Dr John Demartini joined Bahar Etminan, founder and editor of Rescu.com.au, on the Rescu couch to talk about guilt free parenting. He shared some helpful tips with us on how we can free ourselves from these feelings of guilt and shame. Dr Demartini is a human behaviours specialist and best-selling author of ‘The Values Factor’. He talks about his fascination with the way that people hold on to the things of the past and judge themselves, and how this only holds them back from doing extraordinary things with their lives. He believes that one of the main reasons we have this tendency to judge ourselves so harshly is because of our tendency to compare ourselves to others. We minimize ourselves in comparison to other people and introduce their values into our life, we then we beat ourselves up thinking that we’re supposed to be like them.
Rescu: You’re on Rescu Tv, and I’m delighted to welcome back our old friend Dr. John Demartini, human behaviours specialist and the author of ‘the values factor’ today we’re going to talk about guilt free parenting, guilt free everything is your specialty isn’t it?
Dr John Demartini: Well I’m very fascinated by how people hold onto the things of the past and judge themselves and hold them back from doing something extraordinary with their lives. And judging yourself and feeling guilty and shame about things is not really the most productive thing. It’s wiser to find out that whatever you’ve done, how it’s served you and how it’s served others instead of holding on to the past.
Rescu: I’m going to ask you Dr Demartini, why is it that we’re so hung up on judging ourselves. It’s not like there are nanny cams observing our own behaviour in our homes or in our offices. But people seem to get so hung up on what other people think of them.
Dr John Demartini: Well as long as we minimize ourselves to other people and inject their values into our life and expect ourselves to live in other people’s values, we’re going to beat ourselves up thinking that we’re supposed to be like them. Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide, wisdom is knowing how to be true to yourself. You don’t judge yourself relative to your own values, you judge yourself when you injected somebody else’s values into you. Freud called it the superego, we inject the values of authority figures into our life and then expect to live in those values and those ideals and then beat ourselves up thinking I should be doing this, I ought to be doing this, I’m supposed to be doing this. And then feel bad about ourselves because we’re expecting ourselves to be something other than who we are.
Rescu: So who are we trying to be when we’re having that parental guilt, and how can we set aside that desire to be somebody else, the perfect version of ourselves?
Dr John Demartini: Well as long as we, sometimes we see people and think oh by god they’ve got a better life.
Rescu: That celebrity stardom thing.
Dr John Demartini: The celebrity or the person who’s possibly done some sort of a video or a book or something, that we think oh I should be like that. And then we compare ourselves to that instead of honour who we are. No two people are the same and there’s no ‘this is the way it’s supposed to be’, there’s a flexibility in life. And we need everybody, everybody’s views and everybody’s way of doing it. If you look very carefully at the way people have been raised, you’ll find that some great people have come from the most outrageous beginnings. And so as a mother you don’t want to sit there and put yourself into a storybook and think oh I should be this and if I’m not there’s something wrong with me. You wan to just honour who you are and know that you love your child. If you do then your showing love to your child in your own form and that’s a gift. And don’t compare it to how it’s supposed to be according to somebody else.
Rescu: Do you think, you know, you are a human behavioural science specialist, and you’ve been doing this for a very long time, has the conversation around parental gift changed or intensified in the past decade? Or is it the same conversation that women have been having for decades?
Dr John Demartini: I think it’s pretty consistent through the ages, but today because we have access to social media and the world we can see ourselves comparing ourselves to more people and there’s more of a comparison, we see celebrity life and super life and even our friend’s lives and we beat ourselves up. And all I can say is that you know, if you made a list of all the most famous people in the world some of them came from the most outrageous beginnings.
Rescu: So Angelina Jolie with all her children she had kind of a different background.
Dr John Demartini: You know I had a young boy who was angry at his mum you know because she didn’t raise him properly and he was comparing her to some idealism. When I ask him what would be the draw back if she had done that what would be the drawback if she had done what she should have done. And he couldn’t think of any, and I said well that’s a fantasy. And if you compare your reality to a fantasy you will never appreciate your mum. I said what would have been the drawback and we started listing the drawbacks of the way he thought it should have been and then we started listing the benefits of the way it was and he eventually broke down in tears of gratitude for his mum because he was thinking that she had messed up and the truth is she hadn’t. She was just trying to juggle her job, her work, her wanting to have a man in her life because she was single but with a child. And putting all those things together, when he saw that he realized that she did an extraordinary job, and he was comparing to a fantasy. When he actually broke the fantasy he appreciated the person. I always say when we’re depressed and not appreciating other people or ourselves its because we’re comparing ourselves or them to people we think that they’re supposed to be. And they’re who they are not who we think they’re supposed to be.
Rescu: So as a parent are there a couple of simple techniques that can stop us in our tracks when we’re going into that spiral of feeling guilty. Are there some quick things to snap out of it so to speak?
Dr John Demartini: I would write down everything you feel you made a mistake on anything you feel ashamed or guilt about and write them all down. Inventory them, and then ask who…
Rescu: You’re big on inventories.
Dr John Demartini: Well because if not it just runs around in your head, I’d rather have a short pencil than a long memory. And so what happens, you put it down and you make a list of everything that’s on your mind, that’s occupying space and time in your mind that’s really bothering and that you feel shame and guilt about. And then what you do is you go and write down how did it serve whoever’s involved and how did it serve you, whatever you did. And if you go in there and find out how it served you and how it served the people involved, as you identify the benefits to them, your shame and guilt goes down. Because shame and guilt are an assumption that you have done something with your actions that have caused more pain than pleasure, more loss than gain and more negatives than positives to somebody. When you find out the benefits and the gains and the positives to those people it just calms down and then you realize that you had chosen to see only one half of the equation and not see both sides.
Rescu: So it’s not self-justification it’s just reframing it.
Dr John Demartini: It’s looking for the other side. We’ve all had events in our lives that we’ve thought were terrible and then a day, a week, a month, five years later we look back at it and go you know what, thank god that occurred, I didn’t see it. So instead of having the wisdom of the ages with the aging process its wise to have the wisdom without it, not have to have the aging process. So by asking that question, how did it serve people we will discover that over time but why wait and why age in the process. Why not just find it now. So the quality of your life is based on the questions you ask, and if you ask how specifically is what I’ve done, how has it served? Don’t make anything up don’t exaggerate it just look, and once you see it and balance it the shame and guilt is gone and your back to being present. Because you made the decision at that moment based on what you believed would be the greatest advantage over disadvantage at the moment. But the only way you can judge it is by comparing it to what you think it should have been based on some outside authority.
Rescu: That’s true.
Dr John Demartini: And once you realize that authority is just another person with another set of values, your not necessarily supposed to live in other people’s values. You’re here to live in your own.
Rescu: Well I think those are fantastic tips for any area where you feel guilt or feel a little bit stretched and as always I want to thank you so much for being so clear with your wonderful advice. Thanks Dr Demartini.
Dr John Demartini: Thank you, appreciate it.