?

Log in

No account? Create an account

woman who reads too much

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
04:33 pm: boundary scripts

Scorpio Horoscope for week of February 5, 2015
In 1837, Victoria became Queen of England following the death of her uncle, King William IV. She was 18 years old. Her first royal act was to move her bed out of the room she had long shared with her meddling, overbearing mother. I propose that you use this as one of your guiding metaphors in the immediate future. Even if your parents are saints, and even if you haven't lived with them for years, I suspect you would benefit by upgrading your independence from their influence. Are you still a bit inhibited by the nagging of their voices in your head? Does your desire to avoid hurting them thwart you from rising to a higher level of authority and authenticity? Be a good-natured rebel.
I am really irritable with my mom right now. She's coming to Portland for Nixie's graduation, and so are my brother and sister and their kids and partners. I haven't seen any of them for years. My mom pointed out that Chris's kids are in seventh and fourth grades, and asked how long ago I had seen them, and said, "Oh, Susan." (Say "You're such a disappointment." That's the intonation my mom used to say, "Oh, Susan.") Now, it is true that I am, as I always have been, the shy one, the one who is always too tired, the one who would rather not go. (It is also true that the last time I went to Seattle I did not visit my brother (but my mom doesn't know that.)) But since Chris got married, I have taken my children to Seattle to visit his family three times. He has come to Colorado to visit my family zero times. I think she is reproaching the wrong person here.

I snapped at her for reproaching me. She said it wasn't a reproach. I said, "I think you meant that I should have gone there more often." She said she didn't say "should".

Then she said, "Don't get upset." Which. What!? What purpose does that serve? What purpose does a person saying that think that it serves? Is it possible to believe that it will help the other person not get upset?

I don't know, because I don't say things like that, but I can't see it as anything other than a dominance gesture. It presupposes that I, the speaker, am calm and rational, while you, the spoken-to, are irrational and emotional and upset. It presupposes that I am entitled to tell you what to feel. And it shifts the ground, so that the problem is no longer whatever I did; the problem is that you got upset.

I would prefer not to get upset. I prefer to remain calm, self-contained, arm's-length, unrufflable; to stay inside my boundaries and keep out of my mom's; specifically, not to react to what I think she's thinking. That's none of my business. What she says to me might be my business, but I'm trying to figure out how not to let it get under my skin.

But I think my mom wants us to be closer. I think she wants us to be affectionately close, or, failing that, to fake it; but I think she would rather ruffle me than let me stay at arm's length.

I'm working on scripts for when we are in person:

No hugging.

Because I don't want to.

"Because I don't want to" doesn't need a reason. It is the reason.

Because every time you touch me I flash back to that moment when I was twenty and you grabbed me between my breasts and stuck your thumb under my bra band and snapped it in order to prove that I wasn't wearing a bra, so I want you to keep your creepy creepy hands off my body -- I mean, I really think you'd rather I didn't answer that question.

This entry was originally posted at http://boxofdelights.dreamwidth.org/268149.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Comments

[User Picture]
From:lookfar
Date:April 29th, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
I hate when people say, "don't get upset." I read it the same way you do - "Your feelings and lack of self control are the only problem here."
[User Picture]
From:siderea
Date:April 29th, 2015 04:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
Because every time you touch me I flash back to that moment when I was twenty and you grabbed me between my breasts and stuck your thumb under my bra band and snapped it in order to prove that I wasn't wearing a bra, so I want you to keep your creepy creepy hands off my body

EWWWWWWWW.

I mean, I really think you'd rather I didn't answer that question.

Maybe you should. Would serve her right.

You have my sympathy. I hesitate to criticize someone's mother to them, but... wow. That must be, and have been... challenging... to deal with.

Would you like some unsolicited advice?
[User Picture]
From:boxofdelights
Date:April 29th, 2015 05:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Consider it solicited!
[User Picture]
From:siderea
Date:April 30th, 2015 04:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
Three things you wrote resonated against each other for me.

The first was her telling you "don't get upset" (for which, btw, two excellent retorts are, "Why not?!" and "Don't upset me!"). The second was this:
I prefer to remain calm, self-contained, arm's-length, unrufflable; to stay inside my boundaries and keep out of my mom's; specifically, not to react to what I think she's thinking. That's none of my business. What she says to me might be my business, but I'm trying to figure out how not to let it get under my skin.
People who have the sorts of parents who tell them, even in adulthood, to not get upset at the parent when the parent transgresses their boundaries, often grow up with certain ideas about how they should be. It is not so uncommon that they think that it's their job not to have any reaction to provocations, because they were punished when they did as a child; they may have learned non-responsiveness -- playing possum -- as a survival skill, and even into adulthood have a kind of desperate faith in "not letting things get under my skin" to keep them safe.

But that's often a form of magical thinking: "if only I'm good enough about keeping my hands to myself, she'll keep her hands to herself. If only I give her nothing to respond to, she won't transgress my boundaries."

Which doesn't really work.

It doesn't work because magical thinking. But it also doesn't work because what she wants most of all is for you to sit there and take it. It's her winning condition. Your not struggling against her won't make her desist and look for livelier prey. No, she'll just batten on and suck your blood to her heart's content.

That's written in her behavior, right? She wants to shame you and run you down you and otherwise feed her emotional needs on you, and whenever you try to fend her off, as per this example, she pulls dominance maneuvers to put you in your place, right? Her behavior is about punishing you for resisting her, ergo she wants you not to resist her.

Relatedly, the third thing is this:
It presupposes that I, the speaker, am calm and rational, while you, the spoken-to, are irrational and emotional and upset.
Unsaid: and the irrational, emotional, upset person is, because they are irrational, emotional, and upset, wrong, and their agenda consequently ruled invalid. The irrational, emotional, upset person loses the contest of Who Gets To Be Right Here And Have Their Preferences Matter, because they have fouled out by the rules of the game.

The technical term, btw, for this is "invalidation", and it is a cornerstone of abusive relationships.

I would submit that maybe the other player doesn't also get to be the referee at the same time. Just because she has arrogated to herself that position doesn't mean you have to credit her rulings or play along.

In the same way your mother's responses strongly suggest she doesn't want you resisting her using you for emotional gratification, she also doesn't want you to be what she might call "irrational" or "emotional" or "upset". What she did call "upset".

Those are, as used, euphemisms. What they are euphemisms for is angry. She doesn't want you to prevent her from doing as she pleases to you, and she doesn't want you to be angry about her doing as she pleases to you, and she doesn't want you to express anger to her about her doing as she pleases to you.

You are entitled to the feeling of anger. Anger is the normal healthy feeling response to someone transgressing our boundaries. Feeling angry doesn't invalidate anything you think or feel -- not any more than it validates it. Anger -- like all feelings -- exists orthogonally from validity.

[continued]

Edited at 2015-04-30 04:38 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:siderea
Date:April 30th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
[continued]

Furthermore, quite aside from what is safe to do, or tactically advantageous to do, you have a right to express your anger with others. There are more and less ethical ways of expressing anger, and there are more and less effective ways of expressing anger. It is not the case that all expressions of anger are bad -- something many abusers beat into their victims, and that isn't an irony, it's a frank double standard.

Anybody who tries to convince you anger is bad is somebody who wants to be able to dick with you with impunity.

People who grow up believing anger is wrong, and anger is bad, and anger is something they have to not let happen inside them, often believe that learning to handle aggressive/transgressive people is something they first have to get the "self-control" "not to let things get under my skin" to do. That is a set-up to fail. First you have to do something impossible/imprudent (extinguish anger) before you can learn to defend yourself? No, that's not true at all.

The thing to learn is how to take effective action while angry. Or as I put it to my patients, how to be angry better.

Being a bit non-linear here, because I'm out of time, something I would recommend is: stop checking things with her.

I'm sure you have heard it said that it is a good communications practice to check in with others about what you think they mean before proceeding in a conflict, to clear up misunderstandings. And it totally is.

If they're dealing in good faith...
I snapped at her for reproaching me. She said it wasn't a reproach. I said, "I think you meant that I should have gone there more often." She said she didn't say "should".
...which she isn't.

You can't go to her and get verification that what you thought she meant is what she actually meant, even when it really is what she actually meant. So you can just give up and save yourself the aggravation.

The alternative to trying to find epistemic common ground is... to trust your understanding of the situation and to insist on it unilaterally.

I figure you probably know your mother better than (1) any other human you know and (2) any other person not raised by her knows her, what with your having known her your whole life. Chances are, you understand what she means by what she says perfectly well. You are a native of the country of her crazy and speak its language fluently. It is your mother tongue, after all.

So what would change for you if you stopped checking in, and just proceeded as if you knew what you knew, and were as certain of it as if she had spelled it out in words?

What if when she said it wasn't a reproach you didn't respond with "I think you meant that I should have gone there more often", but something out of the certainty it was? It might sound like, "The hell it wasn't," or "you reproached me unfairly and I don't appreciate it," or "then don't use a reproachful tone of voice," or "your opinion on my relationship with hims was not solicited", or continuing to challenge her reproach in the first place. Or maybe something I can't imagine, something that's originally yours.

Edited at 2015-04-30 04:40 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:dracunculus
Date:April 29th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Ugh, yes, every part of her behavior is awful. You are definitely not over-reacting, and you are not the person who is out of line here.

And "don't get upset" is exactly what you think it is. It is never uttered as a sincere attempt to help. It's always a passive-aggressive swipe.
[User Picture]
From:dracunculus
Date:April 29th, 2015 06:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Someone who actually doesn't want to upset the person they're talking to would first take their best guess as to *why* the statement was potentially upsetting (note: this requires empathy) and then speak directly to the root cause in a reassuring way: "Oh no, you didn't do anything wrong!" or "Cross-country trips are really hard to schedule" or even just "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that!"

But it doesn't sound like your mom practices much empathy with you.
[User Picture]
From:pennski
Date:April 29th, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh goodness, please have some unsolicited virtual hugs from over here.
[User Picture]
From:bibliofile
Date:April 30th, 2015 07:29 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oy, relations! So sorry.

OTOH, I think it's cool that everyone's coming to Nixie's graduation. GO NIXIE!!!! (Geez, she's done with college already?!? Excellent work.)
[User Picture]
From:plasticsturgeon
Date:May 4th, 2015 11:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
Ugh, gross horrible mom person! Might as well be rude to her, she's going to say you were anyway.
Powered by LiveJournal.com