If you think that by now you have become a master of shame inductions, you should be ashamed of yourself. We’re now going to take this business to a whole new level; take heed: You haven’t truly mastered the language of shame, if you can’t also induce guilt.
While the experience of shame is based on you facilitating someone’s realisation what a [insert your well-crafted judgment] they are, without any hope for improvement, the feeling of guilt comes with the belief that they have done something wrong but have the power to change or make up for it.
This is particularly fruitful territory for us, as we can quickly turn this sparkle of hope into an illusion by squashing it right after the guilt induction. Guilt on its own is nothing but a simple folk song, but guilt and shame combined create an emotional symphony.
Have you ever made a mistake and the affected friend, spouse or co-worker looked at you with sad puppy eyes and slumped-over shoulders? Thus making you feel all the hurt you have caused them by not cleaning their coffee cup along with yours. If you then tried to apologise or make up for it they would indicate that ‘it’s okay’, whilst their tormented expression painted a different, Edvard Munchian picture.
Consequently, you felt like the pathetic piece of an excuse for life that they wanted you to know you really are?
All you could think about was how bad you have been and how you would give both of your kidneys and liver to make up for such idiocy. Also, you refrained from inviting them to your boring BBQ networking events ever again. Learn from these alienation masters!
Now, how do we get there?
Luckily, even though guilt comes in a wild and confusing array of shapes and forms, its underlying structure is quite simple:
Person (A) does/says something, person (B) insists that by doing/saying so, (A) has caused them to suffer. (Notice, how in the area of shame induction we judge the person as a whole, while here we judge a specific behaviour – at least at first)
1) The setup
It’s a Saturday afternoon and you just had coffee with your spouse. Your dishwasher is broken and your partner had promised to fix it this week but didn’t bother (or was it due to their doctor’s appointment? Oh well, they are a lazy sloth anyway – see shame inductions).
2) The opening gambit
In this step you hand over responsibility to the other person.
During coffee you remark how annoying it is that everything has to be washed up by hand. Your partner empathically agrees not quite getting the hint just yet. You show them your battered hands and moan how you really wish it’d be working again soon and leave a meaningful pause. Aha! Your partner quickly glances at their watch and announce that they will get the spare parts and fix the machine today.
This was too easy.
3) Guilt Induction
Here you get the guilt ball rolling, preparing it to turn into a giant globe in step 4 and 5.
A few minutes later and your spouse is just about to rush out. This opens up a fantastic opportunity for us:“I’m off to buy the spare parts now. See you in an hour or so.” “Darling, can you quickly help me with washing the dishes, please?” “…” (taken by surprise, touché!) “What’s up?” (as innocently as you can) “I’ve got to leave the house before the shops close. Can’t we do this later tonight and maybe we don’t even have to wash anything by hand if I can fix it?”
What seems to be an attempt for a constructive solution on the surface, our well-trained ears quickly decipher as conflict avoidance and lame excuses. You let them know that if they don’t want to add yet another crippling ulcer to your collection they’d better oblige. Passive-aggressively you sigh:“Ok…, I guess!”
Should they now leave the house they won’t do so without an acute sense of guilt. Well done! You have just planted a seed and now have time to prepare for their return.
4) Adaptive Escalation Strategies
Here are two possible emergency scenarios and their solutions that will help you to quickly turn lemonade into lemons:
- In the event that they do in fact stop, help you wash the dishes and miss the opening hours, you can then later complain about the machine not working still.
- If they do make it on time and commence to fix the dishwasher, you can point out how insensitive they are for being busy on a Saturday evening, when couples should spend their time together doing nice things.
(Undoubtedly, professional alienators have already spotted another formidable tactic buried within this step – the double bind. We will revisit this trick in a later chapter.)
The final blow; in this step you communicate all the agony they have caused you. Whatever you do, under no circumstances should you be resting when your spouse returns – this would suggest that you are able to achieve a state of self-generated comfort.
On the contrary, your goal is to ablate any responsibility from your mind and implant it into your spouse’s. Hence, they must find you in a worse position than when they left you (alone with the dishes).
Best to retain some particularly greasy ones and when you hear them return start to clean desperately with a distressed face. No words need to be spoken here – a look of helpless reproach is all you need. Add broken dishes, fake sweat, grease on your expensive blouse etc. at your discretion.
If you have completed step 5 successfully you have just earned 100 alienation stars. Soon your spouse will wonder what’s wrong with them for being unable to conduct a functioning relationship. Well, shame on them! This self-doubt is fertile land for our shame seeds of part 1.
Here are three additional quick-fire guilt inductions that will help you to dissolve even the strongest of relationships with ease:
- Burn your motivational self-help literature and adopt a victim mindset! Whatever misfortune happens to you, it must be someone else’s fault – after all you wouldn’t have chosen such misery for yourself, would you?
- Conditionally link an highly regarded quality to an outcome of your (arbitrary) choice: “If you [really loved me / were a good friend / were serious about your job etc.] you would [wash the dishes / rob that bank with me / leave your family behind etc.]”
- Apply the following principle for raising your children or managing your team alike: “If you had only [insert random behaviour] we wouldn’t be in this situation now” (and I didn’t have to punish you (for your own good))”
Practice before the next chapter on “Unsolicited Advice”. If you apply these techniques accurately your social circle should shrink in size by at least 20 %. Only then are you ready to move on to the next alienation strategy.