Blaming and shaming: an external demand for rescuing
The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
I have an adult son who continuously is angry over historical events and blames me for not having a better life. He acts as if he is entitled to have me help support his livelihood, almost as if he is still 14. I’m not quite sure what to do; I did make mistakes in my parenting and feel guilty for not being a better mother, but I tried my best and it seems like it is time for my son to grow up and not believe I should be taking care of him. I guess my loss is that I feel I have lost myself in the process of trying to make him happy. What thoughts do you have on this issue?
Thank you, Dodie Dear Dodie,
Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t believe you are alone with this dilemma.
Every person has something from the past that did not go as they had hoped, or feels someone is responsible for their situation today. At some point, we all have done something that someone else feels was wrong, especially parents.
As a child, you are dependent on caregivers, and when there is discomfort, you reach for your caregivers to make you feel better. The distress may be emotional or physical, such as being afraid, nervous or in pain. As you grow up, more and more of your distress is resolved by yourself. Over time, dependence matures into independence and you separate from your parents.
Sometimes this process is interrupted for some reason. The natural flow of individuation and claiming independence does not occur. Most people do not like to “own” their own discomfort and want to blame an external source for their discomfort and demand that something from outside themselves fix the internal turmoil.
In actuality, taking care of one’s self is the only cure. Blaming and shaming others is a protest, an attempt to get someone to rescue us and remove the discomfort.
The hard part, as a parent, is that you may get caught in enabling your child and trying to rescue them due to your guilt and shame for past behaviors or events. The confusing part is the person that is blaming you and feels entitled to be rescued, is also resentful for the support that you give.
Setting boundaries and making decisions based on your choices will help you to rediscover yourself. You can also start to build a healthy distance, allowing your child to choose to claim their own discomfort and reinforce that nobody else can take care of their healing except them. In this, you can support behaviors that you feel are healthy, while setting boundaries for what is acceptable, allowing you a level of autonomy and health as well.
Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.