Narcissistic abusers really do a number on your head, don’t they? One of their favorite weapons of choice is a good old guilt trip – and who among us hasn’t been on one of those? Only sociopaths are able to NEVER feel guilt – and for those of us who do feel it, guilt is distressing and draining. There doesn’t seem to be a cure. You’ve done or said something you regret – or you’ve been made to feel guilty when you didn’t deserve it – thanks to narcissistic manipulation. In any case, you’re uncomfortable without an obvious solution. What can be done about it now?
Get over your guilt with these strategies:
1. Determine if you should feel guilty. Whose standards are you using? Your parents’? Your own? Your church’s? Can you be sure the source is correct? Ensure that you’re judging yourself by a set of standards you deem to be worthy. It’s your choice.
2. Learn from it. Why do you feel guilty? Obviously, you did or said something that you consider to be wrong. Once you know why you feel guilty, you’re in a position to benefit from it. Ensure that you don’t repeat the behavior in the future. Visualize yourself behaving in a new and improved manner. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
3. Sometimes guilt is unproductive. Imagine that you feel guilty about missing your child’s play because you were required to work. If you did everything within your power, there’s no benefit to feeling guilt. Does your behavior require modification? If not, there’s no reason to feel guilty.
4. Apologize. It can be as simple as saying you’re sorry. You’ll feel better afterward, even if your apology is rejected.
5. Accept that you feel guilty. Acknowledge your feelings and the pain that goes with them. Accept that you made a mistake. Realize that it will pass.
6. Forgive yourself. Even if the other person won’t forgive you, you can forgive yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself. No one is perfect.
7. Let it go. Once the event is over, you’ve apologized, and modified your behavior, let it go. At that point, what purpose does your guilt serve? Take a deep breath, let it out, and move on. Keep your mind occupied with more productive thoughts.
8. Have gratitude. Rather than saying to yourself, “I should have told Mary the truth”, tell yourself, “I’m grateful I’ve learned the importance of honesty.” Negative experiences can still be worthy of gratitude.
How to avoid guilt in the future:
1. Think instead of react. Guilt is often the result of acting without thinking. When you become emotional, take a moment to collect yourself. It’s easy to do or say something that you’ll later regret.
2. Be less critical of yourself. Guilt and the need to be perfect go hand in hand. Avoid expecting perfection. It’s unrealistic and leads to feelings of guilt. Everyone makes mistakes on a daily basis.
3. Create realistic beliefs. Maybe you believe that a good parent should do certain things, but you don’t or can’t do them. Are you sure your opinion on the matter is reasonable? Maybe you believe that a good parent would never get frustrated, which is unrealistic.
You’re not alone in feeling guilty. Some people spend a lifetime wallowing in guilt. How long you feel guilty is up to you. Learn from your mistakes and go forward with a new perspective and strategy. Apologize and forgive yourself. The real shame is repeating behavior that results in guilt. Avoid repeating your mistakes and be gentle with yourself. Practice making the choice that doesn’t result in guilt. The more you practice, the more healthy choices you’ll make, and the less guilt you’ll have to deal with.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.