We live in a harsh world. Some learn this earlier than others, having been victimized by their own parents. Then they grow up and try to get rid of their childhood memories as of a nightmare.
This is the simplest and, at first glance, the logical way. Memory, however, is not a piece of paper where you can erase scratchy writing and re-write everything prettily. As a result, difficult memories continue to distress grown-up children. They affect their relationships and the bringing up of their own children.
What can you do? Completely forget about the existence of your now-feeble parents? See a psychologist and dig through this horror? Bring up from the bottom of your memory the feelings offense, unfairness, uselessness and your parents’ dislike? You don’t have to. There are less painful, constructive solutions.
Principle one – no excuses!
Have you ever seen kids torturing a cat? Tins tied to a tail are the most humane of the sadistic amusements that their immature brain can come up with. Will you excuse these kids if you become an accidental witness?
Will you say that their lives are tough, that they are upset because of a bad grade or an unhappy home? Will stupidity, immaturity or lack of education be an excuse? It's unlikely. After all, the kids realize that they should not torment animals. They are simply having fun and want to do that to a cat. They want to hurt a live helpless creature.
Children torment animals and adults torment other people, big and little. You’ll know what I am talking about if you were treated harshly when you were little. Without a question, there may have been thousands of reasons for your parents’ cruelty. It may be that they yelled at you or, worse yet, raised an angry hand to you simply because of their own helplessness, their own weakness or fear. It doesn’t really matter.
Why does no one look for excuses for a fiend, but psychologists recommend finding excuses and forgiving cruel parents? After all, your parents realized just as well as those kids that they were hurting you. That you were suffering. That you were in pain.
So there is no sense in denying that:
- Your parents knew that they were being sadistic.
- They had a choice! Because they were cruel to a small child, but it is unlikely that they behaved that way towards their boss at work. That means they could have chosen to behave differently, they just didn’t want to.
It is very simple. There is no need to try to find excuses, find explanations, etc. You can find them if you try. I can find them for you in a list of 100 items and they will be so touching that you will cry over their terrible fate.
For you, however, for your mental well-being, it makes no sense whatsoever. It is better to simply accept reality:
— Yes, at that time your parents chose to be that way. Just like that boy chose to torture a cat. They bear the responsibility for it.
Principle two – no pity!
I am certainly not calling on you to attack your elderly parents, yelling and punching them. I am not advocating meeting cruelty with cruelty. First of all, I would like to talk to you about “mental” punches. After all, your relationship with your sadistic mother is sure follow a well-developed pattern.
- Mother demands attention. Naturally, your interests are never part of the picture. You are resting after a difficult day at work/ trying to relax in the middle of a deadline/ spending quality time with your loved one (pick one). Suddenly, the phone rings – it’s your mother. Despite the fact that you have no wish to talk to her, you always pick up. (Because it’s your mom. Besides, if you don’t pick up now, it’ll only get worse…)
“Come by my house right away! I think my microwave is broken (I need a dresser moved, go to a store because there is a sale),” your mom lays down the law in a commanding voice.
“Mom, I can’t today. I have plans. Let’s do it over the weekend?”
“I can’t wait! How am I supposed to live for three days without a microwave (the sale will be over, the dresser will fall on my head)? It’s impossible! We have to clear this up right away. You can’t desert your own mother in need.”
The hysteria in her voice is rising.
- Mother tries blackmail. If you do not give up under the barrage of screaming and demands, big guns come to play.
“You are heartless! I am old and sick (even though her cast-iron vocal cords, nerves, and charge are the envy of 20-year-olds). Oh, it’s hard to breath. You have no pity for me! My heart… (even though the doctor is convinced that there is only lively imagination there).”
Here your mother ostentatiously clutches at her heart, groans and helplessly falls back in her chair. Generally using anything she can to pull what she wants out of you.
She is so convincing that at some point you allow the thought that this time she may be telling the truth, and yield.
- Mother throws her weight about. It’s a piece of cake for her to cuss you out for nothing, to bring back your childhood or teenage mistakes, or to flare up.
“I’m your mother! How dare you argue with me? How did your puny, dim brain come up with the idea that you have the right! Get your stuff right now and I’ll see you in half an hour! I don’t want to hear any excuses. You owe everything to me. Just remember that!”
All of that is said in a commanding well-trained voice. Without a single pause, so that you have no time to come to your senses and voice an argument. Then there is a click and a dial tone. “No” is not an acceptable answer.
Do you want to change something in your relationship? Stop pitying her, following her lead and pandering to her unbalanced behavior. In order to sort out the mess in your head, figure out first what really makes your mom tick.
Why does your mom behave like that?
The favorite argument of many of my clients is that it’s just mom’s personality.
“She is short-tempered, aggressive and flares up about anything. What can I do?
This cast-iron argument, however, washes up with elementary logic. Does your flammable mother really behave as aggressively with her boss or in a meeting with an official? Does she imitate a heart attack for her colleagues or scream blue murder at the neighbors or strangers in a grocery store? Not at all. When she’s there, she’s quite reasonable. She can control herself too. I am sure that the most hysterical of mothers with the most volatile temper is capable of keeping herself in hand.
Because social standards and trivial subordination make her control her emotions. She realizes that the official will show her out, the colleagues will simply walk away, the neighbors will shut the door in her face and the boss will simply fire her without much ado.
So why does your mother allow herself to behave so obnoxiously to you? The answer is obvious: because she is not afraid to lose you. She knows for a fact that you will bear with her, understand her, forgive her, swallow any insult and will do what she demands of you.
Training by silence
Next time your mother flares up, try to look at the situation in a detached way. After all, she is behaving like a six-year-old who sprawls on the floor of the grocery store, screaming “I want candy!” If we were truly talking about a child’s hysterics, would you really overindulge and buy the candy?
Then why does your mother always get what she wants? Instead of putting a stop to aggressive behavior, you reinforce it – you sympathize and comfort and “give her candy.” The more hysterical your mom gets, the more energy, attention, and love she gets from you.
If it works every time, WHY should she change her behavior? Why should she treat you differently?
There is only one solution: stop encouraging her. Let your mother get attention, care, comfort or whatever else she wants. But only when she treats you well!
Reaction to unbalanced behavior should be definite – stop talking, hang up, ignore her calls, give her the silent treatment for as long as it takes.
- If the conflict takes place while you’re in public – leave immediately.
- If your mom goes into overdrive over the phone, tell her that your battery is low and hang up.
The main thing is not to follow her lead! You can tell her that you are not OK with her behavior and warn her of the consequences. Make sure you only do it when she is in a good mood and ready to listen to you.
You will need to be patient and persistent. You need to formulate a new behavioral stereotype when your mother will actually be afraid to lose you, because you always stand back and disappear in response to unbalanced behavior.
In half a year your implacable, flaring and “inflammable” mother will be the sweetest person when dealing with you.