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Wayward Side :
Past trauma

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 2:49 AM on Thursday, August 18th, 2022

The other day I stumbled upon an article about how people with parents that are emotionally immature grow into people who have been conditioned to check everyone’s weather all the time and make guesses based on that.

I noticed as I started working on mindfulness years ago that I do this. And if I guess they are mad or upset I would tell myself stories about what I did wrong. I began to notice that it made me protective in my relationships. Connection requires vulnerability, but I could not stay vulnerable due to these narratives I built of people over the years.

I am currently staying with my parents because my first granddaughter has been born. We took a break from traveling and my parents is an easy place to stay. I have a good relationship with them but it’s not a connected relationship.

I have never stayed with them for more than a weekend since I left home and observing them it all makes perfect sense how this conditioning happened. My mom is the biggest victim I have ever met. She blames my dad for anything that goes wrong.

Tonight we were FaceTiming with our daughter to meet the baby. (We can’t go in because of Covid precautions) I had to go downstairs to fetch my husband so he could come upstairs with me and talk with them.

My mom poked in and was looking at them on my phone, so I let her see the baby briefly and headed up to our room to have a personal conversation.

I come back down and am told how rude it was, and how she probably would never meet the baby. Throwing a pity party. I was unbothered by it, which was affirming growth I have made in not walking on eggshells with her. I would have probably groveled to her in the past. Her feelings are not my responsibility, and I resent that I was taught they were meant to be.

Because I tried to manage her I learned to anticipate her feelings and modify my behavior. When I failed, I took in the negative tongue lashing and personalized it.

That’s one of many examples that reminded me day by day of this visit why I didn’t understand boundaries, why I am a people pleaser, why I twist myself into a pretzel for others. I understand my choices and behavior are not my parents fault, but I can clearly see where I started these patterns.

It was a full circle moment in some ways, being tested by having to navigate the people who some of it originated with.

I resolved many of these non-helpful thought problems by meditation. People think of meditation as clearing the mind but actually it’s learning to objectively observe your thinking. I took what I would notice to be unhelpful or without evidence and I would write it down. I wouldn’t do more than three at a time

Then, I would write a very short list (sometimes one is enough) of more helpful ones. (Replacement thoughts) Then for a week I would be cognizant of when that thought (or others like it) would come up and correct it.

It seems like this would take forever, but it didnt, usually thoughts follow the same patterns and over a few months it was evident to me that I could reframe (or let go of) more and more thoughts with virtually the same replacement ones I had used in my early practice of the exercises. Overtime it became quicker, and over more time the replacement thought started coming without the negative one.

Discerning patterns in our thoughts and conditioning is a big part of growth. I welcome anyone to post their aha moment or talk about their struggle with their thoughts.

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[This message edited by hikingout at 3:42 AM, Thursday, August 18th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

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Unhinged ( member #47977) posted at 5:31 PM on Friday, August 19th, 2022

That’s one of many examples that reminded me day by day of this visit why I didn’t understand boundaries, why I am a people pleaser, why I twist myself into a pretzel for others. I understand my choices and behavior are not my parents fault, but I can clearly see where I started these patterns.

I'd encourage you to take this a step farther and consider where your parents learned their own patterns.

I recently had a long, long talk with my father's youngest sister. She spoke for quite a while about my grandfather, who wasn't the nicest guy in the world. He could be cruel, dismissive, derisive, and generally tried very hard to make my grandmother, one of the smartest, classiest ladies I've ever known, feel stupid and worthless. A few days ago, my father and his sister had dinner together. He called me the next day, recounting some of the conversations he had with her. One of the things that rankles him about her is that she's still going on about her father's behavior (especially towards her) decades later (she's in her late 70s). For the first time in my life, my father then opened up about my grandfather in ways that sort of surprised me (he's not generally a very "open" person).

The point my father was trying to make, while talking about his and his sister's relationship with their parents, is that we all have to make choices in our lives. Dwelling on past traumas, letting those issues dominate our lives, is no way to live. He does believe that understanding how our parents shape our values and personality is important. However, eventually, we have to own our shit. Which led to a further surprise when he admitted to his own shortcomings as both as husband and a father. And like you, he couldn't blame his parents. He could only acknowledge how his relationships with them influenced his own relationships with his wife and children.

So, while you're unravelling the tendencies instilled in you by your own parents, it might be helpful to unravel some of their tendencies as well. How did your grandparents instill whatever issues your parents still have?

Married 2005
D-Day April, 2015
Divorced May, 2022

"The Universe is not short on wake-up calls. We're just quick to hit the snooze button." -Brene Brown

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 12:23 AM on Saturday, August 20th, 2022

I have definitely taken that into account. I am very familiar with my mothers parents because we stayed with them a lot until I was five. And my grandmother lives here now with them. My mom was a young mother and my father worked midnights so we stayed there a lot while my dad was working. My mom had it worse for sure. So I can have compassion for that.

I think visiting here for so long (we are halfway through a month) it’s connecting on a new level that it is stirring up frustration that she hasn’t grown much at all since my childhood so I am still dealing with the same petulant child. The only thing that has improved is she doesn’t name call or shame me like she did as a child. She was very cruel- often referring to me as a hog or a dirty pig, little bitch, etc. she was actually always taunting me- that doesn’t exist now or I would cut her out.

Anyway, I don’t think I normally dwell on it, and I definitely don’t think they are responsible for my decisions and behaviors as an adult. I was trying to articulate is being here for so long after having done so much work I can see more in detail how I formed. I have processed a lot of that in my earlier therapy but now that some of my toxic traits are gone it’s difficult to be around hers.

My husband told me he was very proud of how I have shown new boundaries on our visit here. I am seeing dynamics at play that just affirms my perceptions are very different. I used to give him a speech about being nice to my mom and we have decided that my walking on eggshells with her made me want him too. We would always leave and I would be mad that he upset her about something. Now that I have imposed boundaries it takes that off of him to enforce and he has had a much easier time here.

After I wrote this initial post, I realized that I didn’t keep focus while writing it. My true intention was to talk about how I worked to change thought patterns because it’s not always clear how to do that. I think the rest was just venting over my current predicament and it detracted from describing how I used mindfulness to observe my thoughts..

I appreciate response. I agree with you, trauma gets passed from generation to generation. Seeing it, accepting it, and letting it go is a lot of work but very worthwhile.

[This message edited by hikingout at 12:32 AM, Saturday, August 20th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

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TheEnd ( member #72213) posted at 12:44 AM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022

I hear you Hikingout.

I had therapy years ago (in my twenties) and really thought I had "processed" my childhood. In many ways, I had. I no longer felt pain or anger. I drew very strong boundaries with my parents, etc.

But when my marriage fell apart and I resumed counseling I realized - much to my g-damn dismay! - that there was more work to do. It wasn't enough to have acknowledged, labeled and mourned the abuse although that is a very good thing to do. This round I was knocked over the head with how it formed me. Like literally formed me. How I think, how I act, how I communicate, how I relate, etc. It's not all bad of course, but the shape I took has its maladaptions (is that a word? It should be, lol) and that has not served me well.

It's next level work for me and perhaps for you too. I was angry when I realized I had only climbed half the ladder in the past but now I'm glad I'm still climbing.

I am really, really interested in practicing mindfulness. In particular, I'd like to use it to change my inner voice (because that beyotch is not nice to me!). But I'm overwhelmed with the amount of books, podcasts, articles and all of the various techniques.


What approach worked best for you? Or book or podcast or whatever you used on your path.

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sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 4:43 PM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022

But when my marriage fell apart and I resumed counseling I realized - much to my g-damn dismay! - that there was more work to do. It wasn't enough to have acknowledged, labeled and mourned the abuse although that is a very good thing to do. This round I was knocked over the head with how it formed me.

IMO, acknowledging trauma is necessary to healing, but as you saw, it wasn't sufficient. It's a great first step, though.

*****

One of the benefits of acknowledging FOO pain for me was that doing so opened me up to the good things my parents gave me. I didn't really get the good stuff until I acknowledged the bad stuff - and it's impossible, IMO, not to pass some bad stuff on to one's kids, so we all are well-advised to accept our entire experience.

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

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TheEnd ( member #72213) posted at 7:21 PM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022

I agree Sisoon.

I came to accept that my parents had done the best they could with the tools that they had (and their own unaddressed dysfunction - this stuff is generational). That allowed me to feel empathy for them and to forge a relationship, albeit for me, at a safer distance.

But like HO, I see now how I form relationships, how I scan for danger, avoid conflict and aim to please simply to feel safe. All that energy focused on others meant I've spent little to no time on me. One of the first questions a therapist asked me was "what do you want?" And for the life of me, I could not answer. That stunned me. And was painful if I'm honest (like omg have I wasted my entire life??). So the unraveling of my past began to understand how I had "formed" this way of living and how it no longer served me.

It's good work in the end.

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 7:39 PM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Yes, the end, thank you, that was what I was saying. It’s a new layer. As an adult I never really thought about my parents or childhood. When I had therapy I realized some of my behaviors came from that, and now deeper into my healing being with them and not having my same tendencies have just made me aware on a new level.

In many ways understanding how I am formed helps me dispel unhelpful thoughts and behaviors raven more easily. I can literally say to myself when my inner victim comes up that hey let that ego stuff go, it’s just part of your conditioning. It helps me not to grab onto it and hold it.

I also agree they did the best they could with what they knew. I have compassion but sometimes it’s hard not to let feelings of resentment creep in when I am actively with them and little growth has occurred. I have spent a lot of time undoing it all.

I follow a lot of echardt tolle teachings, his bio the power of now was instrumental in helping me understand mindfulness. It’s basically being an objective observer of your thoughts, having great gratitude over all the simple things and blessings in your life, and not allowing the ego or emotions to rule. Mediation, physical activity, and having effective rest time (meaning learning not to feel bad when I am being outwardly unproductive or saying I should be doing this or that, but truly resting.

As I mentioned in my first post for a while I had to manually write down and reframe my thoughts and that was a helpful short term practice that put an emphasis on not listening to that voice in my head that is just mostly non sense that half the time isn’t even true.

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

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TheEnd ( member #72213) posted at 10:37 PM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022

I have compassion but sometimes it’s hard not to let feelings of resentment creep in when I am actively with them and little growth has occurred. I have spent a lot of time undoing it all.

I know this feeling as well. I recently have been loosening my boundaries with my folks for a variety of reasons, mostly that they are aging and I need to step in on some things. I'm half shocked and half curious at how little they have changed.

I just had a situation this weekend that I won't go into details on but I was a ranting, raving lunatic in my journal about it and them. I mean, how dare they? lol. I realized I was triggered.

The powerless little girl was scared and wanted to appease or run, she wasn't sure which. I sat myself down and said, nope, you aren't a powerless little girl anymore. You do what feels right and comfortable to you and you communicate that clearly to them. End of discussion. And that's exactly what I did. It turned out just fine. Our monsters seems large to our little girl minds but now that we are grown, well, they look ordinary and small. It is frustrating, but it is what it is and we have the power to keep ourselves safe and sane.

Thanks for the reco's on mindfulness. I'll start there. I truly appreciate it and you btw. You will never know how your journey as a WS (and then a BS) has helped the heartbroken.

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ohmy_marie ( new member #469) posted at 4:06 PM on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

I come back down and am told how rude it was, and how she probably would never meet the baby. Throwing a pity party. I was unbothered by it, which was affirming growth I have made in not walking on eggshells with her. I would have probably groveled to her in the past. Her feelings are not my responsibility, and I resent that I was taught they were meant to be.

Because I tried to manage her I learned to anticipate her feelings and modify my behavior. When I failed, I took in the negative tongue lashing and personalized it.

A few thoughts on what you posted above. You stated that you "tried to manage her" and "anticipate her feelings and modify my behavior." It sounds as if you've learned that doing so was not in your own best interest (or even in your mom's best interest). I most definitely see your progress.

I would suggest that you go even deeper in your interactions with your mom by asking her what she's feeling. I would think it would help you to understand her. My first thought in reading your post was that your mom has her own insecurities and fears (she might never be a part of her great grand-daughter's life; she is being excluded even now). True, she has to learn to be vulnerable herself and to say what she actually means. In time, and with practice, I would think you could potentially model a better way of communicating.

That’s one of many examples that reminded me day by day of this visit why I didn’t understand boundaries, why I am a people pleaser, why I twist myself into a pretzel for others. I understand my choices and behavior are not my parents fault, but I can clearly see where I started these patterns.

It was a full circle moment in some ways, being tested by having to navigate the people who some of it originated with.

I grew up with a very similar mother (based on what you've posted in this thread). It is interesting to me how differently I chose to deal with my own situation. I did not become a people pleaser or try to manage others. At a very young age (8 or 9?), I learned to seek out adventures. I rarely spent time inside the house. I became a loner. I felt invincible. I was independent and fierce.

I also understood (at a young age) that you couldn't always trust a parent to love you. I understood that most moms didn't act like my mom based on what was modeled at my friend's homes. I remember being "schooled" by my friend's moms and dads (instructing me on manners and common courtesies). I don't remember always taking their instructions to heart (but followed their rules while in their homes).

If I had a go-to defense, it was, "you can't make me," and "I'll show you!" I had to learn to be softer as a grown-up. I had to learn to be more of a pretzel (bending) and less of a rock.

BS & WS. Married

Every opportunity lost can be traced back to the failure to adapt. --Bernard Branson

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 5:23 AM on Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

I like what you are saying about modeling communication. I know in the moment I am being triggered but all she is saying is that she feels left out.

I think where it gets blurry is she has poor boundaries. What she feels entitled to is not realistic, so no one would ever meet her expectations.

At calmer moments, I try and talk through something with her and it always devolves into her chronic victimhood. I would also add that I strongly suspect she has an undiagnosed personality disorder. She has about every classic symptom of borderline personality disorder.

I used to cater to her because I didn’t like to feel like something I did hurt her. Now I make a boundary of her feelings are her responsibility to figure out, understand, and manage. If I am kind but also just living my own life it’s her responsibility to understand she is not the victim of that.

In the example above, I had said "I am sorry, my daughter is in the hospital and I felt an urgency to have a private conversation with her. I honestly felt I had given you time to see the baby". But she continued to devolve the situation into cursing me and acting like I was this horrible person.

My experience with her is she doesn’t pick up any cues, doesn’t try to emulate behavior that is modeled for her, has zero empathy most of the time. I am at a point with her that it’s more like it goes in one ear and out the other most of the time.

I think it’s that this is the first time in my adult life that I am not working (I stopped so we could travel continuously over the past year and until indefinitely) and we are staying here for almost a month to visit our kids and new grandson. I have learned to keep busy and get out often knowing when it’s time to go back she is going to say we didn’t spend enough time together. At least for me it will be back to rarely thinking about any of this at all.

I truly think detachment is probably the best thing for me in this situation. And after spending half of my possible whole life span wasting a lot of time and energy on this relationship I think being emotionally detached is my path to peace.

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6202   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
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ohmy_marie ( new member #469) posted at 2:12 PM on Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

Realizing there is not much you can do about it is a good step towards inner peace. I've always liked this quote, "If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry." ― Dalai Lama XIV

BS & WS. Married

Every opportunity lost can be traced back to the failure to adapt. --Bernard Branson

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 9:03 PM on Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

Thank you. You are a very compassionate poster. I see that you also have been a ws, and we really need compassionate healed ws on this site. Hugs!

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6202   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
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Jameson1977 ( member #54177) posted at 6:03 PM on Thursday, August 25th, 2022

Very interesting post HO.

For my parents, they grew up quite poor (farming in the prairies in Canada), my Mom’s father was 50 when he married my Mom’s mother, and my grandmother was likely a narcissist and a control freak.

My father never knew his bio father, his Mom was an alcoholic and was abusive to her second husband and the kids. My Dad always mentioned that he was the adult once he baca me a teenager.

My upbringing was as normal as you could ask for. Middle class, money was never an issue, we weren’t rich but comfortable, I never saw my parents fight, ever, even though my Dad different from depression his whole life. I feel I had an optimal upbringing.

My wife on the other hand had a father that was physically (to his wife) and emotionally abusive to the whole family. Once the kids had grown, he settled down and we did have a nice time until he passed young (57). My FIL was likely abused through the Catholic Church, but he never discussed this with anyone. Okay think this had a lot to do with how he treated his family. Both my MIL and FIL had pretty awful childhoods, similar to my folks (more so my Dad’s side), so both my wife and I’s parents were brought up in less than ideal scenarios.

It is interesting to see how we "can" break the behaviours from our upbringing, and sounds like you are doing this exact thing with your mother. Good for you! I know that everyone walked on eggshells when my FIL would get in one of his moods. I wasn’t having any of it. I don’t think my involvement changed anything, but I think my FIL realized that I would call him on his BS, I owed him nothing, and was more than willing to cut toxic people from my life, and I think he saw that my wife would support me and if he wanted a relationship with my wife, he would modify his behaviour. I do see some of my wife’s FOO issues come up when it comes to parenting our child. I bend and flex but if I see some of her "learned" parenting tenancies, we do discuss them constructively.

I really try to bring up my son the same way my parents did. They broke the cycle (moved 2,000 miles away from all family after getting married) and made a choice to do things differently and I am forever grateful to them. They made me who I am today and feel they did a pretty great job!

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