Many of us are raised to feel guilty when we have done something we shouldn’t have or that hurts someone we love. Guilt is a natural feeling, and this is not a bad thing. Guilt is an uncomfortable feeling inside, and it motivates us. It drives to apologize and reconcile. We want to make amends and do things better in the future. We naturally want to fix things with that person and give them reasons to feel better about us again. Without the feeling of guilt, we would not be so driven to reconcile.
Narcissistic people seem to be missing this ability to feel guilty. Many experts agree that they don’t feel remorse and guilt the way emotionally healthy people do. They don’t have that underlying drive to reconcile then. They do however know that other people feel guilt and are driven by it. This becomes a tool in their hands. They have become incredibly good at manipulating your ability to feel guilty. They use your own conscience against you!
Covert narcissists are experts at making you take all the blame. It often happens before we even realize it. We take all the responsibility for everything, from the smallest slight to even their own faults in the first place.
- If they hit you, it is because you forgot to take the trash out.
- If they yelled at you, it is because you weren’t listening to them in the first place.
- If they threw something, it is because you said hi to a guy in public.
- If they raged at you, it is because you didn’t answer their question the way they wanted.
Everything is your fault! And here is the danger: there is just enough truth to what they are saying to activate that guilt in you. They easily convince you that they are right. Maybe you did forget to take the trash out. Maybe you weren’t really listening right then. Maybe you did say hi to that guy. And maybe you could have answered their question better. Just enough truth makes this situation SO dangerous.
Your own desire to be a good person and to improve yourself now completely backfires on you. Because in your mind, you now shift from seeing their ridiculousness of their reaction to only seeing how you can work more on yourself and how you can be better. This is exactly what they want! Everything has shifted. They are off the hook now. You are probably even apologizing to them. They feel justified for their behavior. They now have nothing to fix, and you go back to doing all the internal work of trying to be perfect.
This is victim role-playing at its best. It is a self-pity party. Blame-shifting, focus-shifting, guilt-manipulating. It has a lot of different names. What I call it, is ABUSE!
So stop accepting all that guilt. It is true that you aren’t perfect. You do say things that you could have said better. You do things that you could have done better. So what? We all do! You are a messy human being, just like the rest of us. And that’s okay!!
However, that does not make it okay for your partner to belittle you. To yell at you. To throw things and intimidate you. To hit you. NO! This is NOT okay. And it is NOT your fault!!