I get it. I got a "helping or three" of this too. Luckily my father wasn't having any of it. His one comment about guilt that I can remember at this instant 11 p.m. PDT is "People have hangovers to punish themselves because they feel guilty for drinking too much. You drank. So what. Don't do it if you're going to feel guilty. Or don't feel guilty." I was about 16 at the time. No, I did not drink.
It was a lightbulb moment for me when she led me through it.
Keeping the lightbulb *on*, when facing similar situations, has taken years.
I often feel like an idiot. I think it goes with being conscious and awake. (I just figured out today that one reason the window in my study won't open is that something's wrong with the mechanism on one side--and if I push the flaking-plastic-covered spring-thing sideways, suddenly it works.)
Good luck--been there, done that, the T-shirt was made of hair and itched like crazy.
2009-03-09 06:44 am (UTC)
your posts always make me think, which is no small thing.
i like the "engineering" -- the quantifiable examples/comparison.
as for guilt/manipulation, i have always "loved" when i have been asked (by the guilter/manipulator) "i just want to UNDERSTAND why you [did this, think that, whatever]." makes my blood boil.
Interestingly, when I'm angry for a good reason--and there are good reasons--my neck doesn't get hot. I feel like the top of my head just got lighter. That may not be the same for everyone.
When I'm angry about abstract things, about some kind of injustice to an animal or another person & I'm ultra-sure about it, then I feel like the top of my head sort of lifts up & feelings shine out. This doesn't happen when I'm angry at someone in my personal life - I get too guilted about that, any feelings I have towards someone in my personal life will be way too complex for just feeling my shadow get taller.
This is very interesting, and resonates with my experience. I, too, have been trained to ride in on large white horses in shining armor and Fix Things.
When the Things are purely practical, it's very satisfying for all concerned. When they're systemic, it's usually borne in upon me that I'm allergic to horses, my armor is rusty and missing pieces, and the Things aren't fixable--by me, anyway. Sometimes we can be Paks. Sometimes we're just Don Quixote. We just have to learn to tell the difference.
Also. Mind-reading? Doesn't exist. And even if it did, what would probably show up in the mind of the guilter is a morass of confusion and hurt, in which it would be impossible to identify a single, simple, achievable desire you could address. If someone doesn't really believe they're lovable, taking out the garbage isn't going to persuade them that you love them.
And besides, you took it out the wrong way--you KNOW they always put this sack in the can first, not that one.
I had quite a bit of the "The children in [insert 3rd world country here] would LOVE to have the food you're throwing away" and other such things that only ever annoyed me. I read behind them the "I want you to eat everything on your plate" so would do as requested.
After becoming a parent and reading copious books and magazine articles and newsletters from the pediatrician, I got a better handle on the feeding habits of small people. I also heard the stories behind my mother's admonitions to eat everything on my plate. The questions "did you have enough?" rather than "did you enjoy your food?" was an indicator to me that, when growing up, Mom didn't always have enough to eat. The attempted guilting suddenly made sense, and I stopped worrying about it, accepting that those turns of phrase were in her standard lexicon and no longer held that meaning to me.
Learning how to accept people's personality differences (whether they manifest in actions or words) has been very difficult or me. I have had to do similar things to your next-to-last paragraph before responding or deciding whether to get mad or just breathe.
I'm about a decade behind you. Generalized guilting by manipulation, yes, been there (my mother, though a wonderful woman in many ways, had a tendency toward passive aggressive). This is one of the reasons I found Atlas Shrugged so appealing when I read it in college: it said to me that no one has the right to ask you to be less than what you are, or to demand that you live your life by their rules, and I needed to hear that. It took me years to see that the book and its philosophy had failings in the other direction.
Don't get me started on that @#$% children's picture book about the Rainbow Fish, whose message is that everyone has the right to ask for pieces of you and you're selfish and stuck-up and deserve to be lonely if you refuse.
And I was amused by your engineer mother explaining, in grueling mathematical detail, why you couldn't have a horse. My lawyer father taught me more than an 8-year-old needs to know about zoning laws to explain why we couldn't keep a pony in our suburban back yard.
I missed the Rainbow Fish, thank goodness. (In the context of a world in which some people let fish eat the dead skin off their feet, it sounds particularly horrible.)
Thank you for this!! I, too, have spent much time in my life trying to fix things. I'm learning boundries, and am currently trying to find/build good boundries at work. Not always the easiest thing, but it's a good goal and I'm glad to be working on this.
Although for the first 6 months of my job almost anything I did seemed to be rescuing the department from the chaos of my predecessor. He was a likable guy, but just didn't have the organizational or long range planning skills.
If you're being paid to Fix This Mess, then that's an appropriate task (I would think)...but you're not being paid to fix the psychological quirks of everyone else in the office (well, not unless you're a professional in the field called in to Fix This Mental Mess.)
I have been in situations where one of the other people's psychological messes impeded the fixing of the mess I was assigned to fix, and that's when I have to be very careful not to say (for example and choosing something entirely wrong for the situation--names and diagnoses changed to protect everyone) "A good therapist could help you with that paranoia, er and while you were gone to the therapy, the rest of us could reorganize the office..."
You might enjoy the book Conscious Discipline by Rebecca Bailey. It is ostensibly a behavior-management text for teachers and caregivers of young children; it also manages to be a primer, in simplified lay language, on the effects of what I think psychologists call "framing" on interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions, including a greal deal of discussion & example on how guilt & blame impair useful interaction even when blame is "justified"; and alternative approaches which are demonstrably more effective. She does cite scientific sources in support, particularly where she talks about biochemistry; though I'd've liked to see more research support, many bookos of this sort don't offer any, so it's a step in the right direction.
That sounds interesting. I've become joined at the hip with Pryor's _Don't Shoot the Dog_ for behavior management, but it doesn't deal with the other things you mention. I'll have to look this one up.
I must have the only Catholic mother in the US who did NOT use guilt. My mother is well known for "I don't care why you are doing that bad thing - knock it off. Now." All the "But she - " justifications on our end were met with an icy glare, and we knew better than to push it. (Sullen muttering perhaps, but only at a safe distance.) Pretty much everything rested on the granite foundation of "The rule is..." and "I told you..." No guilt, though.
My mother-in-law was a champion guilter, including reaching out from the grave. My in-laws were married and divorced to each other 5 times. She never forgave him for finding happiness with someone else on the 6th trip to the altar. As she lay dying, my mother-in-law guilted her youngest daughter into ordering the headstone bearing her maiden name (which she hadn't used in 45 years). When it was installed there was instant uproar among the siblings (except my husband, who rolled his eyes).
I heartily concur with concept of boundaries. Once my husband got his firmly established he was a much happier guy.
Your mother and my mother would have gotten along, at least on that score.
Boundaries are great once you get them...getting them can be arduous. It took me *so blinkin' long* to realize that I was screwing things up (and didn't know why.) Pure intelligence does not, by itself, produce wisdom.
Were we cloned? Are you my long lost cousin?
I was raised to be a professional doormat. Everyone's wants, feelings, sesibilities, nerves, etc were much more important than my own. And Oh, Yes, please do walk all over me rather than take a chance of getting you angry.
Very glad I grew out of it even though my big sister threw a screaming hissy fit in the middle Waldonbooks when I didn't roll over as say kick me instead of asking the manager why he didn't have a copy of my first book when he had 6 copies of #2
, 3, and 4 and he replied. "We sold them all. Was I supposed to reorder?"
I trust your sister has learned better and now lets you visit bookstores alone....
What you say brings to mind the time that my aunts cornered me to say that I was depriving my parents of grandchildren because I wasn't married. I resisted the urge to comment that the second was possible to achieve without the first, and to remind them of the many miscarriages that one of them had had before she managed to carry one child to term.
Oh, lord, the people who guilted us about not having children (we were struggling with infertility and did not want to explain to every member of my mother-in-law's church, my mother's accountant, etc., all the medical details--it was none of their business anyway.) Speaking of boundary violations...
My mother, whom I love dearly, is nevertheless a certified travel agent for guilt trips. She knows my buttons, she pushes them any time it pleases her, and these days I am getting better at squirming out from underneath the guiltload that follows but by the same token I'll be *46* this year so you might say that it took me long enough to learn. Before that, I would be in tears - a lot - on the basis of a simple phone call or a craftily throwaway sentence that would send me into a flat spin.
The kicker in my case was the classic coda of "I only do/say these things because I *love* you".
There is no way of responding to that which doesn't somehow negate a mother's love for her child. This is guilt on top of guilt, guilt a la mode served with a topping of guilt, guilt squared, guilt magnified, guilt focused to a laser beam that *burned*.
Still. Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It's ALL material.
I confess that though my mother has been dead since October 5, 1990, I still feel twinges of guilt when I don't live up to her standards...housekeeping, for instance (though I did clean a window today...whoopee!)
But you have my sympathy.
Hmm so this is where Kylara's so-called "lost puppy" habit came from...
Have you ever had a chance to work with dolphins?
No. And I discovered that I'm not as good a 'shaper' as many--my reaction time for reinforcing desired actions (or components thereof) isn't fast enough. I was actually better with our son, whose "wiring" has a slower bus speed (as it were) so that I could time the reinforcements precisely enough. So I wouldn't try to work with dolphins (or set up as a trainer of anything, really.) I'm fairly decent with horses who have minor problems (won't take the bit, are confused about what's wanted) but not expert by any means. I understand the process thoroughly--it's the execution that gives me trouble.