Recently I heard someone say, "Peace only happens when everyone stops to reload." In many relationships where false guilt is common, this saying could feel very true. Have you ever been accused of something that’s not true? Have you ever told someone, “How can you say that? You don’t even know me." Have you felt that someone you married, had children with, or who has known you for years, still doesn’t really know you? They may know partially your history, your challenges, the challenges you’ve had to overcome. They may know the life you’ve led, the path you took, and even the choices you made that resulted in where you are today. But no one can really know us as well as we know ourselves; our character, our truth.
Someone can make demands and have unrealistic expectations placed upon another (friends, family, even employers) that they should “know" what is hurtful to them, what triggers them, and what makes them want to fight or push back. Notice I said these are “unrealistic expectations" because no one can really meet all of your expectations. Even when we look at ourselves we can have unrealistic expectations because knowing doesn’t always translate into doing. We don’t do for ourselves the good things that we know we should. We eat the wrong things, drink the wrong things, say and do the wrong things. So, knowing who we are doesn’t necessarily mean doing what’s best for us. If we can’t get ourselves to behave, how can we have an expectation that others would behave better than we do ourselves? When we give ourselves grace and deny it to others, we can accuse others of being uncaring, insensitive to our feelings, and even destroy, harm, and murder them all because of unmet expectations that demand agreement and compliance. This is manipulative and it is abusive.
I'm guilty of a decision I haven't made,
in response to an event that hasn't even happened.
False Guilt makes us wonder what we did wrong. We replay the situation, the accusations, and question our memory as if we got the story wrong. When the accusation holds more power than the truth it can be mind-blowing. We can apologize and take responsibility for the lie even knowing it's not true but feeling like it's the only way to stop the painful attack on our character. After a while, we begin to believe that the accusations are true and fall into shame filled despair. This is what it feels like to be bullied.
The way we overcome this type of abuse is to not listen to the lies and don't accept them as your responsibility. When someone brings you a lie you can try to persuade them to the truth. But when others insist their perspective (even if it's a lie) is truth, all you can do is walk away. This is a battle you won't win, and you will be the one left emotionally bloodied and beaten up. A client shared that he looks at handling this form of confrontation by comparing his response to finishing a chapter in a book, "If I try to re-read it, it's going to be the same. The same words, the same story, the same experience. Nothing changes. I need to close that chapter and move on."