Guilt Trip

by Raymond Moody, M.A.

Do you ever get phone calls from an unknown number and cringe because you know it is probably a person on the other line trying to sell you some exclusive vacation deal? I get those calls all the time and sometimes I even answer the call because I think the number looks remotely familiar or I am worried that it may be someone who actually knows me and is trying to get a hold of me. What do you do when you answer one of those calls but you have no interest in taking the offer they are suggesting?

I take a number of different approaches to turning the caller down and some of them are more effective than others. In some situations I just say I am not interested and hang up the phone. This ends the pitch in the moment but they usually call back another time. I have found that it can be more effective if I listen to the caller for a minute and politely decline and ask the caller to remove me from whatever call list they have so that I am not called again in the future. By now, you are probably asking yourself what does this have to do with REBT? I am glad you asked.

When we get calls like these we often do a number of quick calculations that help us come to the conclusion that this vacation is something that we are not interested in taking. We do not recognize the number or know the person on the other line so we discount their authority. Just because they say the vacation is perfect for me or is a once in a lifetime opportunity does not make it true. We may think about our finances and know that a spur of the moment vacation isn’t in our budget. And, we look at all the things we don’t know about the trip or destination and realize this may be a horrible idea in reality. The point here is that just because someone is offering us a trip doesn’t mean we have to take that trip. This can also apply to guilt trips.

When things don’t go the way someone else wants they may try and make us feel guilty for not acting in the way they expected. It may be tempting to condemn ourselves for not taking another person’s suggestion especially when the outcome of our actions isn’t what we wanted. We can avoid feeling guilty by disputing the beliefs that are responsible for that guilt. For example, we can question our beliefs about the demands other people are making and we can question the beliefs we have about ourselves when we don’t follow others expectations. Using the skills of REBT, when someone tries to send us on a guilt trip we can avoid taking that trip we never wanted.

Ray Moody



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