Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My anxious mother

Dear Edahn, 

Tell me your thoughts on this. I have a mother who for the most part of my life has been "supportive." Only, as I grew older I started to realize that something wasn't quite right. 

I am currently in a graduate program. For many years now when I touched upon the subject of building a life for myself, a career, and eventually becoming independent and moving out on my own (yes, I still live at home), the first sentiments she would express amounted to her being proud. Only by the end of such a conversation, she always ended up by painting a clear picture of how hard life is, and that I will never make it on my own, that i would never make enough to pay the bills or live on my own, etc. She never failed to remind me how hard it would be to find a job, and that the debt would kill me. (Keep in mind, I am in a J.D. program and that my future plans always consisted in renting a not at all expensive apartment, nothing luxurious.)

For many years I felt afraid of life, not to mention even of people. Ever since I have distanced myself from her, though I still live at home, keeping conversation to a minimum, and all this for some time now, I feel I have grown enormously, as if I've come out of some dark, sinister world. I trust in myself and I know that is a good thing.

The last sentence captures it all -- you trust in yourself now. I think your mom lacks Trust, capital T. She doesn't trust that things will be okay and that people will be safe. When her anxiety starts flaring up and poking holes in things, she's not really aware of what's happening or doesn't have the skills to control it. So inevitably, her anxiety runs wild and tramples on other people's sense of Trust by convincing them that things, other people, and the future, aren't safe.

Understanding what's going on is really the key to climbing out of it, as you're already doing. You may want to take it a step further and ask "why hasn't she taken responsibility about her anxiety?" Is she unaware? Does she lack the inner strength to challenge it? Does she lack of understanding of where her anxiety originated? Did she, for example, have her own anxious mother? Is she, perhaps, worried that you're going to become too independent and abandon her?

Asking these questions will help you see that your mom isn't vindictive or blameworthy. She's got her own issues, her own fears, her own shady upbringing that has disturbed her peace of mind in the same way yours was disturbed. Just as I wouldn't blame you but encourage you, with kindness, to understand what's going on and make the necessary corrections, I wouldn't blame your mother either and would treat her with the same care. If you can really appreciate the similarities between you and your mom, you can find a good balance so that you're not so close that you let her anxiety trample you, but not so far that you lose your relationship with her.

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