For guilt-givers, the most important person in the world is the one on whom they heap their guilt. Without you, they would be responsible for their own failures. For whatever reason, life hasn’t turned out like they wanted it to. But instead of being realistic about their goals and their own part in fulfilling them, they have chosen to shift responsibility from themselves onto you. The load of their guilt is so crushing to them that they habitually shift some of it onto you. Faced with accepting responsibility themselves or harming you, they choose the latter – emotional abuse that is damaging to both them and you.
Without you, there would be no one to draw recompense from. With you feeling guilty and at fault, there is always a way for you to “make it up” to the person you have “harmed.” Maybe it’s by never leaving them to form other relationships. Maybe it’s always being there to do that errand, pay that bill, or take care of whatever problem arises. After all, it really is your fault that they find themselves in such a mess in the first place. The least you can do is fix it for them.
Healthy guilt causes us to evaluate our actions and respond accordingly. Every one of us is guilty of some wrong behavior within a relationship. We’re human – we make mistakes. True guilt is the response. It causes us to feel sorry for what we have done, accept responsibility for the damage, and do what we can to repair it.
Guilt-givers do not use true guilt. By manipulating the facts, they produce false guilt. The guilt is false because it is based on false information. This false guilt is slippery. Because it has no basis in the truth, the reasons behind it can be altered by the abuser. If one reason stops working, another one can be substituted – whatever it takes to produce the desired guilt reaction. True guilt, one the other hand, can be met head-on, dealt with, worked through, and forgiven.
The above is excerpted from chapter 4 in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory Jantz.