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How to offer a compassionate ear to my mother while setting healthy boundaries?

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  • #348558
    Kate
    Participant

    Hi everyone, I hope you are all well. I have been studying Buddhism for a few months and I am very grateful for the teachings. I’ve visited this forum frequently for similar questions and this is the first time I am reaching out to this community.Since bringing some Buddhist practices into my life, my relationships have improved, especially with my mother. However, I am finding it difficult to navigate what would be the most helpful or skilful actions for myself and my mother during the suffering she is experiencing at the moment. A bit of background on my mother: she has narcissistic tendencies and since my childhood, has leaned on my siblings and I for her emotional needs. I am now 20 years old and the relationship we share I feel is much healthier than even a year ago, as I struggled to understand my own suffering and suffering of others before I began studying Buddhism. My mother is in the midst of a break up with her ex-fiancé and I am the only one she has shared this with in our family unit so far (I live with her and my younger sibling who is 17 years old. My older sibling lives away from home). While sharing with me her feelings about this and having my shoulder to lean on, she began sharing things she dislikes about my father and his family (ex-fiancé and my father are different people). I understand the importance of boundaries and I am not sure how to lend a compassionate ear for her during this time while communicating that I cannot be a therapist for her. I recognise that everyone is in care of their own suffering and that it is not your responsibility to alleviate the suffering of someone else, only they can do that. I would like to share compassion with her in a healthy way for both of us as our past had no boundaries, and I had felt that her emotions were my responsibility. In other words, I want to do what I can to support her during her suffering in the most healthy and skilful way for both of us. How would one go about this? I appreciate all comments and advice and I’m happy to go into more detail if you would like. Thanks for reading.

    • This topic was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by tinybuddha.
    • This topic was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by tinybuddha.
    #348646
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kate:

    You shared that you are 20, living with your mother and a 17 year old sibling. Your mother is in the midst of a breakup with her ex-fiancé. She has been sharing with you her feelings about her breakup, and began sharing with you things she dislikes about your father and his family. In the past, you felt that her emotions were your responsibility. Now, you want to “lend a compassionate ear for her during this difficult time while communicating that I cannot be a therapist for her.. to support her during her suffering in the most healthy and skillful way for both of us”.

    You asked: “How would one go about this?”-

    -My answer: first, prepare that your mother may not be open to you supporting her in “the most healthy and skillful way for both of (you)”, that she may want you to support her only in the way she wants you to  support her, as unhealthy as it may be. If  you change the rules on her, so to speak, she may get angry and attack you somehow.

    Children, of minor and adult age, tend to believe that a parent needs the child in ways that the parent does not. For example, my mother shared her suffering with me. I thought she wanted me to help her cut down on her suffering, so  I gave her advice, and good advice. but she didn’t want my advice (and attacked me when she didn’t like my advice). What she wanted from me was a passive recipient to her venting, who will say: “yes, yes” to every question she had.

    Do you know your mother’s motivation, what it is that she wants from you when she shares her suffering and complaints with you? If you don’t know, ask her at a moment when the two of you are calm, ask her in a straightforward, clear way and in a casual tone. After you get that information, you can proceed from there.

    You are welcome to post again for more of my input.

    anita

    #348846
    Inky
    Participant

    Hi Kate,

    A line I’ve used is “I’m not a good ally for you about this”.

    Yes, there will be shock. Yes, there will be push back. Yes, she might make you pay for this in some way.

    Since she is a narcissist, it’s best to make everything about HER/”HER”.

    “Mom, I’m only twenty years old, I have nothing to offer you. You really need girl talk from someone who gets it.”

    “Mom, this isn’t good for you to vent about dad. Let’s go for a drive to that place you always like.”

    “Mom, let’s stop talking about him. Let’s talk about you.”

    Good Luck!

    Inky

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