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News & Views - Oct, 1996 Issue #42 

From: Island View RTC Parent Manual 
Syracuse, Utah 801-773-0200 

It is no great secret that most of the adolescents that come to a center such as Island View, do so reluctantly, and in some cases, with a great deal of oppositionality. Often, such teenagers make it strongly known that “there is nothing wrong with me”, and that if “only you would back off, everything would be just fine.” His or her problem is not theirs. It is always somebody other than theirs, typically yours — so they claim.

As a result, shortly after your son or daughter enrolls at Island View, he or she may attempt to arouse feelings of guilt and anxiety within you. Few residents do it unconsciously, many do it deliberately. We call this “GUILT-LOADING”.

There are basically three methods for this sort of technique. First, your son or daughter may simply be trying to get you to feel so bad and guilty, that the only way for you to alleviate such feelings of anxiety is to sign him/her out of the program. Typical examples of guilt loading are: “Why did you put me in here? I can’t believe you did this to me, You obviously don’t care about me. I don’t deserve this. If you don’t get me out of here, I’ll never talk to you again. If you take me out of here, I’ll do anything you want me to do. If you don’t take me out of this place I’ll kill myself!” etc., etc., etc..

The second method of guilt-loading is somewhat more subtle. It is known among behavioral scientists as “triangulation.” It simply means that one person is misinforming, lying or telling half-truths to a second person about a third person in order to get the third person “into trouble”. Typical examples of triangulation attempts from your son or daughter may be: “My therapist told me that it is really all your fault that I ended up here. I talked to my father last night and he does not think that I belong in a place like this; I told you it was stupid for me to come here, mom. He said that he’s going to get me out!” Like the previous method it is designed to make you feel guilty.

The third method is the “horror story” approach. It is simply misrepresenting, exaggerating, or making up stories. All designed to make you feel guilty. Typical examples are: “They are not feeding me. They are feeding us too much, they are going to turn me into a pig. There is never hot water for the showers. My room mate is totally crazy, if you don’t get me out of here I’ll go mad. Nobody on the entire staff has talked to me for days. I’m the only sane person in this place. Compared to other kids here, I have no problems”, etc., etc., etc..

Do not let guilt-loading overpower you. As long as your son or daughter thinks there is a chance to control you by these techniques, such self-defeating efforts will probably continue. If he/she succeeds in making you feel guilty, then you will need to work with your adolescent therapist who can help you through this period. Remember that “getting hooked” by guilt-loading and not being able to overcome it, significantly hampers the rehabilitation process of your son or daughter. Significant therapeutic gains are often only forthcoming when the parent clearly communicates to the child that it is up to him/her to work through issues and that you will not bail him/her out. You will help your son or daughter the most by no longer allowing him/her to manipulate the way out of consequences. Work closely with your therapist. When your son or daughter “settles down”, then you will know that you have provided him/her with an opportunity to gain self-control and self-esteem. 

Copyright © 1996, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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