The thing about guilt, and this could be mom guilt or any other type of guilt, is that it’s not a real emotion. Guilt is an interpretation. What does that mean exactly? Typically guilt stems from a story that we are telling ourselves. At Reset Brain and Body, we talk a lot about belief systems with our clients. We explore their beliefs, messages, experiences, and traumas that may have exacerbated different thoughts, behaviors and habits within their life.
One of the most pervasive thoughts? “I am not enough.” It is important that we peel back the layers and get underneath the surface to determine where this guilt is stemming from, because if guilt is not a real emotion, but only an interpretation derived from a story, then we have to understand the story.
Think about it.
What belief system might you have that has told you that you need to do it all? Where did that come from? Is it someone’s voice in your head? Is it a message that you’ve seen? Is it a comparison? We have to really investigate where this is coming from, so that we can work to dismantle it. To then say, “oh well actually I recognize that a lot of my behaviors have been derived from the relationship that I saw between my mother and my father,” or “because this is what I see on social media.” You may even be comparing yourself to your closest friends and siblings, or the type of mom your mom was with you. Again, we’re talking about stories. Consider what stories you have been told, and where they came from in regards to your role as a mom, and everything that that entails.
I like to tell clients that you can’t “should” on yourself – or at least try not to! Instead, investigate the story of where this mom guilt is truly coming from. Maybe you had a traumatic experience where you’ve told yourself that you need to be and do better. Maybe it comes from a place of insecurity. “I’ve never felt really good at many things, but at least I can feel good being a mom, so that must mean I have to do everything for everyone.” Maybe it’s an obligation, or an expectation. We have to get curious as we work to tear these layers down because again, guilt is not an emotion, it’s an interpretation.
Something that we can do in the moment when we’re experiencing mom guilt is to practice an acronym called RAIN. This is a very common mindfulness acronym that’s really easy to use. Give it a try!
Ask yourself, what am I feeling? Name it, label it. What does it feel like in your body? I’m feeling what I perceive as guilt, I feel it in my chest. I’m feeling really stressed, I feel it in my shoulders. I’m feeling really anxious, I feel it in my stomach. I’m feeling really mad, I can tell because my fists are clenched and my jaw is tight. I have a headache. What sort of pressures am I piling on? Recognize. Name it, label it.
Allow the experience to exist. So often we try to avoid, push it away, because it’s uncomfortable. An emotion lasts 90 seconds, and it’s important to feel it all the way through. See it as a wave passing through you. Allow it to come in. Sit with it. Examine it.
Okay, where is this coming from? Why am I feeling this way? What triggered it? Give yourself the compassion, time and grace to investigate. So often we navigate through life on autopilot. We run run run and at the end of the day, we’re exhausted! How many times do we bury the emotion that we’re experiencing versus giving ourselves space to move through it?
Consider what you need. Maybe you just need to literally physically shake it off. This can be very therapeutic and I recommend people do this often. Or do you need a break? Or do you want to give your kids a hug and a kiss? Or do you just want to order pizza instead of spending time cooking in the kitchen tonight? Identify what you need, and nurture it.
Overcoming Mom Guilt
Just to quickly recap, guilt is not a real emotion, it is an interpretation. When you’re feeling mom guilt, ask yourself, what is the story behind this? What am I perceiving in this moment? Then practice using the RAIN exercise. Name it, label it, where am I feeling it in the body? Allow it to happen. Investigate it. Why is this happening? Where is this coming from? What triggered it? And then nurture. What do I need?
Know that you may not always have the time and space to do this exercise when you’re feeling these emotions. That’s okay. You may notice that you react instead. That’s okay too. A lot of times when we’re feeling an emotion, and we don’t have the time or space to actually work through it in that moment, we do react. So, let’s say you reacted, you lashed out, you got defensive, you made an impulsive decision, you started crying…the awesome thing is that you can reset! We’re resilient.
If perhaps you didn’t act the way that you would have liked in this moment, do better later. Give yourself the opportunity to reflect. Identify how you could do better next time, but don’t beat yourself up. Beating yourself up only causes the cycle to repeat itself. We go back to those lingering thoughts of “I am not good enough,” “I need to do better,” “I need to be better.” Don’t you dare recycle! Try not to repress, try not ro recycle, try to release.
Thank you to Kerry Biskelonis, LPC, RYT for providing this valuable information. If you have questions, or would like to talk further, please reach out to Reset Brain and Body via their website, facebook page, or by emailing [email protected].