When you go on vacation, is the self-inflicted guilt trip one of your regular destinations?
Well, unless you make a habit of doing nasty things to others on purpose, then I have always found self-inflicted guilt to be a useless emotion. At the very least, it is a highly overused and crippling emotion that just wastes a lot of time and energy and even does biochemical damage to the human body.
The guilt trip for moms is especially overdone; in fact, it has its own name—mom guilt or mommy guilt. Whether they be work at home or work away from home moms, it seems moms have successfully cornered the market on modern guilt. I left out the notion of the non-working stay at home mom because in my opinion, there is no such thing as a mom who doesn’t work.
In the recent past, I have read so many articles from major news sources, magazines and well-established Facebook groups, in which women figuratively beat the hell out of themselves and each other simply because they can't seem to do it all; they feel they can't be all things to all people, all the time. What a load of crap!
My Great Aunt Florence Paton [Flossie as she was known to her family and friends] would be rolling over in her grave at the state of the mommy wars the self-inflicted mom guilt trip in modern times. You see, my aunt was a later women’s rights activist, she was the first acting female speaker of the house in Great Britain in the 1940s and she was a co-founder of the great humanitarian organization, UNICEF, on the same committee with the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt.
As a passionate advocate for women and children, I doubt she and women like her would have wanted modern women to engage in self-hate and guilt trip practices, nor would the women of the past have wanted us to be abusive and judgmental towards each other. I just don't believe the women who went to jail and went on hunger strikes earning us the right to vote and also the women who burned their bras in the 60’s and 70’s trying to achieve equal pay for work of equal value, ever intended for modern women to be battling each other or themselves. The modern guilt trip has got to go!
For a society that fully embraced the concept of solidarity and unionization in the workplace during the Industrial Revolution, I am always amazed by the fact that women apparently have failed to grasp the concept of solidarity with each other, not to mention self-respect. We absolutely torture ourselves with the guilt trip being our weapon of choice.
Of course, if a mom is causing traumatically abusive harm to her children, either deliberately or unintentionally, then all moms (and dads) need to shout it from the rooftops to get those children the help they need, but, in my experience, most women are doing a more than honorable job of managing their households and raising their children and as a result, the guilt trip as a weapon is unjustly wielded.
Of course, there is always room for improvement in every aspect of life, including parenting, but if we stop hating on each other for just a minute, then maybe we can finally come together to deal with and maybe conquer a real problem, such as violence against and exploitation of women because that is the ultimate war on mommies and children.
But this isn't just a rant about mommy wars. As a stress, health & business coach, I have done a little research… well, actually a lot of research and my research shows there are real scientific, business and parenting theory reasons why the self-inflicted guilt trip, not to mention the guilt trip attack on other moms is a useless behavior for moms.
So, why do women choose the guilt trip as one their regular vacation destinations? It seems women think being a professional juggler is part of their job description, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is true being a mom often involves juggling, but I doubt the women of the past wanted us all to be Martha Stewarts.
Now, don’t get me wrong, juggling is important in effective household management, but how we view that juggling is paramount to being able to conquer it and use it for good instead of being victimized by it. Viewed in a negative light, juggling, also known as stress is bad, but viewed from a positive perspective, juggling can and should be inspiring, motivating and uplifting. The guilt trip steals the value of stress.
Did you know that strong negative emotions of any kind, including the misplaced guilt trip, cause a very destructive stress response in the human body? It’s been proven many times over that the human stress response system is not all that smart; it's efficient, for sure, when it comes to giving you the tools needed to save your life when you are in danger, but it's not all that smart. It really can't tell the difference between a life threatening danger like a car accident and a negative emotion like an inappropriate guilt trip that is not life-threatening.
The same is true of shame, blame, embarrassment and regret. Regardless of the stressor, a cascade stress response will be launched in the body and once the flood waters of the stress hormone, Cortisol, are turned on, it can take a couple of hours for the blood level of Cortisol to reach a certain saturation point, at which time the Cortisol tap is shut off and the body begins the process of returning to homeostasis or normal.
So, why is this a problem for moms? Well, the hormone, Cortisol, has the ability to shut down several major body systems for several hours each time it's activated, including immune function, sex drive, the elimination system, digestion and even parts of the brain.
If we women waste Cortisol on the useless guilt trip, not to mention self-hate and judging others and we do this several times a day, then basically we are crippling our ability to be healthy. And we all know that unhealthy women do not make good moms or household managers. Talk about counter-productive to the goal! If there is anything that we moms need to fight for, it’s our right to health and wellness for our own sake and the sake of our families. It’s high time that all moms unpack the suitcase reserved for emergency guilt trips.
Another major problem with guilt trips and other useless emotions, including embarrassment, shame, blame and regret, is that moms who are keeping busy overproducing the hormone, Cortisol, are also under producing a very important and empowering neurosteroid called D.H.E.A, a much-needed entity for effective parenting. The benefits of D.H.E.A. have been known since the late 70s and are far too numerous to mention in this article, but a simple Google search on the topic will be more than enlightening to any interested moms.
According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, who wrote the Upside of Stress in 2015, it's
all about the ratio between Cortisol and D.H.E.A. and this ratio is something that
can actually be analyzed with a saliva test. That’s right… scientific evidence is
available, you don’t have to believe in these facts because they are not a religion.
And what about the lost opportunity cost of missing out on hugging? When we moms spend our precious time on our endlessly repetitive guilt trips, it means we are not spending our time hugging our immediate family members, which means we are probably not getting enough of another important hormone called Oxytocin, known as the trust or love hormone in non-scientific circles.
I truly believe that every mom should skip the guilt trips and do a 3 to 6 month experiment trying out two simple concepts when it comes to hugging. The first stems from the idea that a simple 20 second hug, involving skin to skin contact, such as cheek to cheek, will cause the body to release the hormone, Oxytocin.
The second is drawn from a quote by Virginia Satir, the well-known author, who is often credited with saying, “It takes 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Also, some scientific evidence has shown higher divorce rates for people with lower Oxytocin levels, so it makes sense that if people just spent a lot more time hugging their children and significant others, families would be much better at sticking together.
If you think about it, 12 hugs a day times 20 seconds minimum per hug times all the people in your family is a lot of hugging time. In my own family, that amounts to 16 minutes per day of continual skin to skin hugging. I believe that after giving up guilt tripping and other destructive emotions, in favor of endlessly repetitive hugging, everyone would feel so much better and would want this life-giving hugging practice to continue forever.
And what about the idea of setting good examples for children. Again, if we're spending our time being stressed and feeling all kinds of unproductive, Cortisol-producing, useless emotions, such as the guilt trip, then we are sending a message to our kids that the ways in which we choose to spend our time does not have value in society.
Childhood is fleeting… it’s over it seems, before the average mom can blink an eye and the time we spend managing our households, raising our children and nurturing our families is the most important function in modern society, from my perspective. Guilt trips just use up precious moments that could be spent helping kids become stress hardy and resilient.
Now, we all know that some women, choose to work outside the home. Perhaps they do this because they don't feel they have a choice or perhaps they do this because they feel the stay at home/work at home life is simply not for them.
And some women choose to stay at home/work at home, most likely for similar reasons, but whatever the reason why women either stay at home or don't stay at home, it doesn't change the fact that the example we set and the message we give to our children lays the foundation for their entire lives and with life expectancy growing longer with each passing decade, that could be very long time indeed. The last thing any mom should be doing is spending one moment allowing the guilt trip to produce destructive and unproductive hormones in her body.
And another thing, as a former career development coordinator and work experience programs manager at an urban school board, I learned that many employers feel youth are not at all ready for the world of work at age 18. So, watching mommy juggle life effectively and with a constructive attitude (positivity, law of attraction, etc.) is one of the best gifts you can give your children because they will be far more employable and/or entrepreneurial later on as a result.
There is no better way to teach stress hardiness and resilience, which have been proven 600-800 times since the 1970's (Maddi & Khoshaba, 2005) to be the most important tools for producing healthy, happy, self-motivated and successful adults.
And finally, there is the problem of free radicals. The reality is that chronic degenerative disease is out of control in modern society. Medical science has proven there are more than 200 chronic diseases all caused by overproduction of free radicals and the resulting oxidative stress. These include all the inflammatory and all the auto-immune diseases.
So, it doesn't matter if mom suffers from depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine headaches or any number of other life-threatening or just annoying chronic conditions because chronic illness is the great equalizer. Modern women, when they employ things like guilt trips, must remain cognizant of the fact that all of these conditions and many more are caused by free radical damage.
And overproduction of unhealthy hormones such as Cortisol and under production of the much-needed hormones such as Oxytocin and and neurosteroids such as D.H.E.A. really are the new root of all evil. Free radicals don’t care about the mommy wars or about self-inflicted guilt trips. No matter where moms choose to hang their hats, free radicals will happily stomp on them… without prejudice.
So, rather than guilt trips, self-hate, apologizing for living and fighting with each other, moms must get serious about the damage being done in the mommy wars. Getting back to my Great Aunt Florence Paton, I truly believe those women who endured hunger strikes and jail time fighting for the rights of the women of the future ever imagined we would willingly give up our power.
And, I believe that women are the most powerful members of society because we have the greatest influence on the future of society. We simply need to get our heads on straight and stop disabling our bodies by our destructive thoughts and resulting behaviors so our children can have a true chance at health, happiness, self-motivation and success.