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I'm really not sure what to make of this situation. It's kinda involved and I hope I can relate all the necessary details in a single post. The situation is an email exchange between my mom and I (I'm 31 btw). I'll list the sequence of messages and then go into detail.

  1. Mom to me: asks how I'm doing (in one brief sentence, then goes on for a few paragraphs about her latest gossip)
  2. Me to mom: I'm actually not doing too well. I'm feeling a little unstable right now so I'd like to limit our conversation to email until I'm feeling better.
  3. no response for a week
  4. Mom to me: Are you feeling any better? (more gossip)
  5. Me to Mom: I'm doing alright, except for this anxiety. Last week I wasn't doing too good at all. I was bouncing around from anger to guilt, fear to terror, and worthlessness to self-hate. All of my self defeating defenses were in full swing, dissociation, self-harm, avoidance and so on. I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now though. I've been having this anxiety that borders on panic, but I'm coping with it fairly well, no dissociation and no cutting.
  6. Mom to me: I don't have time to respond but I have some thoughts and feelings of my own that I'll put down when I have a chance.
  7. Mom to me: I remember when I was a child, I used to bang my head and punch myself. I think self hate is an unwillingness/inability to learn appropriate ways of dealing with negative emotions. You never had a chance to emulate that from your father and I. I'm still terrified of expressing negative emotions which is why they sometimes come out as agression/pleading/begging. Or if they don't come out for a long time, self-hate. I have come to understand that all of our reactions to our environment are out of our own personality traits. Here's to all of us learning better communication skills. Love you, Mom.
So here's the background. My parents and I never really talk about my issues. They'll ask how I'm doing (and I do believe that it is a genuine concern), but they'll never inquire about what I'm feeling or why. One might think that it's out of respect for my privacy, but I can assure you that my privacy is the least of my mom's concerns. One might also think that they get the sense that I don't want to talk about it. I don't really know if that is or isn't true, but I do try to be very open about it. The only time I've ever said I didn't want to talk about something was after mentioning a specific therapy session in which I would like to keep the content private.

If #5 came across as a desperate plea for some kind of attention, it's not coincidental. All I'm looking for is "that sounds terrible, I'm sorry you are having such a tough time. is there anything I can do to help?".

At first I was overjoyed by her response; finally, an open dialog can begin. And I continued to think that way until my wife called me. She just got back from her therapist who she discussed this exchange with. They both see her response quite differently. They see her as burdening me with her problems, making me feel sympathetic and even a little guilty, thus diffusing any legitimate right I have to be angry. They saw it as a continuation of the old cycle of controling my thoughts and emotions.

I'm not sure what to think. Just the thought that she is (intentionally or not) trying to once again manipulate me absolutely infuriates me. And the more I do think about the response, the more inclined I am to agree with my wife and her therapist (I don't see mine until Friday). There's the little warm fuzzy bits in there, like taking responsibility for not being a good role model... but where was the apology?

What was the point of her telling me about her own self-injury when her only responses to mine have been disgust and shame?

FUCK! Now I'm really getting pissed off!

She's taking responsibility without *really* taking responsibility. I can't accuse her of any wrong doing because she's already admitted to it. The whole thing seems preemptive.

Goddamnit, can't they just show some fucking concern for my well being? How the fuck do I respond to this message?

Any thoughts?

-defect

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This may be a terrible answer. I'm no good at this and others may have something better to offer.

I say don't respond to this. And during the next interaction, she doesn't get to hear about you and your personal details. Just "thanks mom, doing great"! There are other people that will listen to you and be more supportive and they are the ones who deserve to hear it.

Just my opinion.

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This may be a terrible answer. I'm no good at this and others may have something better to offer.

I say don't respond to this. And during the next interaction, she doesn't get to hear about you and your personal details. Just "thanks mom, doing great"! There are other people that will listen to you and be more supportive and they are the ones who deserve to hear it.

Just my opinion.

Thanks Karolina, that's certainly how I feel right now.

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I dont think I have much more to say either.

Just keep it superficial.

Your relationship to your mom sounds like my relationship with my mom. She always wants to know how I am doing, and when I tell her she goes into a tangent about whats wrong with her. I guess she never really listens to me. Its like she acts like she cares because thats whats she spose to do because shes my mom. But then by her response to the question, I get that she doesnt really care.

I could be totally off, of course. If I am just ignore it.

Selene

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I actually thought her response was very sincere and it was a true attempt to connect with you and reassure you weren't alone in what you felt, and she sees her part in it. I don't see the manipulation there at all. You could interpret her response as her trying to turn the conversation back to her issues. I see it as someone who struggles to talk about emotions and her son's pain (which she cannot stop, and might've been partly responsible for, something that tears most parents apart) trying to address it. She has actually been vulnerable and human with you. If no one in your house talks about their emotions, I think this is BIG progress.

I don't think number 5 sounded like attention seeking. It's not unreasonable to want comfort from your mom. And I think she made a real attempt to give you some, in her own limited way. When we are in a pattern of relating with our parents, it is hard to accept the good stuff, we expect to be disappointed and we reject what they do that can be healing.

JMO.

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I see it more like Karuna, maybe because my mom is deceased and my step-mom is not self evolved and way, way more limited than that. I suggest that until you see your therapist on Friday, not talk about this with your mom. Get some exercise, slam the bed with a tennis racket, scream, whatever you do to release some anger. I'm not suggesting your points aren't valid. I don't know your whole history. She did sound caring. Talk with your therapist. Maybe you can write things down that you need to hear from her when you are ill. And vice versa maybe. In recovery from this illness, I want to heal my relationships, not make worse. If she is really that horrible, you always have the option of removing her from your life. Otherwise, deal and heal. Way, way hard sometimes, I know.

Best wishes.

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I actually thought her response was very sincere and it was a true attempt to connect with you and reassure you weren't alone in what you felt, and she sees her part in it. I don't see the manipulation there at all.

I totally agree with this. I thought your Mom's response was caring and empathic.

I think your wife's therapist is a nutjob with her own issues to work out.

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I actually thought her response was very sincere and it was a true attempt to connect with you and reassure you weren't alone in what you felt, and she sees her part in it. I don't see the manipulation there at all. You could interpret her response as her trying to turn the conversation back to her issues. I see it as someone who struggles to talk about emotions and her son's pain (which she cannot stop, and might've been partly responsible for, something that tears most parents apart) trying to address it. She has actually been vulnerable and human with you. If no one in your house talks about their emotions, I think this is BIG progress.

I don't think number 5 sounded like attention seeking. It's not unreasonable to want comfort from your mom. And I think she made a real attempt to give you some, in her own limited way. When we are in a pattern of relating with our parents, it is hard to accept the good stuff, we expect to be disappointed and we reject what they do that can be healing.

JMO.

Thanks Karuna, always appreciate your perspective. At first this was how I saw it. It was the way I wanted to see it, and it may well be that that is reality. I don't know. However, this scenario has played itself out over and over again throughout my life. She always (and I do mean literally, always) ends up being the victim. She becomes the one who is hurt. She's the one that's sacraficing. It is a well established defense of hers to diffuse your anger by being hurt and angry herself.

You'll notice that the first part of her response, about self injury, wasn't followed by anything like "so I do have some idea what it's like, and when I see it in you it brings back painful memories that are too much for me to deal with. That's why I react to your scars the way I do".

Her admission that her and my dad never set a good example about expressing negative emotions wasn't followed by even a hint of an apology.

Also, there isn't a single question in that entire message. How can she *really* be reaching out and showing concern without asking a single thing about my situation. It was all about her situation.

You make a good point though, that this might be the limit of her ability to reach out. If that is the case then I'm super confused about how to respond. She's already positioned herself to be the victim (this I do know, from experience). So anything I say in response that even hints at any wrong doing on her part will be met with a strong defensive response (again, this is from experience). I just don't know how I can tell her anything about how I feel without there being any implicit accusation.

I called my pdoc last night and left a message asking him to see me earlier this week (like, hopefully today). Hopefully that will help too.

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I actually thought her response was very sincere and it was a true attempt to connect with you and reassure you weren't alone in what you felt, and she sees her part in it. I don't see the manipulation there at all.

I totally agree with this. I thought your Mom's response was caring and empathic.

I think your wife's therapist is a nutjob with her own issues to work out.

I guess a little background is in order here. Her therapist was my therpist for over a year. So she's already familiar with my family dynamics.

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I guess that I am in a different place because I am letting go of what my parents 'should' do for me. I get similar stuff from my parents. I choose to take the bits that help and discard what bothers me. I would love an explicit apology for their unwise choices, but I won't get one. That leaves me with choices, cut them off totally, persist in accusing them of failing me and create more tension, or accept the reality that they cannot or will not apologize for their part in the way my life has gone, whilst maintaining a relationship and a level of honesty with them.

I still think that you are casting what your mother has said in the light of what she has done in the past. You use words like 'always.' Are you willing to draw a line under what happened, for your own sanity, and appreciate what might be there now from your mother? I'm not saying that you don't deserve an apology. I'm not saying that she hasn't messed up. I'm not saying that she couldn't have been far more supportive in her response. I'm not saying that you don't deserve to be empathized with.

However, you're asking this from someone who either isn't capable (from what she has admitted of herself) or is too afraid to try. How long can you keep banging up against this wall of demanding what she won't give, and getting mad? Does all or nothing BPD thinking (it's not a full apology so it's all manipulative crap) have to rule?

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I guess that I am in a different place because I am letting go of what my parents 'should' do for me. I get similar stuff from my parents. I choose to take the bits that help and discard what bothers me. I would love an explicit apology for their unwise choices, but I won't get one. That leaves me with choices, cut them off totally, persist in accusing them of failing me and create more tension, or accept the reality that they cannot or will not apologize for their part in the way my life has gone, whilst maintaining a relationship and a level of honesty with them.

I still think that you are casting what your mother has said in the light of what she has done in the past. You use words like 'always.' Are you willing to draw a line under what happened, for your own sanity, and appreciate what might be there now from your mother? I'm not saying that you don't deserve an apology. I'm not saying that she hasn't messed up. I'm not saying that she couldn't have been far more supportive in her response. I'm not saying that you don't deserve to be empathized with.

However, you're asking this from someone who either isn't capable (from what she has admitted of herself) or is too afraid to try. How long can you keep banging up against this wall of demanding what she won't give, and getting mad? Does all or nothing BPD thinking (it's not a full apology so it's all manipulative crap) have to rule?

I think I over-emphasized the apology part. I'm not really expecting an apology... but it would sure be nice.

Instead, what upset me was the lack of concern for me. I know there is some concern there, I'm not delusional about it, but it's not expressed at all. Maybe you're right, maybe this is as good as it gets.

The other thing that upset me was that for a long time (almost 10 years), I had led myself to believe that what was in the past is in the past; there would be no point in bringing it up other than to satisfy my own sense of self rightousness. But her response to my scars (an earlier thread) and now this just emphasizes that our relationship is still the same as it always was. I guess I really shouldn't have expected it to change just because I'm an adult. I'm really pissed off at myself for allowing myself to believe things were all better.

I hope it doesn't seem as though I'm saying that she didn't mean what she said or that she was insincere; I know she cares, and I know she loves me. But it is possible for someone to care about you and manipulate you at the same time.

All I want from her are some inquiries as to what's going on, you know... be the stereotypical nosey mother. It's selfish, I know, but all I want is some sympathy and interest. I guess that's a better word than caring, interest. I want her to be interested in me. I know she cares about how I feel, she's just not interested in any of the details.

I wish I could reach the point where I can write things like this off. I don't know why I can't. It's all just too painful.

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I agree with Karuna. I think she is trying to open up to you and connect to you. That may or may not actually be good for you, but it is an opportunity to change your relationship with her that you can take, reject, or leave for later. (I would suggest leaving it for when you're more stable and able to deal with stuff it might set off.)

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I agree with Karuna. I think she is trying to open up to you and connect to you. That may or may not actually be good for you, but it is an opportunity to change your relationship with her that you can take, reject, or leave for later. (I would suggest leaving it for when you're more stable and able to deal with stuff it might set off.)

Well, I'm not sure if I agree or not, but I do appreciate everyone's advice and perspective. You guys and gals are really helpful, thank you.

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Can you appreciate that to ask you about details might be painful for her? As a parent, who probably knows on some level that he has contributed, do you think it will be at all easy to know in detail how you are suffering and why? Have you ever been in a situation where you have done someone wrong and not wanted to get into specifics about it because it hurts you to hear what you did? Some people can be cowardly about facing up to what they have done. Just as you might have ever struggled to cope with any of your wrongdoing in your life, she does too.

I think that she is expressing the most she can. It would be fine to go back to her and say 'Mom, I appreciate that email, but I have a lot going on right now, so can we leave this conversation' and not address the issue further if you feel that being totally honest would cause more harm than good. You sound like you need time to feel and process what is going on. I see why you feel manipulated, and I agree that were she to ask questions and show interest in your stuff rather than trying to match your feelings with her own, it would be more of a comfort. But it takes an incredibly mature person to do that, and you know that she isn't there yet.

I think what I am getting at is to not burn your bridges. It'd be sad if you never had that relationship with her because you couldn't handle her imperfect state at present. She says herself that she wants to learn.

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Can you appreciate that to ask you about details might be painful for her? As a parent, who probably knows on some level that he has contributed, do you think it will be at all easy to know in detail how you are suffering and why? Have you ever been in a situation where you have done someone wrong and not wanted to get into specifics about it because it hurts you to hear what you did? Some people can be cowardly about facing up to what they have done. Just as you might have ever struggled to cope with any of your wrongdoing in your life, she does too.

I think that she is expressing the most she can. It would be fine to go back to her and say 'Mom, I appreciate that email, but I have a lot going on right now, so can we leave this conversation' and not address the issue further if you feel that being totally honest would cause more harm than good. You sound like you need time to feel and process what is going on. I see why you feel manipulated, and I agree that were she to ask questions and show interest in your stuff rather than trying to match your feelings with her own, it would be more of a comfort. But it takes an incredibly mature person to do that, and you know that she isn't there yet.

I think what I am getting at is to not burn your bridges. It'd be sad if you never had that relationship with her because you couldn't handle her imperfect state at present. She says herself that she wants to learn.

Thank you Karuna, you're absolutely right. I was able to see my pdoc today and he helped a lot. I sent her a response saying asking her to clarify the points she was trying to make. I told her that I hoped that this would be the begining of an open dialog and a chance for wounds on both sides to heal. I also asked that we continue using email because of our quick tendency to defencive reactions, instead, well thought out letters would be more constructive.

She responded pretty quickly, saying that she couldn't say anything at the moment (at work), but that she'll put some thought into it and write back. She also said that her problem with email is that her thoughts keep tumbling around as she's writing. I responded that I think I experience something similar and I know how difficult it can be. I said to take as much time as she needs and that I understand.

I hope my messages were received the way they were intended. And I hope that something positive will come about from it. There's a lot of pain ahead of us, I hope it results in something good.

Thanks again

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  • 2 weeks later...

I found this thread really interesting as my mother is very similar up to a point. She would never own that she was emotionally abusive to me - she blames my father and has lied to me about his physical abuse towards me. He was but later when I lived with him for a short time as a teen. I agree with alot of the points that Karuna has made, but that's not where I'm going with this.....

What I wanted to share was when I have told my mother what's going on for me she'll do one of two things; either go into fix it mode or turn it around and make it about her. How she had to struggle growing up with an abuse father, how hard it was as a single parent etc. When I was 23 after a suicide attempt she took me to the doctors and she turned the session around to her crying and saying how hard it's been for her. She really plays the victim card (had to learn it from somewhere!!!!)

Anyway what happens for me is on the inside I start spiralling out of controll and end up enraged which then leads to drinking, sex - when I was younger and alot thinner! - SI, and complete dissociation. It's the feeling of having my empowerment/control taken away and I don't know how to get it back. In one fell swoop I'm a child , no one is listening to what I'm saying and I'm drowning in emotions - the spiralling out of control feeling and I'm shit scared!!!

The other thing you said in a later post struck me as well

All I want from her are some inquiries as to what's going on, you know... be the stereotypical nosey mother. It's selfish, I know, but all I want is some sympathy and interest. I guess that's a better word than caring, interest. I want her to be interested in me. I know she cares about how I feel, she's just not interested in any of the details.

I can totally relate to this too. Years ago I asked her why she wasn't more like a mother - asking how my day was, showing interest in me as a daughter etc. Anyway her reply was I kept putting her into a role that wasn't her - she wanted to be my friend.

And yes I do understand projecting your own expectations onto people and not allowing and accepting them for who they are and the learning stages of personality development (Erik Erikson model).

But when it comes to parents - boy do the buttons get pushed!!!!!! And then we're back into the "wounded" child.

A while back I did Group work based on John Bradshaw's healing the inner child. At the time I was working through father issues and this really changed our relationship. Now we have a good functioning relationship as 2 people rather than father/daughter. However this hasn't happened with my mother. It's difficult because she has a lot of issues, refuses to acknowledge/own them and lies.

At the moment I'm really angry at her with regards my childhood. Guess what I'm going to be working on with my new therapist!!!!!

Anyway just my 2 cents worth...........

Hawk

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I found this thread really interesting as my mother is very similar up to a point. She would never own that she was emotionally abusive to me - she blames my father and has lied to me about his physical abuse towards me. He was but later when I lived with him for a short time as a teen. I agree with alot of the points that Karuna has made, but that's not where I'm going with this.....

What I wanted to share was when I have told my mother what's going on for me she'll do one of two things; either go into fix it mode or turn it around and make it about her. How she had to struggle growing up with an abuse father, how hard it was as a single parent etc. When I was 23 after a suicide attempt she took me to the doctors and she turned the session around to her crying and saying how hard it's been for her. She really plays the victim card (had to learn it from somewhere!!!!)

Anyway what happens for me is on the inside I start spiralling out of controll and end up enraged which then leads to drinking, sex - when I was younger and alot thinner! - SI, and complete dissociation. It's the feeling of having my empowerment/control taken away and I don't know how to get it back. In one fell swoop I'm a child , no one is listening to what I'm saying and I'm drowning in emotions - the spiralling out of control feeling and I'm shit scared!!!

The other thing you said in a later post struck me as well

All I want from her are some inquiries as to what's going on, you know... be the stereotypical nosey mother. It's selfish, I know, but all I want is some sympathy and interest. I guess that's a better word than caring, interest. I want her to be interested in me. I know she cares about how I feel, she's just not interested in any of the details.

I can totally relate to this too. Years ago I asked her why she wasn't more like a mother - asking how my day was, showing interest in me as a daughter etc. Anyway her reply was I kept putting her into a role that wasn't her - she wanted to be my friend.

And yes I do understand projecting your own expectations onto people and not allowing and accepting them for who they are and the learning stages of personality development (Erik Erikson model).

But when it comes to parents - boy do the buttons get pushed!!!!!! And then we're back into the "wounded" child.

A while back I did Group work based on John Bradshaw's healing the inner child. At the time I was working through father issues and this really changed our relationship. Now we have a good functioning relationship as 2 people rather than father/daughter. However this hasn't happened with my mother. It's difficult because she has a lot of issues, refuses to acknowledge/own them and lies.

At the moment I'm really angry at her with regards my childhood. Guess what I'm going to be working on with my new therapist!!!!!

Anyway just my 2 cents worth...........

Hawk

Get out of my head!! (just kidding). OMG what you've said is exactly the way this thing has played itself out since I last posted here. I'm going to start a new thread about all that has occured since then, but I just wanted to thank you for your insight. We do indeed have very similar mothers.

Thank you

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