Cathryn's Articles for Stepmom Issues and Relationships


Bulletin Board Support: How to help each other when in crisis?
There are often times when one woman will describe her situation and another woman reading will have a strong reaction to what she reads. It can be very emotionally charged to read about the pain, fear, rage and sometimes humiliation, shame and outright cruelty that someone else is experiencing. This can make you want to scream, “Run” “leave” don’t take any more crap!” etc. all because you are wanting to spare the writer pain you experienced or help them see something more clearly, sooner, rather than laters. This is all understandable and helping each other is what we are all about her are SMOMS.org.

Below is a post I wrote in reply to a sister SMOM who was unsure about when to speak up, when to stay quiet, what is support, what is silent allowing and these are all very important questions. You can read the entire thread and the replies of several other SMOMS by going to the Open Section of the Bulletin board under the Forum with Sample Threads of the BB. You’ll see the title.

This in the Stepmom Specific Article Section because I feel strongly about how I want us to support each other here are SMOMS.org. It’s not the only way to support each other but since the overarching goal at SMOMS.org is respectful compassionate support, I wanted to share so you can see if this approach resonates with you or not.

CBD Reply to original post. (I’ve edited it a bit for ease of reading.)

Hi Ladies,
We're a site for a lot of women in emotional crisis of some degree and you and I are here to support each other through the often complex and unchartered waters of being a stepmom who most likely has challenging stepkids and/or has to deal with their hostile bio-mom.

Many come here are feeling overwhelmed, isolated, judged and exhausted.

Even though being a stepmom can be the most excruciating experience we’ve ever had, I truly believe that being in the role of stepmom is also a tremendous opportunity for personal growth, healing and transformation AND many of those things are not possible when we're at the end of our emotional rope and needing and looking for some connection, some TLC, some compassion and some hope that there's something...anything... we can do to help ease the suffering, while trying to keep our hope alive and the loving connection with our Beloved in tact.

My coach Kit used to say, "Help isn't help unless perceived so by the recipient." He said that to me in 1984 and I still have to remind myself of that every once in awhile. Here at SMOMS we work hard to help and be helped as much as we can and that ability and/or need can vary from hour to hour.

I'd like to encourage you all to consider a couple of things when you read a post that triggers a strong emotional reaction and urge to reply. These are things that I feel are important and helpful. Doesn't make them right or true, it's just my opinion, please receive it as you will:

1. Witnessing and acknowledging the feelings of another is ALWAYS helpful to that person. Being seen, heard or read and replied to is a priceless human gift we can all give each other. In my experience harm is never done in this process. Just figuratively holding someone's hand and saying, "I know this is hard" to me, is not endorsing or supporting anything, it’s just giving a much needed human gift.

2. We can have "red flag" reactions to things for 3 main reasons. There are ways to offer help and honor your urge to reply when you can offer an observation for her to consider because,

you're objective, you can see something she's just missing because she's too entangled in her world.
You've lived through it and although you want to shout "Wake up, save yourself sooner and with less pain than I did!" You can resist and share your story.
There's something about what you're reading that's still unconscious, not-yet-understood and/or just too close to your world that you see more and be wiser in her situation than in your own situation. Sharing your opinion with her in this case, often gives you some emotional breathing room.

So, sharing whatever you observe from your own experience, from any of these perspectives give a sister SMOM a chance to reflect without having to agree, defend, comment or even like whatever you say. Your observations and sharings are gifts when offered with this intention.

Make Sense?

Somehow we can sense if the ideas are offered with this loving compassionate intention and it's a wonderful feeling to be a recipient of this act of kindness, even if we don't act on or agree with whatever the woman wrote.

Why? Because it's womanhood at it's best, in my view. Women giving each other the best of their strong feelings, wisdom and lovingkindness and then easily letting go of the results or interpretations of this gift.

However, if the advice is given from the conscious or unconscious and usually unspoken perspective of "I know what you should do better than you do (for whatever reason or training or personal experience) and I believe that if you don't do as I suggest, that you're weak or wrong or unwilling to face the truth, etc," This can hurt, offend, anger or scare the person because it's a non-verbal feeling that's transmitted with the words.

When in doubt, check it out!
Sometimes the recipient may be sensitive about something and may misinterpret someone as telling them what to do, or judging them (who likes that?) even when that’s NOT the intention of the reply. That's upsetting to both parties and requires some follow-up. This is why I encourage anyone feeling that they’re being harshly judged or criticized, to "push back" and have the courage to ask, "Is this what you're saying? x,y,z,?"

I believe we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and a LOT of slack as many are being stretched so thin emotionally, many for years and years. SMOMS.org is always going to work to be a safe place for women to help and be helped and yet we can still all practice the extra patience and curiosity that we'd like to receive from each other if there's ever a potential misunderstanding. Like I said, “When in doubt, check it out-please!”

3. There have been a few painful blow-ups here when some SMOMS feel they have a duty to "tell their truths" directly to another SMOM in a blunt, direct manner. This is NOT an OK approach here are SMOMS.org. When anger, the need to judge another as bad or wrong or the desire to "hit em with the truth as you see it" arises, this is very telling (and sad) about the ways you were taught as a child. All the anger that you are feeling deserves YOUR loving attention (instead of directing it out to another) and yet for many, the only pathway for expressing anger is at others.

This is a common, well-worn path for many and it’s just NOT OK here are SMOMS.org. If you ever feel angry at another SMOM or like you need to shake up a SMOM to "get her" to see or do something...please stop yourself and ask yourself, "Hey, what's going on here? What's this situation bringing up for me?" There are often lots of golden insights FOR YOU if you're willing to honor that anger and be curious about your own feelings.

4. There is being truthful (and it's relative to everyone) and then there's being honest. Honest sharing is AOK here. Not every agrees with my opinion on this. I believe that the difference between telling the truth and being honest is critical here. I believe telling the truth is sharing the facts as you see them with the belief it's the only way to see it. On the other hand, I believe that being honest is sharing the facts in a way that takes the other person's feelings into consideration as the most important goal/intention of the sharing. Like EvilStepmother says, we can always find a way to communicate with respect and compassion IF that's the goal. I hope that is every SMOMS’ goal.

5. I've found that people can often hear things when they are told a personal story. Like Rose and a couple of others mentioned in the original thread, sharing a story of, "When this happened to me I felt, a,b c and did x,y & Z and here's what happened” is a terrific way to relay insight, experience and wisdom for another SMOM to consider.

We all learn at different rates and in different ways. In 12 years of doing this, I can't ever remember anyone ever being offended because a sister SMOM shared her story with the intention of offering whatever value might apply to anyone reading it. This kind of sharing does require a deeper level of vulnerability, I get that and it's another reason we're now a private bulletin board.

6. It's also my experience and training that the more value and self-worth someone feels for themselves, the less they are likely to allow others to mistreat them. In "The Four Agreements" Don Miguel Ruiz says that we never allow anyone to treat us worse than we treat ourselves." Boy reading that really blew me away. With this, I believe that the more we can help each other remember our own goodness, our truth, our value by giving each other lots of support, ideas and by posing questions that help us each see things in new ways, the more we're going to help sister SMOMS in crisis in priceless ways.

It was already mentioned that we all learn in our own time and ways. Being here, looking for and offering help, compassion, ideas and possibilities is a tremendous way to help empower each other so we can all feel strong and wise enough to face our own truths and to build up the genuine confidence that we can handle whatever we need to handle for our own highest good.

It's a good thing to discuss. Best Wishes to all, Cathryn
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055
609.206.2009
Cathryn@smoms.org