Last session focused on my mother. It’s such a difficult topic for me I’ve been reluctant to write about it.
My mother is a good person. She tries very hard. She is the epitome of the ‘good girl’. She has taken care of my father for fifty years. She feeds all who come to her house. She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t gossip, she is never aggressive. She loves literature and is usually reading, when not doing household tasks.
However, we have never been close. It has always seemed as if there was a wall between us. Our conversations is mostly formal and to the point.
I think for one thing, our temperaments have always been at odds.
My mother came to see me about a week ago, and that was what I talked about in therapy. She wanted to talk about some financial arrangements, and about a diagnosis my sister had recently received.
It was unusual for me to have contact with my mother when she is not embedded in my family. We drank green tea and chatted at my kitchen table for about forty minutes. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened.
Usually, my experience has been that my mother doesn’t talk. She gives nothing away. For her, to show any emotion is extremely shameful. To be upset about anything is wrong it seems, beyond mentioning the subject.
Maybe because we were alone, I ventured a criticism. We never had mother daughter fights – I didn’t really know those fights were possible, as a child. And an unspoken rule of my family is you do not criticize. Only my father is allowed to do that.
My sister has never had a regular job – she has been working on a PhD for many many years, since she was in her twenties (we are both now in our fifties). This means she has always been extremely poor. My mother asks, helplessly, why oh why doesn’t she just finish it? She’s so intelligent, etc.
I respond that she would finish it if she could. She has an anxiety which stops her. It’s not that she’s not smart enough, doesn’t work hard, or doesn’t care.
My mother looks completely blank. She is not psychologically minded, and doesn’t understand this.
Then I say, why was it never OK in our family to get an ordinary job – say as a teacher, nurse, or in an office? My sister has not felt that she could give up the degree, and go off and make a living like an ordinary person.
My mother says this is completely false – it’s my imagination entirely. Why, her sister is a nurse!
Then I add that probably, my sister is worried they’d treat her like they treated me. Which my mother pretends not to hear.
My sister was always the star, and I was the loser. It hasn’t worked out much better for her than for me however.
My mother then changes the subject, and soon leaves. She never shows any upset at all, though I know my comments have probably hurt her feelings. After all, I’m blaming her and my father for my sister’s plight.
When I think about this afterwards, it feels somewhat daring to me. I actually ventured to express a real point of view. As has happened all my life, my mother completely and utterly denied my perception.
In my session, I get into some of the devastation I feel when seeing my family, because they all stick together like a lump. I’ve always felt completely crazy when I try to disagree with them.
At this point, I remember little of what Ron said. Which is why I should write things down at the time. Sigh. I remember he said my mother is scared. That she does not seem to have real conversations with anyone.
He also said that he believes me, and he is on my side. It is difficult to speak in contradiction to a family that is sticking together, without support.
This session did plunge me into a depression over the weekend. It is tough to tackle mother.
It seems like my mother puts a frosty glaze over everything, so nothing seems real, and you can’t get your footing, quite.