by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT
Part deux of my guilt post.
“Being guilted” is a different thing with the same emotional and physical responses. It’s more akin to shame. When you’re guilted, it’s an experience of being told that you’re responsible for another person’s feelings even when you’ve done nothing malicious to hurt them, had no negligence that caused harm, or are being held to standards outside of your own core beliefs and values. When you’re guilted, there is often no fair response that can be given because the only acceptable response is to sacrifice your own beliefs, values, or needs.
Because guilt is pro social – it kicks in to try to make you save the relationship. It’s thinking “well if I just fix what this person is saying then I won’t be kicked out of the group”. However, sometimes it doesn’t discern being guilted vs being guilty.
Here are examples:
“You are making me feel so sad by breaking up with me. You just make me hate myself. You should feel bad about this!” you’re being guilted.
“I can’t believe your father and I have sacrificed so much so that one day you’d go to medical school and now you’re becoming an artist. You’re breaking our hearts!” – you’re being guilted
“If you really loved me you’d come to visit more often. I can’t believe you’ve moved to California!”- you’re being guilted
“Who you are is a sin” – you’re being shamed.
Here is what guilt looks like:
“I lied and told my parents I was in medical school. They’ve been sending me money for it but I didn’t go”.
“I wasn’t honest with my partner for a long time that we weren’t in love anymore. I broke up with them out of the blue. I feel bad, that wasn’t honest”.
“I have resentments against my mother that I’ve never been able to let go of. I haven’t brought these up or given her the opportunity to openly discuss them. I feel I’ve been unfair”
“I told my partner I’d be monogamous. I cheated. I was wrong. I broke our contract. I feel bad”
Guilt is “I feel wrong because I did something wrong, I have options on how to fix this”.
Being guilted is “I feel guilty that someone else feels (fill in the blank) but my only recourse is to sacrifice myself”.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a licensed marriage therapist in Philadelphia. Elizabeth supports individuals and couples improve the relationship they have with themselves and others through better communication, self soothing, and a clear understanding of what a successful marriage looks like. She believes that any committed couples who is willing to do the work can walk away from therapy with more clarity and connection in their relationship.