The Web address of this
article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/wounds/guilt.htm
April 11, 2015
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Plain links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting lost.
This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in
this Web site - free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and
significant false-self wounds One of six
psychological "wounds" that stress
survivors of low-nurturance childhoods
is the combination of excessive shame (I'm a worthless, unlovable person) and excessive
guilts (I do bad things).
This article focuses on assessing for and reducing excessive guilts.
This brief YouTube video previews what you'll read in this article. The
intro mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this site - I've reduced that
This article offers perspective on...
what guilt is, and what causes it
(you may be surprised!),
how excessive guilt may
relationships and behavior,
reducing excessive guilts
to normal, and for avoiding unwarranted new guilts; and...
adapting to other people who are excessively
The article assumes
you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Website and the premises underlying
The [wounds + unawareness]
cycle that may be stressing
for a moment - what are your favorite
guilts? Have you ever devised a strategy to reduce
significant guilts? Do you know anyone who has?
be intentionally reduced to normal, healthy levels.Do you believe this? This article may
have more meaning for you if you look at photos of yourself as a child, and
each minor or grown child in your life now.
What is Guilt?
Premises:guilt is an automatic mental + emotional response
to believing that we have "done something wrong" - i.e. we have violated
someone's rules about "proper attitudes and behavior." Guilt
and shame usually occur together and feel similar, but have different roots.
Moderate guilt is
a healthy, useful response, for it regulates our self-nurturance ("I
better brush my teeth.") and our social behaviors ("I should apologize for
being late.") Excessive
guiltindicates significant psychological
wounding, and promotes personal and relationship problems like those below.
Where Does Guilt Comes From?
if some version of this example is familiar:
young girl, Sharon was taught a powerful rule by many people and media
characters, in different ways "You
should always be nice."
There were many variations: Mom said "Nice girls are never rude."
Grampa Larry often said "Your brother Nick is
always so thoughtful and
polite." The minister praised Bible characters and congregational members
for being courteous, respectful, obedient, humble, and
charitable. Girlfriends scathingly criticized peers for being "stuck up,
gross, and selfish."
From parental scoldings, praises, and
modeling their values,
young Sharon began the life-long process of accumulating
rules for relating to other people: shoulds, oughts, musts,
cant's, supposed to's, and have to’s,
personality subselves, her budding
Historian collected and
stored these perceptions. Her tireless Librarian subself indexed what
became thousands of behavioral rules to cover "How Sharon should or
must act" in all kinds of solitary and social situations.
win daily approval and acceptance at home and school, she developed tireless
Inner Critic, Perfectionist, and
Moralizer subselves, who often teamed up.
These zealous personality parts formed her “conscience.” They assumed the protective
responsibility of comparing Sharon's daily and past thoughts, decisions,
feelings and actions to these rules, and rendering judgments on them "for her
To guard against painful disapproval and
possible rejection, Criticstudied Sharon’s parents, and copied their
words and voice dynamics to chide and scorn the girl whenever she broke any
rules. The adults’ voice dynamics and body language were often
sarcastic, angry, pitying, scornful, exasperated, and disapproving.
(wounded) parents, her Inner Critic didn’t praise her for
following the rules. Critic learned to feel “That’s just what’s
expected, so it doesn’t deserve any praise.” Critic heard the
"Pride is a sin, (and sin is BAD).” The girl's Grandmother often tsk-tsked about
people with "swelled heads" who were "full of themselves." Critic
dutifullyrebuked Sharon for feeling
self-satisfaction for “being nice.”
As we all do,
young Sharon grew a Guilty Child subself.When this subself activated, it infused Sharon with the
feeling of guilt and related thoughts. This happened every time
an adult or her Critic pronounced or implied that the girl had broken some rule.
At the same time, another young subself was learning to feel and store her
shame. Fairy tales helped that subself grow, when kids were sternly told by
adults "You should be ashamed
of yourself young lady for ___")
In her early years, Sharon didn't know many family and social
rules, so she broke them often. Her siblings, relatives, and caregivers told
her that, often, "for your own good" (and their comfort). Fueled by her
People-pleaser subself's need
to be “good” and "nice," (liked and accepted),Her personal library of behavioral
rules grew and grew.
As Sharon decoded thousands of judgments from her outer and
inner Critics during her childhood (including some praises), her
Shamed Girl grew the conviction "I'm real bad. I always break the
rules. I am SO stupid and dumb. No one could ever love me!"
delivered scathing lectures on how she'd broken another rule again, her
Shamed Girl and Guilty Girl would
true Self, giving Sharon thoughts like "I did a bad thing (broke a rule)” and
guilt feelings; and/or she thought "I am a BAD girl." and
When she thought people around her knew she did and felt
these things, she felt embarrassed. Pretty soon, all it took was certain people looking
at her, rolling their eyes and sighing, or just saying "Sharon..." and her
internal Guilty and ShamedGirls spasmed. The guilty and
shamed thoughts and feelings tended to merge and feel the same, as the Earth
circled the sun.
Because these feelings hurt, Sharon also
automatically developed a Hurt Girl
subself. Her sole job
was to bring Sharon the useful emotion of
pain. Some related
Guardian subselves developed too. They included
Liar, a persuasive
Magician, an hysterical
Sneak, a shrill
Worrier, a powerful
People-pleaser, and a
Their specialized 24-hour jobs all aimed to guard the
Guilty, Shamed, and Hurt Girls from perceived sources of
inner and outer
pain.Sharon also grew an
Angry subself, who developed over time into
an adolescent Rebel. But that one impulsively broke too many rules in
the social world, so the
Guardian subselves tried to
- in public, anyway.
All these Guardian
personality-parts worked tirelessly with
and Historian subselves
to decide what actions might produce
significant pain. Sometimes they'd invoke Critic to sternly rebuke and
lecture Sharon like her parents, hoping she would avoid pain and injury.
Based on their inherited (unconscious) libraries of
parenting rules, Sharon’s Mom and Dad believed they were raising their
daughter well enough. They had no awareness of the group of subselves their
daughter was developing, or how often she was tormented by her vigilant
Inner Critic and
Perfectionist because of their rebukes and sarcasms.
They occasionally worried over "how hard she is on herself."
As Sharon grew,
her increasingly knowledgeable, wise,
far-seeing true Self was often
disabled by her reactive inner
kids and their Guardian subselves. That resulted in her Self doubting
her own wisdom and inner-family leadership ability (which was her real
talent). Most other subselves ignored and/or dis-trusted
the girl's developing Self.
Sharon wasn’t aware of her subselves and their goals and traits. No one
ever talked about normal adults and kids having dynamic "inner
families," or encouraged her to discern what her personality was and how
it "worked." She was aware of feeling crazy and
at times, when
various agitated subselves
took her Self over and gave her conflicting
thought and feelings.
+ + +
This is a skeletal sketch of where (I think)
and shame come from. Does it seem credible? The keys are:
Very young kids instinctivelyseek to earn vital adult
attention and approval by evolving a complex array of good-bad,
right-wrong rules on how they’re “supposedto”behave.
They expand these rules to get approval and acceptance from their playmates
Most early rules (shoulds, musts, have-to's, cant's, etc.)
develop from perceiving adult responses to a young child's behaviors.
Rule-building starts automatically before a child's vocabulary and coherent thinking
develop - e.g. "If I smile, (the big person) smiles and makes nice sounds."
To avoid the agony of
caregiver rejection and abandonment (i.e. potential death),
Shamed inner kids, a tireless
Inner Critic, and an array of other protective
aware caregivers intervene, these normal
personality subselves get used to distrusting and disabling the child’s immature true Self.
They generate "guilty thoughts" and feelings.
Depending onmany factors, a
child may grow up to become dominated by guilty, shamed, and
self-critical subselves - situationally or all the time. Typical adults aren't
aware of how their subselves cause this in themselves or other people. Excessive guilt and shame can self-amplify if the child was
taught “I shouldn’t feel so guilty,” and “I
shouldlove myself!” (rules).
People dominated by shamed, guilty, and
fearful subselves unconsciously choose each other as mates and
associates. In Millennium
America, over half of them develop relationship and parenting problems and
divorce psychologically or legally.
About 70% are parents. From cultural, ancestral, religious,
and parental training (rules), their Inner Critic or Blamer insists the
divorced parent is bad (shameful) for breaking fundamental rules ("Good
parents never divorce!"). This causes significant guilts.
can excessive guilt affect key relationships and daily
Common Effects of Excessive Guilt
Recall - the psychological wounds of excessive shame and guilt usually occur
together, .They combine to cause symptoms like these, and
not living from
a realistic "Personal
Bill of Rights." This is a primal set of beliefs whose theme is
"I am a unique, worthy, dignified human being, and I have a set of
unarguable rights to use in making my decisions - even if
others resent, criticize, or disagree with me."
Typical kids raised in low-nurturance (neglectful and shaming) homes are
usually not taught or encouraged to develop a realistic
set of personal rights, which means they have to intentionally develop a
Bill of Rights as adults. Until they
identify and authenticate their personal rights and reduce their wounds, they will endure...
2) ineffective communication. Excessive shame and guilt cause people other than
unconsciously adopt an "I'm
(inferior)" attitude in their thinking and interacting with other people. This attitude may be amplified when communicating with
self-confident, aggressive, self-centered, or controlling (1-up) people. Common results are...
assertion of current
opinions, values, needs, and
feeling timid, anxious, incompetent,
frustrated, and pessimistic.
Excessive shame and guilt cause behaviors which amplify
strengthen other false-self
the person hits personal
bottom and commits to
A related impact of
3) automatically adopting a defensive and/or
apologetic (1-down, inferior) attitude with some or all other people - specially those
who are aggressive and judgmental, and some or all authorities. A symptom of
this is the compulsion to over-explain and justify personal opinions and
behaviors whether other people challenge them or not.
Another symptom is
apologizing all the time, even for things that could not be
sorry it's so humid in here.") Overfocusing on explaining
(defending against inner or social criticism) usually inhibits productive assertion and problem-solving.
tragic impact of excessive guilt and shame is...
4) ineffective or harmful parenting.
Excessively guilty (wounded) parents and caregivers are often
perfectionistic, rigid, and over-critical of minor kids and grandkids. Without
meaning to, this promotes the young people developing overactive Guilty and
Shamed inner children and related Guardian subselves - repeating the toxic
cycle. Excessive guilt can cause parents to be oversensitive and
over-reactive to others' opinions of their children's character and
behaviors. ("I'm SO sorry my klutzy son spilled his drink!")
Parents who separate or divorce
often feel excessive guilts related
to the pain their minor kids and/or parents have experienced. This and
other toxic traits can promote significant
problems in trying to coordinate childcare with an ex mate.
divorce-related guilts and shame also can
stress relationships with new
partners (stepparents) by promoting chronic
conflicts. ["My child will always come first with
me (because I feel so bad for what I've done to her/him)."] These
primal emotions also hinder providing effective
child discipline, which causes a web of secondary family-system problems.
Because each wounded person and their situation is unique, you may
experience other guilt-related personal and relationship problems. Though the details may differ, the themes are
what can Sharon and you do to reduce or avoid guilt-related
problems like these? To begin answering that, try this...
Reality check - pause and reflect:
scale of one ("I never have problems with guilt")
to ten ("I constantly
feel guilty about many things"), how much of a problem
is guilt in your present life? Is "reduce my psychological wounds, including major
guilts," among your top five current life priorities?
use guilts (plural) because each major broken rule needs to be
examined individually, and most of us have a collection of
significant guilts. Is this true of you?
Options for Reducing Excessive Guilts
If you feel excessive guilts, do
you think you can reduce them? Once committed to reducing their
psychological wounds, I have seen many inner-family therapy
permanently reduce excessive guilts to
healthy levels, and...
consistently avoid excessive and undeserved new guilts.
can do both of these things if your
true Self (capital "S") is
to guide your other subselves! Notice how your dominant subselves
to that idea now - is your (their) glass half-full or half-empty?...
options for permanently reducing excessive guilts include...
with the options below. A
key is committing to reduce the psychological wounds that promote excessive
guilt and other stressors;
Prioritize current or chronic guilts
(minor > moderate > major)
Identify and evaluate each broken rule that
causes you major guilt, one at a time. For each rule that someone
else taught you, define your own rule, and give yourself permission to
live by it
- even if it causes other able people discomfort;
Patiently coach and retrain your subselves -
specially your Inner Critic, People Pleaser, and Guilty
and Shamed Inner Kids - to accept that it's healthy and
good to stop living by other people's rules and start living by your own
For each broken rule
of your own that has
significantly hurt someone else,
own your responsibility honestly, without shaming
where possible, apologize
sincerely - ideally in person.
Notice how your subselves react to these options...
look at each option briefly, before looking at how to avoid
unwarranted new guilts...
See how you feel about acting on these options now vs. "soon"...
how to tell whether your Self (capital "S") is
guiding your personality. You're
far more apt to succeed in reducing excessive guilts
and shame (and other wounds) when s/he leads your other subselves.
Define your goals: Remind yourselfthat "excessive guilt" is a symptom of the core
problem - a
disabled true Self and
your main target is to meet and harmonize your subselves
over time. While you're doing that, important secondary targets
identifying and reducing
specific excessive guilts,
guarding against unwarranted new guilts,
learning how to
excessively-guilty (wounded) adults and kids (p. 2), and...
teaching and encouraging any dependent kids in
your life to learn these three things.
Try saying these
goals out loud ("I need to identify and reduce my excessive guilts"), and notice
if you need to rephrase or edit them to make them your goals.
Assess yourself for psychological wounds via
If your true
disabled, commit to a personal high-priority
recovery program, while balancing the rest of your life. To begin,
identify the subselves that comprise your
unique personality and which ones usually lead them! Then patiently work to
empower your Self, and reorganize and harmonize your other subselves.
your definitions of guilt and shame. Then list on paper the specific
past and present things you (your subselves) feel excessively guilty
about. Expect to reduce these things one at a time (below).
superficial and core attitudechanges, and read this article about reducing excessive shame. Reducing excessive
shame and guilts to normal levels are related but separate
Coach yourself to clarify
things you can change
or affect, and things you can't. Typical kids in low-nurturance
are trained to feel guilty for things they can't control - e.g. "You're
bad because you wet your bed again and made me clean up after you!"
Decide whether you believe that every
able adult is responsible for their own comfort and happiness.
Believing this without ambivalence frees you to act on your own integrity (personal
values and rules) even if
it causes other people discomfort.Not honestly confronting people who are too scared or shamed to fill their own needs is called
classic example is not empathically confronting a chemically-dependent
(wounded) person to avoid "making them feel bad" or "causing a conflict."
More preparation options for permanently reducing significant and chronic guilts...
Affirm "My guilt
is a normal, healthy emotion which - in moderation - helps me to make wise life
decisions. I am not trying to become guiltless, I'm
going to reduce excessive guilt to a moderate (non-crippling) level."
and use a “guilt hero.”Doyouknow anyone who has really freed themselves from (vs. denied
and repressed) excessive guilt? If so, learn from them. If you don‘t know
anyone, ask other people if they do. Clergy, counselors, and coaches may be good
models and/or referral sources.
specificrights as a
dignified, worthy human being, and use them to evaluate the rules someone feels you’ve
broken. See if you agree: “As a child, I was taught 'You
and obey our (adult) rules.' As a mature, unique adult, I’m
responsible for devising and living by myown rules, and for the results
your expectations about
psychological-wound reduction, including reducing excessive guilts. Do they include "I can and
will reduce the excessive guilts that
burden me," or something else? If "something else,"
Have I changed at least one
other core aspect of my personality before? (e.g. “I used to: laugh when I
hurt / lie, at times / never say ‘no’ / never call the doctor / fear sex
How did I make that change?
(e.g. consciously, or "It just happened"? With help, or alone?
Gradually, or suddenly? Because of a painful trauma, or just "It was time
to change"? With tools like affirmations, prayers, reminders, images, or
A final preparation-option is…
specific benefits of reducing
your excessive guilts. If you're not clear yet, try identifying the
specific personal or relationship discomforts that your inflated guilt
causes you. Then vividly imagine your life to be free of those. Keep this
vision, or a written description or symbol of it, where you can remind
yourself along the way of why you're making this powerful wound-recovery change.
If you feel excessive guilts, your true Self is probably
and your personality subselves are disorganized and conflictual. You
can choose to improve that by doing
"parts work": - i.e. intentionally retraining and reorganizing your subselves.
If you disregard this task, you're likely to achieve temporary
guilt-reduction at best - i.e. your excessive guilts will return.
Identify any people around you who may
criticize your values and behaviors. If any of them cause
excessive guilts, confront each person and
assert for more respectful, constructive
feedback. If they won’t,
review your rights and
dignity, choose to distance from them
withoutguilt! They’re probably ruled by a false self (wounded), and don’t
Practice differentiating your
guilt from other people's guilt,
and encourage your subselves to respectfully give other adults and kids
responsibility to reduce theirs while you reduce yours.
ideas and options in this article on
forgiving yourself and
other people. Then read these ideas
on giving people effectivefeedback.
Your true Self needs to be trusted by your other subselves to succeed. Have you experienced
forgiveness (letting go) reduces excessive guilt?
Stay clear on the big picture:
Lesson 1 and its
aim to help you free your Self (capital "S"), harmonize your
subselves, and reduce your psychological wounds.
Reminder: converting excessive
to genuine self-care and love is a separate, vital part of Lesson 1.
Shame and guilt feel the same, and are
If you're raising minor kids, each caregiver choosing to
reduce psychological wounds will steeply
increase your odds of protecting your youngsters from the lethal [wounds +
earning priceless old-age contentment.
So the first steps toward reducing excessive guilts are to choose a
long-range view, and patiently invest in preparation steps like those above.
Then you're ready to...
2) Identify and
Your Broken Rules
familiar guilt, and imagine applying these ideas to it as you read. A way to
do that is to complete this sentence: "I feel really guilty
when I _____."
Recall: guilty thoughts and feelings erupt when yourwell-intentioned
Inner Critic and Perfectionist subselves scathingly blame you for “making a mistake,” "failing," or “doing something wrong” – i.e.
they feel you've broken an
importantrule. Most of
our earliest of behavioral rules (shoulds, oughts, musts, and have-to's)
always come from other people - typically our caregivers and
We form other rules from experiencing significant pain
and pleasure ("If I get a bad school grades my parents get angry.") Across your years, you unconsciously
formed hundreds (thousands?) of
behavioral rules about right /
wrong, good / bad, and safe / unsafe values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
validate this, reflect, and say out loud the first ten rules you think all
young children should be taught about "good behavior." - for
"Always tell the
"Be a good
"Be kind and patient"
"Don't be selfish or proud"
"Always do your best"
"Love your parents and
"Always look on the bright side"
"Don't be rude or insult
"Obey God's commandments"
...and so on.
your Inner Critic to list some key
attributes of "bad persons / men / women / parents" - e.g. "People are
bad if they lie / steal / are lazy / drink to much / ignore their
kids / are self centered / harm other people / kick small animals / use
pornography / etc. Each of these judgments is based on someone's rules. Some
are universal, and some are ancestral, ethnic, and/or religious. Many may not apply to you in
Premise: because we all have different values, perceptions, and needs,
we don't need to feel guilty about
breaking someone else's rule that we don't agree with! Example: if
someone insists "You must brush and floss after every meal (or
you're self-neglectful, lazy, and bad), and you believe "No, I think
brushing once a day before bed is enough," you have a different (vs. better)
rule. If your Inner Critic berates you for breaking another person's rules,
your Guilty and Shamed inner kids suffer and their tireless Guardian
Premises - you have the unarguable right to identify the rules that
cause you excessive guilts, and decide whether they're your rules or
someone else's. If they're not your rules,
you have the right
to discard them and forge and live by new rules of your
own without guilt or shame.
Every other person has the same right. Do you agree?
Consider these examples:
Old (Other's) Rule
New (Your) Rule
Always be nice to other people
Respectfully confront other
people if necessary, to help both of us
Always obey the rules
Evaluate important rules, and propose
better ones where I can
Always help other people
Help myself and other people
equally, except in emergencies without guilt
Cheerfully sacrifice your own
needs for others' needs
Honor my and other people's
Never disappoint your parents
Act on my own integrity and
respectfully accept inevitable differences with each parent
Humbly obey God and the Bible
without question, and accept your sin
Thoughtfully evolve my own
spiritual beliefs, practices,
and growth without guilts
Never talk back to elders or
Assert my opinions, needs, and
limits respectfully, as a co-equal human being
Promote harmony, and avoid
conflict and confrontation
inner and social conflict as inevitable,
and seek to use it constructively
Never be selfish or
Seek to balance being "Self-ish"
(filling my needs) with helping others fill their needs
evasion, lying, and liars as "bad," weak, "wrong,"
Compassionately see evasion and lying as a sign the
person is scared to tell the truth
Notice what you/re thinking and feeling
Options: (a) evolve a table like this to help you
clarify your most important old and new rules; and (b) invite other
important people - including minor or grown) kids - to do this and discuss
what results. Expect this to take considerable time,
thought, and discussion...
examine each rule that causes excessive guilt,
watch for black/white
(absolute or bipolar) thinking.
For instance, are stealing or lying always
“wrong”? Many personal and social rules are relative, depending on our local
inner and outer contexts for "rightness." Some philosophers suggest
are no ‘rights and wrongs’ - just consequences.”
Also be alert for widespread rules
about rules: "Always honor and respect
(i.e. don't disagree or challenge) your Mother and Father / your elders /
the Bible / the Law." To become an authentic, self-respecting person, youhave to
disagree with some of their rulesand form your own.Doing this is not
"disrespecting" them, it is respecting yourself as an equally-worthy
person. Do you agree?
your rules, it can help to ask
always gain self respect when I act on this rule (should, ought, or
must), or am I seeking the approval of someone else?"If you have a
zealous People-pleaser like Sharon (and most of us), that subself is relentlessly focused on following other
people's rules to avoid conflict and painful disapproval and rejection.
Living from our
integrity will inevitably cause some other people discomfort. You can minimize
this by adopting a mutual-respect attitude, and use the seven Lesson-2
skills to invite other people to
negotiate acceptable compromises or acceptance of
your differences. Success depends on your true Self being
to guide you.
Option: over time, become an
expert on how guilt is intentionally reduced. When you feel guilty, build the
reflex of wondering "What am I to learn from this feeling? Have I already
learned it?" Tell your Inner Critic what you've learned, and ask that
important subself too stop reminding you of your rule-breakings, and
Recall why you're reading this.
decide if "identify and evaluate
broken rules" makes sense to you. Are you willing to do that now
to reduce excessive guilts? If not -
why? Is your true Self those
questions? If not,
When you feel ready to use parts work to reduce your guilts to
normal, use the strategy
in this article
after you finish reading this one.
3) Make Selected
The 12-step philosophy helps many people manage (vs. cure)
addictions and other compulsions. It's effective because it encourages people to (a) choose self-responsibility; (b)
intentionally confront and reduce significant
guilt, shame, and anxiety; and (c)
make sincere amends (apologize) to
people they’ve hurt, where possible and safe.
usually help both people reduce hostility, resentment, disrespect, and guilt. Where it doesn’t, look for
false selves to be in
charge and other
problems (like disrespect and distrust) that need resolution.
Can you clearly define the
ingredients of an
effective apology? I suggest that they include…
true Self(capital "S") to guide your other
coaching your subselves to believe
that your needs,
rights, opinions, and
integrity are just as worthy as any other person’s
taking genuine (vs. pretended or strategic)
responsibility for your past and present thoughts, values, and actions;
identifying specifically how your actions have
hurt or hindered other people.
This requires awareness and
which some wounded people were never taught;
all the emotions related to each such
incident, without editing or justifying;
(ideally) describing your feelings to the hurt person,
with good eye contact, in a way that s/he can hear you, and then…
listening respectfully to any
without explanation, defense, excuses, or arguing.
key is accepting full
responsibility for your own thoughts and actions,
rather than blaming others, God, or "fate."
How does this compare to your definition
of an effective apology? Have you ever
apologized successfully to another person? Remember how that felt to
both of you?
Option: for each
adult and child
significantly harmed by your attitudes and actions, design a genuine apology
for each major hurt, and deliver it when (a) your Self (capital "S") is
guiding you and (b) the other
person can hear you (is not distracted). Ideally, do this
in person. Start by
yourself, and then focus on
other people. Applying
skills can be a major help here!
apologize, consider an attitude of
doing this to grow personal and relationship harmony, not to
debase myself, submit, or to fill your need.” If saying “I’m so sorry
that I _______” feels like losing a battle, being "weak," or giving in, refocus on
freeing your Self
to guide you.
your long-term goal is harmonizing your subselves and reducing significant
psychological wounds over time. Reducing excessive guilts is an
important part of that process.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you began
reading this. Has anything changed for you? What are you learning, so far?
addition to reducing excessive old guilts, you can learn to...
Minimize New Guilts
Premise: moderate guilts are
useful, because they help us learn from our social "mistakes." Other guilts are
unwarranted and/or excessive. They often come from adopting other people's rules and attitudes
that you haven't examined and validated. As
your learn to reduce old excessive guilts, you can consciously
avoid taking on unwarranted new guilts.
Consider these options:
Periodically review and adjust
your version of these key attitudes
Blindly adopting other people's attitudes can foster unnecessary guilts.
Monitor and coach your
Inner Critic, Moralizer/Preacher, and Perfectionist subselvesto declare their opinions
respectfully, vs. scornfully.
Tailor and apply these ideas on giving effective
feedback to your subselves and other people. Use
parts work to ensure that your
subselveslive in the present, vs. some traumatic time in your childhood.
yourself to be routinely
aware of your (a) breathing,
(b) your body, and (c) your
current thoughts and emotions. When you feel guilty and/or think guilty
thoughts, experiment with these steps:
remind yourself that
moderate guilt is normal
Identify (a) what specific rules your
subselves feel you've broken (they usually come in clusters), and (b) whether they're your
someone else's. If you originated a rule, own your responsibility,
review your options, and act. Ambivalence and/or procrastination
doing this suggests a false self is making your decisions.
If someone else originated a rule you
review your Bill of Personal Rights and reassure your subselves that as
an adult, you can respectfully disagree with the other person's rules
and expectations without judging either of you as being good-bad or
If appropriate, respectfully assert your right to
disagree with the other person's rules and live by your own. Options:
affirm the other person's right to not
feel bound to obey your rules;
if the other person scorns, criticizes, or
rejects you for disagreeing with or disobeying their rules,
compassionately see them as not knowing they probably have a disabled true Self,
rather than "the enemy.".
Steadily develop and use your
mutual-respect attitude and your effective communication
skills - specially clear
thinking, assertion, and empathic listening. These are your best tools for
clarifying, stating, and enforcing your rights, boundaries,
and consequences respectfully and firmly.
More options to avoid
significant new guilts:
Patiently work to
reduce excessive fears, shame, and distrusts.
They promote conflict-avoidance among your
subselves and with other people,
dishonesty, timidity, and procrastination. These combine to promote excessive guilt and shame.
See these specific parts-work
strategies to reduce these wounds.
Stay clear on your
responsibilities at home and elsewhere. Calmly define
and enforce your boundaries, and respectfully give
responsibility for themselves. Compassionately expect them to resist, and try to
defocus, blame, and/or guilt-trip you. Decline – don’t accept their rules over
yours. If they’re open to it, invite them to
evaluate whether they’re
ruled by a false self, and moderate your
People Pleaser's urge to
rescue or endure them.
Read this article on codependence to expand
your awareness and compassion. This condition causes compulsive over-concern with another person’s welfare, and obeying
their rules. If you have
codependent traits, you probably need self-motivated
recovery from psychological wounds.
free your Self to
guide and harmonize your other subselves (work at
coach yourself to grow your
work to convert
excessive shame to non-egotistical self-love
validate whose rules
(shoulds / oughts / musts / have to's / cant's) you broke,
apologize to and/or forgive yourself
and other people where appropriate,
minimize new guilt feelings (above), and...
Recall why you're reading this, and reflect on what you just
read. Would improving your ability to avoid unwarranted new guilts be
useful to you? Is there anything in the way of your experimenting with the
ideas above and seeing what happens? Is your
Self answering that or
Another facet of "effective guilt management" is learning...
Guilt-trippers and Over-aplogizers
Two guilt-related social problems you may encounter occur when people...
try to use guilt to get you to
fill their needs. and/or...
constantly apologize because
of excessive shame and guilt
Let's look at your options for
each of these problems.
Have you experienced a guilt-trip recently? They occur when someone implies
that you owe them something for some reason - respect, concern, priority,
support, resources, time, loyalty, etc. Guilt trips commonly sound like
"After all I've done
really love me, you'd want to _____."
Scriptures say that you have to..."
(parent/grandparent/relative) so you have to..."
"I thought I
could depend on you for _____, but I guess I'm expecting too much."
call me. I guess you just don't care."
you're my friend, but you never ______ ."
be ashamed of yourself!"
(add your own
Some people try to evoke guilt by just rolling their eyes and/or sighing
dramatically. Others do so by crying, collapsing, or implying they're going
to harm themselves or get sick unless you do something. Whatever the
strategy, the person seeks to make you feel responsible for filling one or
more of their needs.
If you give in to a guilt
trip (violate your integrity), you're apt to feel manipulated and
resentful, and lose self respect - specially if this is a recurring dynamic.
The keys to responding
effectively to guilt trips are:
Reflect - can you do these
things now? Review these examples
of responses to manipulative people when you finish here.
Incidentally, do you
ever use guilt trips to fill your needs? If so, that suggests that a
Do you know anyone who is excessively apologetic? If so, how do you feel
about them - pity? Impatient? Scorn? Exasperated? Annoyed? How do you
People who compulsively apologize are usually
shamle-based and fear of
criticism and rejection (wounded). They may be unaware of their habit, or feel
apologetic about it. Over-apologizing implies
(inferior) to you, which invites disrespect, irritation, impatience,
and a skewed relationship.
annoyed by someone's constantly apologizing, you can...
endure it, or...
hint indirectly ("Gee, you seem to
apologize quite often."), or...
advise or lecture ("You know you really
don't have to apologize so much."), or...
complain ("I'm getting real tired of
hearing you apologize all the time."), or you can...
in the form of a respectful ''I-message.'' That could sound like...
"Chris, you've apologized about four
times now at great length about forgetting to return my book. I
understand you feel badly about this - and
(not "but") when
you keep repeating yourself, I get impatient and irritated, and I
tune you out. I need you to stop repeating yourself, so I can stay
connected to you."
Expect Chris to "resist"
- e.g. to apologize about apologizing, say "I'll try," or "I can't help
it," or something else. Use empathic listening to validate this, and then
re-assert calmly and firmly, with steady eye contact.
"Chris, when you apologize so wordily
and often, chuckle nervously, and have trouble keeping eye contact
with me (specific observable behaviors)...
"I get uncomfortable
because it feels like you don't respect yourself as much as I do (specific effect on you).
"Are you open to me mentioning these
behaviors to you to help you become aware of them and their
For more perspe3ctive and examples,
see thisafter you
Pause now, and see if you can summarize the key things you just read about
reacting to "guilt-trippers" and over-apologetic people. The theme is -
you have options, and
don't have to endure being a victim to such wounded people!
Recall - to react like the examples above, you need (a) your true Self to
steadily guide you (Lesson 1), and (b) you need to
know how and when to use the seven communication skills in Lesson 2. Can you
Lesson-1 article proposes that you can intentionally reduce
excessive and/or chronic guilt to normal levels, once you admit your psychological wounds. The article outlines (a) where
guilt comes from, (b) why it can cause major problems in typical relationship
and families, and (c) options you can tailor toward reducing your excessive guilt to
The articlealsosuggests options for staying centered
and asserting your boundaries with people who
use "guilt trips" to manipulate you, and
with people who feel inferior to you because of
excessive guilt and shame.