July 30, 2013 at 1:54 am #39430
I feel like I need some help with this issue.
Although I love my mother very much, my relationship with her at the moment feels pretty toxic.
She is an alcoholic (although this has only happened since I was around 20 – so not while I was a child living at home). My siblings and I have tried talking to her about it, but she dismisses it. She doesn’t believe there is a problem and turns the conversation around to our Dad or step-Dad’s drinking instead (perhaps they also have a problem but the difference is that their behaviour doesn’t end up hurting us). When she drinks she turns nasty and manipulative. For the past couple of years we have stopped seeing her or talking to her in the evenings, when it tends to be worse.
There are SO many more issues here, but this seems to be exacerbating them all! Lots of hurts over the years, even though I know she means well.
My problem is that she is a counsellor and is good at verbally defending herself. My whole life I have struggled to ‘win’ arguments with her, or even get my true point of view across without a) breaking down completely or b) hurting her feelings. I have tried to write her letters in the past, and this helps but it still makes her angry and upset, and kind of doesn’t fix anything.
I really don’t want to upset her but I would like to tell her all the ways she is hurting us. I just can’t see a way to do it without her being hurt and upset. But at the same time, I feel like I am not really being my true self with her because I can’t express how I’m feeling.
I am trying to read through some buddhist teachings about forgiveness and empathy to help me. I am not sure if I should be truthful to her and risk hurting her, or if I should be kind and accepting, and understanding of all her issues. I don’t know. I feel very confused but I would like to tackle this issue from a place of love & understanding.
Any insight or thoughts would be really appreciated. I am the eldest, and I know my siblings are really suffering too and I would like to lead the way with this. It has got to the stage where even seeing her during the day is draining and negative, and no matter how old we get, we really just need a Mum.July 30, 2013 at 8:40 am #39433
I like the way you’re struggling with giving love wisely. On one hand, there is acceptance of others, where we place no need or requirement on them, and simply love what is. On the other, we are not selfless, and their actions hurt us, driving us away. Somewhere in the mix and mess, we look for a way to find the balance between honesty and respect. After all, we don’t want to punch them, but our hearts are aching.
This is something of a struggle for all of us, and for me, especially with my children. I asked my teacher a similar question to yours, “how do we accept others and honor our inner wisdom, such as when we are asked for something we feel it is unwise to give them. Do we accept their need and give them what they ask for, or do we reject their need and give them what we think is best?”
He told me a story about a “sugar sandwich”. Sometimes people ask for things that are not nourishing. For example, if my son was hungry, he might ask me for a sugar sandwich, because it is sweet and he doesn’t know better. However, as an adult, and parent, it is not right for me to give that to him because it isn’t nourishing. Therefore, my acceptance doesn’t motivate me to fulfill his desire. He needs nourishment, and desires sweets. I accept both, he needs the nourishment and desires the sweet, and then i am free to do what my heart says is the best thing for him. He might throw a temper tantrum or whatnot, but still, that is accepted as part of his craving for sweets going unmet.
To bring it back to your situation, perhaps pretending everything is OK is the sugar sandwich. It feels like it will be painful and hurtful to say what you feel to your mom, but perhaps that will be something nourishing. If you can accept the desire for kind exchange, but the truth of the harmony, then maybe you can see the need. Said differently, perhaps your mom’s words inspire a heartfelt response that is painful, after all, her words are hurting you. If you consistently speak your mind and heart to her instead of suppression, perhaps she will come to understand how her actions affect others.
Also, consider reading Melody Beattie’s book “Codependent No More”. Some of what you said reminds me of codependency, where other people have to change in order for us to feel peaceful. Its at least worth a look, because inner peace is available to us independently of others actions.
MattAugust 1, 2013 at 2:58 am #39537
Thank you so much, Matt, for your response. I’ve read through it a few times now and it has helped me find some peace around this situation. I really appreciate your insight. I’m seeing her tomorrow, and all going well, I am going to tell her that I would like to be more honest with her and start small. It doesn’t feel right to pretend everything is fine anymore, to just keep the peace. There needs to be some balance, and I need to find my voice here and stop being so scared of her rejection. Thanks again Matt.August 1, 2013 at 6:55 am #39542
You’re welcome! Consider that during difficult conversations it can be important to remain centered on our side. “I think… I feel… I want… I see… “. Rather than “you do this… you make me… you are… ” etc.
Good luck and great courage to you!
MattAugust 1, 2013 at 11:24 am #39555
I’d also suggest going to an Al-Anon meeting. Everyone there can relate to exactly what you’re going through, and can give you a lot of support and ways to cope.