Guilt: I Can Live Without It

upside down photo of a woman

J3 E1 ~  So I’ve been doing counseling for some time it’s been about a month. I have been learning that I harbor a lot of guilt! I understand now more about where the guilt is stemming from. It comes from being part of a family that creates drama and trauma. I am now seeing how I engage with it. l am struggling with learning how to let go of the guilt and teach myself that I am okay without it. 

The guilt that I’m most resonate with is a combination of parental guilt, vicarious guilt, and manipulative guilt (read the book). But mostly self-punitive guilt! I most notice my vicarious guilt when I find myself apologizing for my partner. It’s different from the example in the book: apologizing for the drunk behaviors your partner demonstrated at a social event. My partner never embarrassed me by drinking. Rather, he would embarrass me by being a Mr. Know-It-All and needing at all the attention on him while annoying everyone else at the party. I would then find myself cleaning up his mess by going back through, apologizing, and make amends for his behavior.

Lesson Learned

But vicarious guilt goes both ways which is a painful but needed lesson to learn. My partner would have to apologize for my drunken behavior because I would get out of control from drinking too much at social events. I would get distracted, loud, obnoxious, and needy very, very, very, needy. Because of my neediness amplified by my drunkenness, I decided to stop drinking as often, and to drink way less! I don’t want to be avoided by my friends.

So far this year, it has been really helpful with what I am learning about feeding my soul versus feeding my ego. This summer season is going to be the true test. It’s going to let me know if I fall into the drinking category again or if l’m going to build myself up and keep moving on and living my dreams. Feeding my ego – drunk, or feeding my dreams – soul. 

So I guess that would also point to manipulative guilt. I will no longer be manipulated into taking responsibility or making excuses for a loved one. I do this with my brother and my mother mostly. I also do it with my father and I did it all the time with my ex-husband. My entire life, I have let them manipulate me into feeling bad to control my behaviors and actions. It creates resentment because I am not living my life!


It has been extremely difficult over past few years to learn about myself. I have grown tremendously, all on my own. But without therapy, I stopped growing.

I stopped growing because I didn’t know how to forgive myself for always acting out and I don’t know how to forgive myself for allowing other people to take full advantage of me.

The biggest way I let people take advantage of me is by me giving them money and paying off their debt first, instead of taking care of myself and or my own debt. 


As a young child I always thought that I had to protect my mom and my brother, but mostly my mom. She said that my brother was never there to protect her. I also remember that she always had abusive bastards or junkies in our lives. They would either steal from us, do drugs in front of us, cause harm to themselves, and brake windows. I remember when we called the cops and the cops would say, “Well he lives here. You have to let him in.”

 I also remember my mother looking the other way when my brother decided to start doing drugs. My mom looked the other way because she knew she didn’t have control. In a way, I am happy that she over-controlled me a whole lot more because I would have ended up just like my brother, or even worse. 


I know how much little self-love I have. I love me. I just don’t love me as much as I love everybody else. Why is loving everybody else so much more important to me? Is it because I feel good when other people feel good? I know that is a very unhealthy attachment style. I guess I keep doing it because I like how it makes me feel! 

As a young child I went through many types of trauma. I believe that my mom projected her childhood trauma onto me. I understand. Not that it’s okay, but I understand now why she is the way she is. But at the time, I didn’t understand what was happening. Some of her motives were to control me to protect me. But her way was to guilt and manipulate me into feeling bad. Then I am bad. But her behaviors often backfired and I rebelled. I did exactly what she didn’t want me to which made her more angry and more controlling.

My Mindful-Practice

As an adult, I am learning to develop self-worth and not let anyone take that from me again. I am practicing a different way of being. Feeding and nurturing my soul.

Published by Cleveland Emotional Health LLC Network of Private Practices

Catherine is a licensed mental health counselor located in Geneseo NY and the author of the mental health series Philosophical Processing Journals 1-5. Check out her author page on Amazon. See links below.

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