How Can I Protect My Family?
Feeling protective as a mother is natural and necessary. It just needs to be kept within realistic and reasonable boundaries... The more emotionally attached we are to someone the bigger the fear and pain of losing them and what they represent to us.
Q I’m terrified of anyone in my family getting ill and dying. I know we all have to die but I just can’t imagine how I’d cope. Since becoming a mum I’ve become super clean around the house – it’s almost an obsession! I dread dirt and germs making us ill – and it being my fault.
My friends and family have noticed, but I just laugh it off when they mention it – although I know they’re concerned about me and how I’m behaving.
I avoid any visitors coming into my home in case they bring in germs from outside with them. I used to have a pet dog and things like this didn’t bother me then, but now my dog has died and I'm a mum it’s all getting out of control? How can I protect my family without acting so weird?
A Feeling protective as a mother is natural and necessary. It just needs to be kept within realistic and reasonable boundaries. There are many threats to us all, and we would make ourselves miserable if we focused upon them every day. Our lives would be damaged by our fear of damage!
(If any members of your family have a medical problem which impairs their immune system, then this would understandably make you want to take extra care of them, and avoid exposure to toxins and germs as much as possible. You haven’t mentioned this as a factor, so I’m assuming here that they are all in good overall health. )
The more emotionally attached we are to someone the bigger the fear and pain of losing them and what they represent to us.
I’m curious about a few things…
* What did you lose as a child and what have you lost since?
You’ve mentioned your dog, and I’m wondering if perhaps you’ve experienced other losses in your life too – and the scales have now tipped over into the dread of ever again having to feel that awful pain of loss.
* Have you experienced the feelings and consequences of illness either personally or in your birth family, which has made you hyper-alert to it nowadays.
You also mentioned feeling ‘at fault’ if someone did get ill on your watch.
* Is there something negative in your past which you feel or believe was your fault, and that you were negligent and responsible for?
Might you then be burdening yourself with the responsibility and duty to make everything right nowadays?
Yes, your fear does seem to have become out of control. The basis of that fear is reasonable, but the extent of it isn’t – and it’s now affecting your thinking and behaviour in ways that other people have noticed too.
Remember that kids need natural exposure to germs to strengthen their immune system. They can then fight infections when their immune system is strong and robust – which is helped along by a good healthy diet and an avoidance of processed sugar and junk food.
Maybe you could now shift your vigilance and fears about germs, onto having a clean enough environment as well as a healthy and natural lifestyle and diet instead. This would at least dilute your current obsession and shift your energy into complementary channels.
Pat yourself on the back for being a caring mum and partner, and for trying your best to avoid them becoming ill or worse.
Then pat yourself on the back for getting things back into perspective and for loosening and lightening your fear, and diluting it back into natural care and concern – which you’ll then be modelling to your children for when they become parents too!
There’s nothing like realising the bigger impact of our behaviour, to motivate us to change and improve it.
As a family, make time for play and allow yourselves to have fun, whilst you strengthen your immune systems and have a robust and healthy life together!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
I help women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours - to FEEL better, so they can DO, BE and HAVE better
www.maxineharley.com - where you will find lots of FREE resources to help you if you've had a troubled childhood or toxic parents. You'll also find 15 inexpensive online self-help workshops and courses to help you to turn your life around.
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