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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Advice for Coping with Guilt Trips

puppet2Do you have someone in your life who frequently manages to cause you to feel guilty? When with this person, is he/she constantly implying that you are uncaring, thoughtless, and selfish?  Be aware that there are some people who are master manipulators and can take the biggest empath and cause him/her to feel like the greatest villain on earth.

If you have a relative, spouse, boss, or friend that seems to be continually “hurt” by your behavior, take heart, it’s probably not your fault, chances are you are being manipulated with the oldest game in the book – the guilt trip.

Guilt trips are a form of psychological manipulation and covert control used to coerce people into doing something they don’t necessarily want to do. Guilt trips are damaging to relationships and can cause the target of the manipulation to feel not only guilty, but angry and resentful as well.

Here are some practical strategies for coping with the emotional blackmailers in your life:

  • Let go of trying to change his/her need to think poorly of you.
    Guilt trippers are masters at making others feel like failures and losers. If you are consistently around someone who makes you feel bad, then maybe the problem isn’t you.  Maybe the problem is that the other person needs or wants to make you the bad guy.  When around a person who lays guilt trips, let go of your need to change his/her opinion of you.  Brush it off and move on.
  • Do not defend yourself.
    Don’t get in to it with a person hell bent on persecuting you. You can spend countless hours of your life playing a game of “I am not, you are too!”  Don’t waste your breath. See item 1 above. Some people just need to make others wrong, bad, mean, and guilty.  Instead of being defensive, just say a comment such as, “Perhaps you’re right; or, I’m sorry you feel that way; or, I’ll give that some thought.” Then, walk away. Remember, it takes two to argue.
  • Let pouters pout and sulkers sulk
    Go about your business and have a good day. Realize that the person you’re dealing with is trying to manipulate you by pouting and sulking. You’re “supposed” to be “fixing” the situation so that the other person will stop pouting or sulking. Tell yourself that you are not responsible for someone else’s happiness or behaviors. Remind yourself that this person is limited and cannot be all that you want or need, and then go about your day.
  • Limit your time with difficult people.
    People who are constantly on the go to create havoc and drama in their close relationships are not really that fun to be around. Why ruin your day by spending too much time with these types of people? Instead of dreading the time, give yourself limits.  Before each encounter with your difficult person, try setting a time limit on how long you will be with him/her. And then stick to your decision.You can also develop an “exit strategy.”  This is a plan you have for yourself in case you start feeling pressure to give in to the manipulating person. One idea is that if you find yourself starting to feel Fear, Obligation, or Guilt (FOG,) then you know it’s time to go.
  • Stop trying to win other people’s approval.
    One reason people who lay guilt trips are so effective is because most people, in general, want the approval of others. It’s only natural for people to want approval, but when dealing with manipulators, it’s not wise.  In fact, when you find yourself needing the approval of a manipulator you discover that you lose yourself in the process.  It really isn’t worth it.  It’s better to just have the luxury of being free from the need for others’ approval than to give your power away to someone else.Mentally tell yourself this mantra:  “I would rather have freedom than your approval.”
  • Give yourself permission to say, “No,” and set boundaries.
    A healthy boundary is one in which you only do that which you are willing to do without being pressured. Stick to your guns and don’t allow yourself to be coerced into doing anything you don’t actually value doing.

When it comes down to it, we really must learn how to manage our own lives, have wisdom when it comes to whom we invest our hearts in, and practice discernment in all our affairs.


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Advice for Coping with Guilt Trips

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). Advice for Coping with Guilt Trips. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from