“Mom, I Will Call You Back” How To Deal With Guilt Towards Parents

How To Deal With Guilt

The feeling that you are to blame for your parents can poison your life for years. It doesn’t matter who you are: a father of three children, a successful business woman or a teenager. And it doesn’t matter what exactly you did – broke your mother’s favourite vase (20 years ago), flunked the session (yesterday), did not become a hereditary doctor, or married “the wrong one.” We tell you how to get rid of guilt before mom and dad.

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Guilt Is Different 

To deal with guilt, you need to understand its causes.

Guilt can be real and neurotic. Real guilt follows actual wrongdoing. Neurotic guilt occurs when a person cannot remember a specific episode in which he did something wrong but still feels guilty.

James is 31. Mom and dad love him madly and are very worried about him. It is always essential for them to know where their son is, with whom, what he does and when he will be at home.

One day, fourteen-year-old James went to a concert. Loud music and screaming fans wholly drowned out the phone calls. Seven missed James discovered already in the taxi. His parents didn’t speak to him for a week after that.

Adult James never puts his phone on silent. “My parents need to know that I’m okay.”

James experiences real guilt over and over again. He remembers all his faults and tries to atone for them.

Kristina is 25 years old. Her parents divorced when she was eight. The girl did not need anything: while her classmates wore the sisters’ dresses, she flaunted new clothes from the Children’s World. Mom came home after midnight, fell on the bed and never asked her daughter how the day went. “Maybe it’s all because of me. Mom works so hard to buy me new shoes.”

Adult Christina showers her mother with expensive gifts and never shares her problems with her. She thinks she must be the perfect daughter. And she doesn’t know that mom worked so hard because she loved her job.

Christina is tormented by neurotic guilt. The girl is trying to make amends for something she never did.

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How To Deal With Guilt

Where To Begin?

Admit You’Re In Pain

Ask yourself: what exactly are you feeling? Try reflecting on your experiences in writing or in conversation with loved ones. And remember: you have the right to any feelings, even the most “ugly”.

James is used to pretending that everything is okay with him. “Why complain about my parents? They raised me, they didn’t even beat me …” But one day, in a conversation with a friend, he broke through: “Imagine, they were offended that I did not respond to their congratulations on WhatsApp! Happy first day of spring, man. Enough! For once, remember that I have my own life. At that moment, James realized that he was offended by his parents. Also, it feels irritating.

Reenact Situations In Which You Felt Guilty

Remember how you were a little guilty before mom or dad. How did your parents react? How would you like them to respond? Give yourself everything you lack: say the right words, pat on the head, wipe away tears and feed delicious.

Little Christina tore off the neighbour’s flower bed to give her mother flowers. The girl so wanted her mother to be delighted and thank her! However, she heard a cold response: “I hope Aunt Lyuda didn’t notice anything.”

Adult Christina runs into the flower shop to buy roses for her mother’s birthday. She goes home at once with two bouquets: one for her mother and the other for little Christina from the past. Thanks for the beautiful flowers! You wanted the best, she thinks.

How To Help Yourself?

Take Your Eyes Off The Parent For A Few Seconds

Look, for example, at a corner or at a wall. This way, you can take your mind off the situation and give yourself a little break. By the way, about breathing. Take a deep breath and exhale.

Treat Yourself Like A Friend

Imagine that a loved one was in your place. You probably would not blame him even more, but you tried to calm him down and say something meaningful and good. Support yourself the way you would support him.

Use The Responsibility Pie Technique

Imagine responsibility for the situation in the form of a pie. Think about what, besides your actions, influenced the course of events. Ask yourself: what exactly am I not guilty of? Every factor outside your area of ​​responsibility is a piece of the pie.

James agreed with his parents that he would visit his father’s birthday in the suburbs. But everything needs to go according to plan: the client requires an urgent report, and the roads are covered with snow. While James is stuck in a traffic jam, mom calls and says reproachfully: “Well, you can’t even come to your father for the holiday on time! And he’s looking forward to it…”

At first, it seems to James that he is again to blame for everything. But the “Responsibility Pie” helps to look at the situation in a new way. Two pieces can be given to the client and Moscow public utilities. Parents will also receive their part: dad refused to postpone the holiday for the weekend, and mom insisted that guests come to the country house.

How To Be With Your Parents?

Ask yourself two questions.

What do I want from a parent?

Imagine that your relationship with your parents has become perfect. Try to describe them. What do and what don’t your relatives do? And you? How do you feel about it?

Think about how realistic your desires are and formulate a minimum achievable goal.

James does not want to talk to his parents on the phone five times a day, reporting what he ate and what he did. But the parents controlled the son all his life. They probably will continue doing it. Here it is worth starting with a compromise. For example, arrange to call once a day, at a specific time – convenient for James.

Can we communicate?

Watch how your relatives build communication. Suppose most conversations are a formal exchange of news and mutual “everything is in order”. In that case, it will be challenging to talk about what worries you.

Christina replays several conversations with her mother in her head. Her mom asks how her project is at work. But mom is wondering if they managed to get tickets for the performance that Christina so wanted to see. The girl understands that her mother is interested in her life much more than she used to think. So it’s worth having a frank conversation.

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How To Deal With Guilt

What Are We To Talk About?

Neutral Themes

If confidential conversations are not accepted in your family, start with neutral topics. Talk about interesting things to you and your parents, but do not create controversy. Remember what questions usually annoy your relatives, and try to get around them.

James still arrives before dad’s birthday. The guests gradually disperse, and he is left alone with his parents. James tells his mother he decided to learn to cook and asks her for a family pilaf recipe. “How do you make it crumbly? I can’t do that!” Mom gradually softens and takes out an old cookbook.

Your Emotions

Try to share your emotions. Talk about exactly how you feel. Do not criticize relatives’ behaviour, even if it causes your feelings.

One day, Christina mustered up her courage and said, “Mom, I’m so sad that I can’t always help you! I feel so guilty.” At first, the woman is lost, but then she replies: “What are you doing! You are not to blame for anything. You are the most amazing daughter. I love you”.

What Will We Do Next?

Suggest a constructive solution. Parents can agree with him, ignore or refuse. This is their right. The main thing is to openly express your position.

Despite all the agreements, James’s parents continued to call him several times a day. James didn’t answer the phone. But he always called back at 20:00 – the hour they chose for family calls. Gradually, the parents calmed down and stopped calling in the middle of the working day. After all, they knew that everything would be discussed in the evening. And one day, James heard: “Oh, son, we can’t talk! We are walking in the park with your mother.

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Passionate mental health advocate providing resources to those in need. Enjoys learning through reading and documentaries. Aiming to promote mental well-being.
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