Guilt is a complicated emotion. Most of us feel it and it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s not all bad in that if you make a mistake and hurt someone unintentionally, guilt is what pushes you to apologize and make amends even if it’s scary to broach the subject. For others, though, it can be wielded almost like a weapon. Has anyone ever sent you on a guilt trip? It is not fun “vacation”.
My mother was the queen of guilt trips. I think because her formal education stopped at age 14 and because of the hard life she had, she was really stunted when it comes to communication. So she only knew how to manipulate people’s feelings. Guilt trips make people bad about something they did or didn’t do so it seems it would be easier just to talk honestly about what is going on.
Holidays are the worst for guilt trips. In their passion to create the ideal holiday celebration they sometimes forget that lives and feelings can be very complicated. Some family members are pretty obvious – “What do you mean you can’t come on Christmas morning? I traveled when I was 8 month pregnant why can’t you? I’ve seen you on Christmas morning EVERY single day of your life and now you are telling me that you would rather spend it with your wife and newborn baby? After all I’ve done for you, you can’t fly from the Arctic to my house just for ONE day? Christmas is your father’s FAVORITE holiday and all he is asking is for all his kids to be under one roof – don’t you want to make him happy?”
I think what they are really trying to say is, “I would do anything to be with you so I need you to do the same. I am having a hard time letting you go – now that you are an adult I am really missing you more than ever. I know you have a difficult career but I have not seen you in a long time and Christmas seems to be a good time to get you to come home.” Or maybe if they are a tad more upfront “Hey, your father is driving me crazy talking about the holidays come home so he will shut up”. Or maybe they just feel pressured to have that holly jolly Christmas every commercial and movie is showing of a big happy family. Just Google the perfect Christmas family or Christmas dinner and just look at those people smiling with open mouths and looking oh so happy.
I am not against happy. I am not against families that really love each other wanting to spend some time together. I am just a realist. EVERY family I know has their ups and downs and now with COVID gloves are coming off and it will be interesting to see what changes in the minds of people when they say Christmas and/or family.
I definitely did not have the typical family but once Mother passed away, I am proud to say that the three of us never had any problems communicating our wants and needs. We were pretty honest about everything. I remember when Daddy one year said, I have dedicated some time to “my club” and I will be spending the holidays doing various charity work. How about we get together sometime in between or after? We did and the world did not end. My sister is an essential medical worker at a huge University hospital system. I don’t know how many dinner dates, birthdays and holidays we have rescheduled because they are short staffed or an emergency arises. We are not perfect but what makes us different is that we cut out all the crap we can and pick up the phone and simply say, “I feel like crap today, can we reschedule?” and we simply answer, “Sure! Let me know what date.” The end no guilt trips.
That is the key. Stop the guilt trips. We all love traveling but this is the one kind of trip no one wants to go on. When you are the one giving the guilt trip remember that you are only instilling dread and resentment in the very people you love. If you are the one receiving the guilt trip remember that while you may upset someone by calling them on it, there is a better chance to stop the cycle if you TALK about it. Of course if the person doling out the guilt trip is mentally incapable of having a real conversations then it is harder. Some people have even broken away from their families so they can have a healthier life. Whatever you can do be active in the way you live your life and make decisions that are good for YOU and the ones you love. Good luck.