She was grieving… hard.
And more than that. Feelings she’d held inside for decades were surging to the surface, taking over the thoughts in her head and the words coming out of her mouth.
Resentment. And Rage.
These were not feelings she was comfortable with. These were NOT feelings that a “good daughter” felt towards the mother she loved… the mother she had sacrificed so much for, tended to almost her entire adult life… and who was now dead.
I sat across from her on the sofa as resentment contorted her face. She didn’t want to be hugged and comforted. Her body was insisting on feeling these feelings and being witnessed in them even though shame was rising, too, trying to shut down again what had been swallowed and suppressed for so long in order to be The Good Daughter.
A long stream of have-to’s flowed forth. She HAD TO take care of her. She HAD TO sacrifice her needs. She had NO CHOICE but to say no to other relationships if they would interfere in any way with her care for her mother.
She had felt trapped by Obligations… obligations laid upon her as an inheritance passed down from her great grandmother to her grandmother to her mother and then to her.
Now, she was feeling the horror of passing it on to the daughter she had raised as a single mom. Tears of helplessness followed the rage.
We did some tapping together.
She started breathing with more depth and strength, then she did something totally in-character. She offered me some soup. As a cook she heroically had served thousands of people food for their bellies. She knew that a good soup could warm the hurting heart.
It was vegetable beef, and it smelled wonderful.
The question I asked next surprised us both…
“I’m curious, how much poop would you have to add to this soup to make the whole thing… poop soup?”
“Not much!!” she replied. We laughed.
And it’s true, isn’t it? Whether lobster bisque or vegetable beef, the tiniest bit of added poop turns the whole thing into toxic Poop Soup.
Isn’t the same thing true of Obligation?
I then asked her, “Of the million acts of service you did to help your mother live a good life here with you and your daughter, what percentage of them would you have done even if you were not obligated in ANY WAY to do them?”
She was quiet for several minutes before she spoke. Her answer has stuck with me ever since. She said… “95%”
The truth of that was so vivid. This is a loving and generous being who, of course, would take care of the mother she loved.
I asked, “What if the other 5% was like poop in the soup. What if the resentment and rage isn’t over the 95% of the time when your loving devotion would have given you the fuel to climb the stairs, answer another call for help, change another diaper… and it’s the 5% where you didn’t feel free that was, well, the poop in the soup… from the recipe handed down generation to generation?”
Her face got serious. “I don’t want my daughter to be obligated this way.”
And she isn’t.
In the midst of her pain over the death of her mother, her heart became so clear. She told her daughter that she didn’t want her to visit, have dinner, or “take care of her” just because she felt obligated.
What they would be free to choose from is the mutual devotion they share for one another. The 95%.
Same yummy soup… without the poop.
In my view obligation is something laid upon us, a burden to be borne, a responsibility we didn’t choose. In our innate desire for freedom, obligation is a toxic form of emotional pollution.
Yet, the notion that the alternative to obligation is “not caring for each other at all” is absurd.
Because it is true Devotion that rises within us and gets us to show up with hearty presence. Devotion taps into a rooted strength for us to be heroes in each other’s lives without sacrificing our life in the process.
Devotion leaves room for us to say No, while asking others to join and find a way to get everyone’s needs met. Devotion expands options while obligation binds us -- shackle and ball -- to an endless series of demands and have-to’s.
Devotion deepens and strengthens our character and our resourcefulness. It warms the core of us like a well-crafted and hygienically prepared soup can.
If we are to share a healthy and abundant emotional world, I invite all of us to become aware of how subconscious obligation plays a part of our relationships… how we feel personally obligated and trapped… and also how we might feel “safer” if others are obligated to meet our needs…
Can we free them from being obligated to us? Will we free ourselves?
Until next time, I'm Rick at Thrivingnow. And… I’m open to hearing from you about how obligation plays a role in your life and how you’d be if you were free obligation and could live and laugh and love from a place of devotion. I invite you to email me at Rick@EmotionalFreedom.Love or visit EmotionalFreedom.Love and leave a comment. Thanks for listening.
Episode 4 ~ Emotional Freedom for All Podcast
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