"healthy guilt is the emotional core of our conscience. It is emotions which results from behaving in a certain manner contrary to our beliefs & values. Guilt presupposes internalized rules & develops later (in life) than shame....Guilt does not reflect directly upon one's identity or diminish one's sense of personal worth".
Thought of in those terms, feeling guilty would be a healthy response if you believe shoplifting is wrong, but for some reason you do it anyway. You've behaved contrary to your beliefs & values;you've violated your internal rules.
Why do you feel guilty?
While guilt can be a healthy response, toxic guilt is another story. Guilt that you don't process, guilty thoughts that you let churn over & over in your mind, leads to internalized guilt & the sense that you're responsible for things you couldn't possibly be responsible for. This kind of guilt is common for adult children of a parent with BPD. So where does it come from?
*The need to feel you are in control.
A sense of immense responsibility may be a means to feel powerful & in control of a situation where you feel powerless & out of control. For example, a girl feels responsible for her fathers repeated suicide attempts . She may be too young to realize that what her father does is his own choice. She also lives in constant fear because she never knows what she will come home to. Guilt & a sense of responsibility actually may allow her to feel like she has some control over her unstable home life.
*The roles you play, or used to play, within your family.
When you begin to remove your assigned mask, refuse to maintain the charade, or perhaps even speak out to others about your experience, you may feel guilty for violating the pact, albeit silently & implicitly agreed upon, & exposing others.
*Weak boundaries & projective identification.
A parent may unconsciously project her guilty feelings onto her child; in order to avoid feeling guilty, which is common in BPD, it's particularly easy for a child to identify with the projection and feel guilty for the parent. This is called projective identification & here's an example of how it works.
A woman is feeling especially short-tempered & impatient with her young child one day. When the child says "I'm hungry, can I have lunch now?" the woman loses her control & screams "I can't believe how incredibly selfish you are. Can't you see that it's not lunchtime yet?".
The woman is projecting; what she is really conveying is,
"I'm fried. I don't feel like I can handle one more thing, like making lunch, right now. But I must be selfish to feel that way, & I can't accept my own emotions, so I'm going to say they're coming from you, that it's your fault."
The child, who believes what Mum tells her/him & who is trying to understand why she got yelled at for something so logical as requesting food when she was hungry, assumes that
a) she's responsible for her mothers reaction; & b) shes selfish to boot. She incorporates that knowledge & toxic guilt accumulates.
.How I find that guilt works, is that it may not be obvious from just a few incidents, but its more that numerous yet seemingly benign experiences are what actually reinforce your feelings over the course of time.
For example, adult children of BPD parents may come to feel guilty or responsible for having a different perception of reality, copping criticism & accusations (Which I know personally this gets to me when I'm accused of something I know I haven't done or the feeling of not have having done a good enough job, be it from mothering, to how I might even hang my washing, also how I might or might not do things if they're different to the other person.. anything at all that I do basically. I also feel highly criticized from my Mother-in-law, I cannot do anything right no matter what I do).
So it's relentless disapproval by a parent & misplaced blame that can lead to feelings of guilt. If you're constantly hearing you've ruined something, acted inappropriately, that you shouldn't have done something (or should have done something & didn't), that "you always...," you're likely to begin to believe that you're responsible & that you let others down. You may even start to question some of the things you're accused of but somehow you forgot, so convincing is your parents belief is your guilt!
A big YES. 4 years ago I felt for the first time in my life as a parent, that I was no good, a bad Mum..I really doubted myself as a person & before that happened I always had a strong sense of myself .I knew I was doing a pretty good job at the hardest & most important job in the world, maybe not always perfect, but I never strived to be perfect because life is not. It's only now, after having gone to therapy & spending a great deal of time on, that I know this wasn't mine to own. I'm a good mum, I'm just a normal regular everyday mum who loves what she does. Women have enough to juggle without being judged on something that they are not, that is just unnecessary guilt we as women don't need. It's not helpful or useful, It's downright damaging & I know this first hand. Why don't we try to lift each-other up? After-all, We're all in the same boat.
* Finding yourself in no-win situations.
No matter what you do, you're wrong. For example, if you so defend yourself against an accusation, your parent may ask why you're "so defensive," or tell you to lighten up, or to stop being so sensitive. If you don't defend yourself , he may interpret your silence as an admission of guilt & validation of his perception. Either way, you lose.
*Denial & projection.
The borderline parent denies the effect of his behavior & blames you instead. For instance, a parent may make a cruel joke at your expense & when you don't laugh, say, "You don't appreciate my sense of humour. Why are you so serious about everything?" Or a parent, when confronted about her frustrating behavior might project & say something like, "So you think I'm difficult? If you weren't so self-absorbed, you'd see that you're the one who's difficult."
*Having a parent play the martyr card.
You may have heard, or hear, statements such as, "After all I've done for you...," "You don't know all the sacrifices I've made...," "If I had known how you'd end up treating me...," "No matter how horrible you are to me, I'll always love you."
A parent may hold you responsible for a problem & deny affection, offer up the silent treatment or rage uncontrollably until you've confessed or apologized.
Forgiveness does not entail forgetting or denying your experiences, it doesn't mean minimizing or denying the hurt you feel, it means acknowledging the wrongdoing, accepting the associated feelings, & letting go of holding the transgressions against the person responsible. It includes giving up the expectations you held & the beliefs that things should have been different. But no, you don't forget when you forgive. You simply reduce the hold the hurt has over you.
Forgiveness is not excusing or condoning. By forgiving someone, you're not sending a message that the persons behavior was acceptable or that you approve of it. For less significant infractions, you may be able to excuse or condone some things. Forgiveness is the big gun, called into play when you have been deeply harmed in some way. It may seem ironic but it's those who have hurt you the most who may be the best candidates for your forgiveness.
Beliefs about forgiveness are usually messages we gleaned from Grandparents, a teacher, spiritual advisors, friends. But they may not be accurate...
*Forgive & forget
*Revenge is sweet
*Just let it go
*Forgiveness is for wimps, pushovers & codependants; I stick to my guns
*When you forgive you're letting the other person off the hook
*Forgiveness means I'll have to reconcile with the person, & there's no way I'm ready to do that
*Now's your chance. If you don't forgive, you'll regret it when they're gone.
And there are many others..
Reasons to forgive including freeing yourself from being defined by the transgression or your painful, hurt feelings. This in part is what makes forgiveness so difficult. It may seem if you forgive, you'll lose a part of yourself. In a way, you do. But it's a part that you may in fact be better off without since it harbours resentment, grudges, & ill will (sort of like an infected appendix that can burst & harm the rest of the body). Sure those feelings protect you from future hurt, but they also keep you tense & on guard, closed to others & new experiences.
It can also help you to find a sense of peace. With forgiveness you acknowledge that you too are fallible, imperfect, & do the wrong thing sometimes. Forgiveness releases you from the spell of your own negative feelings.
It helps you to get on with your life.
Your energy is no longer sapped by continued reactions to events to the past.
Are you ready to forgive?
It all sounds well & good but how do you know if you are ready? To determine whether or not you're ready to forgive a parent, assuming you decide it's something you want to try, consider the questions that follow. And remember there is no easy formula, these questions are just intended to prompt your exploration of the subject. Keep in mind that you don't have to forgive all at once - you can decide you'll forgive someone for certain things & not others, or that you'll forgive only one or two of the people who were involved in hurting or betraying you.
*Have you ever forgiven anyone in the past? What were the positive & negative consequences of your decision?
*Have you given yourself ample opportunity to acknowledge, feel, & express your hurt, anger, pain whether to yourself, a friend, or therapist?
*Have you forgiven yourself first?
*Is your parent or persons you want to forgive ready to accept any responsibility? (In reality, this may be one of the things you set out to forgive-the person's unwillingness or inability to take ownership
*How will forgiveness help you? How will you feel as a result?
*What's your gut level reaction to forgiveness?
*If you're not ready to forgive now, do you think you might be at some point?
There is no right way to forgive. Prayer, meditation, physical activity, sheer will, or writing (or any other creative form of expression) can help you get started. In addition, write a list of who you want to forgive & especially why, And remember that you can include yourself as well as groups, siblings anybody at all. As you begin to develop an attitude of forgiveness , consider if you want to do it silently or let others know. If you have trouble developing a forgiving attitude that's fine too. Hurt is a big part of who we all are & it may be difficult or impossible for you to forgive. It's better to acknowledge that you're not ready, even that you may never be than to fake it. You will only deny your own feelings that way, which is the last thing you want to do!!!