Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by nlj, Oct 22, 2015.
True. For me, the challenge now is to see myself through my own eyes, and not through their abusive or disparaging eyes. As we've gone through and processed childhood trauma here on FOO Chronicles, that is the thing that has changed. However successfully we may have lived our lives, those negatives from childhood somehow retain strength and color and sap energy until we revisit and clear the trauma. It's been the most amazing thing.
I still remember what FOO means, in Wales, nlj.
I actually think of your definition, all the time.
Aparently it has its origins in the latin word 'fufuris' (pronounced foo foo riss) which means 'split'.
Etymology is great isn't it?
By the way...
Do you use the word 'steaming' to mean drunk over there? I was watching a TV programme yesterday evening and something came up about alcohol being available on steam ships during prohibition, even though it was illegal on land. So people used to go on steam ship cruises to get drunk, hence the word 'steaming'. Love it. Should have studied and taught languages instead of maths , could have filled my head with loads of useless bits of interesting information like this.
My mother carefully crafted our reality, so that we would see our father as the 'bad' parent. In reality it was our mother that had the true drinking problem, it was our mother that said all the ugly hateful things about us and then blamed them on our father. I am not saying that my father was a great parent, but I do believe the only reason he stuck around was to protect us. My mother is slipping and the truth is coming out in dribs and drabs.
My mother is now 84. She has signs of early dementia and is often confused (although still capable of nastiness). One of the most noticeable things is that she has always had 2 personas, the one for me and my brother and the one for other people. We have noticed exactly the same as you, that she is no longer able to maintain the facade and the truth is coming out in dribs and drabs. In particular, her man friend often says to me about particular characteristics that she is now showing to him, things he's never experienced before, and I have to say that she's had those characteristics for the past 50 years or more (that I can remember) but has never shown them to him. She's now no longer able to maintain the dual personalities. So the side of her that my brother and I have seen is presumably the true one and the other one is now too hard for her to conjure up.
I don't love my mother, so I am able to watch this and be fascinated by it, without being upset by it.
I had believed my mother's escalating nastiness since my father's death had to do with his passing. Or maybe, with her increasing closeness to my sister and to her family. Or with my own heightened awareness of just how weirdly inappropriate so much of what happens in my family of origin is.
But maybe, what is happening as my mother lives her life unrestrained by my father, is that "the truth is coming out in dribs and drabs". From my mother's delight at being the only one left (to tell and thus, define the family's story), to her seeming determination to destroy the reputations of the living and especially, the dead; all of it so hurtful and pointless and ugly. For instance, my mother has concocted a murder mystery in which my paternal grandmother (whom my mother has always hated with a sustained intensity) is a feckless, murdering villain. She will place this information in the family geneology.
There is such ugliness in the story and there was never a word of any of it breathed before everyone who could challenge my mother had died. There are a thousand other oddnesses, large and small, and all of it seems to have a cutting edge that is razor sharp.
Just as you both are describing, where your own mothers are concerned.
I am stumbling, again. I just always accommodated my mother. Or, my sister. I am still finding myself confronted with the differences between what was objectively real, and what I believed.
I haven't seen my mother for nearly two years, now. I remember so clearly the almost insectile feel of her watching me. Her eyes were never still; it was like she was forever refocusing. So, there was no steady eye contact, the way there is with most people. Always, that sense of bullying antagonism.
As the time has passed since I have had to do with my family of origin, I see the creaking awfulness in the day to day reality of it.
What was the matter with my mother.
There was something the matter with my mother. That is why everything happened as it did. I am coming into balance around that. But in all of my life, I believed my mother was normal.
How strange that seems to me, now.
How awful, that we were all affected as we were.
I am thinking hard about your comment about your father, pasa.
Here is an interesting thing. As I accepted that there were serious strangenesses in the way my family of origin interacts, there came a time when I would remember a given incident and realize that I understood I had not been responsible. And I realized that always before, I must have believed that somehow, I was responsible. As we began this process of reviewing our traumatic pasts, there came a time too when I no longer wondered what was the matter with me for thinking as I was thinking, about people I was supposed to love. I wondered whether I might have been secretly mean all along, and whether that was the reason these things happened. (Remember when I was forever posting: What kind of person thinks like this.) At some point, I seem to have stopped doing that. I post things indicating an acknowledgment of the ugliness of it, but I seem not to question my own integrity in confessing or reviewing my own memories.
So at some point, there was a time when I did not believe myself, or when I did not believe I was entitled to respectful treatment...and that is resolving in my favor.
I am beginning to see almost everything from a different perspective, just lately. Even where my mom and my sister are concerned, it's like we are all caught in something; like we are trapped somehow, and going through the gears.
So, that is an important piece to note.
I don't know whether that is how it looks once we are not feeling ashamed of ourselves for choices others make, or just what this is.
It isn't so much that I am blaming someone else in order to acknowledge that I am not responsible so much as it is that there seems to be some complex thing, turning and turning and turning.
It isn't that I am not judging. If anything, I am judging, laying blame, assigning responsibility. If anything, I am seeing that my sister, my mother, my brother ~ me, too ~ all of us, adults making choices. This is very different imagery than that family dinner I was always posting about. This is the imagery that has taken its place. People making choices for their own best benefit. If my situation were different, I may have made the same choices my sibs have made, or even, those that my mother made, and continues to make.
The final observation is that this same mindset that we were responsible for, or that we somehow deserved, or that we had no right to complain and demand redress for wrongnesses done us ~ this is how we saw what was happening as our children became more and more troubled. That is what did us in and made us weak. That set of belief systems.
How could we be angry with the kids, how could we stop enabling, when we feel every hurt, every failure, was our fault, was some shortcoming we could not see.
It's something like that that I am thinking, this afternoon.
I don't know whether I am making a valid point or not.
It has to do with seeing our siblings as persons we are required to protect though they are in their fifties and sixties. It has something to do with our inabilities to see our adult children as adults, and with enabling ~ with how and why we enable, and with what keeps us hooked in to that.
But I am not through it yet.
So I am not so sure how all the pieces go together.
My brother and I had this conversation.
The myth, when my father was alive, was that he was the baddie and mother was the victim in their marriage. It occurred to both my brother and me separately, that actually it was mother who was the baddie and that she had concocted the long-suffering-little-wife routine. Mother moaned constantly about my father when he was alive, then when he died she became the grieving widow, driven to insanity by grief. She spent a year phoning my brother and me every night to tell us that she was going to kill herself. Then, she met some bloke who took notice of her, she turned into a new version of herself, the silly firting version. She stopped having anything to do with her grandchildren because they didn't fit with this new version of herself as the merry widow looking for fun with younger men. She was too young and too much fun to be with to be a granny.
My father wasn't a great parent either Pas, but if my mother hadn't been around poisoning everything maybe we could have had a more positive relationship than the one we did have.
I'm pretty sure that my mother has borderline personality disorder.
I've discussed this with my brother. It's hard to reach any other conclusion.
Does this excuse her behaviour or merely explain it?
No! My mother hastened my father's death, because she was tired of sitting in his hospital room. He was in the last stages of Parkinson's disease. She would force liquids by mouth knowing he could not swallow unless he was positioned just so. My brother caught her and had her barred from his room. The staff believed that it was accidental, but my brother had medical power of attorney. This gave her the platform to play the wronged widow.
my mom decided our roles but took no responsibility for her cruelty to me. im sorry i didnt leave her at 18.
I feel that way, too. That I should have just walked away as soon as I was old enough to walk. The thing is, we did not know just how abnormal our families of origin were.
We just didn't know.
I knew. But that was because I had a step father.
Had it been my mother and sister, I would have stayed tied in, I think. It would have been all over for me.
But my step-father was so sadistically cruel and my mother and sister so allied with him against me, that after about 12 years old it was as clear as a bell that I was in a world of hurt.
Even still it was awfully difficult to separate from my mother, and I did not do it until I was about 28, even though I had left home a decade earlier. There was so much I had needed from her, that I wanted.
I believe you that you did not know how strange was your family. But I would suspect it was a willful disbelief, so as to protect yourselves and them. Because they are all we have...until we learn that it is better without them. It is so, so sad.
I think you are right, Copa. I did know the difference between the way my home felt, and the way the homes of other little girls felt. I did know other little girls seemed not to be afraid of their mothers, almost sickened in their presence, the way that I was. Even now, I have a sense of surprise as I pull the facts together.
It is sad, Copa.
But when I really begin to understand the hidden or underlying dynamic in my family of origin, I am more proud and amazed at myself that I came out of it as me. I love it that we are working at this level.
When I am sad, I am sad for me, now.
I am not forever believing we can do better, believing that somehow, we can be like other families if only someone is willing to make dinner to which all are welcome.
That is not how things are done, in my family of origin.
In this phase of my recovery, that is the realization that heals.
It is like living in the dark, and in the desert in the cold of the night and finding it beautiful. (Neitzsche, however we spell it, fits, here: We love because love came first.) And then, one day, you go to the seashore.
And you learn the others have always lived near the sea, and that you never even knew such a free and beautiful thing as a seashore existed. Could it be possible to claim that bright freedom for your own life?
That is what this part feels like.
How sad for all of us, and how truly fortunate, however sad it is, that I can see it this way, now.
I can see the beatings differently. I can see the expectations so differently as to make me now, clear as glass. For the mother in my family of origin, desert was preferred choice. Weakening us, keeping us weak and divided was (and continues to be) the only way to empower herself.
Power, as opposed to love or joy.
And it just rings true. And it is a sadness, but it does not make me sad.
It just is.
So, a form of Radical Acceptance, then.
Even this business of shunning and the threat of it ~ I think that has always been the dynamic. I had posted, back in the beginning, about a birthday party my mother gave for me. (The only one, unless I am remembering incorrectly.) And how sick I made myself worrying that she would treat me publicly as she did in private, and how badly I did not want that to happen in front of the other little girls.
Nothing bad happened, but I can remember so much about that afternoon, and about the party itself, all of it with that electric taste in my mouth; all of it focused on my mother's face, and a sense of powerlessness.
Maybe I was just a very weird little girl. But I think that is so beautifully not true.
So, you are very right, Copa.
I did know. I just did not let myself remember correctly. Unless a thing was very traumatic, I did not remember it. Or I forgave it, never considering how the thing was generated, where it had come from, how it could be. But those are very important questions, when we forgive and those we love (and I do love them, actually) are toxic to us,and the toxicity is an intentional thing. We can forgive and be forgiven when we were unconscious, but these people are adults, too. They know what they are doing as surely as I do myself.
I don't feel I can effect anything happening in my family of origin, today ~ don't feel I would be able to change to what they want without compromising the essentialness of me.
And of course, that is true.
I no longer believe in that family dinner I was so sure we could create.
Another way to understand this true thing has not yet evolved. That emptiness is why we are sad, Copa. Nothing to do with the real people in our families of origin. We are sad at the emptiness and at the pointless, endless ugliness ~ at the cheapness of what was bought, and at the cost of it to ourselves.
That is sad.
But it is better to know.
Still, being shunned sucks very much. Even when we do understand, or at least, have a glimmering of beginning to understand, the dynamic behind it. I read something once about "As above, so below." The meaning I took from that is that we can learn about our own finite worlds and understand how things work both microscopically and metaphysically. (If that is the word I want.) I do know there are families where the family dynamic is a very, very different thing. I have seen and worked with them. The difference echoes Serenity's posting to us about role flexibility versus role rigidity.
So there is hope for us all, then.
Perhaps the most strengthening thing for us, for those treated so outrageously unfairly, so stupidly meanly as children, that is the most cleansing thing we could know. Maybe, we should begin a study of healthy families. Here is something else I read: "If you would be healthy, study health."
That is where we will go as we heal.
To be affected by neither blame nor praise.
That is the center, the point of balance.
Ouch. This is so good. Rings so true. Often I was scared of how my mother would react to something small...like her tantrum when I cut my hair. I do think I knew my mother was differebt from early on, and not in a good way.
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