4 Signs You’re Giving Too Much

Helping Until it Hurts-4 Signs You’re Giving Too Much “Angel” had always been praised for her generosity. Little did she know she was giving too much. She was active in her church and a dedicated volunteer. Funerals, craft sales, committees—Angel was a Good Samaritan. One fall, a young woman at work revealed that she was about to lose the lease on her apartment. The two women worked closely together and Angel knew that her colleague was in trouble; she had survived a traumatic childhood and no longer had ties to her family. It broke Angel’s heart. She offered the woman her spare bedroom until she was back on her feet. Today, Angel says, she can’t look back on the experience without feeling embarrassed and angry. What she believed to be a well-intentioned gesture ended up straining her marriage, her relationship with her own kids, and even her health; she was giving too much. Helping becomes pathological when it hurts more than it helps. As extreme as it may sound, Angel’s story isn’t uncommon. In fact, it is symptomatic of Pathological Altruism. Unlike healthy altruism, pathological altruism is giving too much and is performed with little or no consideration of the harm it may cause to the giver or the recipient. In other words, helping becomes pathological when it hurts more than it helps. Here’s what Pathological Altruism often looks like, as demonstrated by Angel. The tendency to deny one’s own needs for the needs of others. Angel spent so much time helping her friend with her everyday needs that she ate poorly, gained weight, woke exhausted, and felt increasingly depressed. It’s a predictable cycle that flight attendants have advised us about for decades: you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Supreme confidence in one’s skills or ability to help. Let’s face it: Angel was not a trained therapist. She raised successful children, but it was unreasonable and dangerous for her to expect that she could soothe her friend’s serious emotional wounds. Like a novice mechanic working on a finely tuned engine, when our desire to help exceeds our skills, we are likely to do more damage than good. Inability to see the harmful consequences of your helping behaviors. As in physics, we cannot exert one force without expecting an equal or greater force in response. So it is with our relationships. By the time Angel had …

Poor Parenting and The Dynamics Behind it

Poor Parenting and The Dynamics Behind it If you think the scariest hood to be in is Parenthood, then you’re right, but there’s a way to make Parenthood a little less scary. A lot of people ask for parenting advice or have parenting questions and poor parenting concerns. This is not just me as a psychiatrist, talking to you, I’m also a parent, and I really believe that parents help parents. Parenting isn’t about a checklist of how to do something right. It’s hard to know when you’ve gone off course, and, if you’re off course, it’s hard to know how to get back on course. If parents help each other out, then we’re helping our whole community and our entire society. I do have adult kids, and I can empathize greatly. I have been through a lot of the struggles that you’ve been through with my patients, my clients, and in my personal life. What are the dynamics behind poor parenting? We hear different names such as a helicopter parent, snowplow parent, and I have a phrase I’ve used for a long time called tractor-trailer parents.  There is a lot of people who are afraid they are one of those parents or worried they’re going to become one of those parents. I always start any session or any treatment by stating, if you understand why poor parenting is happening, then you can stop it. It’s important to understand what’s going on, to see the patterns behind the poor parenting, and to come to realize it’s not what you want to be doing. If you don’t understand the patterns, the dynamics,  and what’s going on underneath; it’s a lot less likely you’re going to figure out what’s wrong and where to go that’s better. The dynamics of the controlling parent The dynamics of the controlling parent, in general, this is the issue here. It’d be easy to say controlling parents are control freaks. That’s part of it because nobody likes to feel out of control and certainly parents don’t want to feel out of control. Parents may fear if they’re losing control, that’s making them a bad parent. Parents are, by definition in control when their kids are not. So it makes sense that control plays a role in all these different parenting issues or problems. It’s not just a lack of loss of control that parents are fighting when …

Letting Go of Adult Children

Letting Go of Adult Children: How to Get to the Other Side of the Grief   Letting go of adult children can be extremely challenging. Some time ago, I spoke with a mother who was having a terrible time with her adult daughter. Her daughter was in her early twenties, living at home. The tension between the parents and child was becoming too much to bear. It was straining to the point of almost breaking what had long been a beautiful relationship.   She fought with her daughter regularly, nagging at her for not getting out of bed until noon and criticizing her for not being more helpful around the house. In essence, she stayed in her role as a parent to a young child while expecting her daughter to act more maturely.   When talking about her struggles, I used a phrase I often use with those who have lost a loved one. I spoke of “getting to the other side of the grief.” Rather than staying stuck on this side of grief, I talked about how rewarding one’s relationship with their adult child can be. To get there, however, parents have to walk through letting go of adult children, letting their kids make their own mistakes and find their paths. My patients breakthrough Today, my patient’s daughter no longer lives at home. She gave her daughter a deadline by which she had to move out and stuck to it. She grieved the entire time; watching her daughter move on was awfully painful. Now, however, she says she’s catching more and more glimpses of her daughter as an adult. They can discuss future career options and have even begun to collaborate on ideas for decorating her apartment.   Of course, allowing her daughter to grow up wasn’t a smooth transition. As my patient put it, letting go was “horrendously painful.” But she recognizes now that without forcing herself to walk through that pain, to “get to the other side of the grief,” they’d still be where they were, arguing and combative and deeply unhappy about their relationship.   Nowadays, many more children live with their parents into adulthood   It’s not an unfamiliar story. Many more children live with their parents into adulthood today than they did even twenty years ago. For many, the decision is primarily financial, and with proper respect for healthy boundaries, such arrangements can work …

Avoid the Holiday Meltdown

  Want to know how to Avoid the holiday meltdown this year? We’re talking about the holiday meltdown to hopefully set in new habits for the next holiday. People struggle with the holidays because they’re so focused on pleasing others. There’s this fantasy that you’re going to hurt somebody, or someone is going to be angry or upset because you didn’t give them what they wanted. Children need to learn that they’re not going to get everything they want for the rest of their lives, and adults should certainly be able to handle this. Let go of that fantasy, and see what really happens. How to Handle the Holiday Meltdown Start talking about the problem or the holiday meltdown in advance. Ask yourself, how the holiday went last year and what you can do now, to avoid the holiday going bad. People get stuck in thinking they have to do a tradition or they’re going to feel bad later. You can not fix a future problem later. The thought process, ” If I don’t see them now, then I am going to feel bad or guilty later.” You are going to feel guilty and sad later because that is a part of life. What Causes the Holiday Meltdown? There are feelings that people have labeled as bad, and feelings that people have labeled as good. There is no such thing. Anger, sadness, neediness are all normal. If you already have issues with these feelings, during the holidays they will get worse. If you think you can’t feel sad any other day of the week, you’re definitely going to think you shouldn’t feel sad during the holidays. That is nonsense, feelings don’t take a hiatus during the holidays. You have to allow yourself the time to process that emotion, whatever the enemy emotion is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, I am going to go take a walk, or a nap, to get that feeling processed. If you can do this in advance, even better! Be Prepared Maybe you get sad about the loss of a parent every holiday, or a child who can’t come home. Go ahead and say this in advance to your family members. Such as, “It turns out I get sad during the holidays, I am going to go ahead and take a break on Christmas Eve to have some time for myself.” Get this all …

Do You Feel Like You are Always Giving Too Much?

Do you feel like you are always giving too much and not getting anything in return? Why does everybody else always get their way? Or why do people in my life seem to have a good life and I don’t? We got to the bottom of that being anger. Anger is usually an emotion that people want to discard or pretend they don’t have it or have labeled it as bad or the enemy emotion. If you don’t have the capacity- if you’re fighting off anger then you’re not using anger as your alarm bell and that’s the first step to setting boundaries. Good boundaries make good relationships but before you can get to, “I need to set a boundary.” You have to be aware of the alarm bell. Know when somebody is mistreating you and that’s anger a lot of the time. You have to be able to sit with that and explore the emotion. Ask yourself, “Why am I angry?” Then you can find your boundary from there. Think back through your day or through the conversation and then you start to realize what is annoying to you and set a boundary. The next step is, which boundary and how? It’s almost like you’re saying anger is bad and you shouldn’t be angry. You going to shove it away. It’s like saying, “I’m not listening to that, I’m not going to listen to the smoke alarm.”  Instead of going to look and make sure there’s no real fire. Ignoring your anger is just like ignoring any other kind of alarm. Anger is your body’s way of telling us there’s something wrong. There’s no such thing as a bad or wrong emotion. Neediness and Anger Neediness is another enemy emotion. This is our other alarm. Between anger and neediness, these are the two emotions that people fight. People think it’s wrong to be needy.  People think being needy is weak, or pride themselves on taking care of everyone else. People try to get rid of neediness by squashing it, or shoving it away but again you’re missing an alarm bell. That alarm is telling you, you need attention. The anger is telling you somebody needs to be removed, or something needs to be removed, such as what someone else is doing. Neediness is your alarm that says “I have to stop giving and give somewhere else or take.” A …