“Guilt: It works until it doesn’t….”
“Guilt: It works until it doesn’t….”
L.T. Force, Ph.D.
The Human Condition is complex. We have the ability to be personable, friendly, caring, loving and present for others. In demonstrating this rhythm of behavior - we provide “ourselves and others” the gift of support and compassion. Whether it be with family members or friends - there is a power found in providing support and compassion. These positive and encompassing behaviors, actions and attitudes provide ‘others’ with a sense of strength, approval and good will. In doing so, one has the ability and capacity to pierce the arena of a self-serving perspective and thereby, with words and actions encourage the other person to be the person that makes the most sense for ‘them'...."the person they want to be".
However, there is a flip-side in all human interaction….and that is the stifling, controlling, deceptive and under-handed use of guilt. Guilt is an interesting phenomena - that at times becomes “weaponized”.
The definition of guilt is:
the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime."it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt" verbINFORMAL
verb: guilt; 3rd person present: guilts; past tense: guilted; past participle: guilted; gerund or present participle: guilting
2, make (someone) feel guilty, especially in order to induce them to do something.
As you can see, by definition "Guilt" is an action….an emotional action. At times, the result of feeling "Guilty" is generated by an action that is self-generated - placing yourself in a situation that is evaluated by Judge and Jury. At other times, "Guilt "is an emotional action, an attitude an external behavior - at times laced with words that are delivered upon you - by another person. This is the modality of "Guilt" that I reference in this writing.
Over the years, in listening to the life stories of others in my Practice, coupled by being present for family and friends - "the receiving of Guilt" - can be an uncomfortable situation for a person. The range of "Guilt" delivered upon you by another individual - can range from a "benign feeling" to the upper limit - "found in the shadows of cruelty"..
As we look at the dynamic, delivery and exchange of "Guilt" - we see two roles, i.e., the “Guilt-Giver” (GG) and the “Guilt-Receiver” (GR). It takes two individuals to engage in the “Guilt-Dance”. Typically, the two participants in the “Guilt-Dance” - know each other - and typically know each other very well. And the uniqueness and power of “Guilt” is that it is not a stand-alone or isolated pattern or emotion - it is usually enmeshed with feelings of familiarity and of love. That is why Guilt is such an uncomfortable emotion to receive. Why? Because the delivery of Guilt is blended with mixed messages. For example, “don’t worry about me….I will be OK….you just take care of yourself….I’ll be alright”. Translation - far from the words one finds the true nature of the message - and it’s mixed. What is really being said - is not found in the actual exchange of words - but rather in what is implied. And the only way - one would know about the real meaning is that the two people involved in the “Guilt-Dance” are two people who really know each other - typically found in the same family network. And as such, the “Guilt-Giver” (GG) knows exactly how the “Guilt-Receiver” (GR) will interpret what is being said - unfortunately, the “ Weaponinizing of Guilt” is.a stunted way of gaining control over another.
The best way to deal when you are being targeted with "Guilt" - although the receiving of those actions will make you feel sad, down and angry….the best way to deal with it - is to validate the person that is targeting you. Validation is a process of redirection….it is off-putting to the individual that is showering you with Guilt. By validating them - let them know that: “although you know - they have the ability to send the feelings of Guilt towards you….but they need to know - you Love them anyway - because the rest of their combined strengths overshadow this weakness that they use to control others”. The beauty of this approach is that you no longer are a target for their shortcomings….and in fact,,,,you Love them anyway. I’m telling you clearly - this "action of validation" - consists of a gift for you as well - you will feel proud that you have given “Voice”, in a transparent fashion, to an action that makes you feel bad….it will be a feeling of empowerment for you. Once the patterns of "Guilt" are transparent - they are easier to see....and easier to address and easier to deal with. Yes, this may take practice - but with practice it becomes easier and more natural for you to protect a very important person - and that is You!
Yes, Guilt: It works….until it doesn’t!