Here is excellent advice from one of the regulars in our support group.
“… I also have a mom who is essentially miserable, but can show her nice side when it suits her. Here is what I have figured out so far, in case it helps you.
Moms like ours base their lives almost entirely on their feelings (which can change from moment to moment, often without a warning) and on their internal scripts (which are their version of reality based on their wounded view of life.)
- They only know how to deal with life by being a victim or a persecutor or a rescuer, depending on what their feelings dictate. (These dysfunctional roles are from the Karpman Drama Triangle). Our job has always been to take the role they assigned to us based on what they felt at the moment.
- If they are happy, we may not see their dysfunctional side. If they are not happy, all bets are off.
- They cannot handle intimacy, because they are ashamed of themselves. They react poorly to the people closest to them because they make them feel unsafe.
- They also cannot show genuine empathy because it feels painful to them. It feels unsafe to give of themselves unless they are getting something in return (attention, praise, control, etc.)
- They don’t know how to authentically love because it is too scary to be vulnerable or trusting.
- They are emotionally immature and never learned how to process their emotions or manage their chaotic minds. They cope by controlling, manipulating, raging and other unhealthy mechanisms.
- We grew up with their dysfunctional modeling and views of life and reacted to it as best we could. Those of us who became codependent “pleasers” thought we could make them happy if we obeyed them. We had no idea that that was never a possibility or that it was their job to soothe themselves and deal with life.
- Their illness makes them see things from a completely one-sided perspective.
- Because we are their children, we have developed our own issues. The only gift of having them in our lives is that we can grow and become more virtuous and have opportunities to authentically love, even as we recognize that with them, love is probably not coming back at us in return. This is ultimately a tragedy for them, as being unable to love must be so torturous.
- Their dysfunction can push us to our physical, emotional and mental limits, which only creates two broken people.
- While they definitely give us many reasons to leave (which may be the right choice), we also may choose to stay for practical and spiritual reasons. It is a choice either way. If we maintain contact, we must proceed with caution and protect ourselves. You cannot maintain contact unless you are fully healed are are very centered in who you are and what you value.
If we choose to stay in contact:
- We must be whole.
- We must radically accept their limits and not expect what they cannot give.
- We must have strong boundaries.
- We must have a strong arsenal of tools to deal with their dysfunction.
- We must accept that no matter what we do, there will always be another crisis. They crave drama and neediness, and we need to accept that as long as they live (unless they get help), this will forever be an ongoing process.
- Addressing their individual “wants” at the moment does not usually solve the problem or fulfill their true needs. When we enable them by trying to meet their unreasonable requests, it usually contributes to their issues and validates in their minds that the problems are as they see them. It also validates in their minds that their approach is the proper process to getting what they need (i.e. they rage or do some other dysfunctional things when they cannot handle their emotions and we respond by trying to read their minds, fix things, comfort them, and oblige them.) Thus, our perceived “nice” responses actually perpetuate their issues.
- Without therapy, they will always want us to CONTINUALLY meet their needs. We need to override their process and recognize that the true goal if we stay in contact is to create a space for healing for both of us. For me, this means not making things worse, having healthy boundaries, being who I am, and giving opportunities in the relationship for true healing.
- We cannot fix our relationship with them. It takes two for a relationship. All we can do is provide an environment for something potentially good to happen.
- We can see them with eyes of compassion. They are broken. They are hurting. They have chaotic minds. Compassion does not mean letting their chaotic minds dictate our actions, though. What dictates our actions is our own moral compass.
- We do not help matters by being “nice”, rescuing them or giving them dysfunctional things they claim they need. We help by seeing what is best for them and for us. And sometimes that means having a lot of distance.
- One of the casualties of having a disordered parent like this is respect.
Here is what has helped me have compassion for my mother:
- I recognize that she is deeply afraid and ashamed.
- She doesn’t respect herself or others.
- Her toxicity will never be addressed because she is too afraid to face herself.
- She is hurting and all she knows how to do with these feelings is hurt others, dump emotions on others, hide the feelings or get others to manage the feelings for her.
Here is what has helped me have compassion for myself:
- I will not pretend that her behavior is acceptable.
- I accept that detachment is the only way to handle being in her presence.
- I accept the truth that I was abused, and I will heal those aspects of my life.
- I will make my own choices and manage my own feelings.
- I cannot make myself feel something I do not. (I have no sentimental warm feelings when it comes to my mother.)
- I can enjoy her good qualities but do not have to stick around when I am not comfortable.
- I can learn to handle her anger/tantrums/guilt trips and not let them bother me.
- I can become stronger by seeing the truth, taking care of myself, recognize my reality, getting support, and owning my life.
- I can see that my mother is a scary person who needed me to be weak, but instead of letting her scare me into weakness, I will now use that energy to heal myself.”