Forum Replies Created
March 22, 2020 at 7:45 am #344584
Well this is a bit embarassing. Yes I am the same person. There was a mix up when I was trying to log in and I ended up following the prompts to re-register.
Sorry for the confusion!March 22, 2020 at 7:45 am #344586
Well this is a bit embarassing. Yes I am the same person. There was a mix up when I was trying to log in and I ended up following the prompts to re-register.
Sorry for the confusion!March 21, 2020 at 8:28 am #344464
Thanks very much for your reply. Yes, I think my post was really looking for reassurance because I kind of know that she is not respecting my boundaries by constantly drawing me into crises that occur periodically between my dad and her. We are now stuck in a back and forth on Messenger. She keeps asking me to let it go but then basically justifying her behaviour. So I’m supposed to just say ‘ok sure, let this go’ but at the same time she gets to have the final word and at the same not acknowledging that what I am unhappy about is her lack of respect for my boundaries. It’s seriously infuriating!
However one of the things she acknowledged in her recent post is that ‘doesn’t take advice’, which is quite an incredible thing to admit. I have known this for quite a long time, because it has always seemed strange to me that as her sister and having gone through my own struggles with my father (who I will admit is an incredibly difficult person), I sort of developed a whole bunch of strategies for coping, but she has never once asked me about that. So it feels like you can see this person trapped in this cycle of conflict and yet they refuse to admit their own contribution to the cycle and refuse to take advice. So that leaves you in the position of a passive bystander who is just watching this train wreck happen in front of your eyes. It is also vey invalidating, because it means that whatever you have gone through that might be helpful to her is just being ignored and treated as irrelevant. So what’s left is a superficial relationship which is not based on a genuine exchange and also one where she feels she can trample all over my boundaries by using the fact that she has experienced a lot of hardship as the excuse.November 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm #235913
I have been thinking about your comment a lot and that is why its taken so long to respond.
No I don’t think it is helping me to keep all those feelings bottled up under the surface. I think it generates a lot of self-loathing because I kind of beat myself up and ask myself ‘why haven’t I ever just said what I really think?’ It makes me feel weak because I never found a way to express those feelings. But the problem is that this pattern of swallowing down negative emotions is such a big part of my personality and my way of being that it is hard to isolate it to just one relationship. I think it kind of permeates my whole life. Until very recently I wasn’t even able to identify those feelings as ultimately stemming from feelings of anger. It’s like anger was so impossible for me to feel that I couldn’t even identify that feeling, let alone the way it became subjugated into resentment when it went underground and unexpressed.
Somehow I learnt some extremely unhealthy coping patterns in my family home and I have never really been able to identify them until now. I think that underlying all of this subjugation of feelings is fear. I felt that expressing real feelings would lead to anger from my father and so I learnt to hide them and in fact I prided myself on my ability to maintain a calm exterior and not be ruffled by his emotional outbursts. But now I realise that I have paid an extremely high price for that coping strategy – I don’t know how to express myself fully and honestly and for sure that was a major part of my long-term relationship breaking down. I became a people pleaser through fear of expressing myself fully in my own family. It gets to the point where I don’t know what I feel or what I want.
So, I am in this position where I have identified the problem and I know where it comes from and how if affects my life, but I really don’t know how to move forward from this point. Do I deal with these issues in my own life first and gain confidence in expressing myself in different ways, or do I directly express myself to my family of origin and hope that that will somehow be a catalyst for change in my own life? I really need a clear roadmap and direction to deal with this that I can follow step by step.October 29, 2018 at 10:00 pm #234433
Thanks for your response again. The question you have asked me is probably one of the central defining questions of my life. I suspect that my relationship with my father has caused me all kinds of troubles in my adult life.
I would say that as of now, we have a good relationship. As he is now getting quite old and I am also not young anymore, I guess he has mellowed out more and I have over the years learnt different ways of relating to him that have allowed a good relationship to develop. I am pretty happy about that. But I think the calm exterior of our current way of relating tends to mask some deeper unresolved issues. I don’t think that he has any idea how much contorting I have had to do to keep a calm face on things and how much inner turmoil that has caused.
The fact is, during my teenage years I had an extremely negative image of my father. I saw him as an imposter into our family home (the relationship between my parents broke down when I was still a child but they were on and off living in the same place throughout my teen years – though they never thought to clarify what their actual relationship was and whether we were happy with their strange arrangement). I felt that he had sort of ‘given up’ his role as a father when he initially moved out but then the constant coming and going made me feel like he wanted to keep his fatherly authority but not actually be there in a caring, comforting way. There were also frequent verbal confrontations with him. There was also one incident of physical violence where he slapped my face after I said something to him when I was about 14 or 15. I was so shocked I almost can’t really remember if it happened or not.
So those years set in place a very deep resentment and anger towards him. But because he had a very volatile and terrifying anger, it was impossible to express the depth of those feelings directly to him. So I learnt to keep those feelings bottled up and maintain my calm exterior. And part of that was learning how to control my emotions when I sensed that a confrontation may occur. It also learnt how to manage the flow of conversations so that trigger issues could be avoided. I think some of the trigger issues related to when I wanted to talk freely about myself, my goals, ambitions, dreams etc. I often felt that he did not really want to talk about anyone else, that somehow he would find a way to wedge in his own dreams, ambitions etc into the conversation instead. It was like instead of a father, I had a very competitive older brother but who as a father figure had the tendency to wield his authority in an extremely domineering and destructive way. I think the overall effect was that I learnt to minimise myself, control and bottle my emotions and reduce my needs so as to not rock the boat in the family home.
In my adult life, I have often struggled to find my way in life. Somehow I have felt scared of going with a clear vision of my own life. Instead I have often ended up compromising situations. Attaching myself to institutions (educationally), organisations or relationships as a way to give me some stability and strength. I still fear being really on my own and directing my own life, though I am now really in that situation after the end of a second long term relationship.
So, I guess, long story short, I still have huge amounts of anger and resentment towards my father (and probably my mother because she never took a strong enough stand) but I have no idea how to get those emotions out and just move on. A couple of months ago I did discuss some of these things with him, but it sort of degenerated and ended with him saying ‘you have hated me for 20 years’ – which indicates to me that he is not really ready to hear or understand how his behaviour has really affected me and my siblings).
I suspect that those bottled emotions probably have had an impact on the breakdown of my two relationships. One idea that has occurred to me is that maybe I have wanted to end my relationships as a proxy way of ending the relationship between my parents. Like I am kind of acting out what I wanted to see my mother do, but instead I am ruining my own life because I allowed two (generally good albeit needing improvement) relationships to end. I feel like as a child in a dysfunctional family I had no choice about how things went, so as an adult I am always sort of striving to get out of relationships and avoid commitment because I was kind of stuck in a dysfunctional dynamic within my own family that I felt I had no control over and still feel like that. So is it possible that until I get some resolution of those old emotions I will not be able to truly move on and create my own healthy relationships and life? I hope that is not the case, but I am starting to wonder if I can just keep ignoring those old feelings without them somehow bringing me down.October 26, 2018 at 10:55 pm #233615
Thanks for the replies.
To RebirthandRestart2018 I think you made some really useful insights. No I didn’t really challenge either of them at the time. I have this tendency to always pause before I respond or react to things. I think this is something I learnt growing up in a home with a parent who had a very volatile temper. I think this is a defensive strategy that I have learnt and it worked in my family home because I found the ways to sort of go ‘neutral’ or blank to avoid giving rise to further confrontation and emotional outbursts. Obviously, this strategy is probably not serving me well now as an adult because I know I tend to go into emotionally blank states and also don’t speak up when I don’t like things because I fear expressing strong emotions. So, I think this may be another side effect of this defensive strategy is that I allow things to ‘slide’. People can say fairly confrontational or even hurtful things to me and I will never react to them with my true feelings at the time. I always want to give myself a bit of ‘time’ to process their words and see how I feel about it. But I think that it also leads me to de facto accepting things that people say or at least not challenging them and I guess this is really just acquiescing to whatever their interpretation. I think later I realise I didn’t like something or I should have challenged it but it is kind of too late and instead of those being expressed at the time, the feelings I had transform into a quiet resentment. I guess I am the classic passive aggressive people pleaser.
So I am starting to see how not being able to express my real emotions in an appropriate way at the appropriate time allows other people to sort of project their own interpretations of my situations onto me. Even though I may not accept them, if they were not challenged at the time they can become the de facto interpretation and it leaves me feeling quite disempowered and uncomfortable because all the emotions are sort of boiling under the surface. I have also mentioned these things on other threads in relation to expressing anger.
I have never really thought about boundaries being a reflection of your values. I have thought about my own values in terms of politics and society, but I don’t think I have ever thought about my own values in interpersonal relationships. I think I have always felt so grateful to have a friend or a partner that I kind of didn’t worry too much about whether the relationships were always matching my values or serving me. I remember a few months ago I did a yoga retreat and there was a truth telling session and we were asked to say what are the things that we will not accept in a relationship and I was the only one that couldn’t answer. I had just never thought about it. So I guess I still have a ways to go in considering what I want and need from my relationships.
To Anita, I also found your comments useful. I like the concept of how people have their own narratives about you and that maybe your own narrative actually disturbs their narrative of you. But actually your life should be your own narrative and the other person should be able to listen wholeheartedly. I think that this was definitely a problem in my previous relationship. Somehow I never really felt heard or understood. I often felt that when I was trying to share how I felt about something, especially if they were negative feelings, then I would get stonewalled. It’s like he just couldn’t relate or somehow those negative feelings were a reflection of my own failures as a person rather than maybe a basic human response to a stressful situation. So, this caused a lot of problems in our relationship. As I am a person who tends to swallow my emotions rather than express them, I often had things bottled up for possibly months at a time before I would try to express them to him and then when I did I tended to get a fairly non-responsive reaction. I felt that he had his own understanding of what was happening but wouldn’t let me know about them and instead would just go silent. So we really had incompatible communication styles, especially in relation to emotions.October 7, 2018 at 1:58 pm #229603
Hi Tom, I think I can relate to what you are going through. I also grew up in a family where there were a lot of arguments and my dad had a very scary explosive rage that I think I have been almost traumatised by. I also now struggle with a deep-seated fear of conflict and I will do anything to avoid it, including downplaying my own needs and not standing up for myself when I have been hurt. I can now see that my need to avoid conflict is really because I cannot accept the emotion of anger in myself. I became aware of this very recently, when I had very good reason to express anger at my ex and I could actually feel my body freezing up at the idea that I could express this anger spontaneously. I felt myself freeze until the anger subsided and then I was left with the feeling of being ‘in control’ again but not necessarily knowing how to respond anymore. I had reverted to just ‘thinking’ about what to do rather than just expressing naturally what I felt (and rightly so). And unfortunately the other side effect is that instead of acting decisively to get something off my chest and just deal with it, I hold back and then end up indecisive about what to do and lose all momentum. So perhaps that is what is happening with you too. When there is a conflict you feel that your own anger could emerge and that is such a scary thought that you retreat to a safe zone. What do you think?March 17, 2018 at 11:34 am #197843
Thanks for the comments and the article.
Through this thread I have been able to gain a big insight into one of my major stumbling blocks in life. I have realised that this fear of ‘dissolving’ into other people because I didn’t learn healthy boundaries growing up has actually hindered me from really opening up to other people. I often have a great deal of anxiety related to how I should interact with other people and the extent to which I allow others into my life. This anxiety can also cross the line into obsessive thinking. I have now realised that the major trigger for this kind of anxiety and obsessive thinking is when I need to negotiate the boundaries of a relationship, whether that be a friendship, work relationship or intimate relationship. And at the bottom of it is my fear that I will not be able to assert my own boundaries with people. So the easiest thing is to just avoid opening up to others. But constantly pushing people away only leads to unhappiness.
Anita, you said that you hoped that I could exit the triangle that I was in. What I am starting to realise is that exiting the unhealthy patterns does not need to be through solving those problems for my parents and ‘fixing’ them but through understanding how those patterns re-emerge in my own life and finding ways of creating new patterns in my own relationships. That is probably easier said than done, but at least I have some major insights to help me on my way.
Thanks for all the posts on this thread, I really value these contributions.March 12, 2018 at 9:16 pm #196971
Yes my mother has admitted that she did not really pay enough attention to me or my siblings during the years of turmoil. But I think at the end of the day those words still feel quite impotent because there are still unhealthy dynamics between my parents that have never been clearly dealt with. Also the fact that she can speak so openly with me about all these issues and yet they never reach the ears of my father is also an unhealthy dynamic in and of itself. I believe that means that I have been ‘triangulated’ into their relationship which is actually quite a disturbing thought and also extremely irresponsible of my mother. I think as a result of that triangulation I still carry around this notion of myself as the ‘family saviour’ but in fact I am just playing the game too and at the same time neglecting my own personal life in the process. I cannot somehow strengthen my mother’s inadequate will with my own, to give her the strength to live her own life and then to finally become the strong mother figure that I always wanted and who could give me a model of how to live my own life. That constant striving to make her something that she was not in the past and maybe can now never really compensate for is exhausting me and has also led to the hollowing out of my personal life. Hard to admit, but I think it can only lead me to more inner peace if I can accept it.March 11, 2018 at 4:25 am #196705
Thanks for the very interesting responses again.
To VJ – that is some very good advice. I have looked at your link and I will definitely try to consider those before I speak. I have noticed that I definitely tend to want to find a way to connect with anyone that I am speaking to and I suppose sometimes I lose my sense of purpose for what I am saying and just say something (anything?) to connect with the person I am speaking to at that time. Also, I think I will look more deeper at Rumi’s writing, I have heard the name many times but haven’t read much yet.
To Anita – I think you have revealed something to me which has probably been hidden from view. I think it is very difficult to acknowledge that you have anger or resentment towards someone that you love, especially when you have sort of given that person a privileged position vis a vis my father. I think I have to finally admit to myself that both my parents were involved in unhealthy relationship dynamics and that neither of them had the strength to call quits on the relationship completely or on the other hand to speak openly and honestly to me and my siblings about what was really going on with them. We witnessed the breakdown of their marriage and then were expected to watch them ‘get back together’ in a kind of ‘backdoor’ way (that is after several years of not living full time in the family home, my dad just kind of started living there again) but without actually being given any explanation about why they were getting back together and whether we as the kids had any opinion or say over how the new relationships were supposed to be negotiated. My dad came back and sort of wanted to ‘assert’ his right to being an authority figure in the home after having abdicated that for several years and we were supposed to just accept all of these things without question. But you can’t erase your own memories and you can’t stop your own questioning of what is happening. But all of those things get pushed inwards and I guess that means there is anger or resentment there. But because I still needed the love and support of my mother (rejecting that also would have been too painful) I deflected my anger away from her and focused it all on my dad. In my mind my dad was the ‘perpetrator’ and my mum was the ‘victim’. But at the end of the day she should have taken responsibility for her own part in the mess.March 7, 2018 at 5:54 pm #196285
Hi Inky – thanks for advice, but I think the problem is me not my mum. I am the one who can’t shut up! But I guess having some kind of barometer of what sort of duration is ‘normal’ is probably a good idea. I think anything over one hour usually starts to become circuitous, so maybe 45 minutes is a good guideline. Thanks for your input 🙂
Hi Anita – I have to say your comments are quite on point and it is a bit painful to read that but I think you could be right. I have always loved my mum deeply but I guess on some level I might also feel a bit disappointed in her. She was never really able to make a clear decision to leave a toxic relationship even though it didn’t seem to be bringing her genuine companionship and support. I guess there is also a sense of betrayal that I still had to face up to my dad’s destructive behaviour so that she could keep her relationship at any cost. Maybe I felt that she ultimately chose her relationship over our (me and my siblings) wellbeing.
On the other hand, I think that her attempt to compensate for that with this kind of boundary-less love made me a kind of addict for that. Maybe it is not so much me disappearing into the conversation but the other person disappearing into the conversation, which would explain why I used to get quite a lot of angst when I was trying to convey my feelings about something to someone who would not respond in the same way as my mum would (and have actually been confronted about my tendency to ‘vent’ at work). Of course it is unrealistic to expect anyone to give you boundless attention with no pushback whatsoever, but maybe that is what I came to expect from others. I can now see why some people would be quite turned off by that and maybe decide that I am not really someone they want to get too close with. When I apply this idea to how I have been in intimate relationships, I suspect that I may have been craving the sensation of being fused or enmeshed and did not have a clear model for a loving relationship between two people who have clear boundaries and a clear sense of identity and can connect but not lose themselves. A previous relationship did kind of mirror that enmeshed experience and I had a sense that there was something not right about it, so I left. My most recent partner did not indulge that side of me at all and had clear boundaries and maybe that is something I found quite difficult to deal with, because I could never get that satisfaction of sort of melding into the other.
I guess what it shows is that even though we think we have left our family of origin behind a long time ago, we can still carry these patterns of behaviours around in our own heads. The scary thing is though that we are the ones who perpetuate these things and we can only change them by accepting that we are responsible for them.March 7, 2018 at 5:41 am #196207
Thanks for your reply and your detective work!
Yes I guess that sounds quite inconsistent. I think what happened in my family is that I kind of decided at some point that there was a ‘good’ parent (my mum) and a ‘bad’ parent (my dad). This is because my dad was very critical and quick to anger and also tended to try to ‘defeat’ others in intellectual debates rather than listening and responding calmly to others opinions. I can’t really say that she stuck up for me that effectively, at least not in the past. I think she always felt quite intimidated by my dad too so wasn’t really able to defend us against his anger and criticism. I suppose I feel that I developed an extremely defensive relationship with my dad while I had almost no ‘defences’ with my mum possibly to the point of not having any healthy boundaries either.
I guess another element which may help to make sense of this, is that I would often engage in long discussions about other people in my family with my mum (about my dad, my sister or brother). So as well as kind of compulsively sharing every aspect of my life with my mum, without thinking whether it was really an appropriate thing to share, I would also discuss other family members problems with her. I stopped that pattern last year but I guess I hadn’t realised there might be anything fundamentally ‘wrong’ with my relationship with my mother. And that has meant that I haven’t been able to identify the cause of some of my own behaviours that have turned out not to be particularly constructive. While my relationship with both parents has definitely changed and matured over the years, I think on some level I still held onto this idea of a good and bad parent. That is why when I have a crisis I immediately turn to my mum and don’t really talk to my dad much.
I guess what I am now wondering is whether that experience of sort of having no boundaries is actually the experience of unconditional love that I may have thought it was. I think it has kind of laid a foundation of being a bit dependent on others for that level of emotional support and sometimes others just can’t give it to you or you actually need to find some emotional resilience within yourself.
Does that make sense?March 7, 2018 at 4:08 am #196193
Thanks to everyone for your kind replies. I was very surprised when I logged back in and saw that several people had taken the time to respond. This was the first time I have put something so personal on a public forum and it is quite heartening to feel that other people are willing to read and respond.
I guess the main message I have gotten is that I need to be less harsh with myself. I am slowly becoming aware that that harsh critical voice actually makes it very difficult to hear my real inner voice and that is actually one of the reasons for the difficulties in my relationship. So it didn’t help me before and it is definitely not helping now when I am feeling so vulnerable. I know I need to replace that harsh voice with self-love rather than self-criticism or hatred. I feel like that is a big journey for me and it’s one that I am really only now embarking upon.
I am also becoming aware of the power of the heart. This is the part of ourself that allows us to open up to another, be vulnerable and also to surrender our ego (not completely) so that we can form a true partnership. Somehow these ‘softer’ values of the heart have been hidden from me until now. I was so controlled by my mind that I wasn’t even aware that I could take direction from a deeper part of myself. It has taken this major shock to make me open up to this part of myself and it is changing the way I understand many things. I know it is a cliché but ultimately I guess I have found that it is difficult, if not impossible, to love another truly when you don’t know really understand what love is and you don’t have enough for yourself.February 24, 2018 at 7:01 pm #194321
I can relate to this issue. I have always thrown myself into work or activities that are about giving to other people (first political activism and then teaching) and I think that I have never really given enough time to just be myself and understand myself.
I also had a very critical father and I guess I have carried that voice around in my head my whole life, but even today I still cannot truly recognise it. I have been told by others that I am too self-critical, but I just feel that that is the truth and that there is no reason not to be truthful to myself. So maybe what I am saying is that I have mistaken the self critical voice to be myself and I have never been able to recognise that that voice has actually drowned out my true inner self and voice. Maybe that is why I have never been able to resist it because I have just assumed that the voice I have heard my whole life is actually my real voice. Now I feel like the most important job in my life is to find that real voice and make it stronger. Because I don’t believe that my true self could be so mean hearted and critical.
Does any of that make sense or is helpful?February 24, 2018 at 6:41 pm #194309
I am on the other end of this story. I have just come out of a long term relationship where I was the avoidant one. I didn’t realise that because I was so out of touch with myself I could not find a point of connection with my partner. Unfortunately because I didn’t understand myself I could not find a solution. I kept over thinking the relationship and looking at him for clues as to why the relationship was struggling. I was looking at him as being the problematic one in the relationship and also looking at the context of our relationship rather than at myself. I have now realised that I have most likely lost someone I truly loved but unfortunately those feelings were buried under layers of unnecessary thinking and doubt. I didn’t realise that I had a lot of fear and hurting that stopped me from being in touch with myself and as a result in touch with my partner. The tragic irony is that in the process of breaking up those feelings came up so clearly and I feel as though I had some kind of spiritual awakening. I am now struggling with the feeling that I need to forgive myself and learn to love myself and on the other hand feeling a sense of loss that is actually overwhelming.