Do you ever find yourself feeling guilty even though you’ve not actually done anything wrong?

If so, it’ll be more to do with your deep-seated subconscious beliefs than actual events.

Some parents use ‘guilt-tripping’ as a way of controlling their child(ren), perhaps without realising the negative pattern of beliefs and behaviour this creates for the child.

The child is left feeling as though they can never get things right, that they’re always somehow wrong and bad, even when they’re alone and not doing anything! Ongoing feelings of guilt then induce the deeper feelings of shame.

Shame is different from guilt although the two are connected. They both make you feel bad.

Appropriate guilt comes from having realised that you’ve done something wrong (whether intentionally or accidentally); whereas shame is that heavier deeper feeling that you are somehow wrong, bad and defective at your core.

Remember, no child is ever born feeling shame or guilt.

These can both be used as tools of manipulation by someone who wants to induce bad feelings in someone else — usually to make that person conform and comply.

Guilt trips are particularly strong in families with strong bonds — not necessarily healthy bonds — which seems paradoxical. But if you didn’t care about the other person and what they thought of you, then their guilt tripping of you would fail, and instead you’d feel angry at their attempt to manipulate you.

If someone is trying to guilt-trip you about any aspect of your relationship with them, or others, or perhaps about the way you parent your child(ren), then you can:

  • Tell them that you realise how important it is for them to try to get you to do things their way.
  • Explain that the guilt-tripping is annoying you and that you’re now feeling resentful, and that this is making you feel more distant from them.
  • Ask them to express their wishes to you directly, without manipulative guilt-tripping. Add that in return you expect them to accept that you may not want to go along with their preferences, as you may have different ones of your own.
  • Assure them that if you did choose to go along with their wishes, it would be because that felt right for you and you felt good about doing it.
  • Expect to have to remind them of this process in future — their ingrained pattern of guilt-tripping may take some shifting!
  • Be empathic, patient and tolerant with their struggle to express themselves authentically — it’s new to them and takes time to internalise new ways of behaving.
  • Promise yourself not to be lulled, coerced or tricked into their guilt-trips again — no matter how subtle and well-disguised they are!

I hope this helps you to assert yourself with any anyone who may be trying to hook you into compliance by inducing guilt or shame in you.

Realise too that they may not be fully aware of what they’re doing (because it’s an ingrained family trait), or of the emotional damage it causes.

Be sure to deal with your own tendencies to guilt-trip others too — especially if you find yourself doing this your own children.

Old patterns can be changed and that starts with ‘self-awareness’ — it starts with you.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR — where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you to see whether your inner child has been made to feel inappropriate guilt or shame to appease a toxic parent.

You’ll also find help to recover and heal from a troubled childhood and toxic parent(s).

www.maxineharleymentoring — helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours — to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better in their lives! — a series of 10 online self-help workshops of Psycho-Emotional-Education to help with all areas of your life.

Originally published at on December 14, 2015.

Originally published at