, 2012 at 22:20
A Woman and Her Pen!
March 12, 2012 at 18:06
LOVE YOUR IDEA OF THIS BLOG!!!!!! I am right behind you my friend but I am looking forward to the big 40 because I NOW KNOW how to finally live my life~!!
March 12, 2012 at 22:06
Thank you, A Woman And Her Pen! Looking forward to reading more of your writings.
March 12, 2012 at 18:36
I am absolutely with you on this! Guilt is not the way to get things done, infact you might have inspired me for another post with this. Thankyou for your insights, I look forward to following your journey to the big four zero!!
March 12, 2012 at 22:07
Thanks, Glen! I look forward to reading your posts on this topic!
Candida Abrahamson PhD
March 12, 2012 at 19:21
Clever post. And I love the premise of your blog. You keep counting those days–and you won’t just end up “40”–you might just end up with something priceless! Best, Candida
March 12, 2012 at 22:11
March 12, 2012 at 21:53
Very interesting! I remember one speaker talking about guilt, saying that guilt was anger that we don’t think we’re allowed to have. It’s interesting how easy it can be to stuff our emotions.
Speaking for myself (since I can’t really speak for anyone else, now, can I!), guilt is something I have wrestled with for most of my life. My mom, bless her, used passive-aggression to leave me feeling guilty. I didn’t understand the dynamic back then. I also didn’t realize she was probably afraid of being direct about her own feelings after having been emotionally battered in her marriage.
What I’ve learned is that my feelings of guilt are more often because I have taken on something that wasn’t mine to take on. When someone attempts to make me feel guilty, if I’m paying attention (sometimes it takes me longer than other times), I recognize it for what it is: *their* problem, not mine. I try to let it go and respond in a healthy and appropriate manner. When I start feeling guilty, I consider the situation and ask myself *why* I’m feeling guilty. If I’m angry and denying it, I acknowledge that. If I’m feeling powerless, I acknowledge that. Whatever the situation, guilt is rarely, for me, a helpful response to it.
Didn’t mean to get verbose. It’s just that I know this feeling well! Thanks for your post!
March 12, 2012 at 22:16
Thanks, Lucia. You bring up some very important points. If we are strong enough to not take on what we should not take on we are much less likely to assume that guilt! This is an important skill to learn in order for us all to take better care of ourselves.
I really appreciate your insight. I look forward to hearing more from you.
March 13, 2012 at 01:55
Thanks. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
March 13, 2012 at 06:31
Thank you, I really needed to hear this. I too often shut down when people take me on a guilt trip, how valuable it is that you went that one step further to offer a remedy rather than just a rant. Much appreciated! =) Take care =)
March 13, 2012 at 22:48
Thanks, queridaj! I look forward to hearing more from you!
March 13, 2012 at 15:14
Well done. It’s a “good word” for me to hear before a meeting this coming weekend. Thank you for investing the time to write this succinct treasure.
March 13, 2012 at 22:47
Thank you, walkwiththerabbi!
I look forward to hearing more from you and I wish you the best with your meeting this weekend.
March 16, 2012 at 19:43
You are certainly right on all counts. Guilt-tripping is always a manipulation and an inappropriate means of communication. However, we, like you said, do not have to cooperate with those who would use this on us. Knowing ourselves and our particular vulnerabilities is the best way to be immune to others’ manipulations and allows us to respond from a position of calm and strength.
March 17, 2012 at 15:33
Thanks, Jeanne, for your comment. Yes, if we know ourselves we are in a much better position to withstand the unhealthy behaviors that come at us from others!
I look forward to hearing more from you!
March 17, 2012 at 16:02
Thoroughly enjoyed all that you brought out dealing with gilt-tripping, thanks.
March 17, 2012 at 16:07
Thank you, Rich! I think they are good reminders for us all! 😉
March 19, 2012 at 07:56
Browsing these have given me a larger outlook on the topic. I hope there is more to come. Many thanks dear blogger.
March 19, 2012 at 07:58