Playing Mind Games with Myself

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Acacia, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    My 32 year old son was released from jail a week and a half ago. He'd been incarcerated for most of the last 3 years. He is controlling and narcissistic, won't listen to anyone, wants little to do with me except to rescue him or to take care of his problems. Over the years I've gotten stronger and have set firmer boundaries, so he can't live with us or come to the house.

    My husband, his stepdad, wants nothing to do with him because he has made up lies and has been threatening in the past and never apologized. My son keeps saying he wants to be part of the family and doesn't understand why we are so mean to him.

    He is trying to get custody of his 3 year old daughter who is in foster care. I keep lying to myself that he has changed, so I agreed to give him financial help to get on his feet. I didn't attach any strings, and already I see him making incredibly short-sighted choices. The money will be gone soon, and I feel like, once again, I threw good money after bad.

    I feel like an idiot, but I keep playing these mind games with myself that he feels rejected by us, and that if we just let him at least come to the house to visit, things would be okay. I know this isn't logical because even when I think of having him at my home, my PTSD kicks in. Still, I'm beating myself up and am almost making myself sick thinking about him blaming me and harassing me when things fall apart again.

    How do I get out of this FOG? Any advice is appreciated. I've done years of therapy, 12 step, etc., but I still have so far to go to really detach.
  2. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    Just like our Difficult Children and Addicts, we have to hit rock bottom before we can begin to climb out of the pit of despair, shame, and guilt. Even then, just like any other change, it takes time. From what I just read, it sounds like you're making that climb. And just like with addicts, we will sometimes backslide. You want your son back and that's understandable. Just remember that he's brought all of this upon himself and its not on you to save him. I know, easier said than done!
  3. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    Acacia Your post sounds like I could have written it. My son was in Jail for about 6 months and recently got out. I am trying so hard to detach. My husband is helping me by fielding messages because I would give in when I shouldn't. To add to the fun my son is trying to get visitation with his son and begging us for help financially we told him no. The hard part is we chose not to see our grandson so we could not be put in the middle both he and his ex especially his ex misinterpret everything that is said and use it against him. I am so tired of the drama as I am sure you are. Same situation with son everything is our fault. I hope you are able to recognize that it is not our fault. I know it is very hard and I struggle just like you do. Prayers.
  4. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Something that really helped me took place during a counseling session. I was saying how hurt, how sad, how angry, etc I felt and he said, “Of course you do. You’re his mother.”

    Seeing that my feelings weren’t wrong but instead were a natural response meant I could accept them without the desperation of believing I had to act on them or try to make them stop.

    It’s so hard, Acacia. I will be following others’ responses too; we all can use more detachment skills.

    Nice to “see” you, Jabber!
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Acacia, first of all, try hard to let go of the beating yourself up about your reactions to your son's behavior..... you're trying to make sense of and respond to 'insane' behavior........behavior which is not normal or healthy, behavior designed to manipulate, guilt, shame and produce results which continue the enabling. A therapist once told me that "when you engage with crazy people, you too become crazy." (Excuse the term (judgement) "crazy" I am taking the conversation out of context, we were discussing my mentally ill family members and my relentless attempts to make sense out of it all.) I got the point.

    I was responding AS IF the conversation were was FAR from normal, it was a tactic to get me feel a certain way so I would produce the desired result. That helped me to stop engaging once I saw it for what it was. I continued to stop engaging and stop engaging and over time, it became considerably easier to stop my part in those circular conversations........and once my part was stopped, the conversations ceased.

    What also helped me get out of the FOG was to address my own propensity to NOT set strong boundaries, to address the guilt I felt when I did set boundaries and to look at my own fear and sense of powerlessness when I am confronted with things I cannot control. Fortunately I found a course on codependency lead by therapists and I was able to address all of that in a therapeutic situation. I learned how to let go of my own fear and how to accept what I can't change. Although change was precipitated by my daughter's ended up being about me.

    I began looking at it from a more spiritual perspective.....I began reading Eckart Tolle books about staying in the present moment. I read Pema Chodron's books on living with uncertainty and "places that scare you." She's a Buddhist nun who writes beautifully on how to learn to live with chaos and uncertainty. I began meditating and finding quiet time to reflect. I changed my diet and began a rigorous exercise program. I started yoga. I recently started EMDR which is a short term therapy for trauma, it's been extremely helpful. After many, many years of focusing on my daughter's issues, I began focusing on myself and what I wanted and what I was willing to do, what I was not willing to do and what made me happy. That switch in focus was the most important thing I've done to help myself get out of the FOG.

    I believe as long as we are mired in our kids struggles, all we can do is react to them and their behaviors.........when I shifted the priority to myself, I began "responding" rather than "reacting" because my SELF was filled up and nurtured by ME, and as a result I was calmer, more peaceful, happier, healthier and more open to change. I learned how to step back from the precipice and not respond at all.....I learned how to wait......I learned how to refrain from reacting......I learned good, strong , healthy boundaries so when I was confronted with another inappropriate request, I could step back, figure out how I really felt and respond in my truth. Once I made that switch, my daughter learned how to deal with the new dialogue and things between she and I improved. However, there are parents here who have made the same choices and their adult kids have chosen to have no contact. That IS a risk if you don't offer what it is they want.

    You've set strong boundaries about your son living with you and coming to your home which are vital and necessary......and now that he is out of jail, it is simply time to fine tune your boundaries....a new opportunity for growth and healing. Don't bother beating yourself up, you've done a good job's now the next level of letting go and acceptance.

    I'd encourage you, right now, to begin doing things that make you happy, to focus on what you want and what you put yourself as the PRIORITY.....what we often forget when dealing with our troubled kids is that WE MATTER, OUR LIVES MATTER, OUR DREAMS MATTER, OUR DESIRES MATTER, OUR TRUTH matter Acacia....put your son on the back burner of your life and find your joy......I believe that's the fastest path out of the FOG.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  6. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    RE, thank you. I think that is exactly what I took away from the counselor, and what I was trying to say. I was able to separate the NORMAL of my feelings from the ABNORMAL of stepping in when it was no longer appropriate to do so.

    For me, once I could separate my emotional response as a mother from the actions I expected myself to have as a
    "good" mother, it was as if the penny dropped. It is OK to feel the things I do, but that does not mean I have to jump in to fix the situations that cause them.

    He is my child, and I will hurt when he hurts. That will never change, but I can't fix his hurt for him anymore. It doesn't mean I love him any less or support him any less.
  7. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Thanks all for your kind and wise replies. I get the 'crazy' part because that's how I feel when I try to have a rational conversation with my two difficult, irrational adult children. Tired, like you, I don't have contact with my granddaughter because of how toxic it has been to be stuck in the middle between my son and his ex. It breaks my heart because at 3 my granddaughter already had a really hard life, but it is what it is.

    Re, I am on the same path - Tolle, Chodrin, codependency, but you are farther along, and I appreciate having you as a model of someone who is doing the hard work and experiencing true growth and serenity. My 37 year old borderline daughter cut off all contact with me and, therefore, I haven't seen both of my grandchildren for nine months, but however difficult I would not change my decision to take care of myself and set boundaries.

    Caroly Myss once said the greatest betrayal is when we betray ourselves. For years and years I betrayed myself by allowing my difficult adult children to use me, manipulate me, guilt me, disregard and disrespect me, and yet I kept giving because I thought that's what a good mother does. I gave them money, time, kindness, a home, love, and more. Even though I struggle emotionally still, I am not willing to betray myself anymore. Sometimes I slip up, but I keep making progress, and I am learning to be as fiercely protective of me as I was of my children.
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  8. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    You to Albatross!