Think Guilt-Tripping Isn’t a Big Deal? Think Again

Guilt Trip Definition:

A guilt trip is a form of emotional manipulation that involves the use of shame or embarrassment to cause someone else to act in ways they would not normally do. It may involve making someone feel guilty about something they have done, or it may simply make them feel bad about themselves. A person who engages in guilt tripping is attempting to manipulate another person into doing what you want them to do.

The term “guilt” comes from the Latin word gubernare which means to blame. Guilt trips are often used in family situations where one member feels responsible for some wrongdoing of another family member. For example, if your brother steals money from your aunt’s purse, then you might feel guilty about this because you know she was probably trying to protect her money and didn’t want him taking it all!

Narcissists are notorious for their use of guilt trips. They will often try to get others to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do so that they can take credit for these actions. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by grandiose sense of self-importance, need for excessive admiration, lack of empathy and a tendency to lie, cheat and steal.

Guilt, Shame and Trauma

The terms guilt and shame are used to describe a similar emotional state. Guilt is an emotion that results from a conscious act of breaking a moral code rule, either that of society or one that is personally important to you. You might feel guilty for cheating on your partner, lying to a friend, being mean to someone or taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Guilt can also result from something you deliberately do that you don’t feel good about but see as the lesser of two evils.

For example, you might pay a homeless man to take a very late test for you so that you can pass a class. You feel guilty about the act, but rationalize it by deciding that hiring someone to take the test is better than failing the course and losing the chance at your dream career.

Shame is an emotion that results from breaking a moral code rule that you personally consider important. It can also result from failing to meet your own personal standards and values and leads to feelings of inadequacy, disapproval of self, unworthiness and contempt for self. You might feel ashamed for cheating on your partner, lying to a friend, being mean to someone or taking something that doesn’t belong to you. You also might feel shame for failing to meet your own personal standards and values.

Trauma can cause people to feel a lot of guilt and shame. For example, someone who experiences childhood abuse may feel shame for “not getting away” from the abuser or for “enjoying” some of the things that the abuser made them do. They may feel a lot of guilt over something they did or didn’t do that lead to a trauma, such as a friend’s death.

The tendency to feel guilt, shame and trauma are common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD may feel guilty or blame themselves for experiences that were out of their control. They may also feel shame about certain things that happened in their lives, such as abuse or something embarrassing. People who have been traumatized may also feel a lot of shame about the situation they are in now.

They may feel ashamed that they have PTSD or that their lives are not as they were before the trauma.

Clinical, Sub-Clinical and Non-Clinical Trauma

Trauma can be classified in several different ways. The terms clinical, sub-clinical and non-clinical trauma are used to describe different levels of trauma and the effects these traumas have on people.

Clinically traumatized people have experienced a trauma that has impacted them in a significant way. Sub-clinically traumatized people have not had their lives significantly impacted by their traumatic experiences, but instead have symptoms of trauma such as nightmares, flashbacks and excessive worry about the possibility of something bad happening to them. They may avoid things that remind them of a trauma or have trouble feeling relaxed and calm.

Sources & references used in this article:

Foundations for Customer Centricity by J Dodkins – 2015 –

Climate change risk communication: The problem of psychological denial by P Sandman – Available at Online http://www. psandman. com/col …, 2009 –

Thinking about the baby: Gender and transitions into parenthood by S Walzer – 2010 –

Development and its discontents: Ego-tripping without ethics or idea (l) s by G Lindenfield – 2016 – HarperCollins UK