There is a saying, "What goes around, comes around." Christians biblically say "as ye sow, so shall ye reap." Buddhism call this cause and effect karma. Japanese folklore calls it bachi, which denotes bad luck. Most religions and cultures teach that it is wrong to hurt or abuse someone else's spirit, soul or busshin. There will be a negative consequence, a karmic resonance or retributive bachi. Conversely, we are also taught that when we protect and nurture someone else's spirit, soul or busshin, we will gain positive consequences for ourselves. This seems to make good sense.
However, the converse does not seem to apply. What should caregivers do when they are being abused? If abusing others is bad and nurturing others is good, should not the same be true for the caregiver? When caregivers protect their self from abuse and nurture their busshin, they should reap benefits. When they allow others to abuse them and neglect to protect their self, there should also be negative consequences for their abuser. However, in most cases we are taught to "turn the other cheek," gambaru (be stoic) or to be compassionate, forgiving and self-less. When we misinterpret our cultural rules, we discover that protecting and nurturing our self is usually seen as being selfish and morally wrong. It seems self-sacrifice and self-denial can result in the abuse of self when an unspoken cultural rule subconsciously misdirects us.
Driven by these powerful, unspoken rules, we grow up lacking the permission, knowledge and courage of when to or how to protect and nurture our self. We have been actively taught not to care for our self but to sacrifice our self. This is why caregivers are often unable to leave the survivor in respite care when a vacation is needed. Some caregivers are unable to take the time to go to a movie or to a dinner with a friend. They think they have abandoned their duty. Our thoughts, our cultural rules, forbid us from restoring energy to our busshin. We are not allowed to make deposits into our spiritual checking accounts. There is tremendous conflict within those individuals who care for a loved one.
However, only the individual can protect and nurture his/her own busshin. We can only help someone else protect and nurture his/her self but we cannot do it for him/her. This holds true for burned out caregivers who are generally in an abusive situation and need to painfully relearn how to make deposits into their spiritual checking accounts without feeling guilty.