Am I being tested?


#1

I don’t know what to do about dealing with my family anymore, especially my mother. We just got back from visiting the St. Gianna shrine in Philadelphia (actually the shrine area is under construction so we didn’t get to see it, but we did get to see and touch her glove and got some prayer cards, it was beautiful…goes on another thread). Anyway, we ended up in a huge argument over nothing :mad: !!!

I made a comment that she reminded me of my husband sometimes, that no one else could ever be right, thier way or no way type of personalities. It was a very light hearted conversation and she was fine until I said something about her being that way. She immediately was defensive and started making excuses for her behavior, but mostly it was “that’s the way I am” type thing and “you should know me by now.” I immediately regretted saying anything, you can’t ever say anything to her because she takes it as a personal attack.

I shut my mouth until we got in the car and she kept going on and on about how we were so disrepectful and how she wasn’t like that with her mother…right or wrong they never said anything they just accepted. I told her that having a conversation wasn’t being disrespectful, but that I regretted saying anything, that we were never going to be able to have honest conversations if she was going to take everything and get mad. I told her that with her it was about telling her what she wanted to hear and not the truth. She kept going on and on about how we were just starting out with our kids and she hated to see how they were going to treat us considering how we treat her, etc., etc. I admit it, I had just about enough and I said that she was probably hoping our kids were rotten and that would make her feel better since she’d be able to say “I told you so” and of course be right once again.

I went on to tell her that since she took everything so personally so was I, that all the negative stuff she has said all these years about me I was going to take personally, that the way she talked about my sister and I you would think we were the worst kids ever. She of course said that I misunderstood what she had said, that she wasn’t being negative just trying to be constructive and helpful, I said well when we say something that’s what we’re trying to do, the intention is not to hurt. But, since she could take things the way she wanted then I could to, and that since she kept threatening to leave all of us because we don’t understand her and we treat her badly, then I would take that attitude too. And since I was far away already that we would keep it that way and keep the visits few and far between. She of course was angry, and she kept crying and crying…for her everyone is out to hurt her. No one understands her, her life has been nothing but suffering etc., etc. Her life is terrible, she wishes she would have died as a child and so on.

I mean I love my mother, she’s my mother and she is a good person and very religious, but she loves to lay on the guilt trips, never, ever lets anything go and takes everything as a personal attack…everyone is out to get her. She is so unhappy, there is never anything positive that comes out of her mouth. Now she is saying she wants to go back home tomorrow, the plan was that she would leave on Saturday, and paying me for this and that. She goes to different parts of the house and cries…I feel aweful that I don’t feel bad because she’s crying.

Am I being tested? I was supposed to look into having my baby back in California so that I could be around my family through this time…I don’t think I’m going to do it, I’ll figure out a way to handle things on my own here. My mom’s house is way too small for all of us now, and with her behavior I really don’t want to be there. She is trying to make me feel guilty for trying to have a conversation, it’s not my fault she’s so sensitive, I think I’ll just keep my distance both physically and on the phone. I just don’t know how much more I can take, I was trying to do something good and this is what I get from it, I’ll just have to keep my mouth shut about everything from now on!!! Sorry for this being so long, I just needed to get things out and get some advice and perspective, thanks.


#2

Yes.

To me your chains are being jerked around by your own emotional reactions to this whole situation.

When you describe your conversations, it sounds like you have them all figured out and know each of their “number” and you intend to tell them about it. You therefore judge their unwillingness or inability for them to understand you, when their shield are up full blast due to the clear confrontational nature of your comments.

You, for example, may think it’s about improving communications and wonder why others wouldn’t want to improve so that they can understand better. Most people don’t want to understand better; they want you to understand them better. Wishing this weren’t the case does not change anything, and such wishing does not help them hear your criticism of their problems more easily.

I’m basing this on a rather cursory reading, just looking at the types of messages you convey – my husband thinks he is always right and so are you for example. These are not well received because they are judgmental.

The good news is there is a lot you can do. The bad news is there may be much you need to do. That is because your whole expectations that others will conform to your method of communications is unrealistic – if you want to be a leader in making a change you have to first do a very difficult think – declare a unilateral truce. In other words, convince yourself that you will not try to fix them at all, but will listen very hard for clues from them as to how you yourself might be putting up barriers or making it hard.

You don’t want these communications problems to come down all other people’s fault, because then you have precious little hope of changing it. If you can make changes and help the situation improve, then everybody is blessed regardless of whom the fault for our original sorry estate can be attributed.

I hope this helps. I’m certainly not trying to “find fault” with you personally, but with the way the conversations can fall down, I believe there are other strategies involved – they do require an adjustment to the mindset. Forgive yourself in advance in case you fail to help others see the light, because contrary to our worldly programming it is NOT our job and calling to take responsibility for others’ personal decisions. It is our job, however, to learn what we can to make it better and I am pleased that you are doing all this.

You actually remind me quite a bit of myself, as I used to be very critical of others’ stupidity. The problem is not to try to do away from the stupidity, as it cannot be done through conventional means. Only the Holy Spirit can help cut through really world-class serious stupidity. Your job is to facilitate such help but not to share in the blame game which prevents the healing game. In my case, it was so obvious what others could do differently (and honestly if I were in their position I would want them to tell me) that it boggled my mind they wouldn’t listen – the problem is, once I because frustrated then I was angry myself and anger automatically raises defenses – I had become what I was condemning in others; angry, frustrated, accusing, and consequently not-right-of-heart. :frowning:

Remember, what sounds like you to a logical observation sounds to them like a personal attack. That’s why they can’t hear a word you’re saying. You have to get in “under the radar” and help them see the wisdom you have to share – in communicating a “new trick” to “an old dog” as it were one has to be very careful. Last week’s gospel said you can’t pour new wine into old wineskings, but until they are converted and healed with love, they will not hear your message no matter how true it may be.

Alan


#3

Dear Lexee15,

She took it as a personal attack because that is what it was. You have made a very general statement about her that pretty much invalidates her whole method of intercommunications. It also sets you up as her judge.

You could probably use what I once had to learn to keep “idiots” from taking the advice I gave them and turning it against me; assertiveness. It starts by assuming that you’re OK, I’m OK. From there one goes on to address different types of conflict depending on the nature of that conflict. I had started once posting notes from meetings with a psychologist where I once paid to learn aforementioned assertiveness techniques. Another poster had asked me to continue, so maybe I’ll dredge up that thread and report it to you here. It changed my whole life, and people quit blowing me off because I quit being angry and accusatory (at least on the surface) and they no longer had any excuses to be defensive. Think in terms of “gifts of the spirit.” Against them there is no law (including a law of the heart where they will block you) so if you become filled with them in everything you say your views – and for that matter (in this world even) you as a person – will be more accepted.

In this case I think that it would be much more useful to take an approach of, “you know, when we were talking about X earlier I felt a little put down because I don’t think you consider my views as important and we ended up I didn’t feel heard.” Now I’ve very carefully constructed this to avoid direct blame especially never say, “I was upset because you X” because then you have handed them your feelings on a silver platter and made them entirely responsible for them. You may express your feelings, but you may not say “I feel X because you Y” because the feeling is as much how you react is actually a bigger component of your own anxiety than the specifics of what they say.

I shut my mouth until we got in the car and she kept going on and on about how we were so disrepectful and how she wasn’t like that with her mother…right or wrong they never said anything they just accepted.

Now she’s reflecting a dose of your own medicine – a general ranking of the superiority of her own way of being to yours. That doesn’t mean she’s putting you down exactly, because like you she’s trying to call something to your attention that in her opinion you cannot hear.

I told her that having a conversation wasn’t being disrespectful, but that I regretted saying anything, that we were never going to be able to have honest conversations if she was going to take everything and get mad. I told her that with her it was about telling her what she wanted to hear and not the truth.

This is actually very manipulative. You have given her 100% of the blame for your relationship issues, and even given her a character flaw – and anger and defensiveness problem – to boot. I really do want to resurrect the thread on assertiveness; there are very simple ways of rewording this to help. For example, “I feel discouraged when we try to talk about important things because I don’t feel like I can be completely honest without saying things that seem to hurt you.” Take some of the responsibility for it, or at least allow her to save face, and you might get farther. If nothing else, do NOT assign your own unhappiness to her, “you make me feel frustrated when blahblahblah” because that gives her direct access to your buttons and tells her that you are helpless to change them.

She kept going on and on about how we were just starting out with our kids and she hated to see how they were going to treat us considering how we treat her, etc., etc. I admit it, I had just about enough and I said that she was probably hoping our kids were rotten and that would make her feel better since she’d be able to say “I told you so” and of course be right once again.

She knows there is a problem with the way you communicate with her that is of course reflected both ways. Unfortunately, she cannot isolate it because it has gotten to where mostly we have personal attacks. Remember the presumption that neither person ini the room is either an idiot or lives for the misery of the other. If that is the case, then we have the presumption that neither one WANTS to see the other one miserable and would make adjustments if possible to avoid it.
(continued)


#4

(continued)

I went on to tell her that since she took everything so personally so was I, that all the negative stuff she has said all these years about me I was going to take personally, that the way she talked about my sister and I you would think we were the worst kids ever.

This is a classic case of “verbal violence type 8” which is covered in the out of print book “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense” with you being on the attack. Of the eight example attack strategies she covers in the book, you are using the most difficult for her to defend and can only be effectively launched by someone with a close personal relationship.

Note how well the presuppositions are crafted:

  1. “since she took … blah blah blah,” key word “since” here assigns all blame to her for whatever follows.

  2. “that you were going to take personally…” this actually weakens the attack, because it makes it less meaningful. Now it sounds like you are trying to justify being a bee-itch just because you think she is one.

  3. This attack assumes that this has been going on a long time, she should know how to stop it, and chooses not to because you know she doesn’t care about how you feel, and she should feel very ashamed.

Again it isn’t about whether you lay your cards on the table; you do that. They are booby-trapped, however, with presuppositions so that most people get sidetracked with the presuppositions which act as red herrings in the discussion at hand. For a much simpler example of a presupposition, a very simple, “if you X then Y,” such as “if you cared about me you’d change your ways – or you’d do this or that.” The problem is the “this or that” is simply bait. If a person answers you on this basis such as “this is the way I am” then she has unwittingly bought into the presupposition that maybe she doesn’t care about you and we can see that illustrated unless she can defend effectively against your assertion – puts them on the defensive big time. Maybe you think they OUGHT to be on the defensive ( ) but the problem is not that you have judged them incorrectly – the immediately problem is they will not hear what you have to say – therefore their being defensive is unilaterally an impediment that must be overcome.

She of course said that I misunderstood what she had said, that she wasn’t being negative just trying to be constructive and helpful, I said well when we say something that’s what we’re trying to do, the intention is not to hurt.

YES! This is exactly the right message. I suppose you feel the same way about her – you are trying to be constructive and not to hurt. If you two can honestly believe this GOING BOTH WAYS then you may be breaking through to step 1: believing in advance that neither party has sinister motives about the relationship.

Make sure that your anger and frustration don’t speak a different message, the message of blame and judgment. When that happens, suddenly she will open up and you’ll be amazed and impressed at how good friends and allies you two can really be.

But, since she could take things the way she wanted then I could to, and that since she kept threatening to leave all of us because we don’t understand her and we treat her badly, then I would take that attitude too.

This is a problem. You reflect what you believe to be her attitude back to her, and she doesn’t recognize the trick. She just sees bad attitude and doesn’t realize it’s supposed to be a characture. Honestly, it sounds very self-centered, but I say that with caution because I think the strongest thing you have going for you is your honesty and I think you’ve done a very admirable job of presenting your arguments so that it is easy for me as an outsider to see these dynamics.

And since I was far away already that we would keep it that way and keep the visits few and far between. She of course was angry, and she kept crying and crying…for her everyone is out to hurt her. No one understands her, her life has been nothing but suffering etc., etc. Her life is terrible, she wishes she would have died as a child and so on.

This is normal. Things aren’t right, the human mind tries to take that wrong thing, make it horrible, and take the whole world with it. Normal but not excellent. This tells you that she is a conversational newbie as well – she probably knows a lot of lessons in life but really has a hard time explaining them.

I’ll look at the rest of your post separately – this one’s already way too long. :thumbsup:

Alan


#5

[quote=Lexee15] I was supposed to look into having my baby back in California so that I could be around my family through this time…I don’t think I’m going to do it, I’ll figure out a way to handle things on my own here.
[/quote]

I’m sorry about your fight with your mother. There is a reason I don’t live in Ohio anymore. My mother and I didn’t stop fighting until a couple of years ago. I have just learned (the hard way) to ignore her spiteful comments. As for figuring our how to handle hting on you own here … you have friends in Chicago. Just call us.:slight_smile:


#6

Do we have the same mother? I have no advice. I have failed miserably in this same area. I’m at the same place as you…we live far away and this seems to help. This isn’t something new though. She and I have never been close even when I was little. I was daddy’s girl. He passed away 5 years ago and things have only gotten worse since. He used to “run interference.” My goal at this point is civility and politeness.

I know how you feel though. Just reading your post put that sick, guilty feeling in my stomach. I’ll add you to my prayers when I pray about my mother. It’s difficult, I know.

Lisa


#7

Your mother is an emotionally abusive person. If she won’t seek professional help, then I would keep my distance.

You should get some counseling to help you with coping strategies.

We don’t pick our parents, like we do friends. If a friend treated you this way, you’d discontinue the friendship. You can’t “quit” family, but you do not have to take their abuse. You can set boundaries and you can demand respect. If they cannot do these things, then sever communication for your own mental health and that of your children.


#8

Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I really appreciate your very detailed posts AlanfromWitchita, they are very imformative. Believe me, I so didn’t want to go there, I hadn’t fought with my mother in years…mostly because I conformed, I did what she asked, I told her what she wanted to hear and if I couldn’t I would just keep quiet. It really worked for me, I figured out a long time ago that there was no changing the way she was and I accepted her as is. I preferred to have some harmony when I was around her than correcting her and having a fight and never hearing the end of it.

I am, by no means, perfect or the perfect communicator, but I do try to learn from my mistakes and if someone tells me enough times about a character flaw I have to really look at myself and wonder why I’m hearing the same thing from different people. I’ve been dealing with this for as long as I can remember and I was the closer one to my mom. We didn’t get along at all during my adolescent years, but once I got passed that and matured a little I realized “I” didn’t have to fight about everything with her…if she wanted to then fine, I refused to engage. So it stopped, with me, the fighting continued with my sister. She’s made some bad choices and doesn’t like to get called on them and considering that my mother never lets anything go and is brought up often when it suits her…well you might imagine how they get. Then of course I have to hear them talk about each other etc., etc.

Again, she’s a good person with a good heart, she just has to control everything and everyone and if she can’t then it’s the world out to get her. I’ve been getting a guilt trip from her all my life, she says things like “I gave birth to you and this is how you treat me” type of stuff. I gave birth to my child and I don’t feel he owes me a thing, I just pray that God will lead me in raising him the best that I can and for His glory. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do pray that I don’t live my life making him feel guilty because I had him and raised him.

I think that I finally said something to her because I was tired of hearing her complain about how everything was so terrible, that her life was nothing but suffering and it’s always someone else’s fault…with these pregnancy hormones I think I’ve become impatient and get frustrated easily, I really feel any other time I would have kept quiet. I certainly learned my lesson though, I’m done, I’ve tried to talk to her “under the radar” about her not letting what others do and say affect her, and that everything is not meant to hurt her, but unfortunately she’s lived an entire life believing that everyone is against her. She has no friends, she has no real relationship with anyone in her family, we don’t get along with my dad’s family, my dad and her don’t really have a relationship (he mostly keeps his mouth shut too)(now don’t get me wrong, my dad has been a real jerk with her since they married so I don’t blame her for feeling hurt, but you gotta learn to let things go, she relives every negative event!!!), and her daughters are just disrespectful ingrates who don’t understand her. I guess she does have a sad life…but she does nothing to make things better, it seems she likes to feel sorry for herself and for everyone else to also.


#9

[quote=1ke]Your mother is an emotionally abusive person. If she won’t seek professional help, then I would keep my distance.

You should get some counseling to help you with coping strategies.

[/quote]

She is emotionally abusive and she does need counseling, I just don’t know if it would do any good, whenever anyone contradicts her or tells her something she doesn’t want to hear what they have to say has no merit with her…even if it’s for her own good. When she’s dealt with priests who don’t sympathize with her, or say something she didn’t like she immediately dislikes them. For example, she got this way with the priest at the parish where she lives, now we have to travel 45 minutes to the next town to church because she doesn’t want to attend mass with that priest. Doesn’t that seem like the actions of an unreasonable person? And, because she doesn’t drive, if we don’t take her or want to go that far to church it’s all about how no one understands her, that we do what we want, we don’t respect her, etc., etc. So you see, as long as everyone is doing what she wants life is good, if not well a completely different story ensues. I don’t know what to do, I certainely hope she does go to counseling someday.


#10

I cannot state with certainty that your mother is emotionally abusive and needs counselling. I do know that we say things to our parents that we would never say to a friend even if we were mad at them. I think that you are very brave to admit that your communication skills need some work - and when it comes right down to it, we can only improve ourselves and not anyone else.

I know that there are times when I think “If my mom says that one more time I am going to scream” and I love and respect and like my mom. In other words, just as often as I drive her crazy she does the same to me.
We are human - and we all have foibles.

What can you do in regard to your relationship that would be in line with the three pillars of Lent - prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving? Think outside the box - what can you do to make the relationship good without becoming a doormat?


#11

[quote=Lexee15]I am, by no means, perfect or the perfect communicator, but I do try to learn from my mistakes and if someone tells me enough times about a character flaw I have to really look at myself and wonder why I’m hearing the same thing from different people. I’ve been dealing with this for as long as I can remember and I was the closer one to my mom. We didn’t get along at all during my adolescent years, but once I got passed that and matured a little I realized “I” didn’t have to fight about everything with her…if she wanted to then fine, I refused to engage. So it stopped, with me, the fighting continued with my sister. She’s made some bad choices and doesn’t like to get called on them and considering that my mother never lets anything go and is brought up often when it suits her…well you might imagine how they get. Then of course I have to hear them talk about each other etc., etc.

[/quote]

I feel your pain. My mother and sister hate each other. I am not exagerating or being dramatic. They have both openly stated this in regards to the other. They both use every opportunity to complain about the other. I cannot even mention the other in abstract or I get to hear a never ending tirade. I know what you mean about the guilt trips and such. Sometimes being around my mom or sister is a hardship and an emotional strain. It is impossible to tell what will set them off so you have to be extra vigilant the entire time you are with them. One misguided remark and you end up with nothing but heck in the end. I have been in your shoes more than once and I don’t really have any advice to offer other than to pray. I don’t know how many times I have wanted to snap but have recited the Lord’s Prayer or a Hail Mary while listening to these tirades, guilt trips, and otherwise nonsensical negativity. Then, there are the times that I am having a bad day and react just like you did. Sometimes we all snap in the face of adversity. Don’t beat yourself up and just try harder next time. I can say from experience that you are the one that is going to have to carry this burden. They are oblivious to how difficult it is to have a relationship with them and nothing will ever change that. I hate to be cynical but you just have to decide how much you are willing to put up with and draw the line. I continually have to redraw the line. They are continually stepping over the line and reeking havoc on me and my family. I got to listen to a bunch of hooey this evening when I declared that I am going to have a family weekend with my kids and husband. I told her that we have had too much interference in our family time and I got to listen to how she was not the culprit, yadda yadda yadda…Guilt trip for wanting to have my husband and children to myself on Sunday. I should shut up now because you are the one seeking advice and I could go on forever. Sorry for letting off a little steam. :smiley:


#12

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