Notes to Self

December 21, 2012

Where you end and I begin

According to my therapist, when children are young there is not much separation between them and their primary caregiver(s) (i.e. parents) – they see themselves and their world through their parents. It is the job of the parents to reflect back a positive image of the child (so the child sees their self in a positive way) and as time goes on, the parent must allow the child to develop into an individual – to separate from the parent. This involves allowing the child to differ in opinion and “rebel”; to be unhappy with decisions made by the parents and to voice such opposition. However, the key is for the parent(s) is to maintain love for and acceptance of that child no matter what (you know, unconditional love).

 

Evidently, many parents fail at this. Instead of viewing their child as a separate, discrete individual, they see the child as an extension of themselves. And they expect the child to act accordingly. My therapist likened it to how one might expect an arm to move as you tell it to and imagine how upset you would be if this arm went left when you told it to go right. How dare it not do as you instructed!

 

In my quest to figure out WHY I have the thought processes and behaviors that I do, I am trying to understand the connection between my parents parenting and my current mental state. I do not feel that I can change until I understand why, to the extent that I can.

I am struggling to draw connections between the parenting I received and the thoughts I now have to change. I imagine there is a flow chart that can be drawn – some way to schematically show the if/than arguments.

 

My parents were never happy with what I did, how I behaved or dressed or talked. I was never what they wanted me to be  – regardless of the situation or conditions. I was always lacking something – I didn’t get all A’s or the haircut was nice but my mother would have preferred something different. Of course these are the stereotypical things that parents say – that most folks discuss in therapy. But taken together, over a lifetime, and mixed with other major traumatic events in my life (which I believe were inevitable consequences of circumstance), I am left with this:

1) I do not trust my own judgement, which causes anger and frustration (the death spiral)

2) I do not think I am worthy of love or have any right to ask someone to do something for me (I build walls and don’t let people in; I have no pride)

3) I am not, and never will be or could be, feminine, pretty or sexy (I never look in mirror’s and go through mental hell when I have to wear anything but jeans)

4) No matter what I do, try to do or want to do, I will fail (I have no hobbies or goals in life and no sense of accomplishment)

 

Up until a year or so ago everything I did was done to make my parents and sisters happy. For example, even after I moved out I would mow the lawn, rake and shovel. I would sometimes send my husband (much to his significant dismay). I listened to complaints and ran errands and let them blow me off for someone (or something) else (and never said a peep). I did it because it made them happy and that meant I was good and maybe they would love me. I beamed whenever I was told how helpful I am! This would make me want to do more.

But I am now realizing how much of my actions (or lack thereof) were done just to take care of their mental health. I won’t argue or speak up for myself because that angered them. I won’t tell them my opinion or not go along with their plans because that angers them. I will stay close to home so I can take care of you, even if I hate this damned state. I will put up with the hurt and criticism, judgement and insults – because you are family and, as you have always told me, all I have to count on in this world is my family. When no one else will be there, you will. I view myself according to how I think my family would view me and the decision I am about to or have just made. And since their view of me is/was never favorable (unless I had just done something for them and in accordance with their preferences), then all I think is that I have and will fail.

 

Action will correct my thought processes. My therapist says I need to stand up for myself and confront them when they say or do something I don’t like or when they ask of me something I do not wish to do. When asked why I don’t do this I said it is because it’s not worth the hassle. When I have spoken up I just get questioned more “well don’t you think that ___” or “why do you think that ____”. It’s tiring and I don’t want to deal with it.

So here’s another “cause” – they don’t listen and they don’t pay attention. The last time I went clothes shopping with my mother I was in the 6th grade. She pulled some awful, ruffled shirt off the rack and I replied (rather loudly) “do you really think that is something I would like?”. And that was that.  With all of the choices I have made with my daughter – they still question and criticize. They have not heard me or paid any attention such that they would understand and appreciate that all my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of my daughter, rather than what I do or do not want or what they expect. No, I will not wake her up from her nap so we can be on time for appetizers. No, we will not stay past her bedtime; she gets cranky and unhappy. We will go home so she can sleep.

Last night I was talking with my mother and she started lecturing in a very disapproving tone. I fell silent (as I have been doing – and then I just say I have to go and hang up). But then I thought about it and decided to “confront” her (and by the way, I should mention that confrontation scare the hell out of me – with anyone – my heart pounds, my voice quivers).  So I told her what I thought and she just kept challenging me and I realized that I didn’t know how to stop it. What did I need to say to get her to stop talking? My life isn’t your business unless I make it your business. And if you don’t like something it isn’t your natural right to tell me so.

I am seeing clearly how I have become what I am. The logic is unfolding and the consequences come forth as if challenging me to refute their existence.

Self-doubt; you are a product of not having been heard or given the opportunity to safely make mistakes. No, it would not have been tragic if the skirt I was trying to make didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I would have learned something from it. I would have tried again and become more skilled. Except I just gave up. Lost interest in trying anything since I would only fail.

 

Overall I am hopeful for my recovery. While I see there is a lot of active, in the moment work to do; I think I can change.

I need to change. I am tired of being negative and self-hating.

My daughter needs me to change. I need me to change.

I don’t feel that I have really worked through all of this information such that I feel clarity. But I am getting closer. This has helped.

Inch by inch, row by row…..

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