If you’ve been following me for any length of time, or have read my book Being Well Within: From Distressed to De-Stressed, then you already know how important I believe this question is for achieving the kind of relationships and life balance most of us wish for. (HINT: Note the key wording distinction there – desired outcome vs. what you wish for…wishing, as on the proverbial star, ain’t gonna get you the results you want!)
The question actually has 2 parts:
- It has to identify what you want, not what you don’t want
- It has to be something over which you have control
How does this work? Well, let’s say you feel your parents are being insistent and unappreciative. You’re trying to accommodate their request, right at the moment that you have multiple competing demands on your time such as your career or your children. Instead of getting understandably stuck in resistance (“they shouldn’t be acting like this!”) and resentment (“after all I do for them…”), shift your thoughts completely and think about what your goal is. You would be amazed at the creativity and options that present themselves, that you were totally blind to a minute earlier because you were stuck in your emotional reaction.
Here’s a simple but VERY realistic (and common!) example: Perhaps your goal with your parents in that moment is to get them to an appointment. Shifting your thinking to your desired outcome could give you the mental space to realize that you don’t have to be the one who takes them. Maybe a friend, another family member, or a service catering to seniors can be called in to help out.
Maybe they need some shopping done. Who else might be able to handle this task? Does the store have a delivery service? Or can it be handled online? You might be surprised the services that are available and not all that expensive, especially with major grocery chains increasingly competing on providing enhanced services.
Focusing on your desired outcome will help you remember that you have options, and that includes making requests regarding the way others treat you. My husband has a favorite saying: “While I may not do things for gratitude, I surely don’t do them for attitude.” You’re allowed to let people know (including your parents) that if they would like your help, then you would like them to speak to you with respect. If they cannot do that, then someone else can help them out (yes, that’s how much you matter too! And you CAN assert your request without being a terrible, horrible, very bad person).
[Note: If standing up for yourself like this feels too challenging, then I encourage you to click the link at the bottom of the page and schedule a complimentary consultation with me – I’m very confident I can help you make a change in this area, even if you’re extremely doubtful!]
We all want to provide loving, attentive care to our parents when called upon to do so, and we have a right to expect that we can do that without feeling guilt and shame…and whether we feel those things or not is totally within our control…And we BREATHE!tm Yes, changing your behavior takes courage, and I know that guilt feelings will pop up as you even consider making any of the changes I’ve described in these four articles. Take heart – that’s normal. Fortunately, guilt and shame are feelings and it’s not our feelings that get us into trouble, it’s our actions.
Your feelings of guilt and shame will not dissipate if you fail to examine your view of your parents, your concerns about others’ views of you, and whether you’re giving in to unreasonable demands and sacrificing too much.
But the feelings will stick around and interfere with taking care of yourself, your spouse and/or your children later. So whenever you get stuck in those feelings, go back to the top of this article, and ask yourself again: “What is my desired outcome?”
When feelings come up in the moment, remember that guilt and shame imply that you are doing something wrong, but making changes does not mean you are doing something wrong. You are simply doing something differently… and we breathetm through the urge to go back to that old, familiar, but self-disempowering pattern.
Also remember that just because someone says something doesn’t mean we have to respond to it. Don’t let your parents “play you like a violin,” if that’s your pattern. For example, when you’re struggling in the moment to figure out how the heck you’re going to provide for a particular need, and your parent says with an air of defeat that they’ve “just lived too long,” it can really just be their way of expressing their own frustration at the situation they find themselves in. It doesn’t mean that you’re failing them. So don’t take it personally!
Yes, it’s hard to hear, especially when they sound anxious and distressed. And it’s tempting to jump in to console and deny their feelings and thoughts, but that’s really not necessary! Just be compassionate and let them know you understand. You can acknowledge their frustration and angst without having to then give in to their “demands with attitude.”
Remember also to enlist the power of The 3 P’s: Practice, Patience and Perseverance. And if you need additional support, please click HERE for a 30 minute free consultation. I know what you’re going through, and I really am here to help!