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woman who reads too much

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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.

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[User Picture]
Date:April 30th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC)

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)
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