April 26, 2022 at 2:26 pm #398856
We communicated at great length from December 28, 2015, to August 1, 2016. It’s been five years and over 8 months since you lasted posted. You should be in your later 20s at this time; I am so very curious to know what is happening in your life.
As I read through your threads, I came across what you shared in a previous thread: “My father… his departure was indeed unexpected… Yes, I did take responsibility for him leaving, as a child I thought perhaps I had misbehaved. That I had disappointed him or angered him in some way…. Yes, I did identify with my mother’s struggles and hurt. I saw her as the victim because I saw how my father left us with nothing. He took all our valuables in terms of money and jewelry, and in a sense destroyed our family. I also saw my younger sister as a victim as well… I felt that I needed to protect and take care of my mother and sister. They had already gone through enough, and I being the eldest child felt that it was my job to step up and do all I could. My mother had to take up more hours at work in order to be able to pay the bills after we moved in with my grandmother. I saw how hard she had to work…
“I felt that my mother was hurt after my father left, I saw her as vulnerable and felt that it was my job to make her feel safe and happy… I saw her struggling, and I saw how hard she worked, and it was all to be able to provide for me and my sister. It hurt me that she had to make so many sacrifices. It didn’t help that I knew my uncles were all belittling her after my father left. They took it upon themselves to always tell her and remind her how they had never liked him, how they knew they’d never last. My mother’s family has always, always mistreated her. They’ve belittled her, pushed her around, hit her, etc.). I saw how those comments hurt her; thus, I felt an even bigger need to be strong for her. To protect her. My way of protecting her was by always pretending everything was fine. Even when I was being bullied in school. I didn’t want to cause her anymore pain… I just didn’t want her to see me as weak, because I felt that I needed her to see me as strong. I wanted to be strong for her and my sister” –
– I boldfaced the part that Aislynn the child/ teenager wouldn’t have known unless she heard her mother talk about it (talking to Aislynn directly or to someone else, in Aislynn’s presence). Her mother chose to let Aislynn know about her family “always, always mistreated her… belittled her“, etc., always, ever since she was a child.
Aislyn didn’t tell her mother that she was bullied in school, because she didn’t want “to cause her anymore pain… I never let her know about the bullying… I didn’t want to break her heart or hurt her. It was my burden to carry, not hers. I didn’t want her to see me as a broken“; but her mother told Aislynn about the mistreatments she, the mother, suffered since she was a child (“always, always“), not caring about breaking Aislynn’s heart, not thinking that her own childhood pain is her own burden to carry, not Aislynn’s.
Aislynn felt a big need to appear strong for her mother and to protect her mother from knowing that she was bullied in school; her mother didn’t feel the need to appear strong for her daughter and to protect her daughter from knowing that she was mistreated by her brothers growing and onward. (“I felt an even bigger need to be strong for her, to protect her“).
Aislynn, being older than her sister and brother, felt that it was her job to step up and appear strong for the sake of her mother and siblings; her mother, being older than her three children, did not consider that it was her job as a mother, to step up and appear strong for the sake of her three children (“I being the eldest child felt that it was my job to step up and do all I could“).
Aislynn felt that her mother was hurt and that it was her job to make her mother feel safe and happy; her mother did not notice that her daughter was hurt and needed to feel safe and happy (“I felt that my mother was hurt after my father left, I saw her as vulnerable and felt that it was my job to make her feel safe and happy“).
Where her mother failed to step up, Aislynn did.
“Indeed, I did become angry… Angry that I felt I had to fill his shoes. Angry that I felt I had to step up and protect my mother and take care of my sister. I felt he robbed me of my childhood because I felt I had to look after my mom and sister” – Aislynn would not have had to step up, to protect her mother and take care of her sister if her mother appeared strong and in charge. If her mother took charge, she would have given Aislyn specific, spelled out, limited chores, so that Aislynn wouldn’t do too much and get overwhelmed, robbed of her childhood.
“Even now… When my mother and stepdad are mad at each other I always do my best to make sure my 8 year old brother is not around” – Aislynn made sure that her younger brother was not around to listen to his mother and step father quarrel, protecting him from witnessing his mother’s distress; something that Aislynn mother did not do for Aislynn when she talked about her childhood pains and onward mistreatment by her brothers.
“I spoil my brother and try to fill in what my mother and stepdad cannot provide for him. For example, I’m in college, full time, and I make sure my schedule always falls accordingly to my brother’s needs. I am the one who picks him up from school and take care of him while my parents are at work… I make sure to always tell him that he needs to come for me if there is ever anything wrong… maybe this all stems from me feeling like I didn’t get all those things as a child… I do not want my brother to grow up alone” – you grew up alone, without strong adults supporting you emotionally, without your needs for safety and love being attended to, without anyone to tell when you were bullied at school, etc.
“What amazes me most is how as a child one could possibly think ‘my mother is weak, I need to protect her and be strong for her.’ It amazes me because if we think about it, there really isn’t much help I could have provided for her in the case of a robbery, financial distress, etc..” – final thoughts, later.
anitaApril 27, 2022 at 1:32 pm #398961
“What amazes me most is how as a child one could possibly think ‘my mother is weak; I need to protect her and be strong for her.’ It amazes me because if we think about it, there really isn’t much help I could have provided for her in the case of a robbery, financial distress, <b>etc.</b>” (from a previous thread) –
– as a child, you weren’t able to get a job and produce income for your mother and siblings, but you did all that you were able to do, you cooked and cleaned and took care of your younger siblings, studied hard and more. In the original post of this thread, one of your mother’s co-workers who never met you, suggested to your mother that you date her brother, and she told her brother that you “cook, clean, am hardworking… a good daughter” because that’s what your mother told Ava. (“I’m close with my mom, and she has gotten to be friends with Ava so no doubt… my mom talked about me. Ava would always compliment how I was such a good daughter“).
You continued, still in the original post of this thread: “I feel objectified based on what Ava told her brother about me knowing how to cook, clean, etc. It makes me feel objectified because he doesn’t know me, hasn’t even seen me, and now wants to take me out. It kind of makes me feel as though he’s looking for a maid, or someone to clean up after him“.
Surely, your mother thought of you as more than a maid, more than someone who cooks, cleans and is hardworking, but she didn’t really know you, didn’t really see you throughout the years when you were growing up. If she saw how anxious and all alone you were, how overwhelmed you were, she would have done something to help you, she would have comforted you, telling you that she is taking charge of things, so that you can be a child.
Just like you didn’t tell your mother about having been bullied in school because you wanted to protect her from anxiety and worries, shouldering your anxiety and worry all alone (and in so doing, experiencing excessive, overwhelming anxiety), in your very last post, Aug 1, 2016, you described doing the same in regard to your anxiety about dating Ava’s brother: “I haven’t spoken to my mother about the issue right now, but yesterday I woke up with the strongest anxiety I’ve had in a very long time. I actually woke up from my sleep because of how anxious I felt… I tried various techniques to take myself away from the anxiety, but nothing worked. The only technique that somewhat helped was picturing myself on a mountain and paying attention to all of the details, but even then, my anxiety and dread followed“.
Those were your last words, five years, 8 months and 26 days ago. The pattern of your childhood, continued into adulthood, was to shelter your mother from anxiety, and shoulder it all on your own, because you viewed your mother weak, as one not capable to handle her anxiety, let alone yours.
It is very important for a parent to shelter her children from her troubles and worries, so that … they don’t shelter her from their worries. Children need to be comforted by a stronger adult, otherwise, they get overwhelmed. More thoughts, later.
April 28, 2022 at 1:34 pm #399072
- This reply was modified 3 weeks, 6 days ago by anita.
Dear Aislynn/ Reader:
“My father… Yes, I did take responsibility for him leaving, as a child I thought perhaps I had misbehaved. That I had disappointed him or angered him in some way” – reality: your father left, your incorrect perception: he left because you misbehaved.
“I felt that my mother was hurt after my father left, I saw her as vulnerable… always, always mistreated… belittled… pushed… around, hit…. I felt that I needed to protect and take care of my mother… felt that it was my job to step up…. felt that it was my job to make her feel safe and happy” – reality: your mother told you that she was mistreated, belittled, pushed around, hit, etc., having expressed severe vulnerability.
Definition of vulnerability: the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
Your exaggerated perception of your mother: she (your mother) was a vulnerable child, your adaptive perception of yourself: you (the child) were the adult parent/ the father: “I felt I had to fill his shoes. Angry that I felt I had to step up and protect my mother and take care of my sister”.
As a child, you didn’t view your father, your mother, yourself, and your two younger siblings as five separate, independent individuals. The five were interconnected, a single unit. Your father left, your mother was weak, “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed”, your two siblings were younger than you, and so, the whole family was exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed. Someone had to step up and protect the family, someone had to be the strong, capable parent. You took on the role, tried your best, but your best couldn’t possibly be good enough because a child is not an adult. The result: you were a very anxious child and became a very anxious adult, worried about so many things, not at peace.
What would have happened, I wonder, if you did not take on that role of parent…
anitaApril 30, 2022 at 1:30 pm #399124
Dear Aislynn/ Reader:
In my post before last, I wrote regarding your mother: “she didn’t really know you, didn’t really see you throughout the years when you were growing up. If she saw how anxious and all alone you were, how overwhelmed you were, she would have helped you”.
Later, I came across something you shared that validates the quote above regarding your mother (and stepfather): “they’re oblivious to other people’s struggles. They don’t see how hard it is to get me to even ask a sales associate where to find a particular item… they don’t see how much I struggle with it, how much discomfort it causes me. To them, it is as though if they cannot physically see the ailment, it does not exist... My mother is the kind of woman who if she saw someone park in a handicapped parking space, and saw them get out and walk just fine, would make a snide comment about them, not taking the time to realize that perhaps they have cancer, a mental disorder, heart disease, etc.”
On the other hand, as a child, you did see your mother beyond seeing a physical ailment: “I did identify with my mother’s struggles and hurt… I saw her as vulnerable“, etc. And you did your best to help her with her hurt and struggles.
You attributed your mother not seeing you struggling emotionally to her being ignorant of the issue of mental disorders- but as a child, you were not educated about mental disorders. The reason you saw her emotional struggles was that your child eyes were open and focused on your mother. You saw her. Her eyes, on the other hand, were closed to you. She looked elsewhere, so she did not see you. (This is often the case with parents and children).
When your father left the family in the U.S., having moved back to Mexico where his parents lived, your mother was left alone to pay the bills, wasn’t able to, so the small family, consisting of your mother, yourself (7) and your sister (5) moved to her mother’s home. Anywhere from a few months to a few years later, your mother met another man and the four of you lived as a family. A baby boy was added to the family 5 years after your father left.
In December 2015, you were 20, your sister was 18 and your brother was 8. In your first thread at the time, you shared about an ex-boyfriend of yours who sent you a message a few days before you started the thread. Right at the beginning of your writing, you expressed a combination of Anxiety, Guilt and a Motivation to Help People with Issues: “It’s giving me anxiety thinking about what I’m going to reply to him, and it has my stomach in knots…Part of why I was always so eager to let him back into my life was because I wanted to help him. I didn’t want to give up on him, I wanted to be able to help him get through his issues... Another part of what kept me holding on was guilt. It was after we broke up four years ago that he started drinking, getting high, partying excessively. While we were together, he did not do any of that, hence the guilt. At times I cannot help but think that it is partly my fault for the way he is now”.
You wrote: “However, the rational part of me says that I cannot blame myself for his actions. Because they are just that, HIS actions, not mine” – however, what drives and motivates us is our emotional part, not the rational part.
We then discussed the emotional part and you figured that when your father left the family, you felt guilty about his leaving: “for many years I blamed myself, thinking I did something to push you away” you wrote to him in an unsent letter.
You then suggested that your father left the family because he had issues that were not fixed, and that you are romantically attracted to men with issues, men like your father, and your motivation is to fix their issues/ problems: “I am likely to be attracted to men who need help or have issues. I’ve been with quite a few, and I always tried to help then fix their problems…I always saw them as projects, and I tried to fix them“.
You then wrote to me: “Thanks to your advice I will now do my best to steer clear of men who have problems. I really do need to stop getting in relationships only because I feel the need to fix them“, but a month later, in January 2016, motivated by the same-old motivation to fix a man (and not by the rational thought and decision to steer clear of men who have problems), you longed for your ex: “It seems I am stuck with this feeling I cannot move past… I strangely find myself wanting him to reach out to me, to send me a message. This has been going on for about 2 weeks. I’ll wake up, see that I have notifications from Facebook, and I find myself hoping that I have a message from him“.
Again, what motivates us is our emotional part of us, not our rational part.
When your father left, you felt that it was your job to “protect and take care of my mother and sister… I being the eldest child felt that it was my job to step up and do all I could“- your sister was 5 at the time. Fast forward 13 years, and you still felt that it was your job to protect and take care of your mother, your 18-year-old sister and your 8-year-old brother: “My sister is 18… Yet, I feel that I need to stay with my family because I do not want my brother to grow up alone. So, in a sense, I’m still doing the protecting and fixing“.
When I suggested to you to resist choosing a man who needs fixing, that in the next relationship, you should be “a little bit of the carefree, taken care of ‘weak’ child, the one that needs the strength of another”, you responded: “I like the challenge and I accept it. Although I will admit that I don’t like feeling like the weaker person in a relationship. It makes me feel vulnerable and I hate that. However, you’re right, I do need to pick a stronger man than the ones I’ve been with. It’ll be a nice change. I was once with a stronger guy… He was a really nice guy who helped me out a lot… He made me feel safe, like nothing could hurt me… and while he loved me, I didn’t feel the same way… Now that I understand why I am drawn to guys with issues… my question is, how would I develop feelings for a stronger guy when I meet him?… I have always sought out weak guys, so that I can make them strong in order for them to protect me, care for me” –
– what I now understand, more than six years after you wrote the above, is that when your father left, when you were 7 (and perhaps before he left), your mother expressed weakness, so you didn’t have her as a source of strength. You felt vulnerable and it was a very bad feeling, so you took on the role of taking care of your mother and siblings, fixing their problems, etc., being a source of strength for them… which made you feel like a source of strength. It made you feel strong.
Notice, it didn’t make you strong, it made you feel strong, from time to time.
Since then, your sense of strength is attached to the role of taking care of and fixing others’ problems. It is other people’s problems that are… your source of the feeling strong, sometimes.
In the above, you wrote that you once dated a strong guy who loved you, but you didn’t love him back, and you expressed that you are not attracted strong guys, but to weak guys. The reason for this, as I understand it, is that your feeling of strength (an attractive feeling) is attached to weak people (your mother, your younger siblings, weak men). With a strong man, you… don’t feel strong.
The last sentence in the above: “I have always sought out weak guys, so that I can make them strong in order for them to protect me, care for me” – I now understand that it is not the case that in a relationship with a weak guy you remain weak, fixing-and-waiting for them to be fixed and then able to protect and care for you. What it is, is that while trying to fix them, you already experience a feeling of strength, and you are driven to feel it again and again.
“You’re right, that dynamic made sense back then, because I saw my mother and sister as being weak and needing someone to protect them” – you didn’t really protect them, you were only 7 years old when this dynamic started. You helped when you cooked and cleaned and looked after your younger sister and then brother, over the years, but you didn’t protect them really. You took on the role of protector primarily as a way to feel strong. Your mother wasn’t strong… someone had to (feel) strong.
“While I do not want to talk to my ex-boyfriend, and have no intent on communicating with him, I strangely find myself wanting him to reach out to me, to send me a message. This has been going on for about 2 weeks. I’ll wake up, see that I have notifications from Facebook, and I find myself hoping that I have a message from him” – motivated to feel strong, you are seeking your source of felt-strength: the guy with the problems that need fixing.
A feeling of strength is not the same as strength. In your third thread, you shared plenty about your anxiety/ weakness: “While in high school I entertained the idea of being in the field of forensics. However, I was quickly shut down by my uncles saying I wouldn’t make a decent living from that. That was enough to scare me away… I then considered psychology, as the human mind interests me a lot. Once again, I was shut down by my uncles, they said it was too much school for such small pay. Once again, I was discouraged… I had finally decided to settle on nursing. I would be able to help others and make a decent wage. However, I was intimidated by all the sciences … So, I then considered nutrition. I wanted to become a dietitian. However, then I got to thinking, while I am interested in all of that, I am about 10 pounds overweight. So, who would take me seriously…I thought about it and said to myself, well engineering sounds great, I could be an environmental engineer, it sounds great. Then I though about chemistry, physics and all the labs I’d have to do, and math. That scared me away…I finally settled on becoming an English major. I love reading and writing…. However, I am scared. What could I possibly do with an English degree? …I feel the need to help others. That is what drives me, I want to help others” –
– the drive to help others is about the drive to feel strong.
In your fifth thread on Jan 2016 titled social anxiety, you shared plenty about your anxiety/weakness: “I am about to go into my 4th semester in college, and as usual I am very nervous. Not just nervous about the classes themselves, but about my interactions with other students, how I will be perceived, how I might not make any friends, etc… I was just reading the rubric for my class, and I found out we have a group presentation, in front of the class. Now, this is enough to send my nerves over the roof. I have never been good with presentations in class… I am very nervous about the first day of the semester, and the rest of the semester to be honest. What can I do to calm myself down? How can I get my anxiety to subdue?…
“I would add what it is like for me on a regular basis. Usually, the night before the semester starts, I can barely sleep. Then in the morning I am a nervous wreck, knots in my stomach, feel like vomiting, loose stools, and despite being hungry I cannot eat because I just cannot stomach it. Once I get to school it all intensifies. I feel this nervousness… I might plan to walk slowly, to make sure I am going to the right room, getting all the things I need, but my anxiety takes a hold of me and I do things faster than I intend to and sometimes forget to do other things I had intended to… Throughout the rest of the semester, I still feel the same way, regardless of if I actually make a friend, or I am doing good in class… the anxiety is not as intense, but it’s still the same thing, every morning. It’s very draining… OCD. If I may confide in you, I believe that I may have it. I have many things that I do in repetitions, and disturbing thoughts that drive me to keep doing them. I haven’t seen a doctor about it because I am scared. Worried about what it means. I fear that it will just escalate even more or that they won’t understand. Aside from my social anxiety, I also have general anxiety…I try to quiet my body, to take my time, but my brain is going 90 miles an hour, and the worst thing about that is that I can’t quiet it…
“For as long as I can remember I’ve had anxiety. I would count the letters on every sign I saw, or street address, not just once, or twice, but more than 6 times. I hated odd numbers, if I found a word with an odd number, I would add to it or make it a sentence and I wouldn’t stop until it was even… I would have to check the stove, and go into each room more than a few times before leaving the house because I feared something bad would happen if I didn’t… If I went to a place regularly and something was out of order, I’d freak out and think I was going to have a bad day… I can relate to feeling spaced out and not paying attention. For me, it happens all the time. I could be talking to someone, listening to them talk while my mind is elsewhere. It happens more than I’d like, again, because my mind just doesn’t know how to stay still. At any moment, I’ll be thinking, speaking to myself about whatever is on my mind, or just dazing off”.
I wrote to you: “I used to think that being sick with anxiety was me… (as) if THIS is me… a brain defect”, and you responded: “My thoughts exactly, about myself. That my brain is messed up, that I am ill” – anxiety is the opposite of strength; strength heals, anxiety makes a person ill.
*** If you are currently in a relationship, or next time you are in a relationship, the man you will be with will have problems, everyone has problems, I do, you do, he does. Question: is the relationship such that the two of you are helping each other, or is it a relationship that at least one of you is harming the other?
Let’s say the relationship is harming you for now, but you are hoping that it will change. Question is: what is your hope based on: is it based on evidence that he is motivated and able to help himself and be good to you, or is your hope the same old childhood tragic-fictional hope: to successfully fix or help an anxious, weak parent (a parent projected into your romantic partner)?
Separate fiction from science: look for real evidence, don’t let fiction rule your life. Nothing feels more euphoric than imagining a strong childhood desire actualized, but that euphoric feeling drives a lot of people into wasting their lives.
Commit yourself to living in real-life, seeing, hearing, noticing what is real. Commit yourself to becoming strong, aware, assertive, wise, more and more so each and every. Focus on you becoming strong, assertive and wise. Don’t focus on him, hoping, wishing, dreaming… of a happily ever after.