As a caregiver, you may experience feelings of anger, guilt, and resentment at times. Getting to the root of these emotions can help you identify underlying needs and develop strategies to meet those needs. “Guilt and resentment are part of the job,” says Mieko Ise, who is a caregiver to both her parents and in-laws. “But it doesn’t need to define you or what you do.”
Marion Little, a dispute resolution expert with John Howard Society of Peterborough, shared four steps to help you get to the bottom of your negative feelings.
4 steps for identifying and transforming negative feelings
Step 1 – Observation: When thinking about a situation that makes you feel guilt or have resentment, try to identify what you saw or heard without judgement. For example, remove regret and blame from your behaviour like snapping at your care recipient.
Step 2 – Feelings: Think about what you observed, and how it made you feel? Try to remove the pronoun in your statement. For example, instead of saying “he made me angry”, you would say, “I feel angry”. Instead of saying “she takes me for granted”, you would say “I feel unappreciated.”
Step 3 – Needs: When we experience negative feelings, they are often an indicator of unmet needs. Once you have identified your feelings – separate from blame or judgement – think about where those feelings point to.
As an example, Mieko shared that she felt resentful if she received any negative feedback from her care recipient. Upon reflection, she realized that the unmet need was the reassurance of a job well done. Without that need being fulfilled, she would get overly defensive.
Step 4 – Requests: Once you have identified a need, the next step is to find ways to meet that need, separate from what sets it off. It is important to recognize and accept that some people are unable or unwilling to help fulfil your need. Using Mieko’s example, she may never get the reassurance she needs from her care recipient. She can look for reassurance elsewhere, perhaps from other family members or a caregiver support group. Mieko can also seek that reassurance from herself.
You cannot get rid of negative feelings unless you can identify what they are. Get to know your negative thinking and how it gets triggered. Only with that self-awareness can you begin to identify when it is happening and make a choice to shift your perspective in the moment.