Archive for dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
“When someone is unrelentingly critical of you, always finds fault, can never be pleased, and blames you for everything that goes wrong, it is the insidious nature and cumulative effects of the abuse that do the damage. Over time, this type of abuse eats away at your self-confidence and sense of self-worth, undermining any good feelings you have about yourself and about your accomplishments.” The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engle
Although this quote is aimed at the victim for the purpose of exposing how the self-esteem gets torn down, the first time I read this quote I thought of my mother and how much she said that I hurt her; she always said that I was the problem and that I did this to her ~ that I tore HER down;
“Darlene, you are so critical”
“Darlene, I can never do anything right in your eyes, I am always wrong”.
“Darlene, there is no pleasing you”
And overtime I believed that my words, actions and behavior (although I could not figure out what I was doing that was so offending) had eaten away at her self-confidence and harmed her sense of self-worth and undermined any good feelings that she ever had about herself and her accomplishments. I believed everything she said about me. I believed that I was the critical one and that I was the one doing all the damage.
When I became an adult she adjusted her accusations. She used a different voice infliction when she said things like;
“Darlene you always were so hard on me”. This was to remind me that I was “always” this way and always the problem.
“Darlene I have always been afraid that you would take your kids away from me and use them as a weapon against me”. She said this as a kind of reverse psychology or a warning that if I did it, she had predicted that I would do it because I am a mean and spiteful daughter who has always done mean and spiteful things to her. And I set out to prove that I would never do something ‘like that’.
This is the brainwashing; this is what happened that caused me to try harder with her and to try so hard to ‘understand her.’ I tried to reassure her, to soothe her and to be the daughter she always wanted.
And when I started to look at the way SHE treated me in this profoundly dysfunctional mother daughter relationship we had, I became aware that now I was saying some of the same critical type things about her too. When I started to look at the truth about how toxic our mother daughter relationship was, I felt guilty because I believed that I was being critical of my mother, and I had tried so hard all my life to prove her wrong about me! In the first couple years of my healing process I kept saying stuff like “well in all fairness to my mother, I was not the perfect Read More→
I convinced myself of many things in order to cope with child abuse, emotional abuse and being defined as less important than others in my life.
I was unable to cope with the truth so I changed the truth to suit me. I learned how to view “unhealthy attention” as though it was healthy and validating in order to cope with my dysfunctional world the way that it was and by doing so I was able to pretend that my world was actually functional. I found a way to believe that I was special.
But in order to feel loved and to believe that I had at least some degree of self worth, I had to change my understanding of the word “special”. I had to warp my definition of that word in order to fit it to the actual circumstances. The things I accepted as “proof” and validation that I was “special” became pretty sick and unhealthy.
I remember when I was about 13 or 14 years old, my mother started Read More→
When I was a kid my parents got us a puppy! Although I only have one memory of playing with the German Sheppard puppy that one memory is a happy one.
I have very strong memories however of how much my mother hated having the puppy. Long after the puppy was taken away, I heard her complaints about it.
The reason that they puppy had to go was not because my mother hated it though. The reason that the puppy had to go was because both my oldest brother and I were allergic to it.
My mother had an uncle who was a dairy farmer in Quebec. I have a few memories of visiting the farm, of the cows, the milking barn, the orchards my great Aunt and Uncle and their two hired men. I remember the smell of the big kitchen, the fresh baked pies and the fresh garden food that we ate every time we visited.
My father LOVED the farm. He has spent summers there as a teenager. My mother hated the farm and didn’t make much of an effort to try to hide it. I think she went there out of family obligation and also because my father loved it there so much.
After I got so sick in grade 5 and developed asthma as a result of being so badly emotionally abused by my teacher, the pediatrician told my mother that I was too weak to visit the farm anymore because of my asthma and allergies. I was 10 or 11 when this news was delivered. I remember feeling really badly because Read More→
I was 13 years old the first time I woke up hearing my mother having sex. My parents had been split up for a few months; I had never heard my parents having sex. By the sounds of it, I thought that the man my mother had in her bedroom with her was trying to kill her. And he could have been! How would anyone know? None of us knew him.
I felt frozen in my bed, terrified about what I was hearing and not knowing what to do about it. Should I get a large object and go in there and club him over the head? Should I call the police? My frozen immobility and indecisiveness was making me feel guilty and then suddenly, those horrifying sounds stopped. I heard normal murmuring sounds of conversation. I must have gone back to sleep then. Eventually, I figured out that what was going on in her bedroom was not murder or physical violence.
My toxic mother didn’t want to be a single mother. That was her answer to everything. It was even her justification for having very loud sex with men while three children slept in rooms very close by.
One of my brothers made comments about her night-time noise making sessions; she would respond “I never asked to be a single mother”. I was left to assume the translation for that statement. And I translated it according to my belief system. My mother deserves to be happy. Men make her happy. I have no right to interfere with her happiness. I have no right to feel uncomfortable about Read More→
The Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas Past ~ Part 2
How come I could NEVER find the right gift for my Mother? I never seemed to be able to make her happy. My Christmas gifts as well as any other gifts I found for her never had the desired effect one wants when giving a gift to someone.
There was always this disappointment she showed when she opened a gift from me. Her face would fall. She would look uncomfortable. She wouldn’t say much about whatever I had chosen for her. I agonized over what I would get her, and then I worried about it until the day I gave it to her. I dreaded her reaction. I guess I was hoping that her face would light up. I was hoping for approval.
I got so that I HATED thinking about what she might like for a gift and what I should get her. There was so much anxiety around gift giving that I couldn’t actually concentrate on the celebration itself. There was so much “obligation” around all these events that I didn’t understand back then.
My mother never made it easy for me by pointing out or mentioning a specific gift she wanted. It was as if my “guessing what the right gift would be to get for her” was part of what would make her happy. It was a though if she “told” me what she wanted, that would ruin it. In order for the gift to be “special”, I had to Read More→
My parents split up and eventually divorced when I was just turning 13 years old. After my mother went through her suicidal phase she started dating. She had not been separated from my father for very long when she started dating. Men and dating became her priority.
Through her behaviour she communicated to me that attracting men was the way to cope with low self esteem and pain. Looking back on what she taught me and how she impacted my belief system, she herself believed that men and having a man in her life was what she needed more than anything else. She believed that she needed a man in order to survive. She needed a man in order for her to feel complete or even good about herself. Men defined her as worthy and good enough. Her self esteem came from them. Their attraction to her identified her. Having a man meant that my mom was okay.
I had learned from my mother’s actions, words and teachings that men were the most important connection or relationship a woman can have. Because belief systems grow from layers of information, add to that teaching what I learned from the media (movies and books) and from observing Read More→
I had this dream the other night.
I dreamt that my mother threw an elegant cocktail party. It was attended by her well to do friends and it was very formal. The house was decorated beautifully; all dressed in sparkly Christmas decoration, Christmas flower arrangements and the type of decorating perfection that my mother has always been known for. There were handsome waiters in beautiful black tuxedos quietly bringing around trays of fancy treats and beautifully presented drinks.
My mother looked stunning in her black full length evening gown; She was happier than I had seen her for years.
I felt as though I was not actually “at” the party but that I was observing it. I felt awkward in my professional style dress and wished I had thought to buy a new evening gown myself. I felt more like I was part of the “staff” instead of a guest. (In real life I always felt like part of her staff too ~ just a servant, her cook, her whipping post) I noticed that what had started off to be a slight tension headache was quickly becoming a migraine headache and I decided that I better take some Advil and get somewhere quiet to let the pain killer work before it was too late.
I quietly slipped upstairs to the guest room to lay down while the Advil took effect. A few moments later my mother quietly slipped into the room. She whisper/yelled “what do you think you are doing?” I felt that same shock and bewilderment that I always felt when she asked me something in that accusatory tone of voice as though I was purposely doing something “wrong” and that I should not PRETEND that I didn’t know what she was talking about. I was already backing away from her as Read More→
I used to live waiting to be good enough. I thought ~ “as soon as YOU say that I am important, then I will be important. When you say that I am lovable, then I will be lovable. When YOU say that I am worthy then I will BE worthy”. Deep down I believed that someone else would determine my value. I had to learn to stop operating under those beliefs. I had to stop seeing myself through the unloving eyes of others.
When I was 14 years old, I vowed that I would never be like my selfish, unloving, self centered mother. That was a serious vow and that memory is one of the clearest memories that I have. I don’t remember what happened the day that I made that vow but I remember it was one of the only promises that I ever made to myself. I knew somehow that our mother daughter relationship was dysfunctional and that my mother was on the toxic side, I just didn’t know what I could do about it, or how long lasting and deep the effects of her way of relating to me would be.
When I went through my process of recovery from dysfunctional relationships, I took a closer look at the vow I made to never be like my toxic mother. I asked myself what that meant to me and what specifically I had been referring to back then. I saw my mother as someone who didn’t care about others and cared about herself too much. She didn’t care about me. She discounted my feelings and she discounted my needs. She was disloyal and Read More→
My mother didn’t want a child. My mother wanted a dolly that would “give back”. She wanted some “thing” to fuss over and to cuddle with for a short time, and then it was as if she expected me to fulfill her needs because she filled mine for a while. To fill her needs ~ as though I could fill the empty space where she was lacking self value and love. My mother placed a great deal of expectations on me right from the start, and I didn’t live up to even one of them.
It was as though I owed her something because I was born. Right from the start, this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love. Right out of the womb, my mother acted as though she believed that I was going to make her life better and that I owed her for mine. This was proven over and over again as I went through life and she continually expressed her Read More→
When my second child was born, my mother said that she wanted to “be there for me”. She said that she wanted to really do something FOR ME and she offered to make the seven hour drive over the mountains to our home to help me in the final days before labor, and help me to take care of my 21 month old son.
I was thrilled. Finally my mother wanted to BE MY MOTHER! I felt closer to her in those phone calls planning her visit then I had ever felt before that time.
I started to have some complication with my hips. My legs were giving out from under me and I needed more bed rest. I was confident that my mother would agree to come a bit earlier then we had planned and I called her up with the news and my request. She hesitated. Her familiar voice, the one that I had come to hate as it was laced with disappointment, responded Read More→