I grew up in a pretty obligation free zone. Although we had clear rules about behaviour and other things, there wasn’t a general feeling of obligation. No, “you need to call your mother” or “you need to look after us when we are old”.
It was quite a shock to me, as an adult, to witness the complexity of obligation in adult friends and partners. I simply didn’t have a framework for it. There was nothing my parents said I ‘should’ do to, or for, them.
When we are driven by obligation, we are driven by a ‘shoulding’ internal force which demands we fulfil the obligation, or we are not good enough somehow for ourselves or for our family.
To help differentiate between the powerful internal force of obligation and our values, we need to be clear on our values.
If you value your relationship with your mother and she wants you to call daily, but you find it exhausting, what do you do?
I like to look under the request to explore what is REALLY there. What is it she really wants from you? Is it that she wants you to call daily, or is it that she really wants to hear a bit more about your life, so she feels more connected to you? If this is the case, you can share more (if you want to), and maybe she will be happier with every second day on the phone?
The following method is to check in with your body. How does your body feel when you think about calling your mother? Sit with that feeling; what is it telling you? Be kind to that feeling and listen to its message.
What struggles have you had with obligation?