Ada — Let’s talk about dealing with unfinished or unresolved dynamics involving parents. Halpern in Cutting Loose describes several parent/child scenarios. The first in his series has to do with the parent who used (or still uses) guilt to control or motivate our behavior.
There are two types of “martyrs” we can grow up with. The Noisy Martyr clearly and loudly lets you know how responsible you are for causing, or at least not alleviating, their suffering. Statements used by a Noisy Martyr might include:
“Don’t you get sick on me again. I’ve had enough this winter.”
“A mother tries so hard to do right by her child, and this is the reward she gets.”
“I almost died when you were born.”
“I had nothing to do while you were gone so I washed and ironed your things and straightened your room out a little.”
Or how about the Silent Martyr who never shares her/his hurt with you directly, but lets someone else tell you how sick they were. Or if you planned to do something that they disapproved of they would be thunderously silent.
The technique may vary, but the goal is the same—to make you sufficiently guilty so that you let them be in control.
Be prepared for things to get worse before they get better.
In additon to carrying on this pattern for as long as the parent is living, we can transfer this pattern on to our relationships with others. Our mate may not have started out using guilt trips on us, but may pick up the pattern when they see how effective it is in controlling our behavior.
One of the first steps in resolving this dilemma is being aware of it and acknowledging our participation in it. It also helps to look beyond the negative behavior of the parent and consider where it originated. They may have experienced it from their own parent and believe all parents are supposed to act this way.