We have seen in the last 2 blogs why we shouldn’t make people feel guilty. Now let’s explore the next part – a very important one – how to deal with people who are hell-bent on making you feel guilty.
Some do it out of their insecurity. While some may be ungrateful because they don’t know the magic of gratefulness! They would never recognise your efforts out of their own fears and insecurities! They feel like they are carrying the entire world’s burden on their shoulders. And they make you feel like you are adding to their burden. They fail to recognise any contribution from you, small or big!
Does any of these ring a bell? We all come across someone like this at some point in time in life. And usually, at close quarters! If they were far off, they wouldn’t really bother us. But at close quarters – when they happen to be spouse, siblings, parents, in-laws and the like – that’s when it bothers us more.
A few examples of how they try to make others feel guilty would be:
- They ignore you when you talk to them – they give you a cold shoulder or silent treatment
- They talk to others in front of you telling them how tiring it is for them to do all the work (indicating no one is helping them)
- They directly attack you and blame you for their unhappiness
- They play a victim role often complaining about their life
Some usual ways we respond are:
- By saying sorry
- By explaining our situation
- By getting into an argument with them defending ourselves
- By feeling guilty and losing confidence on our own abilities
If we often say sorry when we aren’t wrong, just for the sake of maintaining peace – we make it an unhealthy expectation and set ourselves up for further persecution. The other person continues making you feel guilty so long as you are ready to be in that dynamism. You set the tone as if you are the one who is at fault and you owe them apologies forever.
If you explain yourself all the time, they think you owe them an explanation all the time. Soon they will be demanding explanations for everything. And you’ll find yourself justifying every action. That also becomes unhealthy after a point since it will appear like a criminal and lawyer interaction.
People who are out to make you feel guilty, usually have a lack of power. They try to overcome their challenge by making you feel guilty. Guilt is the most used mechanism to make a powerful person feel powerless and obliged. It is unhealthy and doesn’t work forever. After a point, it backfires.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apologize or explain ourselves. We should do that too as and when required, especially when we are fault. But not make it an unhealthy pattern.
People who feel guilty too quickly are usually the ones who may be running low on self-esteem and look for others to validate their existence. The more guilty you feel, the more they’ll make you feel. No one can make you feel guilty without your permission. The minute you step into that dynamism, it becomes like a dance. Unless you decide to stop dancing to that bad tune, the other person will continue to play it. So, it is important to be sure of yourself. If you love yourself and are confident of yourself, you can easily observe a person’s futile attempts and let them pass without affecting you.
Secondly, it is important to also understand the other person’s needs that are perhaps not being met. A basic need – for example a need to be acknowledged or recognized. Usually, if two people have great rapport and trust, this guilt dynamism won’t set in much. The fact that someone is trying to make you feel guilty, indicates that perhaps you are missing out on something.
- Check what’s their reason for making you feel guilty
- Check if there’s a need of theirs that you aren’t paying heed to
- Keep in mind your purpose
- If you have rapport and if they are ready to listen, explain your situation to them
- If talking to them is ruled out – then ignore that aspect of theirs and be aware of your truth.
- Write down your feelings and experiences (I cannot stress enough of how helpful the whole process of writing is. It really helps you let out the steam and also gain different perspective for yourself)
- If it gets too much, abuse them in your head and then laugh at it. Find fun ways to abuse so that you don’t get too enraged or carried away in the process.
We are not training to be saints. We are training to be better humans. It’s okay to feel frustrated at times. Observe your feelings without judging yourself. They will pass. No feeling ever stays beyond a point.
If you are not living up to your own purpose in life, maybe you want to look at it and learn. But you don’t need to feel guilty for not living up to someone else’s purpose. Understand that different things matter to different people and it’s okay not to have as much interest in what someone else wants. All the same, be respectful of their dreams. Just don’t blame yourself for not making them yours. Each of us is here for a unique purpose of our own, and we each have different ways to fulfill those too. And guilt isn’t a great emotion to fuel on.