February 23, 2011

Guilt-Tripping and Emotional Manipulation No one likes to be guilt-tripped, yet it happens all t

Guilt-Tripping and Emotional Manipulation

No one likes to be guilt-tripped, yet it happens all the time. Parents do it. Kids do it. Spouses do it. Friends do it. We do it so often we aren't even aware of it. on the other hand, no none likes to feel emotionally extorted. Today we are going to learn more about this common form of emotional manipulation and learn how to deal with it more effectively .

Recognizing a Guilt-Trip

Guilt tripping is a common form of emotional manipulation which uses verbal and non-verbal means to make a person feel bad about or even change his/her decision. Emotional manipulation is a non-rational tactic which occurs when a person does not respect or honor choices or decisions made by another. Here are some common examples.

-- A young child is told s/he has to go to bed but does not want to. S/he screams, "I hate you. You are the worst mom/dad in the whole world."

-- A child disobeys a parent's command and the parent replies," I am so disappointed in you. I thought you were a good little girl/ boy."

Sometimes guilt tripping does not require words.

-- As the couple turns in for the night, the husband romantically kisses his wife and indicates that he would like sex... but the wife declines the invitation. In response the hubby abruptly turns away and gives out an exaggeratedly loud sigh.

-- A parent, upon hearing about an upcoming decision to be made by his/her child, says, " You how much your father/mother wanted you to .... If you do that, it will kill him/her."

Don't forget, people use guilt to gain control of a situation and get an outcome they desire when reasonable and direct requests fail.

The psychology of Guilt-Tripping: Guilt Tripping works because it plays on human insecurity and self doubt. In fact that many of us have low self-esteem and a deeply seeded sense of shame. Further, a lot of folks have an overdeveloped sense of obligation and worry about breaking rules. In addition to feeling guilty, guilt-tripping also triggers the powerful fear of loss. In other words, the thought goes, " If I don't do what the other person wants, s/he won't love/ respect/ approve of or even be in a relationship with me."

Specifically, guilt tripping manipulates a person's emotions by erroneously convincing the person that not only was s/he wrong to make the choice s/he did or that s/he didn't have the right to say no or go against an expected behavior but also caused pain/harm to the person whose expectation was frustrated. A forceful challenge to the legitimacy of one's decision can create doubt and regret which can result in changing one's mind and giving into the demands of the other person.

Tips for Dealing with Emotional Manipulation

In the midst of being guilt-tripped, reflection before speaking or acting can protect you from being manipulated and doing what you really didn't want to do. Some simple questions can help.

1. Know your areas of guilt-vulnerability

Ask yourself : When feelings of guilt spring up in the midst of conversation, "Has one of my guilt buttons just been pushed ?" Know the issues and persons with whom you have unresolved guilt feelings. Think of the worst experiences you've had with guilt. Realize most of the guilt we have from childhood is erroneous. Most of what we were criticized for was just the normal parts of being a kid. Rediscovering your innocence is key to having a positive self-image and lowering your vulnerability to being guilt tripped.

2. Reality Test:

Ask yourself: Did I do anything wrong ? Am I feeling legitimate guilt or false guilt ? Am I really obligated to do what s/he wants? Do I have a right to make choices ?

3. Remember:

The pain which comes from disappointment is not the same as causing real harm to the person. Not getting one's way is just a disappointment, not a real injury. The person's expectations were out of line; not your right to make a free choice.

4. Finally - Shrug, Be Firm and Don't Debate:

There is no way to reason with manipulation. Assert yourself without apology.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 2 23 2011

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