A recent LDSLiving.com, “What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed at Church,” ended with a simple survey. It asked one question: Have you ever experienced spiritual fatigue or burnout? Over 1,900 people took the online survey, and a whopping 95 percent said that they had experienced burnout.
When it comes to our relationships, we often spend time trying to figure out problems (how can we get a spouse to listen more, how can we get children to be more obedient, etc.). But what if you are the problem? Might be a bit of an uncomfortable idea, but the truth is that often times it’s easier to spot shortcomings in someone else than it is to see them in ourselves. I encourage you to look in the mirror as we explore the following topic: Are you a guilt tripper? This involves using guilt as a form of emotional manipulation to get someone to think or act a certain way. It’s something that we’ve all done at times. Here are some questions to determine whether or not this is something you engage in in your relationships:
Do you have a hard time asking directly for what you want and need?
Do you believe that others won’t do what you’d like them to do?
Do you think other people are responsible for your feelings?
Do you mope, sulk, and use the silent treatment frequently?
Do you often feel powerless to get someone else to take action?
Answering yes to all or most of these questions indicates that you may have a problem with using guilt as a passive-aggressive way to get your needs met. And while you may have some level of success getting what you want through this strategy, long-term it will harm your relationships, as it pushes people away. Now let’s get to the solutions! Here are some ways to stop guilt tripping others for good:
Identify Your Own Needs
The first step is to figure out your own needs before you even open your mouth to speak to someone else. This can be difficult, particularly for women, but you have to know what you’re actually feeling or wanting before you can express it clearly. In my private practice, I’ve often asked women what it is that they want in a specific situation, and they really have to stop and think for a while before they can give an authentic answer. Give yourself permission to have needs and desires, and also don’t shy away from painful emotions; instead learn from them and let them help you determine what it is that you need.
Make Direct Behavior Requests
Next, be brave enough to ask for what you’d like directly. For example, a guilt tripper might say something like, “if you really cared about me, you’d take me to my appointment.” This is an inappropriate statement, and it unfairly puts someone on the spot and makes the relationship conditional. Instead, try something like, “I need a ride to my appointment; would you be willing to take me? I would really appreciate it.” Be straightforward about what you need and what you’re hoping the other person will do.
Build Relationships, Not Expectations
Guilt trippers are usually thinking more about what they want than about who they’re asking. This kind of thinking is self-centered and damages relationships. It’s also not particularly effective in the long run. And you can actually be more successful motivating people to do what you’d like if they are doing it because they want to, not because you are shaming them into it. Others will want to help you! For most people, love is such a better motivator than fear, shame, or guilt.
Own Your Feelings
A person who guilt trips thinks other people are to blame for their negative feelings, and then uses that mindset to attempt to control someone else. For example, in a divorced family situation, a mother might say to her daughter, “if you go with your dad this weekend, I’ll be all alone.” This is unfair to a child, as it’s not her responsibility to alleviate her mom’s loneliness. The woman in this situation should instead own her feelings and seek out companionship in other ways. Remember that your feelings are your own deal; they’re not someone else’s job.
Explore the Emotional Undercurrent
If you find that you’re a chronic guilt tripper, if you do it more than just occasionally, there’s almost certain to be something at the root of it. Are you depressed? Are you trying to control someone in order to compensate for something in your past where you felt powerless? Are you replaying some memory of manipulation that you once experienced at the hands of someone else? Look a little bit deeper into your emotional current.
I’m excited to offer an e-course based on my book “The Burnout Cure” to help women identify and articulate their feelings and needs in order to strengthen their relationships. Stay tuned for it!
Some people joke that women talk in code (and there’s probably some small truth to that!). But what if women owned up to their mixed messages and instead spoke their truth and said what they meant? That’s the topic behind this round of “What To Say Instead.” While it can be tempting to speak somewhat passive-aggressively, it’s much better to be honest and authentic about our feelings.
The following scenarios are ones in which woman mask their true emotions with trite sayings. But doing so is harmful to relationships because it’s deceptive and can limit intimacy. Read about better things to say to communicate and bridge those connections:
Scenario #1: Jane gets a call from her sister. At the time, she is trying to make dinner for her family, take care of her sick baby, and help her recently unemployed husband comb through job applications. Her sister asks how she is doing. Her response: “I’m fine.”
What To Say Instead – If this is a sister with whom she has a close relationship, it’s okay to open up! She doesn’t necessarily have to divulge all personal details, but saying something as simple as, “I’m having a really hard day, honestly” is telling the truth. There’s a pressure as women to appear as if something is going smoothly, but it’s okay to admit we don’t have it all together.
Comparing ourselves to other people. It’s something we all are guilty of (particularly women). Whether it has to do with looks, money, talents, or belongings, many women perceive themselves as less than someone else who seems to have a better life. In a society that so often ranks us, it’s no surprise that this is so common! But at what cost? Comparing ourselves to others can eat away at our happiness and lead to lower self-esteem, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are 5 strategies to avoid the comparison trap:
Being a good parent requires a tremendous amount of time, love, and energy, but what happens when a well-meaning mom or dad becomes too enmeshed in their children’s lives? Over-involvement can unknowingly do damage to kids, who then become responsible for their parents’ well-being and happiness. On the other hand, parents who can draw a separation between themselves and their children are emotionally healthier and are actually able to give more to their families.
LCSW Julie Hanks recently discussed this topic on KSL’s Studio 5. Below are some questions she suggested to ask yourself to determine whether or not your kids define you (along with some strategies to help you reclaim yourself if you find that you’ve taken on a little too much):
And here’s more about Julie’s book that was mentioned, “The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women.”
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Monette Cash, LCSW leads our DBT Women’s Group. A 3-series skills group that teaches basic skills such as how to manage your emotions so they don’t control your life, how to cope effectively with difficult relationships, and learning how to react calmly rather than impulsively in order to avoid unhealthy escapes. This 3 module skill group will run in 6 week segments and
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