You're always fine

The burden of guilt

February 27, 2024 Even Health Season 2 Episode 3
You're always fine
The burden of guilt
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever felt guilt after realizing your actions didn't align with your values? You're far from alone in this emotional labyrinth. Today's heartfelt conversation takes a magnifying glass to guilt – that all-too-familiar self-conscious emotion that can drive us to amend our errors. We peel back layers of our personal stories, examining how guilt evolves through life's stages, and spotlight the poignant 'parent guilty' more commonly known as 'mom guilt' that seems an inescapable of the parenting experience.

As we thread through the chapters, the conversation pivots to the implications of mom guilt on our little ones, revealing the sobering reality that our internal battles can inadvertently sculpt their developing self-identities and life expectations. We'll chat about Kristine's journey through therapy, her quest for self-compassion amidst the chaos, and Theresa's daily struggle with mom guilt – all of it is laid bare. This episode isn't just a narrative; it's a communal space for understanding and speaking about what we often leave unsaid.

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This week’s source notes:
Combatting the feeling of guilt
https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-stop-feeling-guilty
Ending the toxic guilt cycles
https://medium.com/mind-cafe/untwisting-your-thoughts-to-break-the-grip-of-toxic-guilt-a734ccb062e8
Symptoms of a guilt complex
https://www.verywellmind.com/guilt-complex-definition-symptoms-traits-causes-treatment-5115946
Atlas of the heart - Brene Brown

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Speaker 1:

Welcome back to your.

Speaker 2:

Always Fine a space to show up for yourself and embrace the mess that lives underneath. Because, let's be real, it's exhausting always being fine.

Speaker 1:

So grab your headphones and allow yourself to listen, laugh and even cry, because you are not alone, and we aren't always fine, and that's okay. And and, and, and.

Speaker 2:

We are here for another episode of your Always Slide. I'm your host, christine, and I'm Teresa. Today we are tackling the heavy burden of guilt. We all know that awful feeling of the pit in your stomach and your internal voice on repeat telling you you did something wrong. Ready to dive into this complex emotion? Tt? Yes, let's do it. Okay, let's start with defining guilt. Can you read the definition I sent you for everyone?

Speaker 1:

Yes, so the American Psychological Association defines guilt as a self-conscious emotion characterized by a painful appraisal of having done or thought something that is wrong, and often by a readiness to take action designed to undo or mitigate this.

Speaker 2:

Well, why does everything in the APA have to be so wordy, but anyway. So, in other words, guilt is part of what encourages us to play by the rules, which for sure complicates things when you think about whose rules are you playing by? There's the obvious rules like I don't know the law, but then there's societal rules, cultural rules, and then our own internal rules, which, of course, are our values. That internal guilt that we feel that causes so much distress, is present when there's that internal conflict between what you have done, or what you have failed to do, and your values. I mean, let's be real, guilt as an emotion has a lot of power.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh. I mean, this is something I deal with on a daily basis and over time it looks different, right, like as we age, we grow, we age and grow. We never really outgrow guilt, it just looks different. So, for example, before I had kids, I was working in the hospital and I would be faced with picking up extra shifts to help out my coworkers. But that decision to pick up an extra shift would take time away from my husband and I.

Speaker 1:

So there's the dilemma. Right, you have the guilt that I would feel if I didn't take up that shift and help out the people I work with, versus not spending time with my husband. So I no longer work in healthcare but I have kids now and that guilt is there, but it's very different and, I think, much more intense. Like I deal with mom guilt, it's just an entirely different beast. As a mom, you're always putting your kids first, or at least you try your hardest to, but most of the time that means your time spent is either not on yourself, it's lacking with your spouse, there's always somewhere that's lacking and at the end of the day, I'm only one person and I can only be in one place at once, which makes life so difficult when you're trying to do everything you can for the people that you care about.

Speaker 2:

So it's interesting what you just said there about you put your kids above everything, or you try to. I think that, dan's also right, something society has taught us. Like as a mother, you should be selfless. As a mother, you should put your kids above your own. I know we get to this a little bit later to like really flush this out, but I think that is such a dangerous line of thinking and I want to put on any one person. And so I think that kind of brings me to my next point, which is the two components of guilt.

Speaker 2:

And when you start thinking about guilt, you first have to figure out like what type of guilt am I kind of experiencing? We hear so many types, like there's survivors guilt, there is parental guilt, there's moral guilt, and so on and so on and so on. While some sources specifically will like outline four or more types of guilt, I think they boil down to just you, appropriate guilt and irrational guilt. Appropriate guilt is just that it's guilt that is appropriately placed on you, based on a behavior that doesn't align to your values or your morality. When you experience appropriate guilt, we have the ability to do something about it right, so it gives us a chance to make it right.

Speaker 2:

It's that feeling of that wasn't cool. I want to commit to the behavior of growth and changing that behavior with such like apologies or, at the very least, setting the intention to not make that mistake again. Now, irrational guilt that is messy and filled with a lot of wounds and unprocessed crap, and I think that that's exactly where mom guilt starts to fall into, in my opinion. So you have this society telling you that it's kind of appropriate guilt if you're not being the perfect mom, if you will, which wouldn't even know what that is, but I don't know. What do you?

Speaker 1:

think it's not attainable. It's something that you always will strive for. Just speaking from my personal experience as a mom, it's so hard because it's not attainable, but you always want it to be so. It's hard because appropriate guilt would be something. For me, for example, would be telling my kids I'm going to do something, like I'm going to be at your game, and then, for whatever reason, I'm not. I was raised. My dad drilled it into me. You don't tell kids that you're going to do something and then not follow through. I will say he was very good about that. But if, for whatever reason, I don't make it there, it's going to throw me off and I'm going to feel horrible. So if I don't live up to a task that I committed to, I feel very guilty, which I think is appropriate because that's my moral compass, that's what I follow, it's how I was raised and I don't like to not follow through for my kids.

Speaker 1:

Now, what we're talking about inappropriate guilt, which I feel like the majority of mom guilt is inappropriate guilt because we're only one person, we can only be in one place at once. So I would feel both my boys have a game at the same time right, I can't be at both places, like I just can't. So then I'm faced with that decision okay, who's am I gonna go to? And it's a lose-lose. No matter who I pick, someone is gonna be disappointed that I'm not there, and you know, they know I'm only one person, but they're gonna be upset, and so to me that is guilt, I will feel. But it's more inappropriate because there is nothing I can't clone myself, you know.

Speaker 2:

Oh man, I had so many jokes about your boys in there but I let it slide Because they definitely believe that you can be at two places at once. You are super mad, I know, but I think that that example quite honestly perfectly highlights what I was saying earlier about like guilt being super unique to the person because of the link to it. They're like someone's values. You know you value your ability to be reliable and showing up when you say you will causes you to endure the stress of guilt when that doesn't happen. Like that 100% aligns. If you say you are going to do something and you don't do it, you made an active choice to do it. Something else, like meeting me for happy hour yes, 100%. You can feel guilty if you told your boys you were going to the game and we went to happy hour, Like I believe that that's appropriate.

Speaker 2:

But I wanna spin this question to you because I think this is where mom guilt, and guilt in general, becomes so dangerous. Let's say you told the boys you would be at their game and then an emergency came up with your brother Dan yes, her brother's name is Dan and you had to miss the game because you had to show up for Dan. Would that still feel like appropriate guilt, Like it gets so tricky?

Speaker 1:

I mean, I definitely think it definitely changes things. For sure I would still feel guilty, because I know I also think too like. For me it depends on the ages. I think my oldest would. He's nine. I think he would understand and he just has more of an understanding nature. He's so empathetic. And then you have Owen, who I love him to death and his personality will serve him so well when he is older. But he is more difficult and he would be more like you weren't there. Why weren't you there? And I don't think he would necessarily understand that in the hierarchy of things, my brother needed me more than you needed me to be at your game and watch. So it definitely does change the situation and may allow you to give yourself a little bit more grace. But it's still there, man, it's like it doesn't go away and it's so annoying.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I 100% agree with guilt being annoying. I just most of the time want to scream at it. You can't sit with us Like you put your like moment.

Speaker 2:

I'm just having an ice cream cone, I shouldn't have to feel guilty. That, like you know, it's 14 points on Weight Watchers, right. But right. There is where I think that appropriate guilt goes into inappropriate guilt. And for sure, mom guilt right Like it's when we allow that to like affect our day because you couldn't be in two places at once, right. So we're gonna call it mom guilt for today's episode because, tt, you are a mom. But I just want to call out, while it has been coined, mom guilt and there's a ton of research about you know why it's called mom guilt in recent years, you know, just a nod to the dads and the guardians who also face this, and the term that we should all use when incorporating or speaking generally was parental guilt, and so with that, I just wanted to give that nod. But with parental guilt there's a lot of like conflict, discomfort and doubt around, like parenting decisions.

Speaker 1:

And.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I can't imagine I am Addie's mom, addie's my dog, and like the amount that I put on that poor dog about oh no you're sad because I'm downstairs all day.

Speaker 1:

I didn't?

Speaker 2:

I just put it I and then balancing not only those parenting decisions but also with all of the responsibilities and obligations, it's like outside of your children, but also not really because, right, like you need to go to work to make money just to provide for those children. There's just, it's so complicated, Right. This guilt not only affects mental well-being of parents, but I think something that's not really talked about is the long-term effects on your children's well-being, their internal narrative and the expectations of themselves and others. And I'm not saying this in any way to, you know, to rub salt in the wind, but more so it's a kind of a reverse psychology. All my mom's out there, right Cause I feel like, if any, if there's any way to stop this, you know, doing it for your kids would probably be the highest motivator. You guys could kind of get on, but I'm just gonna start by saying like this.

Speaker 2:

statistic is crazy 94% of all moms in the study that was done by the NIMH reported feeling some form of mom guilt throughout all stages of motherhood.

Speaker 1:

It's crazy.

Speaker 2:

That's a long time.

Speaker 2:

So, coming through this episode, tt, I actually really realized that when you and I first met honestly, before getting close to you, I didn't know what mom guilt was as a definition, or I hadn't my client, they just had never really come across in my life. I think I understood it. It's just like I said, none of my friends had kids. You were my first and we've got so close. I look at my mom and her and I are so close, but I don't get to know that aspect of your mom, the mom guilt she has inside.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that's so true, but you were really the first person because I saw the consistent mental warfare, like the closer we got and the more you felt like you could share with me. I don't know how you manage that burden keeping the boys live working your whole lives.

Speaker 1:

Keep your other job.

Speaker 2:

But also just being a wife, and on that list I didn't even say hey, I can carry you. I'm truly still in awe of all that you're able to do. I'm all moms. I'm like I can barely do me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's hard. I mean, before I touch on that, I want to go back real quick how you were talking about the guilt that you have and how that can affect your children in the future. It is so hard because I just experienced seeing that firsthand. When Owen was in the hospital for his tongue reduction surgery, there was a moment where he needed to take his medicine. It was like non-negotiable and I'm always placed in that situation, right, because I'm always the one there, I'm the one that has to hold him down and it's one of the most heartbreaking things that I ever have to do to him. And I had to hold him down. We had to try and give him his meds. He was screaming, freaking out, looking at me, like why are you doing this to me? Like you're supposed to be my protector, type of thing.

Speaker 1:

So over time, like the next day, it just became too much for me and I was trying to hold it all together. And he had another bad time taking his meds and I just could not hold it together and I cried in front of him and he saw me cry. So he started to cry and then he started to blame himself and I was like, oh my gosh, I need to give myself grace because, while I'm very upset and I am beating myself up for having to do this to him, me breaking down is making him feel guilty. Because I'm upset. I'm like this is Because it's such a crazy circle.

Speaker 2:

It's so heft right Like exactly, it's so heft.

Speaker 2:

And that is like a more traumatic Like Owen has a lot of medical like complexities and he has a rare disease, bws, and so that, I think, is a separate layer, but imagine he's on a micro level, right, if you're consistently beating yourself up or you're consistently showing. I mean, I say, one of the best fights my mom and I ever got into was when her and I we were arguing about something and I was like, if you want to do something for me, how about you model how to take care of yourself, so that I might learn how to do that? You know and I said this in anger, but it was such a really good breakthrough moment for us because her selflessness or that has made me believe that in order to be worthy, in order to be any Right, like that, I needed to be that level of selfless.

Speaker 1:

And so then I struggle to balance what I want and so I feel like you have your example all the way at the extreme and then all these micro examples to it 100% and like it's hard with guilt too, because when it comes to sharing mom guilt, most times people think that it's more difficult to share your guilt with someone that doesn't necessarily understand. Right To me, I almost feel I mean it's hard to share with, regardless if you're sharing it with. But there are so many times that I have shared my mom guilt with other moms and like immediately regretted it, like why did I just do that? Because it's now a competition and it's now like, oh, you know, at least you don't have this situation going on. It's so toxic and it's just like I don't know.

Speaker 1:

When I was able to share it with you, it was almost like a breath of fresh air because you knew me. For me, you saw my struggle, you didn't have anything to compare to and you were able to just be like this is really hard and I can't believe you're dealing with that. But sometimes, when you're sharing it with someone that has situations that they can compare it to, it almost becomes like a default reaction to try and make the person feel better by negating, like, what they're going through. You know what I mean.

Speaker 2:

Oh, 100%. I think there's a negating or trying to remedy their own mom guilt by putting someone out. I feel like there's two situations. I was so big mad. I was so big mad about this statistic when I came across it and I had to take a deep breath in this one. But 32% of mothers reported that their guilt was coming from other identified mothers. This was a study done at Phillips Health that, just like I was so angry. The other one is like the 64% was from healthcare providers. I don't know enough about that culture, but to me, the active, the people who are supposed to get it and show up for you, it must be just very, very lonely to feel like you can't.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it is lonely and like I am really blessed I have a great husband. You know him. He drives me insane, absolutely bonkers, but he is a very good yin to my yang. He's more calm and stuff like that. But that also can be really difficult and kind of make me feel like I'm alone on an island, because you know, it's like a double edged sword. He's very good at recognizing when I'm spreading myself too thin and when I am doing too much, but then, like whole, tell me, and I'll get mad at him because I'm like how dare you accuse me of doing too much for my babies? There's no such thing as that. You let me do what I need to do for my babies, but he's trying to be like hey, like you need to give yourself a break. So it is hard because you need someone like that. But at the same time they just don't get it on the same level and I feel like that. You know I do. It's hard.

Speaker 2:

Well, and as I watch, I'm watching my sister kind of go through early motherhood and I see, honestly, all the amazing things that she has done and I'm the first to say, titi, you know, I would just call her out and be like, oh yeah, I'm worried about this. I'm sure I texted you at one point, just being like I'm worried and then just watching her transform into the mother she is, it just been honestly such a blessing. She is just phenomenal. And yet we all talk to her and I'm literally shocked that, mind you, my sister, who has always been pretty confident, you know, at least in a more playful way, just how much this wonderful mother is doing above and beyond for her child and all of her other responsibilities, and doing it all in 24 hours. But yet she is hung up on the one decision that she was unsure of, or she's hung up on, you know, not giving my niece Reagan too much screen time. Not enough screen time, vegan Like it's always like there's something that's there.

Speaker 2:

And, yeah, I think the worst part is that I can validate, right, I can validate, I can stand with her, but I can't, right, I can't take that guilt away from her, and I think that's a unique aspect of mom. Guilt is that you have to deal with the primal of being a mom on top of the like mental of you know what I'm saying Like, so to me it's, it's like, even if you handle like traditional, excessive guilt, you're, there's this aspect, I think, of a mom right, like I mean, you literally grow a baby for nine months, like you have to.

Speaker 2:

There's gotta be some connection there.

Speaker 1:

It is primal Like there it is. Like you see the things of like the lions and the like. Don't mess with my cobs Like it is, it's just like something else.

Speaker 2:

Well, and you know, I think that it's hard to always know what to say and people don't. I have learned with my rare disease that when people don't know what to say, they usually say something not so great or invalidating to make themselves feel more comfortable, as opposed to like helping the person. Um, and I? So? Yeah, I don't know.

Speaker 1:

It's hard, you know, especially when you're throwing on top of mom guilt. You're throwing chronic illness or a rare disease. It literally just compounds everything and that's life right. Like I might, you know, I have my own chronic illness. My son has Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which is a rare disease, and someone else might have, you know, they just lost someone in their life that they love or you know, everyone has their own thing and when you add compounding components on top of the original guilt that you just always feel it's really difficult because you're constantly wrestling with yourself is really what it feels like. You know, you're constantly-.

Speaker 2:

Mental warfare.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it really is mental warfare. You always feel like you're disappointing someone you know and you just have to, you just have to wrestle with it and you just have to constantly give yourself graces, like my biggest thing, yeah, I think for me personally, I don't.

Speaker 2:

I can't remember that's how young I think I was when I, like, developed my guilt complex, if you will, right. And so for anyone who you know, doesn't know, doesn't know the term, I'm going to define it for you real quick. When I'm talking about guilt complex, I'm referring to the persistent belief that you have done something wrong or that you will do something wrong. And I feel like mom, guilt as a whole is the nature of like what guilt complex persona has you know? Yeah, but again, I think I fall under the guilt complex archetype because I can remember from pretty early age feeling poorly for a lot of things outside of my control, like when somebody would get picked on or talked about. I would feel really guilty about being scared to stand up for them, or it might, I might have even been there, right, like I could have.

Speaker 2:

It could have been in another class, but like the immense amount of like guilt and then like sadness that I would feel was crazy for something, that I wasn't responsible, and then jumped to my twenties and I cannot tell you how often, when someone did not respond to me after I reached out that I would immediately think to myself oh fuck, what did I do wrong?

Speaker 2:

Did I upset them Like replaying and ruminating, and ruminating everything that I could have done? You know a five minute period, and you know. Then that leads to, of course, like behaviors that are either in defense of like when I would ruminate and then essentially nothing would I couldn't come up with a single possible thing that I could have done wrong, like I was sleeping or something. Then that defense comes out like okay, well, I'm going to leave before like it's just a toxic cycle. And or, you know, it would come out as like rapid, like texting, because I'm so sorry, I don't know what I did, but please say you know whatever, because oh yeah, and that guilt seriously wouldn't release for me until, like the person responded, and usually they just like forgot their phone or something.

Speaker 1:

And I think part of that is the problem, because if you're having to guess, did I hurt, like, did I do something, did I not? If people were just straightforward and were just like, yep, like this is how you hurt me, this is what we did, then it wouldn't perpetuate the guilt that you already have and like you're ruminating, you know what I mean. But if they shut you out you have no way of knowing. So I do think people can also make that problem a little bit worse.

Speaker 2:

But to your point though. Right if you had to guess when you were a child. Right if you did something wrong because you never knew if your parent was or was not going to be upset with you over something. That's where it starts, right. And the same thing for the person who is like avoiding that conflict. There's a pattern there that they were taught you know, and so it's it. Just, it gets so messy and I will say just, let's be real so emotionally and mentally exhausting and it has just a profound effect on your mental health and your wellbeing. And now, in my mid 30s, I still see it. Something will happen at work and I catch myself over apologizing, despite I'm still in therapy, you know, and I'm just like, why am I apologizing? So now I can see it, right, but it's still. My go-to thing is to, you know, feel guilty. And then God forbid I tell someone like what I would like, like an actual want, you know, and it's a lot.

Speaker 1:

It's hard and I do think a lot of it. A lot boils down to not necessarily how you raise that that is part of it but like I remember being a kid and you know I'm one of 11. I have six sisters and four brothers. Like I all the time tell my mom, I don't know how you did it, my mom and dad, I don't know how you guys did it. And like, did my parents make mistakes? Hell, yeah, they did. Like they made mistakes, but there was so many of us.

Speaker 1:

But what I've taken from that and I had a really great childhood but what I've taken from that is when I make a mistake, I really try and apologize for it to my kids so that they don't foster this kind of like. You know, oh my gosh, like she's so upset with me I need to apologize a million times. Or, like you know, like just as much as I teach them that they need to, you know, apologize or stuff like that, I want to do the same thing because I don't want to foster these kinds of mechanisms that I see myself using as an adult. You know what I mean. Like I don't want them to ever feel more guilty than they are already going to normally feel, because that comes with life.

Speaker 2:

Well, and I think right there that example like that's the appropriate guilt cycle completed right.

Speaker 2:

Through apology and behavior, and I mean, one of the most fascinating guilt stories is Howard Manifest and Terry, my wife. She has so much inappropriate guilt and she allows that emotional power to literally make 99.9652.1% of her decisions. And that's not a good cycle, right, because you're doing it based on something you didn't do or something that isn't real. So a lot of times it's like she'll decide not to hang out with her friends because she felt guilty that I was home alone. I love being home alone, she knows this, I hope you're listening.

Speaker 2:

I still love being home alone. So she's created this intention. She makes her decisions based on it, and that's a very low value one, but there are a lot of big life decisions that I've had to be like I'm not doing this based on your guilt, like I'm not making a decision.

Speaker 1:

Well, and yeah, it can also like that whole cycle can really foster resentment, especially in a marriage.

Speaker 2:

No, it's so true. Before we go, TT, do you have anything that you want to send out to the mamas out there who might be experiencing mom guilt?

Speaker 1:

Yes, I do For moms. You need to always remember and I have to remind myself of this all the time you cannot and I repeat, cannot pour from an empty cup. It's not possible. There is so much guilt around taking care of yourself because you're taking time away from your kids, but you literally can't give your kids the best of you if your cup is not full.

Speaker 1:

And it was funny I actually today I was at the gym and I was tagged in a post about guilt and exercising. And I work out every day. I make it like a priority for myself because I know it makes my body feel better, my mental health, everything, just so many different things. I plan it around when my kids are in school, but when they're off in the summer, I'm home. So they're home, I'm home and we're still going.

Speaker 1:

And basically the post said do you feel guilty for taking time away from your family to work out alone? And the response was no. I feel guilty when I'm an absolute asshole to them because I haven't had any space. And I mean so trin-o Right, like if that doesn't sum it up for you, I don't know what will I mean. You have to prioritize yourself so that you can put forth the best version of yourself for your kids, and I've learned that it's a learning experience, it's a learning curve. So I would say fill your cup. And then for people that are conversing with moms that are speaking about their guilt, I would just be graceful, grant them grace. Don't compare, don't make them feel like, well, at least you didn't have this or that to deal with. That shit helps. Absolutely no one, and again no one wants to win that award. That award for who has it worst sucks, and I don't want it. You can have it.

Speaker 2:

Oh, the worst awards. I swear you are so right and I don't. It's like I didn't ask to be in this Olympic Games.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, right, like may the odds be ever in your favor. Like no one wants to be here, so one wants to be here. Oh my.

Speaker 2:

God, that's great. All right. Now, if you're like me and have dog mom guilt or a complex persona, here's a quick tool to take with you to combat the consistent feeling of guilt. This tool is called Responsibility Pi, which can help you identify what you're accountable for and what you're not, so you can hopefully release some of that inappropriate guilt. So the first step is you're gonna draw a pie chart representing how responsible you feel for the situation. Often, people tend to blame themselves entirely, but the aim of this exercise is to reflect on a situation as a whole and think about who or what else might have contributed to what happened. You can change the pie chart as you go along, letting a more balanced view start to emerge. Don't worry too much about making the chart mathematically accurate. Just try to get things on paper so that you can visually see the situation from a different view. While reflecting, it might help to remember also that cause and blame do not have to be the same thing. The end result will hopefully be that you have a new perspective from which you can view what happened. It should become easier for you to explore any responsibility that is genuinely yours, so you can take action on it and release any inappropriate guilt that you may be carrying.

Speaker 2:

That's it for this week's episode. Peeps, if you enjoyed it, go ahead and hit that follow button and leave a review. We love hearing from you. We'll be in your feeds again Thursday for this week's Bite of Balance. Until then, mind your health. ["mind your Health"]. Seriously, you're fine. You're fine because you have the power to access your place of peace anytime you need it. However, if you get stuck, we're right at the palm of your hand to help Check out our show notes for this week's source list, recommended content and Kibana live group schedule. We'll catch you next week for a brand new episode of You're Always Fine. ["mind your Health"].

The Weight of Guilt
Impact of Mom Guilt on Children
Navigating Guilt Complex in Motherhood