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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Look up the word guilt in the dictionary and it refers feelings that may be experienced when you commit a crime.  Psychologists suggest that the purpose of guilt is to help us recognise when we have done something wrong and change our behaviour or make amends.  I have committed no crime.  Despite this, almost daily I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and I don’t really know why.

Who is judging me? Probably myself.  I have a picture in my head of what a woman of my age should be doing, feeling, behaving.  I don’t really live up to any of these images therefore I constantly berate myself for not being good enough.  But where has this picture come from? Certainly the media – only the other day  watched an advert that featured a woman who was talking about doing 10 things at once like it was a an achievement. Why? Surely if she is doing so many things she is (a) not doing any of the things very well and more importantly (b) not enjoying any of the things.  Yet somehow this is seen as something to aspire to.

It can’t all come from the media though.  Therapists (and I’ve had a lot of therapy) would say that we are affected by what we are told throughout our childhood and if a message is repeated often enough then you will believe it.  I’m not sure I have been told anything that would cause me to feel guilty though: I certainly don’t remember it if I have.  What I do know is that I watched my mum blame my dad over and over for things that he couldn’t do when what I really wanted to do was defend him:  It wasn’t his fault; he was severely ill; why can’t she do more? why can’t she help him?  Instead I did nothing because deep down I knew that she was doing her best.  She was tired and worried.  This was not the life she had planned for.  She was letdown.  Maybe this is what makes me feel guilty.  I also remember thinking that this is not the way I want to live; when I grow up I’m going to do things differently yet now I am ‘grown up’, I find it’s not that easy. I can’t achieve the prefect life I have in my head.

I guess what needs to be kept in mind is that nobody is perfect.  Nobody can do everything right all the time  The picture that is in my head is a fairy tale and when I’m not up to these standards, I haven’t failed.  I don’t have to feel guilty all the time.

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English: Black bear in the Canadian Rockies

A program like Planet Earth Live is not one that would normally appeal to me; I find the cruelty that is the circle of life difficult to watch.  However, being in the right place at the right time meant I happened to catch some of the action.  The program mainly focusses on young animals and the struggles they and their mother’s face in order to survive.  Whilst I did find this difficult to watch, I was also left with an air of optimism that some of the struggles we humans face as mothers are natural and part of life rather than due to just being inadequate and lazy – feelings which probably underlie much of my anxiety.

During one of the episodes I watched, a black bear mother, relatively new to her role and therefore inexperienced, was seen allowing her babies to climb trees in the snow.  Even I could see that they needed to be warmed up as they were visibly shivering.  When they eventually descended, instead of wrapping them up close to her, the mother seemed to walk off.  It became clear later however, that she was finding a suitable place for them all to curl up for the night and by the morning all three bears were well and warm.  My immediate reaction after seeing that sequence of events was the realisation that being a parent does not all come naturally.  Now, I know that we are told this, but the underlying message that many mothers actually get is that it should be natural.  On the surface all the advice that you are given about feeding and  sleeping are there to help mothers who are inexperienced, yet the sheer amount of conflicting advice between experts seems to actually suggests that you will know which advice is best for your baby!  What if you don’t? Seeing this family of bears made me realise that generally even if you get it wrong to begin with, eventually you will figure it out.

This lead me on to my second eureka moment with these bears: little mistakes will not have a profound impact on a baby forever.  Again, writing this now, it seems logical, but we are so used to people telling us the problems we have are due to our childhood that I have become obsessed with not making a single mistake incase my little boy becomes a ‘damaged’ adult.  Actually, it is not going to have a lasting effect on him if he is too cold between the car and the house or hungry while dinner is cooking or doesn’t get up and go to bed at exactly the same time every day.

Anxiety is a funny thing because it makes you believe things that, logically, you know are not true.  This is because instead of thinking thoughts, you feel them.  When my sons ‘routine’ is disrupted I don’t consciously think “this is bad” but I feel it because I feel sick or tight in my chest.  Through CBT I have begun to learn not to associate these feeling with negative thoughts but it is hard.  So the actions of the mother bear provides evidence to help me prove what I logically thin; helping me to be that little bit less anxious.  Thanks Black Bear and Planet Earth Live!

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