Growing up, there were certain foods on the menus that my mother cooked for us. Some were my favourites. Ackee & saltfish (when she could afford the latter), curried chicken served with rice and peas and of course, oxtail and beans. Jamaican cuisine, if I may say so, is quite enticing and these dishes are among the best tasting. However, there were other side dishes on my mother’s menu. The one that would stay on my palate for ages was guilt.
Mind you, she was not a Catholic but my mother was well versed in dishing out guilt. “Catholic guilt” is a term used to identify the supposed excess guilt felt by Catholics and lapsed Catholics.” You can read more about that on Wikipedia. As for my mother, somewhere in her mind she thought that it was her duty to feed me a diet heavy with all the things that I was indebted to her. My childhood story has been shared in part before but if you missed it you can check it out here.
Until my 43rd birthday, I was caught in a guilt trap, crafted and ensnared by my mother. Please do not read this as another person shifting responsibility for her life on bad parenting. That would be jumping the gun and coming to the wrong conclusion. The contrary is true.
Having been emotionally trapped for years, feeling that I owed my mother:
- My life
- Every penny that I earned
- My first-born who would be in service to her and, if he had lived, and every other child that was born to me
- Anything that she wanted, needed or simply envied the neighbours for having.
Invaluable were the lessons learned from paying her every bill for over a decade. Unable to buy some of the essentials that my immediate family needed because of that, I had no savings for my daughter’s college education.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
American novelist and humorist Erma Bombeck, is often quoted on guilt: ‘Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.’ How right she was. For, when you suffer from guilty excesses, you are likely to simultaneously suffer from fear of disapproval, shame, embarrassment, depression, anxiety, and self-downing.” Russell Grieger, Ph.D.
Dr. Grieger was absolutely right, at least in my case. My trap was finely threaded with all of those emotions along with low self-esteem. There was also a lack of self-confidence that I artfully masked with a bravado. I could have won an Oscar nomination were we living in Hollywood.
Many if not all of my relationships – intimate, professional and even several platonic ones – suffered or plain out died. The wounded child in me had no psychological support, adult guidance or spiritual compass to help me heal.
The first window to healing, at least the first that I recognized, came in my mid thirties at a New Thought sanctuary in Kingston, Jamaica. Sawing the lock on my guilt trap commenced as I learned to question the fables told to me. They were ‘stories’ about my responsibility for the downward spiral of my mother’s life and the strong suggestions, demands even, to rescue her.
My healing heated up after we migrated to Canada. Physically separated from her but only a telephone demand away. Things got so bad for me emotionally that I would dread Sundays. Panic attacks ravaged my body and psyche until Monday mornings when the chances of a call from her for that week dissipated.
Through chaplaincy training and later psychological and spiritual counselling after suicide attempts, the trap was finally destroyed. My dark night of the soul brought me light.
It was then that I could honestly, fully and fearlessly live my life – at 44+ years of age. Only then, my mess really became my message. Part of that message is shared with you today. How to destroy any guilt trap you might still be ensnared in.
An essential step in this process is letting go. I have shared several posts on this subject. Check them out here. As well, the book that I am still reading, Care Of The Soul, will help the process along. Buy a copy through this link which will take you to my Amazon Associate page.
Escaping The Trap
Below is a working table that I created to help you (and myself as always) take control of your journey. It will also help you release yourself from any guilt trap – either existing or ones in the making. Feel free to adjust or adapt as you see fit.
Guilt Trap©Identify those who would ensnare you and use these statements to set yourself free. Adjust or adapt as needed.
|TRAP BUILDER||THEIR TOOLS||YOUR FREEDOM STATEMENTS|
|Parents||* You owe me|
* I didn't have the chances but made sure you did
* You are being ungrateful
|"I am grateful for all you have done for me, however, I will be (doing this, going there, unable to ....) for my life, my welfare, etc.|
|Siblings||* You were always the favourite|
* You were luckier than I was
|" You and I know that is not true, that everything that I have today came about from my hard work, etc|
|Spouse||* I need you|
* But, you are my wife/husband
* I have no friends
|"I love you very much and want nothing more than for you to be happy. I want to support you however I can but some things you have to do for yourself..."|
|Employer||* You are salaried|
* So many people are looking for work now, you are lucky to have a job
* You have to be a team-player
|"I am grateful for this opportunity and really enjoy the work we do here together. However, I am also committed to my (family life, integrity, self-respect, personal development, etc)|
As always, should you need further support or to continue the conversation elsewhere, you can contact me through my Facebook page or use my coaching services. Subscribe and receive an update of my weekly post!
Free yourself from guilt, today and forevermore.