Growing up I thought I had a typical, possibly even idyllic, childhood until my mother left my father for another man. Both parents pressured me to be the woman of the house for my three younger siblings. Rightly or wrongly, I made the choice to abandon it all and move out. At 17 I was on my own.
Most people who meet my mom love her, but she is a manipulative, self-involved woman hiding behind the facade of perfection. Only those of us who see past that facade understand how destructive she can be.
My mother was raised in a strict Irish patriarchal household. While her family was patriarchal, ours revolved around her, her needs and wants and her requirements. She deludes herself into thinking she was the perfect parent, though the evidence is right in front of her face. One brother and I are distant from the family, our sister is extremely angry, and our other brother, in his 40s, still lives with her and has never married.
Today is Mother's Day. Our parents spend every holiday together as neither of them remarried, and today our family went to dinner at a nearby restaurant. Sitting next to my mother at dinner I had to restrain myself from snapping at her for the simplest things.
I allowed her to use my anger to manipulate me into saying things I am now regretting. The things I said were true, but expressing them to someone as sick as my mother was a bad choice. Still, I want to make her listen to me and hear her validate me and my feelings.
In the three years since I began counseling and started to see the path of destruction my mother set me on, I have learned not to allow her drama to impact my life. Instead of trying to change her behavior I have chosen to change how I react to it. Until now.
I feel guilty. I know from counseling that guilt is not an emotional response, and I have looked at the emotion behind it and I am just plain old angry with my mother. I'm a happy positive person with a great many friends who love me and I love them. The only time I feel like the angry resentful child I was at 17 is when I am with my mother.
I need to let this one go and let God handle it, but it's just not happening this time. It goes to show that this working-on-myself thing will be a lifelong battle, or at least as long as my mother is on this earth, bless her soul.
Shannon, there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a red flag telling us to beware, someone is trying to manipulate us. Shame is different. Shame tells us we have done something which dishonors us. Shame requires us to mend our ways.
When you are with your mother, you are in the presence of someone who has no shame, who tries to make you feel shame. She uses guilt to manipulate you.
Many of us have the idea that our emotions are irrational. They are not. Emotions are a warning system like the smoke detector in our house. If we ignore the warning and rush into the fire, we will be scorched.
It is as if you are scouring the world over for a way to make your mother a good mother. But the satisfaction you seek is unattainable, because no matter what she does now she cannot undo your experience. You really want to have had a different life, but that wish can never be fulfilled.
Every time you have contact with her, you reinforce who she thinks she is. Listen to the smoke detector. Don't spend the rest of your life trying to make her into someone she is not.
Wayne & Tamara
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