Warning Signs Of A Guilt Trip And How To Resist It

By Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Martha Furman, LPC, CAC

Guilt trips are officially defined by Wikipedia as "feelings of guilt or responsibility, especially an unjustified one induced by someone else." In most scenarios, guilt trips are employed or prompted as means of coercion or psychological manipulation, although, they can sometimes be self-inflicted. Nevertheless, nine times out of ten, guilt trips are encouraged by other people who have ulterior motives. While there are various methods for people to overcome and resist guilt trips, they must have a complete and thorough understanding of all that guilt trips entail.

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A Thorough Overview Of Guilt Trips

At its core, guilt trips are carefully crafted forms of psychological manipulation and abuse, as affirmed by Paired Life. Most people who (attempt to) inflict guilt trips upon others are incredibly calculating and conniving; they know exactly what they're doing and are used to wielding guilt as a weapon to get what they want from other individuals. Paired Life moreover labels guilt trips as a manifestation of bullying.

Virtually anyone can be on the receiving end of a guilt trip. Friends, family members, associates, coworkers, and even employers can be targeted by a manipulative, yet crafty individual who harbors an agenda. Thankfully, there are several warning signs of an impending or current guilt trip. An awareness of the indicative signals will help save people from being misled and otherwise conned into doing what the particular bully wants. Guilt trips are unhealthy, unreasonable, and people who employ them are generally to be avoided at virtually all costs.

Indicators Of Forthcoming Or Current Guilt Trips

Guilt trippers have several tricks and giveaways. The unsuspecting or unaware individual may miss them; however, their more aware counterpart will be able to recognize the signs and act accordingly. First and foremost, those who employ guilt trips make their targets feel responsible for the source of the complaint. This applies whether the complaint revolves around a loss, a disappointment, or something else entirely. Moreover, this person will likely nag, refuse to let up on their target, and make even the most simple matters as complicated and dramatic as possible.

However, guilt trips are not always outright and easy to spot. Sometimes, this particular form of psychological manipulation can take place in passive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive conduct towards the target. This conduct can include isolation, the silent treatment, or explicit antagonism. The purpose of the behaviors above is to upset the target and consequently manipulate them into feeling contrite and ashamed of themselves, even when they should not be.

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Other guilt trippers may bring up past occasions or instances where they were of aid (or at least appeared to be) to their current target. Common themes of this particular trick are "look how much I did for you," "if it weren't for me, where would you be," "remember when I was there for you," and other similar statements or variations of the preceding ones.

Unlike the other giveaways, this tactic can be tempting and more difficult for the target to resist. On the surface, it may appear as though the manipulator is being reasonable and simply asking for a returned favor. However, this is false. A person who truly helps you out with pure intentions will not later throw that occurrence in your face for the sake of personal gain.

Reasons Why People Wage Guilt Trips

Different individuals have various reasons and motives behind their conduct. In most cases, the behavior is enacted as a means of personal gain and manipulation of others. During other circumstances, waged guilt trips could be rooted in deeply rooted neediness and insecurity. By manipulating and mistreating others, the guilt tripper may get a rush or a sense of power. Nevertheless, deep down, they know that the feeling above is also quite fleeting. Abusing other people never breeds genuine happiness. Every person reaps what they sow; at some point, the psychologically manipulative behavior of the abuser will come back to haunt them.

Specific Instances Of Guilt Trips

Some of the most common targets of guilt trips are the people who are closest to the manipulator. The closer we are to someone, the likelier we are to feel emotional attachments which can consequently engender vulnerabilities to guilt trips. Parents, friends, spouses, and even children can be on the receiving end of this mistreatment. While guilt trips are inherently toxic, they are most toxic to children.

This is because kids are the most defenseless of the groups above and therefore unable to recognize and shield themselves from craftily wielded psychological manipulation; guilt trips aimed at children become even worse if the perpetrator is a parent, relative, or another authority figure.

Source: chihealth.com

At the end of the day, any relationship where one or both parties are constantly waging guilt trips is bound to fail at one point or another. At one point or another, the target of the manipulative individual is likely to catch onto the actions of the latter. Guilt can eventually morph into resentment. This could even prompt the target to retaliate against the guilt tripper. You can only stretch a rubber band so far before it snaps.

Children who are frequently the targets of guilt trips from emotionally abusive parents may, in turn, grow up to dislike their parents. These young people may even suffer from low self-esteem and other associated, emotional issues. Parents and guardians who truly love and care for their children will not subject them to psychological abuse.

Friends who are constantly targeted by guilt trippers may, in turn, decide to revoke their friendship; the same principle applies to spouses who are married to psychologically manipulative individuals. Abusers never truly win when it's all said and done.

How To Resist Guilt Trips

The damage and havoc which guilt trips cause are undeniable. However, there are several ways for people to resist and reject these crafted forms of psychological mistreatment. Thankfully, The Huffington Post has a series of actions which can be taken to deal with guilt trips.

Maintain High Self-Esteem

Individuals who suffer from low self-worth or low self-esteem are some of the easiest and most vulnerable targets for guilt trippers. People who don't love themselves or feel unconfident are also much easier targets for manipulators with nefarious agendas. Those who struggle with self-esteem are moreover likelier to doubt themselves and ignore their intuition. Just about everyone has an internal voice or metaphorical warning bells which go off in their heads when something simply doesn't feel right.

However, for your intuition to serve you well, you must listen to it. Don't doubt yourself. People can often subconsciously pick up on warning signs or red lights beneath the surface of one's exterior even if they are not consciously aware of it. Trusting yourself and listening to your intuition is much easier when you're confident and sure of yourself.

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Stand Up For Yourself

When guilt trippers become impatient or frustrated, they may (and often do) resort to name-calling, ad hominems, and even threats. At this point, the targeted individual has the personal responsibility to stand up for themselves and let the abuser know that they will not be bullied into doing what they want. Firmness, clearness, and directness are paramount. Weakness, uncertainty, or wavering signals are to manipulators what blood is to a shark. Never allow yourself to be frightened or coerced into doing the bidding of a guilt tripper. It will not gain their respect or cause them to back down. They will simply become emboldened and confident in their abilities to bully and manipulate others.

Terminate All Contact Effective Immediately

In most situations, promptly and permanently ending contact with a guilt tripper is the best and wisest course of action. This decision may seem extreme to some people, but in actuality, it is one of the most benign forms of self-preservation. Abuse is not love. Furthermore, psychologically manipulative people have no regard or respect for the people whom they attempt to guilt trip. There is no good which can come from consistently associating with individuals who have no regard for you. At some point, in one form or another, the toxic behavior will begin to take its toll.

A Final Word

At one point or another, each person either has or will come across someone who attempts to wage a guilt trip against them. Hopefully, the guilt trip giveaways above and ways to resist the behavior will prove helpful.

Another final thought to bear in mind is the target of the guilt trip is not responsible for the mistreatment being hurled their way. The behavior of the abuser speaks volumes about themselves and their character. Nevertheless, psychologically manipulative people are masters at projection and crafting an illusion that their targets suffer from certain problems.

If you believe that you have been the target of guilt trips or feel as though you may be in the company of a psychologically manipulative individual, you are not alone. You are not at fault. Sometimes, sitting down and getting expert advice which is specifically tailored to your situation can have a meaningful and impactful difference.

Here at BetterHelp, we pride ourselves on providing guidance and assistance to anyone who comes to us, regardless of their situation or what they may be going through. If you ever feel the need to contact BetterHelp for any reason, you can do so by clicking here.


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