May
29

A Mother Daughter Relationship ~ Part Three

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~By Carla Dippel~

How I had been devalued, the root causes of my struggle with depression and anxiety, was hard to see for the longest time. It was like trying to see through a window with shimmery curtains waving back and forth. There were good things in my childhood too. Those things would wisp across my vision and confuse the painful feelings that I had at the same time. I would change my stance to see from a different view but the curtains were still there, still rippling across the window.  I had to focus my vision closer and look at the curtains, see them for what they truly were, before I could pull them back and see through the window to freedom.

My Mom had very clear visions of how she thought my life should look (she talks about these in Part Two of this series). She had specific ideas about what would make me happy. I described my Dad as being the Unengaged Gardener in an earlier post. His belief system about himself held him back from cultivating my individuality, from emotional involvement and interaction with me. My Mom was a much more active gardener. In many ways, I am thankful for the work that she did in trying to help me be a happy member of our family and of society. She took the risk of getting her hands dirty in the soil and because of that I had a lot more material to work with as I sorted through her belief system’s impact on me. But my Dad still had a huge role in how my own belief system developed, whether he meant to or not. Together, my parent’s belief systems merged to create what I believe is a very common and often misunderstood inner “tornado” effect:  My Dad’s passivity left a huge hungry hole that I was desperate to fill.  My Mom’s belief system taught me to try and fill that hole with the wrong soil, soil that couldn’t sustain deep and fulfilling life. The problem was that her ideas of what would make me happy were too shallow and skewed. They weren’t bad things in and of themselves, but they were not the things that would really help me thrive. She planted a false belief system.

My Mom never told me that I had to get married to be happy. She never told me to be thin so I could attract a man. She didn’t actually say that I would only be valuable if I was married and had children. But I saw her belief system lived out in her own life. I saw how she served my Dad, how she made it a priority to teach me how to clean and cook and sew, how she watched her own weight, how she didn’t find her own happiness outside of these enclosing borders. I knew very well the look of concern that would cross her face when I would take a second helping at dinner. I knew that she was very pleased whenever I had a boyfriend or did something good at church or performed well at my piano recitals. I knew she was proud of me, in a sense… But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions. She was pleased when I lived out her dreams for me. No attention was paid to whether or not Carla herself was really happy in doing these things. And the things that I did enjoy doing were not investigated. In my play, my parents didn’t join in to find out about me. When I would wake up in the early hours of a Saturday morning to prepare a huge spread of food for my family (food is one of my passions) their subtle response was that I had wasted food and made a mess. The things that really made me tick were overlooked. So I learned to overlook them too.

The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system (and eventually, they would come under direct fire within the religious system I became immersed in).

This was the heart of the devaluing that happened to me. The pain of this devaluing was very real and set me up as an easy candidate for depression, anxiety, fear, and abuse of other kinds. My own pleasure, my ability to listen to my own heart, was disconnected from within myself (where it belonged) and implanted into someone else. I was maniuplated to survive by pleasing someone else, by fulfilling someone else’s dreams. Until now, I didn’t know how to live any other way.

Working to part the curtains!….

~Carla

Categories : Mother Daughter

11 Comments

1

It is astonishing to me how like my own story this post is! Except my mother taught me almost nothing of practical use (cooking, sewing, etc.). She just was angry that I didn’t know these things (still is, actually.

But this:
“The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system (and eventually, they would come under direct fire within the religious system I became immersed in).” is exactly my experience.

How do you discover those right voices–those true voices–after a LIFETIME of piling on?!

2

I read this post earlier and have been thinking about it all day. Of course it makes perfect sense that your mother would model for you what she was taught herself. These things, these behaviors, no matter what they are, do get passed down from generation to generation in most families. No one is ever even aware of it because it’s all they know.

I completely identify with the people pleasing and the disconnection from myself, even though our childhoods were very different. I was also taught that my needs and wants were of no value and so I shut down. I didn’t realize that until I was 37 years old and am still trying to find myself and what makes me happy 3 years later.

This series is excellent and I can’t wait for the next post!

3

Lisa, I am so glad that my story has connected with you. Finding the “real me” voices- what a great question. That is totally a process in itself. I was so used to (addicted to, actually) figuring out what other people wanted from me that I really was starting from scratch in terms of figuring out what the real me wanted, how I felt or what I thought. I anticipate that this process will be a life long one for me (but that’s okay- because it’s totally worth it!) I worked with a therapist who specialized in helping people find their “dna”, their life passions. He was able to take me from living as a victim in my mindset to figuring out my true self and living it out (doing this blog is directly linked to one of my passions!) It’s really hard to spell it out in a nutshell (though I wish I could!) But one of the most important truths that was huge for me to keep moving forward was even believing that I HAD my own dna and passions deep within me- to even believe and know that they were THERE- that was one of my first breakthroughs. Then it was a matter of bringing clarity to them. A good therapist can help you do that. Hugs to you Lisa~ thanks for your comment!

4

Cyndi, thank you so much! I am very happy that you are journeying this series with us and leaving your thoughts along the way. It is so true- many of us take on these belief systems without even realizing that they will hurt us. They are the belief system of the group of people that we belong to first, and we don’t have the opportunity to analyze (as children) whether or not these beliefs are good for us or not- we have to accept them from the get go to fit in and survive.

Your needs and wants ARE so important, as you are. All my life, I had a quest to be truly happy. I remember one of my managers asked me once what I wanted later in life (I think she was expecting me to say a big house or living on the Riveria or something) and I said that I simply wanted to be happy… It was the quest of my heart and I DID find the answers that I needed to fulfill that quest. I believe you can too. Thank you for being here Cyndi! Hugs to you. ~ Carla

5

I was 38 years old when I started searching for the real me under all of my own layers of abuse from incest. My childhood is so different than yours Carla and I can so relate about not knowing who I was. In all of the people pleasing, perfectionistic behaviors I got lost. In order to protect myself from any more hurt, I, the real me, went into hiding deep inside of myself. I can’t tell you at what age that happened.

What made me start looking for me at age 38? I got into several 12-Step programs looking for answers. I didn’t drink or do drugs to hide my pain. I just buried it all deep inside of me. I tried to control everything and everyone in my world in an attempt to feel safe. That didn’t work either. It just made me more unhappy. Today I recognize controllers and know that they are very, very fearful. I also know that control is just an illusion. The more I tried to control, the more out of control I really was.

I can’t tell you the specific year that I found myself. It has been a long journey to where I am today 20 years later. I can tell you that the early struggle was worth it. I can give you hope that you will one day get there. I know you can because I have. Learning to love yourself is where the journey to recovery begins to get really worth the struggle. Loving yourself gives you all the value that you missed as a child and young adult. It worked for me. It can work for you.

6

Hi Patricia! Thanks for bringing more insight to the process of uncovering our true selves… I like how you say that trying to control things and people around you was an attempt to help you feel safe. I can relate to that- if I hadn’t gone through counseling for myself I think I would have used that avenue to try and help myself too, to an even greater extent. It has been really freeing and hopeful for me to learn that there is a better way to find safety- the true safety of knowing who I am and that my value doesn’t depend on anything outside of myself… Thanks Patricia. ~Carla

7

Carla,

I feel for you. My mother has never been in my life for me, unlike yours, but I felt her presence through those moments when she was with me. And now, after years of no contact, I have found her. She calls me – it is almost like a miracle. But when she asked me to call her, I said – Mom, I don’t have a habit of calling you. She understood. I was grateful. Hard to explain in a few sentences here, but I’ve found my mother, the one I dreamt of, the one who calls me now – the only person from my family who calls me after I remembered being sexually abused by my father.

Thank you, keep strong – I am following your story.

8

Knesia, it is so powerful when a parent genuinely reaches out to their son or daughter. I am happy for you and the connection you have found with your Mom. Thank you for sharing your story and following our’s. It is good to have you here. ~ Carla

9

Dearest Carla – You (and Darlene) have given me a gift.

Your words articulated where I feel I’m coming from and how I feel in my own disfunctional mother daughter relationship…you hit the nail on the head for me when you mentioned that there were actually some good times and that you are in many ways appreciative of the ‘gardening’ your mum did, and that you saw your mum is NOT a BAD person and so why would you feel the way you did. The words below have been saved and I plan to revisit them regularly as they are the best most clear description of why I feel the way I do about my mum…the only thing that’s lacking in your example for me is the physical and emotional abuse but at least the second is hard for me to unpick and understand just now as I am only at the start of my ourney to open the curtains.

Thank you so much for writing the below!

“I knew she was proud of me, in a sense… But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions. She was pleased when I lived out her dreams for me. No attention was paid to whether or not Carla herself was really happy in doing these things.”

“The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system.”

“This was the heart of the devaluing that happened to me. The pain of this devaluing was very real and set me up as an easy candidate for depression, anxiety, fear, and abuse of other kinds. My own pleasure, my ability to listen to my own heart, was disconnected from within myself (where it belonged) and implanted into someone else. I was maniuplated to survive by pleasing someone else, by fulfilling someone else’s dreams.”

10

Hi! I’m so glad I was able to articulate something in a way that was helpful for you and your journey. Thank you for reading and for sharing how this connected with you. I think the heart of all of the different ways of abuse is to try and somehow stimulate your own life at the expense of someone else, even if (as in my Mom’s case) it’s not consciously intentional. All the best to you as you journey and continue in your healing. ~Carla

11

But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions.

BINGO! This is my mom. She wanted me to be this “other” person. Except for the marriage thing, I found inconsistencies in that.

I chose for my own reasons not to marry. But when I was in my 30’s, I remember getting into an argument with mom, where I shouted at her, “YOU DON’T WANT ME TO HAVE A BOYFRIEND.” Of course, she VEHEMENTLY denied it. But I remember at the time wondering why I said that to her. What made me say that? I was the one who made the choice not to marry.

Fast forward. I’m in my 50’s. Both of my siblings are married. A couple years ago, one of my siblings told me, “Mom doesn’t like it when you have a boyfriend.” So, I cornered my mom with an “interrogation” and she finally admitted it. She said, “You pay more attention to me when you don’t have a boyfriend.”

Despite that, I still feel my choice not to marry was MINE, and not hers. But the issue is…… how she made MY choice be about HER somehow. It wasn’t about her.

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