As an unpaid carer, we can experience a myriad of emotions. It’s not often we speak up about feelings like resentment, irritation, anger or even hatred.
It’s important that we feel safe to acknowledge these feelings.
And awareness and acceptance can be the starting point to getting support that can help.
Why don’t we like the person we care for?
There can be many reasons we don’t like the person we care for, and the feelings of dislike may come and go, varying in their intensity. But there appear to be four key reasons we don’t always like the person we care for:
We never particularly liked the person, even before we found ourselves being their carer. Our relationship may have always been problematic and now we feel trapped.
Their condition or diagnosis may have changed their personality and behaviour.
A build up of understandable resentment at the impact of caring on our own lives and freedoms.
Those of us caring for someone with a mental health condition may find it particularly hard to identify as a carer. And we may find it particularly hard to detach or disassociate from hateful things that may be said to us.
How do carers feel about ‘not liking’ the person
they care for?
Carers in our community shared soundbites
of what it feels like, when we’re caring for someone we don’t like.
“I feel guilt”
“Being trapped in a prison of our own making”
“The hate some of us receive from the person we care for, chips away at our mental health and self-worth”
And these feelings extend beyond our four walls and physical boundaries.
We don’t have to be living with the person we care for to experience these feelings.
Why is it important to acknowledge that we don’t always like the person we care for?
By acknowledging our feelings, we can get support. Living with feelings of resentment, anger or hatred for a long period of time can be devastating for both ourselves and potentially for the person we care for.
If our own emotional needs are not taken care of, we can find ourselves in a place where we may end up neglecting or abusing either ourselves or the person we care for.
What support do carers recommend?
In our virtual cuppa, carers shared the type of support that was helping them to cope with their feelings of ‘not liking’ the person they care for.
Here are some of their experiences:
Carers were keen to recommend counselling, as a way to talk through complicated feelings and to help make sense of them.
“If the first counsellor you meet doesn’t feel right, try another and another”
If we're feeling nervous about the idea, our carers guide to therapy may be a helpful read.
2. Local carers’ centres
Reaching out to our local carers’ centre can open opportunities for further support. From specific support groups to (in some cases) funded counselling or befriending services. We can find our local carers’ centre through the Carers’ Trust’s nifty tool.
3. Accepting and acknowledging feelings
Ultimately, acknowledging and accepting the feelings was considered a really important and big step.
“Being allowed to say this out loud, realising that it’s OK and you’re not the only one”
Our guide to making friends with our feelings is a helpful starting point.
4. Creating a support network
By reaching out, we start to create our own support network. Who can you reach out to right now?
We can also reduce the physical toll of our caring role. And while this doesn’t address the emotional ‘stuff’ that’s going on. It may give us more moments to pause, breathe, compose and reach out for emotional support.
The following blogs on getting practical support in place may be helpful:
What tools can help us to manage difficult behaviour in a caring role?
Depending on our relationship with the person we care for, there may be some mindset tools that can help us to manage negative feelings. These are not a cure-all, and seeking professional support is recommended. But the tools below are helping some carers in our community to make each day a little better.
1. The pause
If there are repetitive interactions with the person we care for that continuously leave us feeling low, angry, irritated (or any other unbeneficial emotion), then ‘the pause’ may help us.
Between every thought and every action, there is a moment. A pause. A breath.
What if we don’t respond in the same way we always respond?
What if we use the pause, to ‘not respond’ or to say something differently? Could we elicit a different and more beneficial response from the person we care for? Or at the very least, could we save ourselves from reacting negatively and ‘blowing up’?
What do I get by responding in the way I always respond? (known as “How’s that working out for me?”). Sometimes we’re simply validating to ourselves how awful things are.
Can I let that response go?
What would be better for me?
2. People do well if they can
This idea is taken from Dr Green’s book The Exploding Child, and takes the belief that ‘children do well if they can’ - that bad behaviour is due to a lack of skill, a fear or an anxiety.
What if we extended this beyond children? Responding to the bad behaviour, means we’re not responding to the root cause.
Taking a simple example, a tired and hungry child (or adult) will be angry or “hangry”. Shouting at them doesn’t fix the problem, but feeding them might. We could preempt when they’re going to be hungry and remove the daily ‘hangry’ phase.
Looking at the person we care for - are there any skills they lack, fears or anxieties that might underpin some of their negative behaviours? Perhaps there’s embarrassment because they need care, for example.
And some people, when embarrassed, will deflect attention in a negative way. It doesn’t make it right, but it does give us an opportunity to tackle the root cause.
Disassociation (sometimes called dissociation) is when we disconnect with our feelings. It can be our body’s response to escaping trauma.
“Dissociation is how the mind copes with too much stress” - NHS
Therapies such a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapy (NLP) include disassociation techniques, which allow us to disassociate with a negative feeling in a controlled manner. It’s a technique best done with a master practitioner.
It can be particularly helpful if we have an underlying unbeneficial feeling, shaping our thoughts and reactions. Perhaps we have unresolved anger or grief at the diagnosis or our role as a carer.
It’s helpful to know that before we’re able to ‘disassociate’ with the feeling, we have to ‘associate’ with the feeling. This means we have to feel the feeling intensely, usually via a guided visualisation or hypnosis. Carers tell us this can feel overwhelming and exhausting, but...
The therapist then uses clever language and visualisation techniques to shrink the feeling, move it outside of our body and sometimes into our past. This way we become removed from our feelings - or disassociated. And this reduces the intensity of the feeling.
One carer shared her experience of a disassociated hypnosis. And while this isn’t specifically to do with ‘not liking the person we care for’, it’s helpful to see how the idea might support us:
“I had an overwhelming sadness that I had carried for years. The hypnosis allowed me to finally look at and label the feeling. It turns out I had been carrying a huge weight of grief for my daughter after her regression. It was overwhelming and exhausting going through the hypnosis, but once we had finished, and I had disassociated from the feeling, I felt as ‘light as a feather’. The feeling still grows back sometimes, but it’s less intense and I know how to manage it better.”
Other ways to help us reduce the intensity of our unbeneficial feelings include talking therapy and journaling. All tools which allow us to associate with our feelings and make sense of them. Before removing them from our mind - so we don’t feel we have to hold it all in there.
4. Topping up our own needs bucket
It’s vital that we remember to prioritise ourselves every day. To think of our own needs’ bucket and to do things for our own benefit. This, after all, is our life too.
Aside from anything, we cannot care from a place of lack. If we don’t put fuel in a car, it eventually breaks down.
Looking after ourselves is a great way to remind ourselves that ‘we matter’.
As one carer said:
“The hate some of us receive from the person we care for, chips away at our mental health and self-worth”
So it’s incredibly important that we continue to nurture ourselves with clear messages of self worth. From a pamper evening and bubble bath, to simply making our bed each day (with clean sheets when we can!). Grander gestures are welcome!
We know that free time (or indeed money) is not always in abundance for unpaid carers. So we have three blogs that give great advice on caring for ourselves when there isn’t much time, How we can prioritise ourselves every day and How to love and nourish ourselves.
5. Establish healthy boundaries
Have we paused to think about what our boundaries are? What we are and are not prepared to do (or put up with) in our caring role?
The person we care for can't understand our boundaries, if we don’t first know them ourselves.
What is emotional abuse?
Whether intentional or not, in some instances we may find ourselves receiving emotional abuse from the person we care for. It’s important that we can recognise this.
Relate highlights several behaviours that may constitute emotional abuse:
Intimidation and threats.
Being made to feel guilty.
Telling you what you can and can’t do.
For further detail on each of these, read more on Relate’s page.
It can take time and feel weird to describe this treatment as ‘abuse’. But it’s important we recognise and call it out as what it is. Ultimately it is about how the behaviour makes us feel. Does the behaviour have a negative impact on our emotional wellbeing?
If you recognise this behaviour in your relationship with the person you care for, then it’s important that you reach out for help.
Speaking to someone outside of our immediate relationship can be a helpful first step. This could be a trusted friend or GP. Or as carers recommend (above), a counsellor or a call with the team at Mobilise can provide the initial support needed.
And remember, we don't have to become a carer
No one should feel pressured to care for someone if they don’t want to or can’t. As set out in The Care Act 2014, and our blog Carers Rights and the Law. The Law also protects us from the impact of caring.
In reality, it can feel very difficult to step away, but it’s important that we understand that legally we are allowed to. If you'd like a safe space where you can talk about your experiences with others who are in similar shoes, feel free to join the Mobilise community.
Or if you'd like to see more content like this, sign up for our weekly newsletter full of carers' tips, from the warning signs of carer burnout to financial help for carers.