Caring so much for others that you have lost part of yourself?
Caring and being a carer is a difficult subject for many of my clients – over the last ten years as a therapist I have come to learn so much more about this situation and the complex array of emotions that are shared in therapy sessions. In this blog I describe some of those issues […]
Caring and being a carer is a difficult subject for many of my clients – over the last ten years as a therapist I have come to learn so much more about this situation and the complex array of emotions that are shared in therapy sessions. In this blog I describe some of those issues and explain how hypnotherapy has helped my clients to set up boundaries, develop self-caring behaviours and free themselves from the many ‘attachments’ that being a carer can have.
Many times, I have discussed with clients how they can become lost, forgotten or ignored as a carer. Let me tell you, it is the strongest folk who often end up in role as a carer. I write this blog to acknowledge those clients who have undertaken this most selfless role themselves and, through no fault of their own ended up sacrificing much of their lives to the service and support of others. I also write this as a reminder to those of you who know a carer in your family – please do not assume just because they seem strong or ‘ok’ that this is the case. From my experience as a therapist, I can tell you that this sacrifice is often un acknowledged by families and worse often unnoticed or unappreciated.
You may be shocked to hear that caretaking for others can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, anger, resentment, and depression. There is a good reason for this. Whilst it is said over and over by my clients that they do not and would not ever say anything to the person they are caring for (mainly because they see it as a duty) in doing this service, they are often so good at masking their emotions because they just ‘get on with it’ that they ignore their own feelings and needs. Carers have confided in me that they feel often abandoned or it is just ‘expected’ that they will be the ones to do the caring role.
Imagine that you push your own needs and emotions to one side day after day, year after year with no one to speak with who really understands how your life seems to have become absorbed by someone else’s needs, but you won’t say anything because society will call you ‘selfish’. So you cry alone each day and just grit your teeth and get on with it. It gets harder still when other family members have decided that you are the one who must make all the decisions. I have seen it happen where the caring responsibilities have ‘landed’ on a husband or wife who is not even directly related to the person needing the care, but they have been ‘given’ the role because they were retired or worked part time.
Negative feelings of resentment can build and although you are told time and time again that what you are doing is needed, you don’t feel valued. There’s no payment, no sick pay, no holiday pay and often no respite at all. Infact, some of my clients have to spend weeks organising care rotas just to get a weekend away with a loved one or a little bit of time to themselves. Sadly, the truth is that what most carers learn is that these emotions inevitably rear their heads, being “selfless” isn’t a simple end unto itself. There’s a price to pay and all too often the situation ends in burnout and despair for the carer.
How can hypnotherapy help?
In a first session, clients often feel that they need to ‘explain’ why they are there in the therapy room – they often describe feeling guilty about even talking about the situation or as though they do not deserve to have an opinion. It is important to understand that their voice is important – sometimes just saying things out loud is therapeutic. For other clients, talking about things is just too difficult and we may move straight into relaxation release work which allows the mind to settle and release difficult emotions or feelings of stress. This is time to decompress away from the needs and wants of others.
Hypnotherapy helps people to reconnect with themselves and clear away unhelpful thought patterns of guilt or selfishness; we reintroduce the idea that taking loving care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish. In fact, it’s being responsible. When you learn to recognize your own feelings and needs, to name them in the present moment, this is a form of self-acceptance; this kind of love is authentic, and sustainable. It is not born out of a desire to be recognized as being good or virtuous, it’s not because carers are seeking approval. It is love without a gripping sense of expectation. Self-acceptance and learning boundaries ultimately it brings about emotional freedom.
Hypnotherapy helps people learn what boundaries they need to put in place to make sure that their needs are also met. This is important because we teach people how to treat us by establishing boundaries. I often explain to clients who are carers that if they are always doing 100% of everything then there is nothing left for others to do. They need to take back some agency in their lives and establish how much of their time they are willing to offer in a caring capacity.
Other than caring for babies and toddlers, or old or very sick people who cannot take care of themselves, caretaking others can often feel disempowering. Caring can become a pattern of behaviour, for example if you have always seemed to end up caretaking for others rather than caring for yourself, people around you may not like it if you start to care about yourself. They are used to you giving yourself up for them. Hypnotherapy helps you strengthen your inner resilience to state your own needs and stick to them no matter what others may think. It is true that many carers feel that by staying silent they are doing the best thing by avoiding conflict however in doing so they can start a war within themselves. Hypnotherapy teaches positive strategies for solution focussed ways to resolve potential conflict. You can learn how to step into your own power and leave a space for others to step up to the plate and start taking some responsibility rather than leaving everything to one person.
Just because others may get angry or blame you or withdraw when you start to reinforce your boundaries, does not mean that you have to bend to their will. Remember: those who truly love will respect your self-care behaviour, and those people who, perhaps unconsciously, have been using you because it was easier for them, will be more disgruntled.
Hypnotherapy supports the internal shift in mindset so that you have a space for caring not just for others but a responsibility to yourself.
How can I start to make changes ?
If you are a carer, there may be some practical things that you can do to help support your own needs:
- Speak to someone you can trust. If there is no one in your immediate family or friends a starting point could be a local charity such as The Carers Trust https://carers.org/grants-and-discounts/charities-that-support-carers you can also speak to https://www.carersuk.org/ These charities will help you look at support in your area and whether you can access funding support or respite.
- Speak up sooner rather than later; it is not your job to bear the brunt of all the worries or decisions; you can be part of a support team, you do not have to lead it or make all the difficult decisions. Ask for family to meet and discuss next steps; everyone needs to work together.
- Respite is crucial, even if it is just one morning or afternoon each week, do make sure you carve out time for yourself and resist the urge to fill the time with jobs or let others give you more things to do – this is time for you and not up for grabs!
- Set your boundaries. If you have time booked away, make sure this is honoured. If you can, ask others to step up and support.
- Remember putting your own needs first is not selfish, it is responsible: if you are not well enough or too tired then you are potentially making the situation worse not better.
If you would like to speak with me about arranging a free confidential phone call to discuss how hypnotherapy could help you, please just email Contact Julie or book your call here Julie Phillips Hypnotherapy Directory
Details of all the prices and packages can be found here: Prices & Packages 2023