Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Guilt and Family: Escape vs. Martyrdom, Part 2

So, as I've mentioned before, I'm not real big into the whole guilt concept. But with family, it's always a little more complex. Just a little, she says...

I truly feel that guilt doesn't accomplish anything on a personal level. Or that its destructive and unhealthiness far outweighs any positive results. What I think I'm trying to say, in a convoluted way, is that even if you do the right thing, doing for the wrong reasons isn't going to help you much as a human being. It might help the people you're helping, but it won't help you.

So you can sacrifice yourself on the altar of your familial guilt... Always bailing your son out of jail when the calls come in at 3am because you think that his mistakes must stem from something you did... Always helping your stepdaughter move from one nasty apartment to the next (yet again), because no one else will, and she's family... Always rushing home (or never leaving in the first place) to fix the latest crisis because you know you can handle it better or faster or whathaveyou than anyone else... Just to draw some examples from my own friends and family.

But who are you really helping here?

I think this kind of guilt-driven behavior is kind of nuts. Acting like the martyr who will give up your own live/schedule/etc because you feel like you owe someone something only seems to encourage bad behavior from the beneficiaries of your rescue. They learn that you will always bail them out, so you have to do it more often. You get resentful that they're taking advantage, so you start getting bitter and nasty. Next thing you know, people are wondering when you lost your personality and turned into a giant asshole-martyr.

All right, MAYBE I'm taking this argument to extremes. But I'm only describing behavior that I have witnessed myself. And even been guilty of myself, at times.

When you put yourself last, you have, strangely, even less of yourself to go around. And whether avoiding that trap means that you take an hour to read every evening, or that you go out with friends once a week, or that you get your hair done once a month, or that you go out and run every morning... whatever it is that you need to do so that you feel like YOU, do it. Because otherwise, you'll be miserable. And from experience, a miserable person cannot make other people happy. (Unless they're sadists, I suppose...)

So that leads me into the subject of escape...

(to be finished in Part 3)

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