Caretaker Role–Case Study

Example of EFT with person in Caretaker role

“Joanne” was the oldest of two children in her family. Her parents divorced when she was in her early teens and she was assigned the role of caretaking her younger sister. This was done in a subtle way—she was first asked to take care of her sister after school, but she soon felt completely responsible for her sister’s welfare and took over her mothering. She always thought that this was her choice, and only as we started working together did it become clear that she was—unconsciously—moved into the role by her mother. Throughout her marriage, her mother never really took on the caretaker role for her children. She was very emotionally reactive, and easily went into rages. Her father was passive, quiet and distant, and, once he had separated from his wife, moved out of town and was quite distant from whatever was happening in the family. This often is the kind of setting where a child is pulled into becoming the “parent” for the whole family. After her parents had been divorced for a few years, she and her sister living mostly with their mother, her sister gradually moved into the identified patient role and then later into the outcast role, being sickly and increasingly abusing drugs and alcohol. Over time, her sister became an alcoholic, unable to succeed in school or to keep a job. In the meantime, Joanne gradually became the “go to” person in her family, and it was expected—by them and by her—that she was the only one who could solve any problems that arose. This created in her a sense of confidence, but she also felt increasingly burdened by responsibility.

Excerpts from sessions:

An event, one of many, during which her mother was angry about an argument she had with her husband, and was raging about him to Joanne. We went through the feelings that came up around this event, always tapping on variations of the psychological reversal “even though” phrase.

  •  “Even though I felt it was my responsibility to fix things between my mother and father, and I felt helpless and overwhelmed, I deeply and completely love and accept the child in me who tried so hard.
  • “Even though this responsibility was given to me by my mother, and shouldn’t have been my role, and it was a burden that was too much for me, I love myself as a teenager and I love myself now. I forgive my mother and father for giving me this role, and consider the possibility that they were doing the very best they could.”
  •  “Even though my mother often yelled and seemed angry, I realize that she was really sad about her life, and that this had nothing to do with me.”
  • “Even though it’s always been my role to take care of my parents and sister, and I have no idea who I would be if I weren’t taking care of them, I deeply and completely accept myself and I’m open to the possibility that they have their life paths and I have mine.
  • “….I consider the possibility that I can trust them to live their lives and I can live mine.”
  • “…I consider the possibility that my mother can grow up and we can both be adults.”

At the end of this session, Joanne had the image of herself and her parents standing in a line, all facing ahead and living their own lives in parallel—versus her having to take care of them.

One of the things that happens to people in the caretaker role is that they know how to take care of everyone except themselves. They spend so much time being called upon by others and making sure that everyone else is okay that they are sometimes not even aware that they are completely drained and don’t have a clue about what they themselves need. We worked on an accident Joanne was involved in that demonstrated this, when she might have gone through a red light and was hit by another car:

  •  “Even though I feel so guilty and responsible, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway.”

We tapped on the freezing response and panic, using simple “even though” phrases and then simply tapping on each symptom separately.

Then:

  •  “Even though there is fear and it’s held in my neck and throat, I deeply and completely accept myself and I let my neck and throat know that it can loosen up and let the tension dissolve. (During the accident, her neck was hurt as it swung back and forth, and the fear was in her throat. When we work on accidents or other traumas, often similar physical and emotional symptoms arise that appeared during the original event. We can move them through quickly with EFT).
  • “Even though I felt vulnerable and exposed, and still do when I think about the accident, and feel the tightness in my neck and throat…

A thought came up about her constant need to help her brother and mother out of scrapes and how she also is in the same role with several people at work. She felt tired and felt “I can’t deal with this.” We agreed that it would be better to work on specific incidents around her brother and co-workers another time, but just did a round on “even though I am often tangled in with others, I choose to become a solid and separate person distinct in myself.

She realized that her shoulders were moving forward. I had her consciously let them move forward further and to notice what this was. She said that it seemed like protecting and comforting herself. (This was the beginning of the solution, which was to let go of constantly helping others and to begin nurturing and protecting herself).

  •  “Even though a part of me feels vulnerable and exposed, I love this part of me and I choose also to welcome and recognize the other part of me that comforts and protects me.”

I asked her to remember and recognize ways in which she comforts and protects herself, or could comfort and protect herself. She came up with several ways, which we anchored by tapping on them. She also realized that there are ways that her mother protects and comforts her. She realized that she’s had a hard time telling the difference between protection and comfort from her mother, versus being smothered. We tapped on making the distinction. At the end of the session, her neck and throat felt good and she felt nourished and calm and solid.

After several more sessions, dealing with making the distinction between her mother and herself, and her sister and herself, on trusting them to have their own life path, and on the fact that she has a right to have her own, separate life, she is beginning to be aware of when she is pulled in to take care of them in ways that don’t feel right, and she increasingly is able to stay separate while still related. This is creating a feeling of freedom and lightness in her life.

 

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Contact Zoe Zimmermann, MA, LPC, Certified EFT Practitioner

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