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All the Guilt - mother

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by zclesa, Mar 8, 2023.

  1. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    I am really struggling to feel anger towards my mother, who has Covert Narcissism going on. It's tough for a few reasons:

    1, I imagine her as a small child who is just struggling to be in the world herself. She doesn't know any better.
    2, I hate the thought of anyone hurting or hurting anyone. I am deeply sensitive to suffering (to the extent that I have definitely "hardened" myself up.)
    3, She doesn't "do" anything especially bad now. She was emotionally neglectful when I was young, incredibly strict, and I was forced to deal with a lot of painful stuff (like my parents divorcing) on my own with no loving guidance.

    My upbringing resulted in a lot of pain, confusion, and deep struggles with life. I don't trust people (especially women) and fear true intimacy and vulnerability. I am counter-dependent, perfectionistic, afraid of conflict, yada yada (TMS personality).

    When I think about feeling mad at my mother, I just feel guilt. How can I get angry at someone who doesn't know what she's done? I feel it would be the same as getting angry at an animal. I pity her, really.

    It also makes me feel weird about setting "boundaries" because she isn't doing anything awful now. I'm just afraid of offending her because I will feel more guilty. Or she might have an NPD meltdown, which is not worth it. The last one she had led to the onset of my protracted TMS symptoms.

    The last time I saw her, my symptoms revved up for months, so I can't really see her anymore. So, I've just drifted away from her and made excuses. But my dad says she has noticed, and this causes me even more guilt, wondering how she really feels about that.

    Every interaction (or lack of interaction) with her causes anxiety. I had to telephone at xmas and I was in a cold sweat about doing it. I have to be fake and pretend all is fine and I hate it. And I think she might be aware that I'm faking it. And I'm still dealing with it even though I'm not really seeing her. Like on my birthday, my dad called but she never came on the phone, which was really unusual. It freaked me out for the rest of the day wondering why she didn't. I'm constantly on edge and second-guessing myself.

    I have no-one to really talk to about this because her "social mask" is so convincing that no-one has ever known who she really is. Unless you cross her, you'll never see it.

    It's a Catch-22. You can't confront her about anything because there isn't "anything" to confront. Passive aggression, emotional neglect, and covert abuse can be subtle and nebulous. And someone with NPD is so deep in denial, there's no point in talking reasonably about things. Everyone we knew growing up think I "went off the rails" because no-one knew what went on behind closed doors.

    Honestly, part of me just wishes she would die so I don't have to deal with this mess anymore. It's like this horrible spectre in the background of my life and I just want to be done with it.

    I can sometimes cry about the fact that I didn't have the gift of a genuinely loving mother and about the mess we're in now. But the anger, no. Yet, when I was a teenager, I was really angry at her for treating my sister badly. But not me. I convinced myself that she had deliberately picked on my sister because it would hurt her more (she told my sister, secretly, that my dad didn't want us). Probably this is also why I hardened up and rebelled, to not be a victim of her.

    Does anyone relate or have tips about feeling the anger? I did IDSTP for 6 months, but it just kicked off my symptoms so bad I couldn't function. And I can't afford any more.
  2. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    My relationship is a lot like yours! I learned so much through doing the free SEP here.
    1) Imagine your Mom now. As she is now! Of course it’s hard to feel angry at her when she was a child.
    2) You hurt nobody but YOU by not feeling your emotions! You do not hurt others by feeling your emotions (unless they are magical telepathic beings). You hurt them by expressing your emotions in outburst or by saying hurtful retaliatory things (or avoiding them). You don’t need to say a word! Just feel your emotions in your body and.. have FUN with it (which teaches your mind they are not bad feelings). Oh! Stomach burning and hands clenched! Do I suddenly feel hot? Wow! I feel that, and she can’t tell! I’m soooo pissed.. and wow, now I’m not!?! That fast! I felt that go by fast!
    now back to #1 - now , after getting good and pissed, realize that at one point as a child she too learned coping mechanisms to be narcissistic…the same way you learned that feeling anger was shameful. You can have a little empathy but be totally justified in getting angry at any time.
    3. The stuff she did when you were a kid has created triggers in you now, even if she does not do those exact things. Your subconscious has no understanding of time, it doesn’t know now from long ago.
    All you need to do is to note your triggers simply by observing them, and how you react to them, they can loose power. Realize you can choose to respond instead of react. It takes time and practice. One response is to take a few breaths and hold on to those boundaries, feel those emotions. Take a second to regroup.

    Your mother dying will not solve these problems because the issue isn’t your mother. The issue is that you developed coping mechanisms and defenses that don’t work for you now and that is Ok!!
    I suggest reading the super fun book Taming Your Gremlin by Richard D. Carson. It will take you through the ideas of your “gremlin” - your old defenses in the most entertaining but enlightening way and helps you learn to be empowered and take control over how you respond to others.
    It can get better! My relationship with my Mom is still hard but it is better.
    zclesa likes this.
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi @zclesa - it's been a journey, hasn't it? I'm glad you're able to come back here for support, it's why we love our community.

    In addition to a ton of great advice from someone who's been there (that would be @Cactusflower) perhaps this piece of knowledge from the practice of forgiveness might be helpful. I remember reading this years ago, and I think it's really powerful - this is my distillation:

    While it may be possible or even reasonable to forgive (or even just "understand") someone who caused you pain, and although you might want to do so because your rational adult brain tells you that they were not in a position (for whatever reason) to do any better, it's important for you to know that you can forgive the person if you want to, but you DO NOT need to forgive the behavior that caused you so much suffering. This is because the behavior is unforgiveable, and it should not exist! (And it would not exist if evolution had done a better job with homo sapiens).

    And here's my take on childhood trauma and the source of rage:

    When a parent brings a child into the world, the unspoken rule of nature is that the child has the right to be cared for, nurtured, protected, and loved by the parent. This is a commitment that the parent is making, whether they know it or even agree to it or not, because the child has been designed by nature to expect it. When a parent is unable to fulfill that commitment - for whatever reason (it could even be death) - the child has been betrayed and essentially abandoned. It is tragically just that simple.

    You were betrayed by your mother's mental incapacity to fulfill the commitment she made to protect and love you, and you have the right, not just now as an adult, but more importantly as a young child, to have deep, unequivocal RAGE about that. I believe that you've been able to communicate with your father and come to a level of understanding, but the truth about your father is that he made the same commitment and at the very least he essentially abandoned you by failing to protect you from your mother (again, for whatever reason), which means that his role cannot be ignored - especially not in the mind of the vulnerable child.

    Your adult self might see this rage as irrational, which is a belief constructed by your TMS brain in order to continue repressing the rage. Please, it's super-scary, but you have got to be willing to go there. The thing you must understand is that for the child, this rage is completely rational, but at such a young and vulnerable age, the survival mechanism that was already in your brain had to repress your rage so that you could simply survive under these circumstances.

    Your problem today is that your brain continues to repress the rage - which of course you know is completely unhealthy in the long term, eating away at your mental and physical health as an adult. In order to do more than just barely survive as an adult, you MUST be able to face the rage, acknowledge the rage, and ultimately accept the rage as something which you can, in fact survive - and you must also have compassion and love for your young brain which protected you when no one else did.

    You've mentioned writing in the past as something you resist due to not knowing where to begin. This is your resistant brain taking control in order to keep you from saying (writing) "out loud" what you really need to be willing to express. You've written a real letter to your father in the past couple of years which opened up your dialogue, which is incredibly brave and awesome, so I know that you have the strength to fight back against your resistant brain and take the next step - which fortunately is only going to be between you and your repressed emotions.

    By far the easiest way to start writing the truth is the Unsent Letter. Pick one parent and write down all the shit you are NOT going to say in person. There is really no need to ever do so, and if you want to, you can destroy it immediately. I have no idea which parent might be the easiest one for the first letter - and it might take several letters to your mother, so don't limit yourself. The most important things are that you don't edit what you write, and don't worry about spelling, grammar, context, or even legibility. Just get your stuff down on paper. Sometimes a good way to start is to say something blindingly obvious - to your father it might be "these are the things I feel but won't say to your face". For your mother, it might be as simple as "I f***ing hate you and what you did to me". And then you just see where it goes.

    All my best to you!

    zclesa likes this.
  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Just received a library notification that I can download this :)
    Lynette S likes this.
  5. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    Thanks @Cactusflower - It's weird. It's not that I worry about hurting my mother with imaginary things. It's more like it hurts me because of the guilt of doing it. Perhaps I could get any at behaviour or the patterns it caused in me. I don't know. I looked up the book which has a Zen perspective, which does appeal to me. I don't really have an inner critic "voice", but I do have limiting thoughts and beliefs, which I need to work on.

    Thanks @JanAtheCPA. Yep, it's quite the journey and I feel very stuck a lot of the time. I think this is due to self-doubt; that seems to be the cause of a lot of my resistance. I have gone back and forth between paranoia (like, am *I* the narcissist??), which again is a result of my conditioning. I was gaslit so much that I do it to myself. And then I worry if I am even capable of doing psychological work.

    I also seem to feel better when I engage in joy and not do this work. But then I end up forgoing the work altogether. Alas, I can not do yoga or dance 100% of my day.

    I think it would be easiest to write the unsent letter to my dad to start with because I do see him as codependent rather than mentally and emotionally incapable. He has certainly changed over time, which is a testament to his having a choice, which I struggle to see in my mother. I do not see her as having a "self" to be mad at. I am aware of some anger at my father's choices and weakness. Perhaps this would get the ball rolling.
    ViviSchl likes this.
  6. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    It’s interesting that you do not recognize your inner critic.
    There are many styles, yours might be subltle and sneaky like a snake. The critic IS the self-doubt, the thing that turns thought and emotions to guilt, sells you on limiting beliefs. We all have this “critic”. The book is old, based on Gestalt therapy and seems to be the bases for lunch larger books like The Power Of Now and a few others. I think an unsent letter is an excellent idea. Those helped me a lot!
    zclesa likes this.
  7. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    Oh, I do recognise it @Cactusflower. In IDSTP, we identified that my critic is like a pair of eyes watching me and judging me. It does not have a loud voice, but instead colours my experiences and beliefs about myself. As a result, I see and treat myself exactly as my mother did - harshly, unforgivingly, needing perfection. I think this is what has kept me so stuck. I don't believe I am well enough to do the psychological work (it is tough to read books because my eyes are blurry). I have a tension headache and have light sensitivity so struggle with computer screens. I have brain fog so bad I can't visualise properly. I wonder whether I should work first on beliefs, affirmations, or try to just feel the feelings, or write (which seems so overwhelming; there is soooooo much stuff, where would I start??)

    I am feeding the TMS by obsessing over what method I should choose since I struggle so much physically and I don't want to "do it wrong" or "waste time". Hahahaha, so much TMSing. This is why I came back to the boards here. Hearing what others have to say is helpful in seeing my own conditioning and ego-stuff. I mean, I just looked at all the "helplessness" in my post. That is the helplessness of the child wanting to be rescued, is it not? And yet I lack the self-love to commit to doing things.

    Ellen likes this.
  8. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Or... you can choose to see this reluctance to commit as the resistance of your TMS brain.

    I literally just finished my bi-weekly therapy session, and we covered this exact topic in depth, because I am right there with you. In my case it's my inability to get personal project A (the desired goal) completed because in order to do so, I have to make a change to something else, which has turned into a whole project in itself - and now I'm frozen because Project B really could use a bunch of other changes in addition to the one I've identified, making it much more complicated to deal with, and requiring decisions that I'm afraid won't be perfect.

    The first question my therapist asked was "are you in danger if you don't do anything at all? Rationally? Well, no, of course not - obviously not physical danger, but in reality, I could do nothing at all, and it wouldn't be the end of the world.
    Her second question was: "which is better - Perfect, or Done?" Rationally? Done, of course.

    The point being that my inability to move forward is the result of my primitive TMS brain perceiving some kind of danger to be avoided, and using perfectionism to distract me from going there. Does this also mean that there is a deeper emotional element that I need to look into? That's quite likely, since the basis of the whole thing is estate planning. DEATH! Trying to properly plan my legacy as if I were to die tomorrow, but worrying about the significant difference in the outcome to others if I live to 95 as all of the women in my family have done. So the deeper emotional issues for me to consider are Mortality (obviously) but also Meaning (making a difference after my life) and Isolation (facing the prospect that if I do live to 95, I might outlive almost everyone else I know - which feels terrifying).

    My therapist suggested that when I think about sitting down at my desk to work on this (which is when my brain immediately distracts me with something else I can do instead) that I stop (and I would add, breathe) and really pay attention to the physical manifestation of thinking about the chore. And then remember what could be my new mantra, which is "DONE is better than perfect".

    I'm not thinking this is going to be easy - but that's because our TMS brains are so bloody resistant! And look - here I am posting on the forum instead of printing out my paperwork and starting to work on it. Hahahahahahahahahah :banghead: :hilarious:
    Ellen and zclesa like this.

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