Kara would like to skip getting together with her family over the holidays. But guilt stands in her way.
“I hate to say it but I’d be a whole lot happier spending time with Marc’s family,” she said. Marc is Kara’s husband. “They’re just more pleasant to be around.”
In contrast, Kara’s family gatherings are unbearably stressful. Wounding, in fact. They seem to find it entertaining to make fun of each other, team up, and exchange sarcastic digs.
“And if things get heated up because someone takes offense,” she said, “tempers fly! Why would I want to be around all that? I always feel judged and anxious . . . mentally beat up!”
So why does she feel so torn?
Kara gave a heavy sigh. “Guilt,” she said. “It’s my mother. She’ll take it as a personal assault if I don’t want to go.” Kara went on to explain that her mom will act hurt while saying something to the effect: “Oh. I see . . . you’d rather be with Marc’s family than with us.”
I understand why Kara feels judged around her family. It happens.
I asked Kara, “Will guilt win or will your preference win?”
She lowered her eyes.
“Hey” I said, “if you must feel guilty, you might as well feel guilty for doing what you want. Right?”
She laughed. We both did.
I’m reminded of something my husband, Don, once said.
“One thing is certain, if you fall under the control of guilt, you will end up unhappy.”
Guilt shouldn’t dictate our decisions—reason should. And so should something else . . . our well-being.
Which choice is best for Kara’s overall well-being? The answer is obvious.
Kara made it clear she likes her family. She just doesn’t like it when they’re all congregated under the same roof.
We did some brainstorming and came up with a win-win solution. She will get with each family member on an individual basis. This can happen anytime—around holidays or on any date throughout the year.
Minus the family dynamics, it will be a lot more pleasant.
Kara’s mother and other guilt-manipulators could benefit from thinking about Wayne Dyer’s definition of love:
Love is “the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.”
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.
(c) Salee Reese 2017