All those who care for children, elderly or unwell family members know too well that this can be a 24/7 job that is mostly unpaid and has no sick leave or holidays. Being a carer can involve shopping, housekeeping, providing transportation, feeding, bathing, toilet assistance, dressing, walking, coordinating appointments and medical treatments, and managing the finances of those in our care.
Women are more likely to be in a carer role both at home and at work, although men do as well.

Caring Is An Act Of Devotion

Our caring mostly comes from our love and devotion for those we are caring for.We want the best for those we’re caring for and to make their life easier.  What often doesn’t get addressed is the great physical, mental and psychological drain that comes from constant care.  If this isn’t balanced with self care, over time it can develop into burnt out, with increasing feelings of frustration and resentment. This can then swing into terrible feelings of guilt and shame for having those feelings.

Carer Burnout vs Carer Guilt

Those who have experienced burn out often describe feeling exhausted and disconnected. That sense of going through the daily motions of what is expected of them without feeling any motivation or meaning. A kind of deadening of the senses.

The thought of saying ‘No’ and setting some boundaries around their caring can trigger a guilt spiral. Carers often feel that they are unable to choose, that both create stress in their lives. That feeling of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Where Does The Guilt Come From?

Fundamentally, guilt is an issue around self-acceptance. Many of us learnt in our growing up that there were certain behaviours we had to do in order to be accepted and loved. If these weren’t adhered to we risked disapproval which could result in the withholding of love.
Over time we internalise these messages and put the same undue pressure on ourselves because we believe we are more acceptable and loveable when we give in a certain way or behave in a certain way.

Breaking The Guilt/Resentment Swing With  Compassion

In order to circuit break the guilt/resentment swing you may want to start by identifying which behaviours you learnt around your own giving and receiving.

What were the beliefs that operated around this for you?

Take time to reflect on how you would compassionately attend to your own physical, mental and psychological needs in the same way that you do for those you care for?

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you able speak your deepest truth with compassion and care, even if it receives disapproval or disappointment?
  2. If you could how might that look, sound or feel?
  3. What support would you need?
  4. Are you able to feel the guilt in saying ‘no’ and say it anyway. To set a boundary and deal with the guilt it may bring up? What support might you need around this?

Carers Who Receive Care Are Better Carers

It’s good to remind ourselves that when we’ve taken rest and replenished ourselves, we are better able to give care. Restoring our inner resources helps us manage our stress better and to be more present to those we care for. Resentment and anger are often signals that we’ve given beyond our resources. Our inner coping resources are depleted and we’re started to feel the effects of that.

Self-care is not selfishness but including ourselves in the whole picture around giving and receiving care. The person who counts on another for assistance needs the carer to remain in the best possible health and a flexible, nurturing state-of-mind.

Loving The One That Feels the Guilt

Here’s a little exercise on dealing with your feelings of Guilt.

Next time you notice feelings of guilt arise try holding those feelings of guilt in an awareness of curiosity.

  1. Imagine holding the one who feels the pain of guilt in your arms and comforting her/him. Perhaps they are feeling afraid that saying ‘No’ will make them unacceptable or unloveable. Can you recognise where this may come from in your  own life?
  2. So as you hold that inner part in your arms, allow them space to simply be in the discomfort of any guilty feelings. Simply breathe into the discomfort without getting too caught into the content.
  3. It’s time to create a new neural pathway that opens up your choices. It’s time to consciously choose self talk that affirms that you’re loveable just as you are and it’s okay to reach out for help. To ask for support around your own self care.

When we can face our guilt, feel it and not try to run away from it, but embrace it, we open ourself to choices that are self-loving and empowering. When we can acknowledge the one inside who is struggling with guilt and embrace her/him with our compassion and acceptance we can transform them.

I leave you with a beautiful piece by Jeff Foster.

Guilt as a sweet companion.
Guilt as a fragile child needing your love.
Guilt as an ally on the road.

You are not controlled by guilt anymore,
when you are willing
to feel it.

Love and Best wishes

Shushann xx

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