13 thoughts on “How Toxic Guilt and False Responsibility Keep You in Dysfunction

  • November 26, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    I have spent years in therapy, 15 to be precise. This article has resonated with me in such a powerful way. Thank you so very much. I will read this article daily. It makes perfect sense and I now have such a clear understanding of the codependent relationship that I was entangled in.

  • November 27, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you Darius for putting responsibility where it belongs. On the shoulders of the caregiver or parent of a child. A child is not responsible for the treatment they receive. An adult is responsible for their internal world and feelings and behaviors and is responsible for becoming a better person. Every child deserves unconditional love, safety while exploring their world, and the space to be themselves and have it reflected back as ok. Someone has to take responsibility for protecting a child from abusive behavior, it can’t just be swept under the rug in favor of showing false compassion to an abusive caregiver. Society has taught so many people how to enable abusive behavior and call it compassion. As a pre teen it must have been obvious how severely neglected I was physically and emotionally by my single mother, but she had parentified me by then to take care of her and her other children and I heard an endless chorus of voices at church about how I needed to help her because she couldn’t do it without me. No one ever asked or looked into how I was doing. It was her responsibility to take care of her life, not her 8+ yr old daughter’s responsibility. Plus, it never mattered how much I did anyways. When I was 15, in the middle of one of her verbal rage attacks against me where she kicked/locked me out-again, she screamed at me that I had never been there for her. Past tense. I was still a minor! I learned by age 12 to not go looking for dinner from her. She would slam the saucepan of food down on the burner when she saw me and rage scream at me to not bother eating any of it because I hate everything she makes anyways. See how she blamed me there for HER not feeding her child? Double abuse, crazy! And it wasn’t even true. I was a defeated, self blaming, wounded, forgotten person eventually by age 12. But take heart- I have an amazing story and was determined to survive even if I had to keep playing her games and flying under the radar until I was 17 when I finally got out. If only I had known I was in an abusive relationship, sigh, I could have gotten away emotionally too instead of just physically out of her house. I was unaware of codependancy, false guilt, toxic shame, c-ptsd, covert malignant narcissism, ETC until my 30’s when she was still getting me back for perceived grievances by me as a child and adult, and I finally was able to realize my right to set boundaries for myself. Until then I had been caught in the web of trying to earn her love and my worthiness of it. I took responsibility for the relationship, serving her and her needs even if I didn’t want to, believing “it takes two to tango” if it’s not working. Not true. One person, alone, can destroy a relationship. I felt obligated to not voice my preferences because it upset her and I had been effectively trained to take responsibility for HER feeling displeased with me. I knew to do what she wanted. Or get abused and have absolutely no one believe me even as an adult. I didn’t even use the word abuse for her until my 30’s because the narrative she brainwashed everyone with was how the outside world was responsible for her misery and she was the ultimate victim. I felt compelled to give her false sympathy, aka a pass on abusive behavior. It takes courage and wisdom to call abuse abuse. Thank you for articulating so many of these issues and doing it so well.

  • November 28, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Darius, I cannot thank you enough for this very informative and enlightening post, which has at long last put an aspect of my personality/ dysfunctional behaviors into true perspective. By the time I’d finished reading it, it felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders; a weight that has been there since childhood.

    When I reflect back to when I was around 14 years old when I became aware that something was dragging me down, and throughout my teenage years and far beyond, the heavy burden of responsibility which my mother dumped on me, from blaming me for almost anything that was going wrong in her life and blaming me for my sister’s bad behaviors along with parentifying me, has taken one huge toll. Until today I could not identify with what had happened to me and express fully the impact of it. But…. now I know thanks to you!

    Please never stop writing, because bit by bit you have helped me so much in a way that I am slowly growing towards becoming healthier emotionally and psychologically. I was/am the perfect co-dependent people pleaser who has married three times to narcissists. Unbelievable! My marriages have been a repeat performance of the same old dysfunction with me accepting all the responsibility and meeting their needs but with a different person.

    Of course I came to realize that there was definitely something very wrong, and I have been trying for the last 30 something years to find that something within my self thus, blaming ME for everything along with the narcissist in my life who whole heartedly abnegates all responsibility and does what my mother did to me. Its a vicious cycle but with your help I am breaking into the cycle of guilt, shame and abuse.

    I hail you Darius. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • January 9, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Sylvia,

      Thank you for your kind feedback! It’s wonderful to know that my works have had a positive impact on your life. These things indeed do take a long time to overcome, but slowly it gets better.

      All the best with breaking the cycle, Sylvia!

  • November 29, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    This is an excellent article and right on time for me. I just lost my best friend to suicide and was at a support meeting last night where someone heard me blaming myself for his act
    and, though a total stranger, could detect a self-blaming theme running through everything. My friend and I had been best friends for 36 years, for most of which I was also serving a caregiver role that was necessary for health reasons, but in his case was never appreciated and often flipped into a passive aggressive scapegoating pattern, which was double binding. I am a natural giver and love helping people, and am not motivated by thanks or reciprocity. But when the help is manipulated and then punished, I have no way to escape the trap door.
    And what makes matters worse is being a Christian who tries to follow biblical principles,
    which emphasize selfless service and total forgiveness, which I try to hold to and he used against me. Al-Anon had been somewhat helpful, but this article really isolated the core. Thank you, Darius, for your excellent piece!

    • January 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm

      You’re welcome, Robin! And I’m very sorry to hear about your friend—it’s really tragic 🙁 It’s not your fault, and I hope you’ll feel better soon.


  • December 2, 2018 at 3:08 am

    Great article. Lots of things ring a bell inside. Need to reflect more on it. Thanks again.

  • January 9, 2019 at 3:16 pm


    Great Work! It is so heartening to have therapists and writers like yourself write about and explain toxic shame and where it comes from in your subconscious mind. It took me years to figure out that my programming was messed up and it came from a narcissistic father and a codependent flying monkey mother. Each of your articles have been a great help in making sense of my emotions and helping me healing them. Much appreciated!

  • October 25, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for your insight! I finally understand my own susceptibility to manipulators in all their guises.

    When I was 19 my father committed suicide and I stepped into the void to protect my mother taking on the mantle of “man of the family.” The die was cast and from that point on every woman I had a relationship with was a “damsel in distress” and I became her “White Knight.” I was an easy target, especially for the last (and I mean final!) narcissist who was extremely adroit at “future faking.”

    Over the past year I’ve been piecing the puzzle together on my own but your article completes the picture. Time to live my life!



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