January 6, 2018 at 5:06 pm #185377
you hit it on point. my mother always said things like “if i don’t tell my daughters, who will i tell?” she wanted us to feel bad for her. she liked it when she told us something and we cried for her– I feel like that is an important piece/quote to add to this discussion. anyway, continue on!
cali sisterJanuary 7, 2018 at 4:42 am #185399
Dear cali sister:
There is a term, empathy fatigue, or compassion fatigue. Competent adult, trained psychotherapists and other professionals suffer when they drown, so to speak, in their empathy. If you read Wikipedia’s entry on the term, it says: “symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude.”
There are other terms: vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic stress disorder that point to what happens to adults who are empathetic toward suffering individuals and lose themselves in their empathy to the point that they suffer beyond time spent with the sufferers. Adult psychotherapists, I understand, are extensively trained to keep their objectivity with clients, to not suffer this empathy fatigue.
How can a child not suffer from empathy fatigue when it is her mother expressing suffering to the child? It is not possible for a child to be objective about her mother’s generous sharing of her suffering.
A child exposed to her mother’s generous sharing of her suffering has the following disadvantages over a trained professional: she is a child, not an adult; the sufferer is her mother, the most important person in the world to her, one she is depended on for survival and therefore objectivity is not possible; the child is not trained; the child doesn’t have a fifty minute time limit with the mother; the child has not yet mentally separated from the mother.
A mother has to be very selective to what she shares with her child. So to answer your mother’s question: “If I don’t tell my daughters, who do I tell?” – my answer: not your daughters, spare them, don’t hurt them. Tell an adult who can handle it!
<b> </b>January 7, 2018 at 4:48 am #185401
* didn’t submit correctly…January 16, 2018 at 4:44 am #186963
Good morning Anita,
I have let the words that we spoke about sink in for the last week. As you know, there are ebbs and flows. The last few days have been particularly more centered and positive, I have woken up with more of a feeling of understanding of why I am feeling certain ways. Versus confusion and frustration as above. I am now starting to get what a long lifetime journey this will be and of course that will only seep in overtime.
I did read some of my sisters post about treating others abusively or negatively when you are hurting in your own self or struggling within. My sister is right in that I did not treat my current husband very positively many times over the last four years. I can’t say that the timing is like clockwork in that as soon as my parents met him everything was negative and before they were involved everything was perfect. Because as you alluded to, my mother‘s voice is in my head and ruling my life so with or without their physical presence I have been affected, tortured, and have had self suffering. Even when I didn’t know. Looking back I see many patterns of me having internal distress and projecting onto him. It could be something such as feeling that everyone else is happy and why am I feeling not so happy and so targeting it out at the first person in front of me which was him. Then there are many examples of things that are more specific, my parents telling me that there are many men out there that have certain qualities and those are great qualities, and then looking at the person in front of me and convincing myself that since he may not have one or two or some of these qualities that he is not as good. In reality, my first example is the more harmful one because it came out of nowhere for both him and me. It was as though there were these ebbs and flows of terrible emotions in me and I would lash out for no rhyme or reason. Things could be great for a month or so and then I would be sinking into a terrible feeling and then just act like a monster.Back then I had no understanding at all of everything that we have spoken about. I truly was applying to any abuse that my parents did, I thought that just like any parents there was going to be good and bad. I really had no idea how much self suffering was brought on by the mother voice
The thing is, when I look back at some of those things now I am astonished. However, it doesn’t truly hit me. I am not sure how to explain it but I almost want to feel that i superficially think wow how could I treat someone so bad like this in the past I feel like I should be so sad and upset with myself over this. I want to feel like this but instead of that there is empty space almost like a numbness. Not because I don’t feel like what I did or all of the above is not true or valid it’s just that I can’t actually feel any remorse or sadness or kind of anything over it.
There was a time a few months ago that my husband had mentioned this, and said that it he found it strange. He said that if he was in the same shoes he would be so beyond himself for doing this to someone that it would really show. And with me it doesn’t show. This was after a lot of the terrible things that had happened so we were talking about this not into fighting way but more in a discovery -why doesn’t it show for me -what is going on in me that I can’t actually feel the above mentioned.
This feeling is also there when I think of certain things that my mother has done over the last year, the time period in which you know a lot about over the wedding planning year. In fact I was reading an old text message this week that was truly and utterly abusive–copy and paste it here you would say that this hits all the marks of emotional abuse, narcissism, etc. it doesn’t matter the terms. When I read it once again I felt pretty astonished that this was real life, but similarly instead of feeling the sadness, tears, or even any sort of anger from at it was almost like nothing.
I have an intuitive sense that I am feeling this nothing sort of thing because a lot of this is still repressed. I don’t think I am actively repressing it out of embarrassment or ego, it is almost like it is stuck and fossilized deep In me under dust and rocks / it will take time to uncover. I also have this feeling that once I start truly feeling the feelings that would be associated with this, such as wow I can’t believe I could treat someone so terrible how could I do this I never want to do that again I feel so awful and terriblE. Or with example of thinking about some of the truly terrible an atrocious things my parents have done/truly feel The strong emotion of whatever it may be/sad, mad, angry, anything , I think that once I start actually feeling these things I will be able to release so much of the inner Repression. This is an intuitive feeling. I know I can’t force it I know it’s not one of those things where if I read an old angry letter long enough I’ll start crying and then release all of the emotions associated with it. I understand that this is just the beginning of my journey and for so long I truly did believe everything that they said, and I truly did feel that I was doing nothing wrong such as when I would act toxically towards my now husband because I felt like these were warranted thing since I was struggling so much inside.
I know that the ability to even write this out is starting to brush the surface because it is me starting to realize that a lot of the way I acted was wrong, and above all the root of that behavior. What is most important to me above all and everything is now finally after all these years understanding the route. Talking with people like yourself and realizing that almost everything goes back to that mother voice even if it at the time feels like it is just me feeling something. . What are your thoughts on the above? Of course there is no guidebook and step-by-step on how to slowly start releasing all the above and seeing clearly and actually feeling things instead of feeling a sort of lapse.January 16, 2018 at 5:03 am #186967
I reread my post and I wanted to add one more thing. Simply put I know with my brain now that, the way that I have treated for example my husband was not only wrong but rooted in this self torture that I have endured because of my parents. And Resulting anxiety that it has caused me from a much younger age than I realize. I also know that my parents and the way they acted is objectively wrong. And it is not an opinion or feeling in me but is truly wrong and it has led to a lifetime of despair within myself and my sister —things that I am now only starting to realize and work on and be aware of. This will be a lifelong journey. But at the end of the day sometimes given all the above I want to actually FEEL these things not just know them in my brain. Perhaps like I said because they have been repressed for so long and I did not feel them, it is not natural or easy me to now actually start letting it sink in.January 16, 2018 at 7:33 am #187007
Dear Cali Chica:
I mentioned homeostasis to you before. It is my understanding (didn’t read about it but developed this understanding on my own), that the brain is engaged in mental homeostasis. Our organism needs to keep us feeling okay, as okay as possible, in between circumstances that demand a quick reaction (such as actual danger leading to fear and Flight and/ or anger leading to Fight).
And so, when you as a child felt great distress, the brain rushed into removing that distress, removing the extra stress in a similar way that the body removes access glucose from the blood.
That numbness is the result of removing that extra stress. It is an automatic reaction, happens to some other animals again, as they “play dead” when in danger that they cannot escape or fight (the Freeze reaction).
When you Freeze, go numb, repress, dissociate (I mean the same thing using all these terms in this context) on a regular basis as a child, when this becomes the MO, it stays this way.
This numbness made it possible for you to stay with your mother as a child, day in and day out, year after year. It allowed you to stay, not to run away from her or fight with her, two options you did not have. Much like other animals that Freeze- they do so because they cannot escape the danger in their lives.
So this MO stays. You suffer and you abuse your now husband. Still numb. Thing is you are still very much in contact with your mother, still interacting with her, and I am sure it is not an honest interaction, that is, you don’t tell her what you share here. This interaction is keeping you numb as your brain doesn’t know that you are now an adult and it is time… to un-numb yourself. It is the same brain you had as a child, same connections, same mother’s voice which is still maintained by real life interactions with the original voice.
The great majority of adult children cannot imagine ending all contact with their mothers. And the great majority never do. In certain cultures this may be even more difficult. And so, people don’t heal. Minimizing contact is simply not enough.
Do you think or feel that your current interactions with your mother are hindering your desired progress, your aim to feel your repressed feelings? And do you think it is possible for you to heal while in contact with her?
anitaJanuary 16, 2018 at 9:55 am #187041
I see see that without realizing I was repressing and freezing as a child unknowingly as a coping mechanism so I continue to do now as an adult as my mind and body don’t know it is time to un-numb and heal.
As an aside. I find that not only do I not feel the gravity of the situation at hand (such as lashing out at a fiancé that was unwarranted- or having a terrible fight with mom the night before). But I wake up after an evening like that and have fixation and rumination about peripheral issues.
For examples sake. Say yesterday I was impatient and short and negative with my husband because my mom had a terrible accusatory conversation with me and I projected onto him. I go to sleep realizing yes it was wrong for me to act that way but not feeling sad or remorseful. Just “knowing” in my brain. I then wake up the next morning feeling tense. But NOT ABOUT the issue at hand. I for example am rumination and fixated on:
oh so and so hasn’t gotten back to me about this weekend, that’s weird, is it something I did. Nope probably not- hmm well why is she being so inconsistent. Gosh that’s weird
an example of something that would literally TAKE over my mind the whole morning. As though nothing big happened the night before. My mind focuses on that and almost “forgets” the issue from the night before. Aware it happened sure, but no feeling about it. Just constant focus and rumination about this “thing” at hand (such as above about a friend or something like that)
i will elaborate on what else you said about contact with my mom in a moment. I just wanted to get your take on the aboveJanuary 16, 2018 at 10:33 am #187049
Dear Cali Chica:
This is what I figure: the reason you ruminate about something minor and on a person more removed from you, is because thinking about the major thing/ the person close to you (husband, mother) involves way more anxiety, so your brain automatically goes to where there is less anxiety.
Same reason you didn’t respond to my input regarding the possibility of cutting contact with your mother- too much anxiety involved in it.
I have no expectations that you do cut contact with her. Unfortunately for you, it is very unlikely, extremely unlikely to happen. And yet, that would be necessary for your healing, to un- numb yourself. (The healing, if you cut all contact with her, will still be long because of her voice).
You wrote that only yesterday your mother terribly accused you. See, her aggression is ongoing, feeding that voice, increasing your anxiety. How can one possibly heal from abuse when it is ongoing…
anitaJanuary 16, 2018 at 12:37 pm #187069
This interaction is keeping you numb as your brain doesn’t know that you are now an adult and it is time… to un-numb yourself.
Exactly – well said thank you. You’re right I did avoid touching on the no -contact. But now I am home and have let that linger and would like to touch on it.
Since the wedding, in September. I have had a tremendously larger amount of distance from my parents (for obvious reasonss such as no need to talk about details about planning as that is done) but in a global sense to. I have only seen them twice since then, and the talks we have – have been more superficial. The example I had about a fight with her or accusing me was only hypothetical – we haven’t had a fight or spoken that in depth since wedding time.
Now I by NO means find this a sigh of relief, and a “wow look see how good it is with them.” I just see this as some much needed space, breathing room, and focus away from them. I guess deep down inside I must feel that if it can be continued in this current way (no constant phone calls, accusations, no interaction with them with my husband aside from the here and there his and hello text or something) then I can SURVIVE.
I am not foolish and I do know that this is just temporary – like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It will only be a matter of time until there is another catastrophe again, and they’re back at the aggressive behavior (because that is who they are, this distance is just a phase – it is not indicative of anything). For example fast forward and we have kids, they will have a coniption if theyre not involved in the care as much as my in laws lets say. Or a million different examples not worth explaining.
So I guess that brings me back to today and here and now. I guess like you said, you do not have any expecation whatsoever that I will stop contact with them, especially given my background and all. So in theory – that means that my healing can never truly be full.
Sure over the last 4 months I haven’t had harassment or aggression or much involvement from them at all – but the mother voice is omnipresent in everything, as you see in my writing and all the above over the last 2 weeks.
Perhaps it is just hopeful to wish that this level of “distance” can be maintained so that I may at least have some level of “self-healing.” and that even if it is not full, it is better than the immense torture that was last year. I have noticed an ability to see things clearer since the wedding, but like I said above, that doesn’t mean I am able to feel the gravity of it all (as the numbness is the natural respite my body has been used to – and it doesn’t know how to say okay now its time to feel and un-numb).January 16, 2018 at 1:06 pm #187073
Do you think or feel that your current interactions with your mother are hindering your desired progress, your aim to feel your repressed feelings?
to be honest, even if she was away from this world (dead, gone who knows lets take that aside) this feeling of repressed feelings would be extremely difficult, that combined with old waves of guilt etc.
And do you think it is possible for you to heal while in contact with her?
good question, as above, i think the answer is this. considering that like you said no contact is likely not the route things will go – then the answer has a lot to do with: within me, how much do i let her get to me now, how much do i believe the things she says, how much do i communicate with her. how much do i focus on her versus my own life/husband. these days over the last 4 months i have been able to shift gears towards my own life and husband – and seen reality. but for sure there is a long long road ahead.
if the contact continues the way that it is – will i someday slowly feel the repressed feelings in the way i want to? truly FEEL them, and not just have them as a passing thought or something. will i be able to focus on them, and not have my mind go to the peripheral person (such as above) so that i don’t tend to focus on the heavy issue at hand. i do hope so, with distance, practice, time, and the guidance of supportive individuals.January 17, 2018 at 6:51 am #187189
Dear Cali Chica:
I am no longer in contact with my mother. I have last spoken to her on the phone early in 2013. Following that, I sent her a letter in which I explained why I choose the no contact, as graciously and honestly as can be. Later, following a birthday card she sent me, I sent a message to her through my sister in January 2o14. There has been absolutely no contact, direct or indirect since then and there will be none for the rest of either person’s life.
I wanted no contact with her for many years but was unable to implement it for decades.
Before ending contact with her, I lived oceans away from her and had breaks of months to a couple of years perhaps from seeing her in person. During the breaks I recovered much, but every time I saw her I regressed back into sickness. Again and again it happened until there was no more recovery in between seeing her. Only sickness and dysfunction.
Regarding your words in the last two posts, you wrote: “I can SURVIVE… waiting for the other shoe to drop”
Notice: of course you can survive, you have survived so far. But you suffer and will continue to suffer, and eventually, like me, you are not likely to recover in between the shoes dropping.
You survived so far. Your quality of life at present, during this one break, is the best you can expect if you continue to … just survive.
I agree: when you have a child, your mother will be back in full force.
I wrote that it is very unlikely that you end contact with her because few adult children do, probably more so in some cultures but it is difficult for the great majority of adult children in any culture. I know how difficult it was for me. Oh, the distress I experienced when I cut the contact, the doubts, the guilt…
But it is working for me. Finally the guilt is gone (what a relief!) Like you I have a sister too, and she is six years younger than me. She is living with her mother and is in a terrible mental state and functions poorly. She is still surviving but suffering a great deal.
anitaJanuary 17, 2018 at 7:05 am #187191
<p>Dear anita,</p><p>I commend you for taking such a noble step, and finally allowing yourself after decades to be relieved of that guilt. I could not even imagine how difficult that may have been for years on end.</p><p>yes, you’re right – I will likely not go down this path. and yes, this will consist of a life of “survival” and some respite during breaks – and then rescinding during times of contact. I know this, and I see it in front of me – but I still can not conceive no contact, and will not kid myself or others, including you – to say yes this is a possibility. when it is not – not at this time at least.</p><p>interestingly, my husband and I are thinking of moving this summer. we are now 1.5 hours away from both parents and most of our family – and we are thinking of a move cross country. for many reasons including climate,, jobs, etc. of course I realize more geographical distance may be good in some ways, but the same in others. I know no matter where I go the mother voice is within me – miles don’t change that. I do worry about future milestones such as children, and like you said the full force ad control and guilt that will come with that. if we live miles away they will want to visit and stay for a week – during those times</p><p>I told you I saw them twice since the wedding. the time I ssaw them a month or so ago – it was a pleasant weekend and very focused on my puppy. once I returned back home – they called to see if I made it back, and then both began to cry, and say how much they missed me, and how they really enjoyed the quality time together.</p><p>the old me would have felt something, but all I thought was – you’re a lunatic – one second abusing us, now crying and emotional how much you missed us. insane.</p><p>anyway – you know this, I know this, my sister who is 6.5 years younger and 2,000 miles away knows this. yet – the cycle will continue. sadly I don’t even know what life without guilt even means. like you said I think of the breaks as breathing space and allowance to “get back on track” but that doesn’t mean I am at mental peace or immersed in the process of healing and un-numbing.</p>January 17, 2018 at 7:38 am #187195
Dear Cali Chica:
I too could not imagine cutting contact with my mother. Once, during a visit at an aunt away from my mother, as a child, I could hardly breathe, missing her so much, needing to be with her. An uncle brought me back to her as soon as possible. I was so very distressed.
I am wondering, if you imagine right now ending all contact with your mother (and I fully understand you are in no way considering it), what kinds of thoughts go through your mind?
anitaJanuary 17, 2018 at 7:46 am #187197
<p>Hello anita,</p><p>I am wondering, if you imagine right now ending all contact with your mother -what kinds of thoughts go through your mind?</p><p>I haven’t formally formulated this thinking so I will give you my “fragmented thoughts”</p><p>1) immense and deep sadneses</p><p>-the first thought that comes to mind, is sad – very sad. something like this: ” my poor mother suffered a terrible life since she came to America, she dealt with abuse from family and others, and her focus then was me – yes it is toxic and has continued to be in adulthood – but she relies on that so much to the point she cried a month ago when I left.” how could I hurt her like this.</p><p>then my mind goes here: yes shes abusive, but shes damaged – so cutting off contact from her leads to more damage to her. yes but it’s not my job to endure abuse for her sake…</p><p>she lives for this – she has her own life now yes, she travels, and is not a dependent disabled person – but the idea of losing her daughter is crippling to her…to the point that when she felt she was “losing me” even over the last year bc of her delusions related to my in laws – she was besides herself.</p><p>I do not expect her to understand at all what she has done to me and her sister. she does not have the capacity and she is ill and insane. so trying to explain it and hoping she will change is not an option. in fact, as she gets older she has gotten worse – and I’m sure will continue into elderly age as both the brain and body deteriorate. so no contact would be for me – no explanation would justify it to her. </p><p>she would likely get our whole extended family involved, maybe even end up hospitalized due to deep despair, hysteria, and psychosis related to the idea of “losing me”</p><p>so where does that leave me…?</p><p> </p>January 17, 2018 at 8:26 am #187201
Hello lovely sister and anita,
Anita, thank you for sharing that you have a sister as well. It touched both my sister and I.
When my sister is within contact of my mother, she regresses and essentially becomes “crazy”again. When my sister was in India, wedding shopping with my parents, her husband called me and was extremely upset and worried. He mentions how he has PTSD type symptoms from when my sister regresses again – and now that she is in India with them, he feels that she is regressing and he does not know how to deal with it anymore.
More so than us, in this situation, like you had mentioned to me, is about the abuse of the other person. He does not deserve this. I, myself, of course am also suffering – however, when my sister regresses she also hurts me. Her husband and I am on the same page with this and I would love to find a solution to stop this from happening.
I can say here honestly, because my sister knows this herself, and we now, anita (even though we have no idea who you essentially are!) feel close to you as well. I want to find a way for my sister to stop being so affected by the interactions (I am affected by interactions as well. – but for me they make me cry, angry, sad, upset etc. I do not regress completely at least). I want her to stop for herself, but also for me. Because of these influences my sister and I have, sometimes my sister is unable to just be my sister. She wants to take control of all situations in my life it seems or always has an opinion. I understand she is taking care of me. I truly love you for that sister! BUT – I need to live my own life. And sometimes my mother’s voice in my sister does not allow my sister to let me just live. Her response to this will be – well you need help, you have severe problems etc. She will say, “well i can’t just sit here when in the past this, this, and this has happened.” Yes, I do. But hey, I am across the country by myself with my doctorate…and hey i am still breathing. So can’t be THAT bad right?! I am actually doing pretty ok and on my path to recovery. My parents have always made me feel so damaged and worthless. However, although my sister always tells me it is not true, when she consistently gives me advice or tells me about my flaws etc, it is reinforcing the same thing my parents did. That is how it feels. I would like if I would be able to talk to my sister about something and her just listen. Not feel the need to save me. I am not my mother. I am smart, strong, and kind. I will be ok. I just want a sister sometimes. Not added pressure all the time. I already have that from my parents. I truly believe as my sister is able to immerse herself more into these feelings etc, she will be able to work on this type of relationship with us too.
As a side point, I have also seen my sister do a similar thing to her husband. He will describe something, perhaps a feeling or issue about life, she immediately takes the role of the problem-solver/therapist. And it is obvious that he is perhaps not in need of that in that moment. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is hard for my sister to let people just breathe. We both do not understand the concept of time – that time is important. And maybe she can say her advice in a few days.
I did not mean to make this post about me. But I figured, Anita, it would give you more insight into our situation and how my mother’s voice also affects the relationship between my sister and I. (and of course with all others, but that is not the point right now).