We all experience guilt from time to time. But many of us have a hard time letting go of it and find it difficult to forgive ourselves, even though we may readily forgive others.
It’s important to recognize whether our guilt is true or false. Just because we feel guilty doesn’t mean we are. Feelings aren’t facts. And even if our guilt is “true” — that we’ve morally transgressed — we’re still worthy and capable of forgiveness.
Codependents have underlying internalized shame, which fosters a guilty conscience. They’re especially hard on themselves and may suffer from frequent bouts of unrelenting, false guilt.
Codependency and False Guilt
Codependents are easy targets of manipulation and projection of blame from other people, and they willingly accept it. Many codependents are or were victims of abuse, and the role of victim is familiar and more comfortable than standing up for themselves. In their mind, doing so might risk the other person’s anger or worse, the end of a relationship. They would rather take the blame and feel guilty.
Codependents feel guilty for not measuring up to their perfectionistic, unrealistic ideals. They feel guilty for their negative feelings and thoughts, sometimes including lustful thoughts and feelings. Moral perfectionism, which may have been instilled by religious shaming, can make people unhealthily obsessive about monitoring their thoughts and feelings. Many codependents idealize love and kindness and attempt to disavow and control their anger and unpleasant feelings. The more they try to suppress them, the more self-loathing and negative feelings they create.
Another source of false guilt is the habit of feeling responsible for others. They feel guilty for others’ thoughts and feelings, which are beyond their control. Codependents take this to an extreme and even feel guilty for others’ actions and behaviors. It’s common for abusers to blame their actions on their victims and for addicts to blame their addiction on their partners, who in both cases accept it as true.