New Year’s resolutions – guilt and two other risks of planning changes

  
Christmas is behind us, New Year is here: the protocol of our culture is expecting us to make some New Year’s resolutions. Time for making promises! 

“I am going to exercise more.’ 

‘I’m going to be more patient with my ageing mother.’

‘I’m going to cut down sugar/cigarettes/wine.’ 

‘I am going to take more time off.’

The beggining of new year encourages us to make summaries and gives hope for the fresh start. 

We live in the age of therapeutic discourse, where people are expected to work on themselves, redefine and reimagine their lives. Life coaches are speaking on the morning radio programs about making positive changes, introducing plans, and exercising daily. 

These days none of us is free from the expectation to grow and become better in whatever we do or whoever we are. It’s not only about us as individuals but also us fulfilling certain roles which matter to others. Speaking about parents: we as parents are always observed by the community and we are expected to do right and do better as mothers and fathers.

On one hand this feels right and encourages positive changes in the society. Many people change their habits: they eat and live healthier, they think more about the environment, their prejudices weaken.

On the other hand, this drive for becoming a New Version of Ourselves can cause some confusion, especially for parents.

Guilt

It’s okay to be good enough. To be a perfect parent is a phantasy and following it isn’t serving anyone. Our task is to be good enough parents and this means providing a loving and safe environment for children to grow and explore the world. We won’t get everything 100% right and what we really should learn is to accept this fact. Of course we want to grow as parents and do better on many fields, but this expectation often causes a strong sense of guilt, every time we do something ‘wrong’. This creates a viscous circle and a tension which definitely won’t help with getting things better next time. 

Goals

Setting the right goals can be tricky. There are many advisors who focus on altering behaviour. They encourage us to set the clear goal, make a strong commitment to some behavioural change, and they offer techniques to stay motivated and achieve this change. It can all work well, under the condition, that we are focusing on the right goal. Sometimes emotional issues are so difficult to deal with, that we replace them with some other tasks which stay at the level of behaviour and don’t reach the deeper, emotional issues. For example one of the partners in a relationship decides to run a marathon which is going to be very absorbing – cost a lot of time and commitment. This can be a genuine sportive activity but it might also be taken up to run away from the difficulties in relationship which won’t be addressed.

Personality

There are some things in ourselves which are unlikely to change, because they are part of who we are, of how we define ourselves. They might be causing problems in our relationships and they might be these very things which we want to get rid of when interacting with our children. Some of us would find themselves too controlling, too angry, too anxious, too authoritative – put here your own characteristic which makes you worried when relating to others. This might be an important part of your emotional life, which developed early in the childhood and it manifested itself throughout the life in many different ways. Don’t expect from yourself that you are going to make it disappear. Find a healthier way of expressing it. You might even make use of it! Being aware of this dynamic you can also help your children dealing with their emotional challenges. A great example of dealing with aggression is using it in sport activities. 

There is an event on Facebook, where people commit to read 52 books in 2016. Over 70,000 people signed up. My first thought when I saw it was, that they can’t be parents to small children, but then I realised I’m speaking for myself. There are parents out there having great reading plans and fair play to them.

I wish them enjoyable reading and a very good New Year to all of you.
Photo: http://www.theodesseyonline.com

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