Question: Dear Luise: My problem is with my mother. I can’t seem to help myself from picking her apart every time I see her. Not that there isn’t a lot of room in her for improvement. She is a problem drinker. So was was my father, who no longer lives with her. He was critical when he had no right to be. I turn over a new leaf in my mind, but when I see her, away I go. Not only do I feel deeply angry at her, but when we get together I also end of hating myself for my lack of control. Can you help me? Mark
Answer: Dear Mark: I want to acknowledge you for the high level of honesty you have evidenced in your question. It may come naturally to you, but for many, rationalization is the “softer, easier way”. I would suggest that you talk with your mother about this. Yes, I know it may sound weird, but I think the first step may be disclosure. Not an “I’m wrong” kind of thing because you’re probably right on, but an honest effort to let her know how hard it is for you to see her expressing her unhappiness in such a self-destructive way. Let her know that you don’t want to parent her, and that you are going to try to create some distance for a while until you can get yourself into a more comfortable space. Then, go to work. Find a good therapist, read up on “merging”, which simply means you don’t know where her issues stop and yours begin, and start to extricate yourself from your father’s role.
One of the reasons that many of us get so entangled with the very real issues of family members is that it’s a dandy way not to focus on and work through our own stuff. Your mother is right there, in your face, how can you ignore that? Sound familiar? Ask yourself how much change your criticism of her has brought about? Big difference, right? What is it costing you? This is where you want to put your attention, on your own needs and feelings. You didn’t get the parents you would have liked to have gotten in the “birth-lottery”. Welcome to a huge club! (I belong to it, too, by the way.) It’s time to work through that and move on. The most encouraging fact that you presented to me in your question is how badly you feel after you have let her have it. You really don’t want to continue this pattern. Healing is the next step, Mark. You’re ready! Blessings, Luise