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separating from enmeshed relationship
October 19, 2006
1:15 pm
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Anonymous
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Lolli

Wondering what's happening, and if you got my post to you.

Please update me.

Thinking of you!

P&L

October 19, 2006
2:47 pm
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P&L, free, and heal,

Yes I got your comments. THANK YOU!!! They have helped me tremendously. I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner but I think I needed time to digest these last few comments because they were full of so much insight into your own experiences, and I could definitely see the similarities in them to my situation.

There has been such good info and support in your posts and I think it all came to a head yesterday. I wanted to reply but somehow it just seemed overwhelming. So, I slept on it.

Well, wouldn't you know... I woke up this morning with a comprehensive series of boundary-setting comments for my mother!!! I feel so much relief, and I feel like I don't have to "hide" from her anymore!

I'm not talking about the SA disclosure, that will come later... but I'm talking about the "how do I keep it from her and deal with her in the meantime" issue.

Thank you all SO much for your support and for sharing your stories with me. It has really been so healing for me... and it has been a great source of strength hearing about how you have struggled with these boundary issues and then one by one, systematically enforced them. I now know that until the other people in our lives have healed we will continue to have the burden of being the "boundary enforcer" and that the people we love unfortunately will continue to test and even cross these boundaries.

But from your stories I am starting to see that over time, it gets easier.

And I've also learned from doubleloss and free that sometimes these boundary things can get crossed and more than two people can get involved. I have been trying to prepare myself for that possibility too.

So... thank you thank you thank you to all of you who have spent time reading my posts and sharing in your own. I hope that it has helped you as much as it has helped me!

okay FREAKY update. I was just writing this and the next thing I was going to write BEFORE MY PHONE RANG was this - "I was going to call my mum today in full expectation that she would try to violate my boundaries and then I would have a chance to try out my new mantras on her, but then I decided... I don't want to call her so I won't." WELL... wouldn't you know??? at that exact moment SHE CALLED?!!! just now. So I figured the universe was trying to tell me, "okay, big talker... now's your chance to practice."

So, I took a deep breath and answered the phone. (normally at this point I would freeze and think, "she's on to me! she can read my mind, I know it! must hide..."). It's kind of funny in a way how I always have to prepare myself for the worst... I expected a BIG blowout.

To my surprise, no boundaries were crossed. I didn't have to state aloud my new mantras. The call was probably the shortest one on record for her and it was about a totally trivial thing! So it all worked out.

Makes me feel a little dramatic... but I know that's not my voice inside me calling myself that name. It is hers. And at least now I feel prepared for the tricky boundary-setting times to come... and like I don't have to hide from her anymore.

I am starting to believe that I am a grown-up and I don't have to be afraid of her or subservient to her. I can just be a separate adult.

whew! well, that's my long reply. I don't know if it's the kind of reply you were expecting, P&L... but it's the truth for now! 🙂

I am feeling strong right now... and I'm sure I'll have more shaky times ahead. But for today, I think I'll let myself feel good and proud about coming up with those boundary-setting statements in my head.

hugs to you all. thank you SO much for your help!!!!

October 19, 2006
7:34 pm
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Lolli

You said:

"I now know that until the other people in our lives have healed we will continue to have the burden of being the "boundary enforcer" and that the people we love unfortunately will continue to test and even cross these boundaries."

Not sure if you came up with that material yourself or got it from a post and I missed it, but that has got to be one of the most brilliant things I have ever read.

I really need that one today. Thank you for sharing it. I had a big setback with my situation at work, and felt back to where I was last year. The difference between me now and then is that I have coping skills to pull myself out of it and, hopefully, come back stronger. Yet, I did realize I needed to be very firm with my boundaries at work, as long as I choose to stay in this setting (and I have many good reasons to stay, and my abuser there is on NO CONTACT, and I don't have to see him at all). THis setback made me realize that I am not doing quite as well as I thought, and I cannot rush my healing process. I need to let myself feel my bitterness and anger or it may come out in unhealthy ways later. I need to talk about it in my CoDA group. Letting go is not the only answer, and enforcing boundaries at some times and with some people is easier than with others. You are so wise that as long as others have not healed, we have to work exta hard. That so helped me put things in perspective. They do this because they have not healed, not because they are entitled to take. I told you that you were smart!!

Yes, that was a great response, and I thank you so much for helping ME today, you insightful one. I think you will do great in graduate school...didn't you say you were going in psych or counseling?

P&L

October 20, 2006
9:09 pm
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lolli
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P&L,

you are welcome!

I'm sorry about your situation at work. It seems like there are so many dysfunctional offices/jobs out there!!!

keep in mind that sometimes these perceived "setbacks" are really tests and/or reminders from our unconscious that we still have more work to do. Try not to be so hard on yourself...

I always have to remind myself of that... sometimes when I'm doing healing work it's like I'm trying to "beat it out of myself." lol Obviously that doesn't really work! ha ha

nah, I'm not going to grad school... or going into psych/counseling. but i'm super-flattered you think I'd be good at it!

happy weekend!!! your respite from dysfunction:) lol

October 23, 2006
7:38 am
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free spirit
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Hi everyone,

I hope everybody had a nice weekend! P & L - I'm so sorry about your situation at work. I don't know a lot about it, but if you have an abuser there, it makes the environment so much worse for you than it has to be. Work is stressful in the best of situations, it's too bad it has to be worse for you.

I woke up sad both days this weekend. The troubles with my ex continue although I am trying to detach at this point. It's just sad that so many of us have to deal with dysfunction, sometimes I think the world is full of it. I am at a place in my life where I am seeking peace and happiness and sometimes it seems like there are situations in our lives that make it impossible to fully realize that state of happiness.

I think I need to do some more reading. I have accepted I cannot change my ex or my mom, so I think I need to work on myself at this point and not let their antics bother me. I think I truly need to look at how I can change things to mimimize the impact of this toxic behavior on me. That's the only solution I have at this point. I think when I can get to the point of acceptance, I will be where I need to be and I'm not there yet, sigh.

Sometimes I get so weary of being the person who constantly sets boundaries, points out when someone crosses them, etc. (As you said above, Lolli). Do others not see these crossings as violations? I know we teach others how to treat us, but when is that job done. Ugh, I think I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself today. Sorry guys, don't mean to be a downer on a Monday morning.

How is everything going for the rest of you? Healing - are you having success detaching from your sister? Lolli - anymore conversations with your mother? P & L - I hope your administration supports and backs you with your work situation.

Take care everyone,

free spirit

October 24, 2006
6:00 pm
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Hi Free, Kroika,

How's everyone's detachment going 😉 Did you manage to talk to your Mom?

I haven't spoken to my sister since the blow-up - but the conversation with my Mom really helped. It's not a personality clash - wish it were that simple. It's old, old family dynamics and I can't "make" her change.

She was around last weekend and I had a tonne of work to do, so I stayed in the study. In futire (she's here Saturday mornings, dropping off her laundry and ironing... ) I'll find a yoga class or schedule something fun.

Her relationship with my folks is her business - but I'm feeling lighter because I have finally realised that I -do- have a choice. I don't have to engage with her. Her party is this weekend, and her 40th is on Monday. I'll leave the gift that I bought (months ago) with my folks for her - but I don't think I'm up for calling her on her birthday. Not sure what to do about that one. Just don't think I could say anything other than "many happy returns" and I'm not up for any more friction - so a card and gift left with my folks seems like enough. On the other hand - I can see her wailing that I didn't call her for her 40th at some point in the future.

Any advice ladies?

H

October 26, 2006
4:59 pm
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hi guys...

i took a break from posting there for a while. things have changed for me a bit!

well that's kind of an understatement actually. i'm sure this could change as i get further along in my therapy... but right now i feel SO angry with my mom i don't even want to confront her at all! i decided she doesn't even deserve for me to go to all of this trouble to try to work it out. i'll let you know what happens when i get to the other side of this anger - i really have no idea where i'll end up!

as for your sister probs free, it sounds like you are doing the right thing. a gift is more than enough! if she wails later, you can explain that for your and HER benefit, you didn't want any friction on her bday. that sounds reasonable enough to me!
something that just occurred to me though - i'm reading this new book and it might (?) give you some insight into your sis probs (or maybe not or maybe you don't NEED any more insight? lol). the book is called, "when you and your mother can't be friends." it is written for both mothers and daughters and so far it is a bit too mom-sympathetic for my taste (but in reality it is probably appropriately even-handed?). Anyway, here's an interesting thing I just read about sisters (which may or may not apply to you):

"DIVIDE AND CONQUER
These mothers seek allies, usually from within the famiy, in an unconscious effort to place their daughters, or keep them, in the wrong. This dynamic often pits siblings against one another well into their adulthood..."

and then it quotes from Sisters: Love and Rivalry Inside the Family and Beyond,

"Parents... drive sisters apart by talking about one behind her back to the other, by fomenting rumors or repeating confidences, by making a 'son' out of one sister and a cuddly 'daughter' out of another, by holding one up too often and insistently as a model to the other -- and even by encouraging sisters to be friends too emphatically... Again and again, the rivalry we see between sisters is, at least in part, an expression of the rivalry girls experience with their mothers..."

well, that's all i got (like I said it may not apply to you). good luck, stay strong. it sounds like you are doing the right thing. and if she gets upset, so be it. you don't have to go to her party or call her if YOU don't want to! 🙂

October 30, 2006
9:24 pm
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okay,

kind of out of the anger stage now. too bad, i got so much more done when i was angry. being depressed is so unproductive (in terms of work, housekeeping, etc).

and i realized i really haven't separated from this relationship with my mom at all. while i may be physically absent from her, every time she calls my stomach goes up in knots.

can i lie to her and pretend i'm not depressed/angry about the sexual abuse and her denial/enmeshment just one more time? when she calls it takes me at least 24 hours of intense thought and preparation before i can call her back. it is grueling. even though our conversations aren't really about anything deep. i feel like i have to "prepare" for a role. the role of "happy daughter." what is that song? "dear mother... everything's fine!" you know the one where the singer screams it?! i'll try to remember it and post in on the song thread.

anyway... what do the rest of you do in this situation? do the knots in my stomach mean i just need to take the leap and tell her everything? or do you have any visualization exercises i can do? mantras? i'll take any advice i can get!

BTW, she called yesterday. that's what kind of sparked my newfound anxiety and this post.

hope you all are well...

thanks.

October 30, 2006
10:40 pm
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well I just talked to her. she called again and i couldn't delay anymore. i know if i ignore 2 phone calls then her alarm bells go off and i dig myself into an even deeper hole.

i told her i can't talk cause i'm too busy with work... feeling overwhelmed... both of which are true. but of course, there's much more info i left out.

i hate being in this position! blah.

well, sorry to blabber on. but i felt like posting an update. it helps me to write it down...

thanks for listening, if anybody is:)

October 31, 2006
10:38 am
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Hi Lolli,

I am so sorry your are going through this with your mom. I know exactly the feelings and anguish, believe me. I do think it gets better with time, although I suppose that doesn't help you too much right now. Do you have a supportive friend or person you can vent to? I got myself back into counseling with a supportive counselor which helped a great deal. I think you have to process all this and sometimes the anxiety and grief about it all is overwhelming. I am 1 1/2 years into no contact with my mother and I still cry about this sometimes. ((((Lolli))))

I did have some information about detachment that I will look for and if I find it I will copy it here. Maybe that will help?! Hang in there Lolli, this family stuff is so tough.

I went looking for this thread because I am struggling too with my ex. We are still in Counseling to attempt to heal our co-parenting relationship, but somehow things seem to have gotten so much worse lately. He seems bound and determined to make things as difficult as possible and it is very stressful. I am concentrating on detaching myself so I don't get caught up in all the power struggles. It is very hard to do at this point. Ugh, I just wanted to vent about that. To tell the story about everything that has happened would probably be overkill, but I will be looking for soluntions to this for myself at this point. I have decided to think about it like this: in evaluating interaction with my ex, I am thinking primarily "does this affect my children in a healthy way" or is this something I can let go of. This is the only way I know how to approach it. Does that make sense? Because I am having so much trouble with all this.

Anyway, ugh, enough about all that ugliness. I hope something I said helped you Lolli and that your anxiety eases somewhat. I know that stomach-clenching feeling so well.

Hugs,

free spirit

October 31, 2006
2:50 pm
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Hi Lolli and everyone,

Here is the information on detachment I was looking for from an old thread:

"Part 1: The Incredible Shrinking Relatives Learning to set boundaries is part of the healing process after any form of abuse. This task can be complicated. It seems there will always be people who want to upset you. They could be family members who deny that abuse took place. They could be the offenders or their allies who are still a part of your life. Their comments, expressions, or attitudes can hurt you and make your life much more difficult. You handle people like this by using an emotional tool called detachment. Like any other emotional process, it is a skill you can learn. It takes practice. But keep working, and you will diminish the effect these people have on your life.

EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT LESSONS Make Them Smaller Let Go Stock Phrases Set Boundaries Handling the Rough Stuff Take Care of Yourself First Practice, Practice, Practice Make Them Smaller

The first step to detachment is to "shrink" the unhealthy person. Make the person a smaller part of your life by making other parts of your life bigger. Start a new hobby, a job, learn something new, focus on other people, join a club, take a class, have more contact with friends - you get the idea. The only way to reduce someone's power over your life is to fill your time with other people, places, and things to squeeze them out.

This equation in emotional mathematics means adding things to your life automatically reduces the space taken up by unhealthy people and relationships. Expand your horizons. Occupy your mind with new ideas. The unhealthy person will occupy a smaller portion of your mind, and therefore your life.

Let Go

The unhealthy people in your life use guilt to keep you enslaved. When you begin to detach, you are upsetting the status quo, and they will use guilt to bludgeon you back into place.

Resisting this tactic is difficult but not impossible. Learn to recognize the guilt trip. Think about why they are doing this. You are trying to take care of yourself, and some people will go to great lengths to stop you. They want to maintain the status quo.

Accept that these unhealthy people will never grant their approval. This is a vital part of letting go. In fact, withholding approval is a most effective weapon to keep you enslaved. When you let go, and honestly don't care if they approve of you, they will have a hard time hiding their surprise. Watch as they mentally scramble to think of another tactic to keep you entangled.

Realize that the other person's problem is not yours. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that no matter how hard you try, you can never, ever, ever change how another person acts. The only thing you can change is your reaction to them. You can fight the guilt they inspire. You can take care of yourself.

Stock Phrases

The unhealthy people in your life often try to catch you off guard, or will try to ensnare you in a hopeless problem. The response to both tactics is to memorize some stock phrases. Some examples: "Hm. Interesting." "Wow, that's too bad." Or my favorite: "Huh. What are you going to do about that?" The last one is very effective, since these people want you to fix their problems. This response turns the tables on them. You express interest without offering to fix the problem, and force them to offer solutions. Then you conclude with, "Well, that sounds like a good plan. Good luck with it!"

When I felt required to fix things for other people, I remember my therapist asking, "Has this person been declared incompetent? Has the state institutionalized them? No? Then they have the ability to act responsibly and fix this by themselves."

This good point inspires another type of stock response: flattery. "You're a smart person. I have confidence in your ability to solve this." How can they argue with that? Are they going to insist that they're not smart?

Part 2: Set Your Boundaries It is critical to spend less time with the person you are detaching from. You can decline invitations. You can make excuses and stay away. You can claim illness. You can complain about your crowded work schedule, or how busy you are with the kids. Sure, you have been taught that it's wrong to lie. Well, in this case, it's good to lie. Taking care of yourself is more important than showing up every time. Besides, they lie to you all the time, don't they?

Another effective tactic using this point is to complain at length about how busy you are. The person you're detaching from doesn't care about your problems. Often, they want to talk about their problems. If they keep hearing about your problems, they may stop calling.

Handling The Rough Stuff

The person you're detaching from can be very abusive. Often, the reward they seek is to see the hurt in your eyes and the feeling of power they receive from being the cause of that hurt.

Recognizing this fact will give you unexpected power. The verbal jab is blunted when you know it's only meant to hurt you. And you can deny them the pleasure they seek. Don't debate the point. They want to keep the topic going because they know it's hurting you. Think of the verbal jab as a spitball thrown at you. If you laugh, or pretend you didn't hear it, or do anything else instead of looking hurt, it's the equivalent of ducking and letting the spitball sail by. Shrug off the comment as lightly as possible, and then bring up a topic of your own -- one that you know is distasteful to your tormentor. Doing this will deny them their reward, and give negative reinforcement. Eventually, they will stop attacking you. Bullies like an easy target.

Some examples are in order here. I know a man with verbally abusive parents. He learned to respond -- every time! -- by talking about his brother, who was gay. He described his brother's romantic exploits with enthusiasm, knowing his parents were very uncomfortable with the whole subject.

I know a woman whose uncle was verbally abusive and constantly made comments about her childhood molestation by another uncle. This woman learned to respond by staring at him, appearing distracted (and pretending she wasn't listening), then pointing to a spot on her uncle's face, neck or arms, and asking, "Does that look cancerous to you? Maybe you should get it checked."

Her uncle knew she was saying that as a defense. But he still hated it. And he stopped bothering her.

Take Care Of Yourself

In every life, there are other parts that are good. You have a right and a duty to focus on the good parts. If you have a good husband and child, or sweet pets who adore you, but your mother is making your life a living hell, give yourself permission to focus your time and energy on the good things.

Remember the old phrase, "Listen to your gut?" Don't do that. The unhealthy people in your life use guilt and manipulation to inspire a gut reaction from you. I remember my therapist telling me, "Of course they're good at pushing your buttons! They installed them!" Instead, use your intellect to talk back to your gut feelings. You know that person is no good for you. You know your energies are better spent elsewhere. Take care of yourself. Do what's right for you. Say to yourself over and over again, "Taking care of myself must be my first emotional priority."

There's a book that is very helpful for this step. It's called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. Buy it and read it.

Practice, Practice, Practice

When you start this process, realize that you will slip up. You have spent all of your life in your relationship with this person, so give yourself a break. Don't punish yourself if you don't detach perfectly. Learn from every experience and try to do a little better next time. Be patient and persistent.

Detaching is a vital skill to practice on someone you are unable or unwilling to completely shut out of your life. You can even still love that person if you want to, even though you have detached. Your goal is to recognize the relationships that are not good for you, and make them a smaller part of your life. You can still care about unhealthy people, if you choose. But at the same time, you can prevent them from running (or ruining) your life."

This is long, but maybe you can print it and read it. I'm going to re-read it. Hope it helps a little,

free spirit

November 1, 2006
8:20 pm
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lolli
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thank you, thank you, thank you SOOOO much, free. I am reading the excerpt right now. I am only 2 paragraphs in... but I can already tell THIS is the info I need!!! yay. I'll comment more after I finish reading...

November 1, 2006
8:32 pm
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Free,

THANK YOU again. I am going to copy and paste that info onto my hard drive. invaluable. I know I will reference it again! Do you know what book it's from?

What happened with your mom? did you try to do the "detachment" thing before no contact or was it too destructive to do it that way in your case? If you did try the "detachment" thing first, can you tell me a little about what happened? Her reactions, etc. I'm trying to prepare myself as much as possible because I know the s*!t is going to hit the fan soon with my mom. She can tell something is definitely different with me, and I'm going to visit her soon (mainly because my younger siblings still live with her - so I'm not ready to cut contact yet).

About your ex, I think I understand what you mean by "does this affect my children in a healthy way or is this something I can let go of." Do you mean the old "choose your battles" kind of thing?

I am here to listen if you want to talk more about it. I'm so sorry he's making things difficult. It is, at least, a glimmer of hope that you are in counseling together...

I sincerely hope it works out for you. You are in my thoughts.

((free))

November 3, 2006
3:36 pm
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free spirit
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Hi Lolli,

I didn't make it back to post until now, hope that's okay? I am sometimes sporadic with posts, but always check in every 2-3 days if I can. Don't ever worry about timeframes on my behalf - I understand we all have real lives which are sometimes very busy :o).

I don't know where that info came from, but I found it on a thread on this site in 04/05 and it helped so I cut and pasted it. They do reference a book in there, but I have never looked at it.

With my mother I did try to detach for a pretty long time, about two years to be exact. Things got immediately awful between us when I got divorced, which I could never exactly understand. When I first told her I was getting divorced about four years ago, now, she got very angry at me and blamed me, stating that my ex was a good person and I had no reason to divorce him. I guess it didn't matter that neither of us were happy. She really never forgave me for that. At that time we did not speak for about two months, not sure why, just that I was angry at her reaction and she withdrew. That ended up being huge for me, I was struggling with sadness and depression at that time and felt like she abandoned me at at time when I desperately needed support.

Anyway, we sort of tried to heal things after about two months, but it took me about a year to completely forgive her.

After that the relationship kind of limped along, but things seemed to have changed. She was always second guessing decisions we (my ex) or I made about the kids to include which daycare and or preschool they went to. Big decisions like those are not those to be made by grandparents. It was okay if she offered her opinion, but she became almost obsessive about it, bringing the same point up about the daycare over and over or bringing me something new each time she was there to pick them up. My ex and I had chosen the daycare carefully and were happy with it. Her points seemed petty and minor. I finally had to tell her I would not discuss it with her anymore and remind her of that several times.

Anyway, the critism became constant and she intruded into areas that were none of her concern at all, for instance questioning the appropriateness of a man I was dating, questioning that I introduced him to my kids after about 6-9 months, even questioning things like why was I shampooing the carpets on a day I had the children (I should be spending all my time with them, not doing chores), ridiculous things like that. It finally came to a head for me when my older daughter had her tonsils removed. She was pretty unsupportive in some critical ways and sort-of manipulated a situation when I was at the hospital with my daugher. Anyway, that was the last straw for me.

I got back from being out of town and arranged to go by her home to talk with her. She agreed to it and then called back to try to cancel, citing something going on with her husband. I asked him and he said it was fine and to come on over. In the meantime, she called again trying again to cancel. I went over anyway and they had barricaded themselves in the basement, locked all the doors and did not answer when I knocked. I knew they were home but just didn't want to hear what I had to say, so I left her a message. I told her I loved her but that I would not have this unhealthy relationship with her anymore. If she wanted to fix it, we could do that, but I was not having this one anymore. I told her I would not have any contact with her unless it was in counseling. Amyway, there is a lot more, but that is the essence of what happened. She really gets uncomfortable with communication of any kind. Ironically, it took my counselor to point out that I could cut contact and did not have to keep doing that with her.

Sorry for the long story, it has been a struggle. That was May 2005 that I stopped having contact. It has been hard. We tried Counseling once and the Counselor worked with her on boundaries, and she did not go back. I think she felt threatened by that although he did a good job. I no longer call her or go for family events, I basically have no relationship with her and have went through a long process with grieving that and trying to accept it. I would agree to try to heal it, but am sure at this point that it would be a long road.

She has been angry with me every since and has consistently walked on the boundaries I try to set up. She sees my children weekly on my ex's times as I have said she needs to get healthy before spending time with them on my time. She has trouble setting simple boundaries with them too and I think it is confusing for them. I would have been receptive to her seeing them once in awhile, but she needs to make some changes, that I don't really know if she is capable of making at this point. I am willing to accept my share of responsibility, I have not always been the best daughter and have made lots of mistakes too and could do lots of things better, I'm, sure. But, it is where it is for right now and I can't change that. Until she agrees to re-engage in counseling (which she might never do, because she does not believe in it,she says), I don't see much hope.

I would recommend not cutting ties unless you absolutely have to because the hurt feelings for all the other family members are great. I still struggle with my sister who remains close to my mom and it has really affected our relationship as well. Your sisters will probably not understand that and may get angry at you. If you can detach without cutting ties, that would be good!! I think cutting contact should be a very last resort. My intention was not really for it to stay this way, but to leverage her into therapy so we could heal. I didn't realize until later that she probably did not have the ego strength to engage and heal, which I believe now.

In part, the struggles with her are around family roles too. Does that happen with your mom? My mom has to have a "scapegoat" and I am it right now. It used to be my brother until he disengaged and I actually joked with him asking if he could go back to it, lol. I will not play that role for my mother and that is what it had become. I thought maybe by disengaging, it would force the issue to change, it hasn't.

Thanks for the hug by the way, I needed it. Thanks for reading if you made it through, lol. If you weren't, I certainly understand it. Did I answer your questions? It felt kind of good to write this all out, sort of carthartic, in a way.

That was a really long post to answer a few short questions by you.

Post back when you can, hugs to you Lolli!!

November 3, 2006
4:36 pm
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lolli
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Thanks for your story, Free. Yes, I read it all. And yes, it helped me too!

It is so painful, isn't it?! We want desperately to believe our parents are "good" and love us in the "right" ways, and then when we finally go through all the work of facing the fact that they weren't/aren't perfect... you'd think THAT would be enough. We should get some kind of reward or at least reprieve afterwards from going through that realization because d&*n is it hard! But that's not enough. Because then once we graduate to the stage of realizing it... dum da dum! we can no longer continue to participate in the old destructive ways.

aw, free... I feel your pain. It must have been so tough to go through all that. I am so sorry you've had to.

To answer your question:
I think my mom does have various scapegoats... but I don't think they are necessarily consistently in the immediate family. I was the "good girl" and an only child until I was 9. I think the scapegoat then was her husband. Then when she married an alcoholic I became the scapegoat for a while (she blamed it on puberty and my hormones... what I realize now is that I was grieving because I was in a dysfunctional family and was being sexually abused during visitations with her ex). Then when she remarried I was the good girl again and she chose various scapegoats from her family of origin (siblings) because they didn't visit her enough... one was an alcoholic (she never cared about this before, but now she is livid), one didn't send a thank you note for some gifts, etc. Do these count as "scapegoats?" Since her last marriage, she has systematically gotten angry and avoided each of her siblings... but I think this has to do with a last attempt to win back her mommy and daddy before they die. But I digress...

I had a brief "rebellion" during college when I guess I was the scapegoat. I was the one who "made" her sick with worry... I was the one with the "problem." Is that a scapegoat? I don't know. Now, I think I'm on the verge of being "the defector" to use a term from my latest book, "When You and Your Mother Can't be Friends." I've moved far away... and of my siblings, I'm the "one who got out." I hope I can detach without having to resort to no contact... and I appreciate your words of wisdom and caution on the subject! Sometimes I feel like no contact would be easier for me to do (I am so terrible with moderate boundaries and it is SO hard for me- I'm either completely unavailable or a doormat), but I'm glad to hear your story because it reminds me to do the hard work of at least trying the detachment first.

The book I'm reading is pretty good so far, but I haven't gotten to the "what to do about it" part yet (I'm still sort of in the "diagnosis" section)... so I'll let you know what it says when I get there.

I don't have kids... but she is laying on the pressure thick... basically because I think she wants to re-enact her enmeshed/co-dependent role in motherhood by taking over someone else's kids as her own. I can definitely imagine that if I did have kids, she'd behave very similarly to the way your mother is behaving.

What kinds of boundary violations does she commit around your kids? Do you want to talk about that?

I am here to listen...

big hugs, free ((((((free))))))
hang in there. what you are doing takes so much courage. it is inspiring to the rest of us who are trying to follow in your footsteps to recovery:)

November 3, 2006
5:20 pm
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truthBtold
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Gosh Lolli, I can not tell you how much your post really honed into my own situation....big time!

Though we are all on different levels as far as our own growth is concerned - and Lord knows that I would NEVER want to -in any way- lessen your current level of emotional well-being with my own - but I know exactly what you are going through.

My whole life as a child was COMPLETELY enmeshed! I thought - that in some way - I could somehow give my parents the encouragement and support that they needed - that either directly or indirectly - they would in turn provide me, the child, with the safety and stability that i so longed for.

Well, it didn't happen.

Seperation from enmeshment is essential.

It means - knowing what happened to you - sticking to your guns and accept no prisioners (especially yourself) and take all the time in the world you need to feel the inadequecies, short-comings and out right betrayals of what happened to you as a child...and the resulting crap of current day "interaction" or guilt-ridden "non-interaction" that goes along with it.

For me, I have not had any contact with my parents whom live only about 15 minutes away for quite some time now.

I feel good - in the sense that I am able to cut physical ties...but - lo to those deeply entrenched emotional ties that keep me in one form of anxiety or another.

I guess the thing that I am getting at - for my own well-being - is the fact that my father sexually abused my two older sisters...and I seriously suspect myself as well - only I just can't recall it as easy as my other 2 sisters can - because I was virtually "left-alone" with them from the time I was 9.

But - herein is where I have to consult my heart.

I know that my mom - in all probability knew what was happening - but choose to deny it. Makes sense - given the fact that her father raped her. And for a long time - I placed the blame on her......why didn't she protect me? But do you know what? The reason I chose NOT to have children of my own is due to the fact that I did not feel, nor believe, in my heart of hearts that I would be able to protect them - because of what I had been through.

I am NOT one of those people who FULLY experienced what happened to them...and vowed NOT to let that happen to their own children...because, frankly, I was not that emotionally evolved. Plain and simple...and I KNEW this.

But - now, I DO have a kind of sympathy for my mom,,,even though she did not protect me...because I now know that she did not have her education to fall back on to try and change the situation.

I am a FIRM BELIEVER in someone's INTENT!!!!

It WAS my father's INTENT to violate and abuse his daughter's.....however, I do NOT believe that it was ever the intent of my mother to support his actions - either directly or indirectly - had SHE been given a choice!

I remember something from a while back that said (I believe it was Iyanla from the "Starting Over" house - which said...."I Blame my mother for nothing...and I forgive her for everything."

I want to - and will make a connection with my mom during this holiday season - simply because - I DO KNOW....in my heart of hearts..that given more resources - she would have done better by me - but could only do what she knew.

My father - on the other hand...is a whole different "ball of wax." That bastard ought to be behind bars.

I certainly do not wish to try and change your feelings about your mother and the steps which you must undergo to ascertain a sense of boundaries....I only know - that, in my heart of hearts, I am really, truly sorry for my mother and wished her life had truned out better...not only for my detriment...but for hers as well.

I miss her. I am thinking about sending her a letter to tell her what is in my heart before it is too late - afterall, she is 78 years old - and I would miss her dearly if she were to pass away tonight.

My father - I would honestly feel a great sigh of relief if he were to die...because I would know in my heart that the will not be able to cause any harm to anyone else again!!!!

Sorry, so sorry for the length. This has been brewing up inside of me for quite some time now...and I DO appreciate the opportunity to vent.

"Do what's in your heart of hearts...and you will never be left astray!!!!"

Thanks to all for listening.

November 5, 2006
10:19 pm
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Hi truth,

thank you for sharing your story. I have been thinking about it for a while!

i guess I'm not at the point of forgiving my mom yet... but i am glad you are reaching that point in your healing. what a milestone!!!

if you feel like sharing it, i would love to hear what you decide to write to her... (and if not, i completely understand!) and/or her reactions to your letter.

i know intellectually i *should* be more mad at the a-holes (yes, there are more than one, but my "dad" is the primary) who sexually abused me... but for some reason I think I "gave up" on them so long ago there is almost no hurt left for me to feel about what they did. i see them as more pure evil "walking dead" types - and i know they should still be held accountable (believe me- i am trying to figure out a way to sue- working it from many different angles!)... but somehow i have a "higher" view of my mom... i would expect more from her than them.
so, in a way, i am more disappointed by her actions (or lack thereof) than theirs.

does that make any sense? i don't even know...

anyway, i'm having a really hard time this weekend with memories of the enmeshed things she did. i just keep hearing this message go through my head, "LEAVE ME ALONE!" and i don't want to talk to people or see them or be social at all (except, apparently, i don't mind posting on this site at all, lol!). I feel like i've had no space whatsoever, and it's just like this sick feeling like i've had this really needy gigantic slug stuck to me and i just finally got free... and now i'm wandering through life and there is a SEA of other needy slugs out there just waiting to latch on! i feel sick about it... but i just don't know how/if/when i'll EVER be able to connect to people in a real, healthy way.

Have you ever felt that? I just think I have so much stored-up anger over the fact that she never let me have ANY privacy AT ALL growing up. She would always walk in on me when I was using the bathroom (no lock on the door)... she would listen-in when I had boyfriends over or when I was on the phone... she even talked to me as though she could "read my mind" and that really messed with my head because then I had nowhere to go. No space that was my own. not even in my own head.

anyway, sorry to vent. i was trying to respond directly to your post... but i had a "feeling explosion" today. i'm just trying to let it all get out so that hopefully one day I can get to the forgiveness stage as you have.

plus, there are some similarities in our situations... so i'm wondering if you've had any of these feelings before you got to the stage you're in now?

thanks so much for posting. it gives me hope.

(((truth)))

November 6, 2006
10:23 am
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Hi everyone,

TruthBtold ~ I'm so sorry for everything you went through with your family, I can't imagine what the sexual abuse issue involves, and I can only imagine how incredibly hard all that dysfunction is to deal with. It sounds like you have made a lot of progress in the area of forgiveness and I think that is a very good thing for you. To hang onto all that anxiety, hate, stress and all the other emotions that go with it is exhausting. I'm glad you shared and were able to find support at AAC, I think is a lot of value in that.

Lolli ~ I am struggling to find words to say to help you. In reading your post about your mom, it sounds like she is very used to dealing with life in a dysfunctional way and probably knows no other way at this point. Yes, you were a scapegoat for her when you went through that period of rebellion in college, and yes, it sounds like she has had many, many others as well. Dealing with an alcoholic relationship causes a lot of dysfunction in and of itself and that cannot be minimized.

I think of some people as those who are so used to living with drama and chaos that when life is quiet, they create it. People with Borderline Personality Disorder operate much that way and the main characteristic of that is a pervasive pattern of instability in relationships. I don't mean to diagnose your mom or confuse the issue here, but it sounds like she struggles greatly with all her realtionships, be it her children, siblings, husband, etc. If the drama dies down, she feels uncomfortable and stirs it back up, sometimes with whoever is the closest target.

* I know intellectually I *should* be mad at the a-holes* ~ Lolli, you have progressed through the anger stage and I don't think you "should" be mad anymore at all. Give yourself permission to be where you are with it, and don't put pressure on yourself to feel a certain way. It is what it is and you will progress through many stages of feelings. If you are at more of an acceptance stage, I think that is wonderful because strong feelings of anger, hate, etc, while they are valid, cause you emotional anguish as well. This is all just my opinion, so take it for what it is worth :o).

As far as retribution, you need only have obtained this in your own heart, imo. There are unfortunately limited opportunities for this and although the abusers desperately need to pay, they might not ever do that, unfortunately. I think that is a gross injustice!! But, be that as it may, it is probably mostly out of our control as their victims. I am a firm believer that when they stand in front of their maker, they will be accountable for their behavior!!!!

I hope you guys have a great week! I will post more later today or tomorrow.

Hugs to you both,

free spirit

November 6, 2006
10:50 am
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marriedagain
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Lolli:

I think you are so strong. The denial of your mother is inexcusable. Someone done something horrible to you and somebody needs to admit it...hello. These rooms are for helping even it hurts a little, right? Kick me if I'm wrong but "Mother" needs to get over herself.

I'm not the most healthy person in the world but if someone did that to my daughter I would rip the fricken house apart and seriously hurt the predator. If there was nothing else to motivate him to get the hell out of our lives...FEAR would certainly do it.

My uncle abused my cousin when she was little. Once I was at their house and no one was home, I was very small..maybe 5. Anyway, I was sitting in the living room alone and heard something so I tiptoed down the hall to see what it was. You know how kids are....I peeked under the door and was watching. I had no idea what he was doing to her so I just passed it off. Well years later, in her 30's, my cousin finally came out with it. The family called her a liar. She went through a couple of years just dealing with the fact that no one believed her. Then I my sister told me about it one day and said she was lieing.....I was like, OMG SHE IS NOT LIEING BECAUSE I SAW IT. I went to my cousin who I had not seen for years and told her what I saw. She just sobbed in relief. But you know...even though she had a witness to this....they are still denying it. I'm sorry Lolli but it just sickens me. To take such an innocense from a child and then not even have the decency to admit it and say their sorry. Not that it would take it all away....but it would help with the healing process.

November 6, 2006
11:33 am
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thanks free and marriedagain....

you are both so kind and understanding and supportive! i'm sure (if you're not already) you would make terrific moms:)

you could be right, free. maybe i have already progressed past my anger toward my abusers. is this possible? it almost seemed too easy. i guess that's why i say "should." i feel there must be more anger towards them in there somewhere! but you are right. i should be glad to have some kind of peace with them (in my head) for the time being.
or, maybe i am past it and it just felt "easy" by comparison because i have so much guilt and personal devastation over being mad at my mom. it is leaking into all other areas of my life and i can't have any close girl friends because the moment i start to feel close to them i start projecting my mama ALL over them. i start reacting to them as if they were her. it is so confusing and i hope it stops VERY soon. i certainly can't go on like THAT forever (at least i hope not)!

marriedagain, thanks for letting me hear your anger about child abuse... it does help put things in perspective about how a healthy mom would react. But the strange and really confusing thing is... she would say things like that ALL the time when I was growing up. like if we were watching a talk show or something, and somebody on the show said how they'd been sexually abused... my mom would be the first one in the room to jump up and declare, "if anybody ever did that to one of my kids, i'd kill the bastard."

It didn't seem strange to me at the time because I had repressed all my memories of it. And the fact that she "talked the talk" made me think she was such a good mommy and that bad stuff couldn't ever have possibly have happened to me. I think her comments actually contributed to my denial.

how's that for messed up?!

about your cousin... wow. i'm so sorry you had to witness that. what a confusing and horrible thing for a child to have to process! but i guess it happened for a reason- so that somebody could be there to validate her when she was ready to face what had happened to her. It took a lot of courage for you to stand up and support her in the midst of all the family denial... marriedagain, I applaud you for staying so strong. please don't dismiss the enormity of your help! in your cousin's healing, you have helped her advance light years. i mean that!

i actually witnessed abuse (towards someone else) too when i was a kid. I blocked it out for a long time, but just remembered it recently. it happened to my best friend. her father was going to abuse me too, but she convinced him to leave me out of it. so then i left the room but i saw through a window that he made her take off her clothes... then i looked away.
she made me promise not to tell... and to tell you the truth, I didn't even know what it was that had happened. i just know how ashamed she was, and how her dad gave me the creeps after that. but i didn't even realize it was something sexual. and i think i had carried around a lot of "survivor guilt" over that in life, but because I had forgotten it- i never even knew what was making me feel that way.

anyway, i say all that because i want you to know that you were victimized too by having to see that. i want you to know that your feelings about the experience are important and valid. maybe you've already explored them and healed over this... but i just wanted you to know that i am truly sorry that happened to you... and i admire you for surviving it and helping your cuz.

thanks so much free and married for listening and sharing your thoughts. i feel lucky to have you both on this thread! 🙂

November 7, 2006
8:04 am
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marriedagain
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You know what? I'm glad you said that. I never really thought of myself as a victim in that situation. Like you with your friend, I just forgot about that for years. And the second I heard of my cousin being molested...this huge light switched on and I could see the whole thing again. It was weird. I can remember not knowing what was happening but knowing that there was something seriously wrong with it. Anyway, now I run into my uncle now and again, and honestly I can't hardly stomach him but I am always courteous. But just once I would like to look at him and say, "You know what, I know what you did to her because I saw it." And as far as being a victim in that situation, I have been considering that and thinking of how I felt back then and I'm not real happy about it. But in no way do I feel that I ever experienced anything so horrible as you and her did. In a sense I feel guilty for not saying anything but I was only like 5 years old. It was hard for me to say anything to her about it when we were older because I didn't want her to feel like I knew her "secret". I don't know if I said that right but I don't how to say it any other way. In deepest sincerity let me say this, I pray healing for you and her and myself and the continued ability to be a survivor and being strong enough to seek that healing. (((((big big hugs))))

November 8, 2006
5:23 pm
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Hi Lolli, all,

Wow - there is so much to think about on this thread. I've just been away for a week and I realised just how ready i am to be in my own sapec again. In a good way.

Lolli, I -totally- relate to the no personal space thing. My Mother was a neat freak for most of my growing up and would clean my room while I was out. I would already have cleaned it - she would re-clean. There was no such thing as "private space" and no such thing as knocking. And yes, I relate to the bathroom scenario. My sister and I shared a bathroom, too, and there was no turn-taking. In the last year I've managed to make my own space under my parents roof for the first time ever and it has made all the difference in my life. I don't feel like I have to isolate to get my privacy, does that make sense?

The one person who's had difficulty with this is my sister.. Couple of months ago she opened the door to the bathroom while I was in the shower while she was visiting - she needed to go to the bathroom. We have two bathrooms and the other one was free.. I literally stopped the shower, got out, and told her to leave. She said "this privacy thing is ridiculous." I said "no, this lack of privacy thing is ridiculous." On her part it's all "territory marking" and it drives me crazy.

Lolli, have you thought any more about taking your Mom to therapy? Do you think she would be open to it? It was such a hard experience for me - but mostly thanks to family reaction to how I was "hurting" my Mom. Had I been able to work through it with her one on one I think it would have been easier. I also relate to being uncomfortable when she calls looking for closeness. My sister called me -repeatedly- while I was away. Utterly out of character and utterly bizarre. I have no idea how to handle it - she never, ever calls me. A backhanded apology? More boundary-bending? Who knows.

H.

November 8, 2006
11:14 pm
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hi married,

please, please, please know that you were a child and you did the only thing you could do to protect yourself and your cuz. the ONLY one who should feel guilty about what happened is your uncle.

i learned something new at my support group last night... we harbor the feelings that our abusers SHOULD have had, but didn't. it's like we take on the responsibility for them. now i know why i always feel guilty just generally in life (even when i've done nothing wrong) and worry that others think i am lying about random benign things (when i'm not). now i know that i have been internalizing HIS guilt and the fact that HE lied. whew. it's such a relief for me to have realized that! anyway, i hope you can come to realize that too. because what happened wasn't your fault. and you did the right thing when you were an adult and you were able to stand up for your cuz. when you were a kid you just couldn't. and it probably wouldn't have helped anyway. considering they don't believe her now and she has all the confidence and strength of an adult. imagine what they would have done if you'd told then? they might have started abusing you too. and that wouldn't have helped your cuz. or you.

thank you for the big hugs and healing prayers. right back at ya!
(((married)))
🙂

November 8, 2006
11:32 pm
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heal,

i'm sorry you've had to be part of the personal space brigade too. but good for you for standing your ground now!!! that's so wonderful that you were able to do that. hmmm... i wonder. how hard would it be to install a lock on the bathroom door now? that might make your job a bit easier? you could get one of those latches from a hardware store... i think it might be relatively easy if your parents would agree to it. of course, if someone REALLY wanted to get in they could rip it out... but it might be just enough of a gentle deterrent to help with those boundary benders. i know i can't even go to the bathroom in a room without a lock now. it's just too scary for me.

since you asked (you might be sorry you did, lol), i've been thinking more about the mom therapy thing... it's so tough because i do think she will be more on the defensive precisely because there is an "outsider" in the room. however, i need her to take it seriously this time. i've tried to tell her at least 2 times in my adult life... but that was before my memories were recovered. i would say, "i think i might have been sexually abused..." and then later "i'm pretty sure i was sexually abused. but i can't really remember. and it was either X, Y, or Z. i can't remember which one." (it turns out it was x, y, AND z by the way...) both times she said, "Noooooo.... that couldn't have happened." and "no, that's not possible. you were never alone with any of those people." her denial was enough to seriously stall my memory... so i know it has a strong effect on me. i don't want to get caught in a situation where she is denying, denying, denying and then i start to doubt myself again. you know?

but like you mention, the therapy route can be threatening.

so i'm just not sure yet what to do. i'm definitely going to call some therapists in the area and get a feel for how they would facilitate. that might help me figure it out. thanks for bringing it up again so i can remember to do that!

but on the "good news" side... i finally just sucked it up and called her the other day (figured i'd get extra points and at least a week of reprieve if I called HER...). and i didn't have ANYTHING to say. i felt so worn down. but i just did it. and i decided i'd just say, "i don't really have anything to say, but i thought i'd call..."

well, wouldn't you know? it turned out that my "nothing to say" meant that i was all out of coping mechanisms and it kind of forced me to be a little bit real with her. i didn't go all the way and confront about the abuse, but i was able to talk to her about peripheral things (abuse that i witnessed but that didn't happen to me). I was even able to say how when it happened i didn't know it was abuse. i just wished that the people would be nicer... but that now that i'm an adult i realize it WAS abuse.

and she didn't deny it or even minimize it! she said, "wow. i never knew that happened. that's really bad." so it was kind of like a micro-test of what it will be like for me to tell her. i think i did a really good job of sounding like a confident adult. and i think that helped her believe me a bit more than she did when my memories were shaky.

of course, i know she'll be WAY more defensive in the conversation about abuse that happened TO me... but at least this was good practice for me and a good way to "warm her up" for tougher conversations to come.

thanks for your support and for listening;)

November 11, 2006
7:05 am
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Hi Lolli,

Wow, that call with your Mom sounds major - and encouraging. You're right though that the "personal responsibility" factor may have an impact on how she reacts when you get to talking about the big stuff, though. How can she possibly be sure that you were "never alone" with someone, I wonder?

I completely hear you on the denial/dismissal front. It can be hurtful, and damaging. When you're making baby steps towards saying "this was my experience and there is a "me" and this happened and this is how I feel" it's hard enough to stay the course without someone saying "Actually... you're completely wrong." Especially your Mom - who as your primary attachment object ideally should have been responsible for protecting you from the abuse in the first place.

The process with my Mom was a real Pandora's box. I realised, much later, that I had been seeking validation that her parenting had been damaging.. from her. Crazy, right? Like saying "I need for you to accept that you weren't there for me - and I had to parent you instead, so that I can move on." That is a big, huge, emormous ask - especially for someone who has made a living being a child rearing expert. And she was still in denial/dealing with a massive amount of shame about both her depression and her drinking.

What I learned - the hard way - is that the separating part is only really separating when you don't have to ask "permission" to do it. And the owning your feelings part is only really owning your feelings when you can say "sorry you disagree, but that's how it happened for me - case closed." I realised that I was never going to get consensus because my Mom, and the rest of the family - were hell bent on holding onto a whole pile of myths about our family.

I wish in some ways that I had spent more time consolidating my feelings with a therapist who had given me the tools to feel more comfortable with my own experience first. The guy I saw wanted my mother in there at session number three (I kid you not...) and it was a messy, horrible process that for a time made my Mom feel attacked and me feel attacked by the rest of the family. I think that finding teh right person is crucial - and I think that you're wise, and brave, for knowing that for now it might be important to avoid having your feelings dismissed. Until you can be confident that you can say what you need to say without the guarantee of a positive outcome - then caution is absolutely warranted. Your Mom may need to dismiss, cajole and act out at you to cope with hearing the things you have to tell her (mine did...).

I'm still working hard on the process with my family - but it's much, much easier. I've forgiven my Mom and I'm much happier for it. I can't change her - but I am completely responsible for my actions, and reactions, with all the members of my family. I can choose whether or not to participate in shape-making. I can choose to avoid my sister if I see warning signs. I can decide to take care of me, first. But I also have to work really, really hard at remembering not to fall back into the "old" ways of doing things.

I think you're doing amazingly well - you seem so switched on to this process. Don't forget to feel the feelings! I made it -so- much of a process that it took about three years for me to stop dissecting, analysing and sifting through and to fnally sit down an d weep. And week.. And weeep.... I'm not a cryer so it was a bit of an eye opener to suddenly be niagra falls - but it took a while for me to feel safe enough with the pain to really let myself get into it. Does that make any sense?

Ok rambling - will sign off but am always listening if you need an ear.

Hugs,
H.

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