Q Whenever I do or say something that my mum doesn’t like she gets upset and finds a way to punish me. I’m an only child, she was divorced when I was a baby, and I’ve never seen my dad. When I was little she hurt me by hitting and kicking me, and not letting me eat. Now I’m older she ignores me instead, and acts as if I don’t exist. I don’t set out to upset her (as far as I know) and I want to know why she does this and how to stop her from doing it to me. It seems so childish and cruel.
A Yes, it it cruel and childish behaviour – which gives a clear indication of how she protects her fragile ego from any perceived challenges, rejections or attacks.
She is trying to punish you by her refusal to speak with you, or acknowledge your existence. It is a cruel attempt to make you feel worthless, flawed and unwanted. That may be her distorted perception of you (and more likely of herself), but that doesn’t make it the truth!
A grown up would calmly and assertively talk things through, explaining their views and preferences, and hearing what the other had to say.
You’ve mentioned that your mother used to physically abuse you to manipulate your behaviour in the past. She has now shifted to emotionally abusing you in the present day instead.
Children seek love and acceptance and will give in and offer a false and forced apology as an attempt to regain positive attention.
That is, until they learn that it’s either unreliable and conditional positive attention, or it’s never coming – and they then give up trying to get it.
That results in them either emotionally and psychologically hiding away inside of themselves, or finding a way to love and accept themselves instead. The latter is the much better option.
In adulthood that love and care might also come from the good fortune of finding a stable, reliable and loving partner.
I doubt that your mother will change – unless she has some miraculous self-awareness awakening and shift. That leaves you to be the one to change – at least the impact of her immature behaviour towards you.
You can start this process with understanding what she’s doing and why. Then you can adapt your responses to better suit yourself.
When you become your own ‘inner mother’ you will have yourself to rely upon. You will get all the positive attention and care you need and want. Be patient, compassionate and kind to yourself. You deserve that!
As for your mother – you could contact her and say that you will be taking care of your own emotional needs now and won’t be manipulated by her any more.
You have the choice about what you allow into your life from your toxic parent. You can now choose the level of contact you have with her. The priority is in keeping your inner child safe and loved.
That will probably cause her to over-react, and try to turn the heat up on her emotional abuse – but at least you will have spoken up for your inner child!
I hope you’ve now found a safe place inside yourself, and supportive people around you.
The wounds from childhood trauma take a special type of healing, and if I can be of help to you in that I’d be honoured to do so.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to recovery and healing from childhood trauma.