Author Cristina Smugala, MA, LPC Restoring Clarity Counseling and Coaching
There is nothing that can make you feel like a disgracefully shameful human being quite like the guilt trip. It's that horrible sinking feeling that we get in our chest that screams we are letting someone we care about down and leaves us feeling like we are a sad merciless soul. We see the look of disappointment on the guilt tripper's face, they may even criticize us or put us down or blame us for whatever hardship we supposedly created for them. We leave the interaction broken, give into their demand even when there are high consequences for us, our time and our sanity. These individuals have a great way of making us feel responsible for their hardships, their pain and their lot in life.
Understanding the Guilt Tripper's Intention
They use manipulation to get their needs met instead of doing the hard work of learning to love themselves. In a sick way, guilt tripper's are using you to feel loved, worthy, important, needed and meaningful. The problem is, they use guilt as a way to avoid effective communication of these feelings by avoiding vulnerability in relationships. It is a form of control.  It is purposeful and intentional and a major contributor to decreased self-esteem for the receiver. It quickly places the manipulator into the role of the victim and you in the rescuer role feeling as if you've perpetrated a horrible offense. Recognize it for what it is, it's emotional and psychological abuse.
How to Respond to the Guilt Tripper in your Life
1. Understand they are utilizing a manipulation tactic as soon as you begin to feel guilty and are contemplating how you can bend over backwards to meet their need, request or demands. You instantly begin to feel bad about things that are not true about you or your behavior.
2. Call awareness to the tactic they are using, stand firm with your boundary and state your feelings about it. You can do this simply by asking, are you trying to make me feel guilty? You can also use direct and effective communication strategies such as “I feel ___when you _____ what I need from you is to stop making me feel like a horrible person" or "It makes me feel guilty and hurt when you say things like this to me and it really pushes me away from you." 
3. Remember this is a tactic the guilt tripper uses and will continue to use because it has worked for them in the past. Don't get discouraged if you have to restate and reset your boundaries, or put simply what is ok and not ok to do to you. 
4. Don't be afraid to give the guilt tripper a consequence to hold them accountable to their behavior such as "If you continue to say hurtful things to me this way to make me feel guilty I will need to stop this conversation.
5. Know yourself and trust yourself. You are a kind and thoughtful individual and you do not deserve to be made to feel like you are anything less. Don't trust a manipulator (i.e. a completely unreliable source of information) when defining your self-worth.
6. It is alright to empathize with the underlying emotions the guilt tripper is unable to communicate effectively (e.g sadness, fear, inadequacy, loneliness, disappointment) while also understanding that their feelings are not your fault. Don't apologize when you are not the root cause of their distress but you can validate their feelings if you feel that they can express appropriately if you open the door for healthy communication. A way to do this would be to say, It sounds like you're struggling right now. Do you want to talk about it ?" 
7. Identify your own fears or barriers about saying no or expressing your feelings (e.g. that they will end the relationship, they will think you are mean or get mad at you, or struggling to feel that your needs/feelings are valuable, or feeling that you are undeserving). One of the best pieces of knowledge a friend shared with me is, "When you request something of someone who is a healthy individual they go into the request fully understanding that you saying no is a possibility and an acceptable response and will push you no further."
1. Orloff, MD , J. (2014, October 4). Do You Have a Guilt Tripper in Your Life? - Judith Orloff MD. Retrieved from https://drjudithorloff.com/do-you-have-a-guilt-tripper-in-your-life/.
2. Ketchie, V., & Ketchie, L. (2018, August 13). How To Navigate A Guilt Trip | Relationship Helpers. Retrieved from https://relationshiphelpers.net/how-to-navigate-a-guilt-trip/.
3. Team, T. B. (2017, August 29). How to Handle Guilt Messages from Your Mom. Retrieved fromhttps://www.boundariesbooks.com/boundaries/handle-guilt-messages-from-your-mom/.
4. Davies, J. (2017, June 3). What Is a Guilt Trip and How to Recognize If Someone Is Using It on You. Retrieved from https://www.learning-mind.com/guilt-trip/.
5. The Bullshit, C. (2017, December 15). Guilt Trip - A Form of Bullying. Retrieved from https://pairedlife.com/etiquette/Guilt-Tripping-is-a-Form-of-bullying.
6. Winch Ph.D., G. (2013, May 16). 7 Ways to Get Out of Guilt Trips. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201305/7-ways-get-out-guilt-trips.
You may find yourself reading this if it feels like there is no room for you in your own life. If you are like most of us, you have been taught that it is negative and dare I say selfish to put your desires and needs above others or even at the same level as others. What is the cost of excessive self-sacrifice? The truth is you know it well or you would not be reading this, right? Excessive self-sacrifice can get in the way of reaching your goals and living the life that truly makes you happy. Over time, too much self-sacrifice diminishes balance inside and costs us our sense of well-being and inner peace. Excessive self-sacrifice actually wreaks havoc on our relationships by flooding us with resentment as we never truly feel appreciated or that we will never get our turn or our space to pursue happiness, rest and play. As we endlessly people-please our confidence starts to decline because when we are maxed out our ability to perform at our best becomes impossible. You may actually find you are more vulnerable to feeling stressed, irritable, tired and angry.
Finding Our Way Out
What if you didn’t need to control others perceptions of you to feel secure? What if it actually felt good to take care of you first when necessary while supporting others when possible? What if you didn’t feel overly responsible for everyone’s feelings and didn’t experience guilt of hurting others when you were doing something loving for your self? These are the necessary steps to being able to accomplish your goals and promote more happiness in your life and it requires a willingness to move through fear of judgment and to stop letting guilt make your decisions for you. What if you just had to face fear and let guilt fall to the wayside in order to fully embody a much more life affirming spirit with a wellspring of love to give? Would you do it?
If you are reading this I highly doubt that you run the risks of lacking consideration of others or that somehow you are only aware of your own needs and run over others for your own benefit. No, that’s not you because you are not selfish. What is more likely is that you are excessively attuned to others feelings that you rarely stop to ask your self what the consequence is to yourself when you assume that others needs are more valuable and worth more than your own.
The only person in the world responsible for meeting your needs is you. In order to reach the point of wellbeing you are seeking, you are required to explore what you want and what you need and take goal directed steps to get there in each moment everyday. We have to stop assuming our needs are foolish and burdensome to others. When we don’t stand up for our real needs we run the risk of trying to obtain fulfillment and happiness through false means such as shopping, eating, and a whole host of numbing behaviors, or feel good now and pay later strategies. We run the risks of hurting not just ourselves but also our relationships. Acoording to Dr. Aziz Gazipura, Author of NOT NICE, when we give everything and feel like we don’t have a choice about it we begin to harbor resentment as we begin to feel that the scales are unbalanced. The reason why we often don’t feel as if we have a choice to say no, according to Gazipura, is because of the internal pressures we feel to not disappoint others. We are also less likely to ask for help and support when we need it too.
Look at the bigger picture; in what ways will prioritizing your needs equally and at times more so than others work out to impact the greater good for yourself and your relationships? Can holding space for yourself actually improve the way you live, love, parent and lead?
1. Gazipura, A. (2017). Not Nice (First). Portland, OR: B.C. Allen Publishing & Tonic Books.
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