Blam­ing and sham­ing: an ex­ter­nal de­mand for res­cu­ing

The Taos News - - OBITUARIES - Ted Wiard

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.

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