Friday, September 17, 2010

Pushing Buttons: Family Stresses

I remember when I was writing my dissertation. I dreaded talking to family, especially my mother. She lives nearby and we talk fairly often, but I still dreaded it for one reason. She would always ask me how my dissertation was going.

This is not a bad thing to ask, of course, but it was a BIG button to push. It brought up feelings of extreme guilt and frustration. Even a simple question made me feel horrible.

I have similar feelings now when my mom asks about applying for jobs or writing my novel. I am applying for jobs but getting nowhere. I can't get an interview. I also have made no progress on my novel because I've been too caught up in tasks I promised to do for the volunteer groups I work with (I'm really overextended in these groups but don't know what to do about it).

I used to say that my mom pushes my buttons so well because she installed them.

The thing which most be remembered when this happens, though, is that the person asking the questions doesn't mean anything terrible. My reaction of irritation and guilt is all from internal sources with the question as the trigger.

I have to learn how to deal with the frustration brought about by my guilt of incomplete tasks (one of which I am in control of and one of which I have little control over, since I can't make people give me a job interview).

Snapping at my mother because she asked me those same questions (again! and again!) doesn't help.

I know from past experience that I'm not the only one who has these problems but the only solution I have so far is to remind myself that I am in control of my feelings.


  1. Do you feel guilty when your mom asks about your progress because you haven't made much?

  2. Yes, definitely. I had a slow time with my dissertation. I haven't had time for my novel because of all the volunteer work I got myself into lately. I have applied for jobs but I don't get interviews and she makes me feel like I've not been applying (she reacts with surprise when I point out that I apply to 5-6 jobs a week, at least--the same thing I've had to point out several times).

    I want to work on my novel but the stuff I've committed to has to get done too. As for the job applications, I really have no control over the fact that people don't want to hire a Ph.D. for a nonacademic job and the academic world is cutting back so much that I haven't had luck there either.

    The guilt is well founded (and I am good at it without her help).


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