Guilt, Daughters and Therapy:


When daughters end up feeling guilty when they come to therapy.

A daughter came to me for help, describing a truly awful mother/daughter dynamic. Yep that’s right, ripe for Jerry Springer stuff. Mom alternately lifted her daughter up, “you know you are the only one I can depend on” only to dash her to the rocks in the next breath, “why can’t you have lunch with me today, you never have time for me. I guess I mean nothing to you”.

And that is just a sampling of the vise grip of mixed messages this mom was doling out by the dirty dozen. Middle schools mean girl couldn’t rival this mom. Not unheard of, but this was an extreme case.

So, the daughter sought out therapy.

She let herself speak out loud all the negativity and double binds mom was dishing out.

And it sounded even worse when spoken out loud. It was hard to face that the mother she loved was also someone who hurt her on a regular basis.

Soon to both of us, it became apparent that the daughter was going to have to speak up if anything at all was ever going to change.

She needed to stop taking marching orders from mom and mom wasn’t going to like it. Not one bit.

But the daughter’s psychological independence was at stake.

Fast forward, a few sessions. After a bit of relief, the thud of guilt feelings began to settle inside the daughter making her really uncomfortable.  And like the toddler in the grocery store who has looked up only to find they are tugging the skirt of a stranger, the client felt terrified.  The little girl inside of her couldn’t withstand the guilt that she felt.

This is a critical juncture in therapy.

The reality is this.  Your therapist, even one who gets you and can help you is not your mother and never will be. She will never watch your kids for you or hold your hair back when you throw up.

How therapy can help.

The therapist can however meet you as a separate adult and listen with a compassionate heart so that you might begin to make sense of it all.

She will encourage you to begin to think for yourself and to make decisions that are good for you.

In the healing exchange she can help you learn how to parent yourself.

When you can transfer your loyalty from your mother to yourself that is the shift that allows all possibility.

This is the basis of healthy separation that allows for connection that ultimately feels good for everybody.