“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 daughter because of…. And I would list my faults. Just like I was trained to do; I was trained to look at me, always to look at me and my faults and to take the blame. Looking at my faults is not such a bad thing, but the lack of mutuality in our relationship is a ridiculous thing. This started when I was a kid and I had been convinced mostly through the actions and results of those actions at the hands of the adults in my life, that I was the failure and that if I could be different, THEN I would be loved. There was no accountability on the part of the adults!
Today I refer to that thought process as “the spin”. I would spin around and around in my mind about why my mother was justified in her criticisms and judgments of ME which I somehow believed nullified my judgments of her. I could never validate that something really was wrong with the way she treated me, because I was so convinced that I was at least as much of a problem for her as she was for me. I didn’t see how she was “the parent”, or how she expected me to be more responsible for the success of our relationship than she was. I didn’t look at HOW I learned to have a relationship in the first place. I didn’t realize that my self-esteem was never put in place because my parents didn’t put it in place. I didn’t consider for one minute that the truth was that it had been up to them to give me a healthy emotional foundation in the first place. I had learned to LOOK at myself in a critical way and to never look at anyone else in a critical way. There is something really warped about that.
In the healing process, this is a huge stick point for many people. In reading the quote I used above; “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 ~ My first reaction was that I had been the one who was hurting my mother with MY criticism. I had effectively been taught and groomed to turn the spotlight on myself.
Statements like the examples I used above and statements like “Oh you think you are so perfect” or “sorry I’m not perfect” are actually deflections meant to make me believe that the problem was my “unreasonable expectations” of her; I picture my mother as wearing wonder woman type shiny wrist cuffs to deflect the statements I made to her, BACK on to me. She didn’t hear me, she had no intention of listening to me, she just found a way to put the responsibility of our relationship back on me.
When I was around 33 years old, just after my second baby was born, my mother told me all the things that I had ever done that had ‘disappointed her’ and all of my faults and failures and when I wanted to say a few things about how she made me feel, she threatened to have a breakdown and reminded me that she was too fragile to listen to me. That was the first time I had ever really tried to stand up to her and when she threatened to go home, I said go and she did.
There was NO communication when I tried to sort any of this out. She had no intention of actually discussing any of it with me. She used statements to deflect whatever it was that I had to say causing me to look at me again, instead of at her. She was very efficient at getting me to see how I caused the problem for her and never the other way around.
Sorting this out was really hard. It was extremely valuable for me to learn to examine the motives on both sides; My motive was not to hurt her. My motive was not to be right, but to be heard, to have a say, to have some impact on the relationship. My motive for approaching her with anything that was bothering me was to improve our relationship. My motive was loved based both for her and for me. Her motive was more about being right. Her motive was about being in control. She didn’t want to communicate with me, she didn’t allow me to have impact on her life, she didn’t see any need to look at HER part in the relationships or why it was so difficult between us. Her motive was ultimately NOT love based. Her motive was not what was best for me and ultimately not what was best for her either.
When I wanted to talk to my mother about our dysfunctional toxic mother daughter relationship it wasn’t to fight back or to fight to have a voice. It wasn’t so that I could have control over her. My motive was the desire for a BETTER relationship for both of us. A mutually respectful relationship. I told her that I could no longer accept the way she treated me. That was love for both of us; I had learned that self-love does not accept abusive disrespectful treatment. I had also learned that putting up with the way she treated me communicated to her that it was okay for her to do it, and letting her treat me like I didn’t matter was not loving for her either. We don’t put up with that treatment out of LOVE for the people doing it; we put up with it out of fear of the consequences if we draw a boundary against it.
All I did was decide that our toxic mother daughter relationship problems were not MY fault.
Then I decided that since I realized it wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t taking the blame for it anymore.
Then I drew a boundary which bluntly stated was; “either you stop treating me in this disrespectful way or I will not have this relationship with you”.
She picked “not having a relationship with me”. OUCH. But at least I knew the truth. It was easier to move forward when I knew the truth. It wasn’t exactly the validation that I wanted but it was validating to know my suspicions were true.
At the end of the day I know that my mother is not a happy person. I also know now that it isn’t MY FAULT.
The hurt little girl part of me thinks that my mother must be happy now that “her problem’ which was me, is no longer in her life. But the healthy adult part of me thinks that my mother could have been much happier if she embraced the idea of having a ‘real relationship’ with me. A mutually respectful relationship based on equal value instead of rejecting me because I stood up to the existing toxic mother daughter relationship we had. But as she always said to me ~ she made her bed…..
Please share your thoughts about being taught that you were the one who failed and if you somehow believed it. Are you out of ‘the fog’ and ‘the spin’ or are you still coming out of them. It’s okay to be IN the process. I had to be IN the process to get to the other side; Looking forward to your comments!
Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;
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