There is a woman following me around, stabbing me in the chest every time I go near my husband, so I go off on my own. The pain is too much to bear.
“Why are you alone?” someone asks me.
“It’s just easier that way.”
“Why don’t you stab her back?”
“She only wounds me, chances are I’ll kill her.”
“When are you going to cut the ties with your Mother?” my psychologist asks when I tell her this dream.
Of course, the woman attacking me is my mother. She does it all the time concerning my relationships, especially since I’ve become ill: You’re not cooking for your husband? He has to do the shopping? He’s going to get tired of looking after you! A man needs a wife looking after him….and so on.
Losing my independence was difficult; being told everyday that I’m not a good enough wife just rubs salt in the wounds, (or as in the dream, stabs).
“How do I do that? I’ve felt responsible for my Mom forever. That umbilical cord is tough to break through.”
“Try putting her in a chair (figuratively speaking) and have a dialogue. Imagine cutting the threads.”
Okay, here goes:
Me: Mom we need to talk about your continual criticism of me; it has to stop.
Mom: What criticism? I admire you greatly. When have I ever criticized you? If I did, I certainly didn’t mean to.
Me: Maybe you don’t hear yourself, Mom, but you question me regularly about my role as a wife.
Mom: Well, I just worry that Ric will stay interested – he has to do a lot to look after you. Men get restless, you know.
Me: Do you know what Ric’s reaction is when you say these things? He says: “Tell your Mom, she is not speaking for me. I’m not like that.”
Mom: Well good for him; he’s a rare man. You’re very lucky.
Me: You are missing the point, Mom. When you make statements like that you are projecting your own experience – and I know it hasn’t been easy for you – but not all men are like your husbands were.
Mom: Do you really think so?
Me: I know so! Do you know that all my life you’ve told me I’m not good enough.
Mom: Well…you’re different. I just worry about you getting hurt.
Me (wanting to throw my arms up in exasperation): The thing is that your words hurt more than any man’s can. You’re my mom! I need your support. I don’t need you to agree with me on everything, I just need you to believe in me.
Mom: (nodding, biting her lip): You have made some poor choices…
Me: We’ve both made bad decisions, Mom. I am trying to break through those patterns – make a better life for myself, for my kids.
Mom: You’ve always been smarter than me.
Me: I am sorry about what you have been through, Mom. You didn’t deserve any of that. And I am amazed at how you kept going through it all. You are an incredible woman.
Mom: Obviously, the choices that I made hurt my children, even though I never wanted that.
Me: It’s inevitable Mom…and I hurt my children. Blame doesn’t get us anywhere. I just want you to know that I am no longer going to accept the negative comments from you. When you tell me what I’m doing wrong, I will kindly turn it back on you: “That’s your experience, Mom; not mine.”
Mom; (nods in agreement).
Me: And another thing, Mom. I know that you feel loyal to your family, and want us all to be one big, happy extended bunch, but I am not going to fulfill that wish for you. I am choosing to protect myself and my girls from them.
Mom: I read some of your work, and it appears to me that you think you were abused. You don’t really think that do you?
Me (insert exasperation again): We were abused, Mom. All of us were abused. That was what it looked like. Abuse happens when one person exerts power over another, be it physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological. My whole life we lived in fear of Dad; none of us could breathe, least of all you. That wasn’t love, Mom, it was control and manipulation.
Mom: Yeah, yeah, I got that. But he didn’t hurt you girls.
Me (saddened now): He did Mom. He hurt all of us. I’m working through that, though. Dad’s gone. I just want you to know that I will not be seeing my cousin again, or go visit a creepy uncle. You may okay with lewd behaviour but I identify that as abuse also.
Mom: They don’t mean anything by it; they’re just being boys.
Me (steam rising out of my head): No, Mom; they are inappropriate. (What I want to say is that if they tried any of their behaviours around my girls, I would physically remove them from our presence; not to mention what Ric would do.) I now you don’t get that – I tried to speak to your last husband about it – but I am not going to put myself or my daughters in any situation that makes us feel degraded.
Mom: When did Don ever make you feel that way? He was just trying to be funny. He liked you girls.
Me: He also made highly inappropriate sexual comments! (I can see I’m getting no where with her. Denial is her pattern.) Mom, I can’t change your viewpoint; it is what it is. I am just letting you know that I am drawing a line.
Mom: Ok. I’ll try to do better.
I can see why this exercise needs to be done without my mother present. What I have to say could fatally wound her, and that is not the desired result. I just need to be really clear that what she says to me is often a projection of her own agenda, and stop taking it so personally.
Hard to do though, when the child in me is still looking for the warmth and affection she missed out on.