My wife and I sat on the couch talking. Somehow the topic of my sister came up. She is my mother’s golden child, meaning that she became enmeshed with my narcissistic mother as a child. Today she is both enmeshed and a narcissist.
My wife said to me, “You remember how your sister held up our wedding?”
I shook my head, confusion registering on my face.
My wife was at the back of the church, waiting to walk down the aisle. I was in a room off the main sanctuary and had no idea what we were waiting for. Apparently everything was being held up because my sister had not arrived.
My wife, at the back of the church, saw everything when my sister walked in the door. My sister sauntered past my wife without apologizing. Then she made a loud joke that all 126 guests could hear.
Laughing loudly at her own joke, she went and drew the attention of as many males as she could. She didn’t care that the ceremony was behind schedule. She just wanted to drink in as much narcissistic supply as she could hold.
How We Feel Guilty About Everything
A minute or two after hearing this story I looked at my wife.
“I feel guilty and a little panicky,” I said
“That shows how you were held responsible for things beyond your control,” my wife said.
“And the extent I was held responsible,” I said.
Part of the false image that a narcissist constructs is the belief that he or she can do no wrong. So when things do go wrong, the narcissist’s child gets the blame. The narcissist heaps guilt upon the child. This is done so many times that before long, the child starts to feel guilty for everything.
As an example, I used to feel guilty for anything that went wrong at work and took responsibility even when I played no wrong in the mishap. My taking blame was carried to extremes one day when my supervisor and I became embroiled in a heated exchange. She made some inappropriate statements during it.
I went home that night feeling guilty about the argument. The next day when my supervisor and I sat down, she said she was sorry. I said, “No, no. It was my fault.”
She disagreed and said she was to blame. But I shook my head vigorously and stated it was my fault.
A slight smile crossed her face and she said, “OK.”
I stared down at her desk top for the rest of the conversation. Guilt filled me from toe to head. I was living out my narcissistic parents’ legacy by taking responsibility for wrongs I didn’t commit and feeling guilty about what happened.
Chances are you’re doing the same thing. And I’d be willing to bet that you are as sick of the guilt as I am.
The guilt you feel and live with is not tied to a single event, like dropping your narcissistic mother’s favorite vase. If it was, you could more easily find resolution and stop feeling guilty.
No. Your guilt is all pervasive because you were made to feel guilty about so many things, all the time. You never knew when you were going to be made to feel guilty about something. And you never knew what the guilt would be about.
- It could be about your father’s headache
- It could be because you didn’t notice you mother’s new shirt
- It could be because you’re having fun playing when your mother is sick
- Or it could be because you left your father to walk alone when you ran ahead
None of these “offenses” is a major act of disregarding the feelings of another. But the narcissist will make a major case against you for any one of these examples.
They will manipulate your perceptions, emotions, and reality so you feel some obligation to them has gone unmet. You’ll believe you hurt the narcissist. And you’ll feel so bad about it that you apologize over and over again.
Meanwhile, you’re giving the narcissist exactly what they want—your attention and degradation.
And my philosophy is never give the narcissist what she wants.
Narcissists and Guilt
Guilt is a sort of emotional alarm. Normally, when we feel guilty, we become aware that we have done something wrong. Guilt, used properly, allows us to correct our behavior and make amends.
The narcissist is an expert at tripping your alarm function. But he has no interest in you correcting your behavior. This is because he often manufactures the offense his victim created.
How many times has your narcissistic parent made you feel guilty by saying “After all the sacrifices I made for you, you do this!”
There are two things wrong with this statement. The first is, if you review your childhood, you’ll be hard pressed to find a sacrifice your narcissistic parent made. What they are talking about is they fed and clothed you. That’s their big sacrifices. As a child you had no way to feed and clothe yourself. Should you feel guilty for being dependent on the parent?
No. You shouldn’t.
The second thing wrong with the sacrifice statement is that parents are supposed to sacrifice for their children. Do I begrudge my children that I can’t get that home by a lake because I have to provide for their needs? I gladly sacrifice my wants to meet their needs and wants. And I don’t even think of it as sacrificing. And I don’t expect them to express appreciation.
The narcissist trips your alarm so he can manipulate you. Whether it be to get you to do something or get attention, know that when you feel guilty around a narcissist, you’re being manipulated.
Dealing with Guilt
Try the following steps when the narcissist in your life tries to make you feel guilty.
- Remove yourself from your narcissistic parent’s presence. Leave if you can. If you can’t, go to the bathroom.
- Allow yourself to fully feel the guilt. Don’t fight it. Watch it. Breathe deep. Know that it’s just an emotion. You don’t owe anyone an apology.
- Try to understand the reason you feel guilty. Get deeper than because “I hurt Mom’s feelings.” Try to see the manipulation being used on you.
- Let your understanding melt the guilt inside you. Don’t apologize to the narcissist. If you haven’t done so, leave, or kick the narcissist out of your house.
You have every right to not fall victim to your narcissistic parent’s guilt trip. Learn to recognize when your parent is trying to make you feel guilty. Break off the conversation. Go your own way.
Protect your emotional health rather than being manipulated into apology.
Stand strong. And stand up for yourself.
Nothing feels as right as respecting yourself.
May peace cradle you in her arms.
What guilt trip has your narcissistic parent pulled on you?
Tell us in the comments below.