ACP member Miranda Passey gave advice to this week's Problem solved Guardian Column. An adult daughter had written in about her 83-year-old father who she described as a hoarder and a narcissist; he will talk without pause about people or subjects that are only of interest to him, so that his listeners are trapped. He creates a maelstrom of chaos around him. A day spent with him almost always ends with me feeling desperate and crazed.
The daughter lives in the UK, overseas from her family, but her father recently had a serious operation and asked if he could come and stay with his daughter after the operation. She was dreading this and asked for help.
Passey explained how she thought the daughter was bringing her child self into exchanges with her father.
“Contact with your father makes you feel like a helpless child in relation to him. As an adult, you are in a position to say, ‘I don’t want you to come. Something about talking to your father takes you back to being a child and feeling that you can’t say no, at least without feeling immensely guilty."
“Guilt – ordinary guilt – is an important part of life,” says Passey. “It gives you a conscience and it can bring an impetus to try and repair things. But when there is too much of it, guilt disables and can make you impotent.”
Passey said that this “excessive” guilt is often learned when one is really young and vulnerable – it becomes a familiar groove we can then get into when interacting with certain people. She also reflected on the fear for the daughter, of facing her own anger at her father which is stopping her from saying no.
Passey emphasised the importance for the daughter, of learning to love her dad even when she also really dislikes his behaviour.
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