Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

Do You Have a Guilt Tripper in Your Life?

Judith Orloff - Thursday, November 06, 2014

((Excerpt from Dr. Judith Orloff's national bestseller The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being)

Guilt Trippers are world class blamers, martyrs, and drama queens. They know how to make you feel badly about something by pressing your insecurity buttons. They use guilt to manipulate so you do what they desire. They like to see you squirm and throw you off your game. This gives them a sense of power and control.

Guilt can be conveyed with words, tone, or even a glance. Guilt trippers like to play dirty. To get their way, they exploit your desire to please them or be a good person. They often start sentences with, “If it wasn’t for you…” or “Why don’t you ever..?” They’ll talk about life being unfair and compare your efforts with others who’re doing it better. “Why can’t you be more like Buster--he’s so good to his wife and is such a hard worker.” They also remind you of how much they always do for you. After you’ve been guilt tripped, you may feel two inches tall if you believe these people’s crafty ploys.

Are You in a Relationship With a Guilt Tripper? Take This Quiz

To determine if you have a guilt tripper in your life answer Yes or No to the following questions. Then you can use the strategy in this section to protect yourself from being energetically drained by them.

  • Do you know someone who tries to get their way or control you by making you feel guilty? Yes/No
  • Do you know someone who makes you feel “less than” by constantly comparing you to others? Yes/No
  • Do you know someone who acts like an angry victim? Yes/No
  • Do you feel emotionally and/or physically drained after being with someone who is complaining or berating you? Yes/No
  • Do you know someone who you are always trying to please but never seem to do things correctly? Yes/No
  • Results of the Quiz:
    Give each Yes response one point and count up your score.

    Your Score: 0
    Good news! If you answered “no” to every question then it is unlikely that you are in relationship with a guilt tripper.

    Your Score: 1
    If you answered “yes” to one question then there is the possibility that you know a guilt tripper. Be watchful with this person(s) for any other indications and ensure that you address them early in the relationship.

    Your Score: 2
    There is an indication here that you know someone who is a guilt tripper. Make sure you understand all the ramifications and look for any vampire tendencies.

    Your Score: 3
    You are in a relationship with someone who has moderate guilt tripping tendencies. Be very careful of your interactions with them and ensure that you have established good boundaries.

    Your Score: 4
    This person(s) definitely has guilt tripping traits. Be very conscious of their manipulations and their ability to drain your energy. Keep your protection up.

    Your Score: 5
    You have a guilt tripper in your life and chances are this person(s) is also verbally abusive. Can you opt out of the relationship? If not, again set good boundaries and learn the action plan below to protect your energetic well being.

    Action Steps to Deal with Guilt Trippers from “The Power of Surrender”

    1. Surrender the notion that you have to be perfect
    The guilt tripper tends to lose interest if you don’t go for their misguided manipulations. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s human. You don’t have to be perfect or squeaky clean. If you hurt someone or made a mistake, accept that you can’t change the past. But you can make amends when appropriate. Apologize for offending a relative, pay back money owed, or simply convey, “I wish I had been there for you more.” Focusing on solutions instead of wallowing in guilt is a way to surrender to positive forces, rather than succumbing to the pull of negativity.

    2. Surrender guilt with tears
    One physical way to release guilt if you’re fixated on a mistake you made or not meeting someone’s expectations is to cry. Do this when you’re alone or with a supportive person. Tears release stress hormones and help you heal. As you cry, your body expels guilt and tension. This helps you let it all go. Don’t fight the surrender of crying. Let tears cleanse stress from your body.

    3. Know your guilt buttons
    No one can make you feel guilty if don’t believe you’ve done something wrong. However, if you doubt yourself, guilt can creep in. Believing you are doing the best you can in a situation can quell any guilt and bring comfort no matter what anyone says.

    4. Set limits
    Start a conversation positively. In a matter-of-fact tone say, “I can see your point of view. But when you say (fill in the blank) my feelings are hurt. I’d be grateful if you didn’t keep repeating it.” You might make some topics taboo such as money, sex, or personal appearance. Keep the conversation light, don’t go for their bait, and try to gradually heal your insecurities so you don’t buy into their guilt trips.

    Be aware that there’s a difference between healthy remorse and guilt. Remorse is regretting how a situation turned out or how you behaved. Then you can acknowledge the mistake and make amends. You’ll feel genuinely sorry, but you don’t stay stuck there. Guilt, however, is when you become attached to remorse and self-blame, a reverse form of ego where you keep focusing on a “lacking” or a mistake.


    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Guilty and being guilt tripped commented on 25-Jun-2015 06:55 AM
    My cousin is my best friend and I love him, I did a stupid mistake where I got him into trouble with his friends by mistake not knowing what the consequences would be for him, he ended up fighting with a few, and when we spoke about it all he guilt tripped me so bad, he said things that hurt my feelings and made me feel horrible about myself, he even said to my friend that he's gunna do this for a while and not be normal with me so he can teach me a lesson, my cousin is honestly a really good person, he's just a ... drama queen a bit, but no one ever made me feel so horrible in my life... Paragraphs of what's wrong about me, Ita been a few weeks now, he speaks to me normally texting Cuz we're not in the same place now but he's not the same, any advice?
    Anonymous commented on 11-Jul-2015 10:25 PM
    Thanks for the article!

    My mother is currently in a situation where she feels as if she cannot escape without somebodies help. (She disappeared for five years prior to this)

    At the moment, she attempts to guilt trip both my brothers and I. Making suggestions such as, "Lets all get jobs and get an apartment together."

    A few moments ago, she told she felt that I hated her(I obviously don't) because i'm not doing anything to better her situation.

    It's actually starting to frustrate me. :/
    Guilty and Sad commented on 03-May-2016 07:27 AM
    My mother is a classic guilt tripper. Always making my brother and I feel lower than low. We started saying "Pack your Bags" or "CHOO CHOO" to indicate to each other she has us on the express guilt train again. I love her but it is difficult to not lose my patience and tempter when these situations come up. She is always making it seem like she is the victim, just to get her way. Always talking and never truly listening. Always focusing on what I "should be doing" or "never do" - My brother is at the point where he avoids speaking to/seeing her all together to avoid feeling lower than low or sink into a depression. Sometimes I feel like that is the only solution for me as well. I feel bad that ultimately my dad is avoided as well because I don't visit... I'm missing out on him in my life because of this.
    Nikki commented on 22-May-2016 01:23 PM
    My Aunt is a huge guilt tripper. She always manages to make me feel like I'm an absolutely horrible person and that I'm always mean to her and that I don't care about her at all. She loves to complain and to pick out my faults. She came over to the UK to visit me, and during this trip, she has done nothing but complained and has said on multiple occasions during this trip that, had someone warned her about the hassles of the trip, she never would have bothered coming at all. I decided that I was going to try to keep to myself today, in order to avoid saying anything I might regret and in hopes of avoiding any arguments. It didn't work. She told me I was being mean to her and that I had an attitude on my face all day. I told her that I didn't appreciate her mentioning constantly that she wished she'd never come at all and told her that it hurt me (I was crying at this point) and I left so I could cool down. When I finally went back, she tried to shift all the blame onto me. Then, when I was getting upset again and I decided I need to get away and cool off again, she told me that I needed to let her hug me and kept trying even though I was saying no. She accused me of hating her and asked if we were going to be able to talk at all for the remainder of her time here. I told her that depended on her.

    I've tried so many things with her. I've tried explaining myself to her, and asking her if she could change her habits and explained why I don't like it when she says certain things. Nothing ever works because she thinks she never does anything wrong, and it's always everyone else's fault. I don't know what else to do. I love her dearly, I really do, but I wish she would actually listen to what other people say and try to consider that the things she says can hurt other people. Any suggestions?

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