Stepfamily Reality #42 - Manage Stepfamily Guilts

       Guilt is the normal emotion that occurs in healthy adults and kids when we feel we've broken an important rule - a should (not), must (not), ought (not), or have to. Guilt feels like shame, but has different roots and is reduced differently. There are lots of reasons why each member of a typical new multi-home stepfamily may feel significant guilts as they merge their biofamilies.

       If adults and kids don't (a) accept their stepfamily identity, (b) learn how their stepfamily differs from a typical intact biofamily, and (c) intentionally identify and convert their stepfamily myths into realities (e.g. this article), they risk unconsciously using biofamily rules and expectations to guide and judge their behavior. That guarantees significant guilts, including step-adults feeling guilty about feeling guilty ("I should know what I'm doing by now, but I'm really confused...").

       Veteran steppeople may empathize with the guilts you feel. Non-stepfamily people, including family-support professionals, may understand intellectually, but will be unable to really empathize because they lack similar life experience. So: significant stepfamily guilts are normal. They usually subside if adults help each and their kids to (a) heal any false-self wounds (Lesson 1), and (b) learn and use stepfamily norms and these realities as they evolve their alien new roles and relationships. A vital part of personal healing and reducing excessive guilts is learning how to redirect your tireless Inner Critic, retrain and comfort your inner Guilty Child, and forgive yourself...