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Lately, I've been having some difficulty with my mother. Our relationship has always been a bit rocky, but these last couple of weeks have left me a bit exhausted; even yesterday, I just wanted a lie down during the day because I was spent.
Basically, if I go for an interview or start a new hobby, she wants to know every little detail and starts to make it, in some way, all about her. For example, I am due to be starting some volunteering, but if I decide not to go ahead with it, she'll get all angry and disappointed that I haven't followed through as if I've let her down rather than understanding my reason for not going ahead with it.
There was a recent opportunity with work as well and she started to get carried away going 'oh and then if this happens, do this' and telling me how she thought the job would be when I haven't even got it. It ends up putting added pressure on me and I have tried to tell her, but she thinks she's putting the right amount of pressure on me, its very frustrating.
I have thought about reducing contact with her because I am feeling exhausted. I guess I'd like some advice about how to deal with overbearing people, particularly when they hear what they want to, not what you are saying.
Hi gloria 10
Hmm...intense people can sometimes be a little draining at times, even when they mean well. They can leave us feeling like we're in an almost constant state of challenge or conflict. Whilst it can feel like an 'us vs them' scenario, I believe it's more so about an 'our beliefs vs their beliefs' scenario. Example:
- You: Mum, I want to do volunteer work
- Mum: I believe that's good for a number of reasons I can relate to
- You: Mum, I now no longer wish to do volunteer work
- Mum: I believe that's no good for a number of reasons I can relate to
- You: Name some
- Mum: Volunteer work will give you a sense of value, it will help others, it involves being less selfish etc
- You: I already have value even without this opportunity. I already help others in a lot of little ways as opposed to one obvious way. I need time to be selfish; if I volunteer, it means there is less 'me' time. 'Me' time is important for everyone
You can see how we have our own mental programs up there in our head which conflict with those of another. I imagine your mum's got her own beliefs for her own reasons. Perhaps a lot of them were put in there by others, including her own mum (if her mum's presence was influential). You may be dealing with some old school ways of thinking that dictate 'This is what people are meant to do', based on traditional roles.
The role thing is interesting. With roles comes disappointment. Not all of the time but definitely part of the time. Say, if I appoint you the role of 'She who collects litter off the street, in order to keep the street clean' and you say 'I'm not doing that!', straight away, you've taken the role I've given you and you've disappointed yourself from it. In truth, there is no pain in disappointment, there is only pain or conflict in our inability to accept it. If I'm not phased by your rejection, all remains good.
Can I suggest that your mum has given you certain roles to play in life, for one reason or another, and she's experiencing the disappointment when it comes to some of them. Don't take it personally. If you want, you can actually challenge her. Ask her why she believes what she does and where these ideas actually come from.
Whenever I'm feeling challenged by someone, I try to remain conscious enough to ask the question 'What beliefs systems are we dealing with here?' as opposed to 'What's wrong with me?' Sometimes it's important to identify what people are saying, as opposed to identifying our self through their words.
Thank you therising for your kind words, you've definitely given me some perspective so that's great.
I understand what you mean about roles as we've all sort of had our own in our family and I must admit when one of mine changed a few years ago I did feel frustrated as well, perhaps that's what is happening here. I can see that she struggles with her own roles too as she finds it hard to say no.
I like the idea of questioning where their idea is coming from, but my mum is difficult to communicate with on sensitive issues. Sometimes she lies as well rather than facing issues and this has been a problem.
I will try to understand their side a bit more though, thank you.
As always, therising has an amazing insight on the situation, she's awesome.
What I was going to say, and it probably sounds so incredibly simplistic, but i will say it anyway: I was wondering if you could start to limit the amount of information you tell your mum?
Like, is it necessary that she knows about every interview, or work opportunity or whatever?
That way, you can keep some boundaries, as it's not always her business, and you don't constantly need her input on everything, and you certainly don't need her to turn all your situation around so that they are about her.
Even if you hang out with her every day, you don't have to tell her all your goings on.
I have started to minimize what I tell her and what I don't. I guess I find it a little hard as I have always been honest with them, but I am learning with mum I need to keep some things private.
I definitely want to start looking at boundaries and what is off limits for conversation.
Thanks for your advice 🙂
I thought I'd do an update on this post as I've finally realised that I can't keep having the same relationship with my mum. For a long while, I was trying to do what I could to make her happy and this was really starting to get to me. Looking back at the original post, I'm feeling the same way...spent.
When I tell her something she isnt interested in she will laugh or deliberately change the topic. She brushes off my achievements as well.
I feel Im ready to start reducing contact with her, perhaps to once a week. When I do that, however, I get 'oh, i haven't heard from you for a while' even though the way she's communiacting with me shows she doesn't really want a relationship.
One important thing I have learned is that she wont change. I can keep trying and trying to make her happy, but nothing ever does; or it will only be for a minute. This means that I need to change my behaviour.
For those who have reduced contact with family, how did you do it? Do you have tips for breaking set habits?
I think knowing the reasons for why we visit someone is a good start. Do we visit them just to pick their brain over difficult choices we need to make, based on them being a bit of a sage? Do we visit them to give them the opportunity to have a really good vent about something that's upsetting them? Do we visit them for the sole purpose of speaking a lot of nonsense, because we love lighthearted nonsense talk and the way it leads us to laugh so much? Could involve a whole variety of reasons. One reason we don't typically visit someone involves them always making everything about them.
While I think it's good to have a bit of flexibility when it comes to visiting, being prepared to cover a number of reasons, sometimes it's good to state the reason for why we've shown up and why we can suddenly feel disappointed. 'I've come to share some good news with you but it seems you have no interest in hearing it. You'd much rather focus on what I've failed to do' or 'I've come for a coffee and a bit of stress relief and I feel you're putting pressure on me to perform better, which is actually stressful under the circumstances'.
I have a few people in my life who I find challenging in the way they serve themselves. They really trigger me at times, in a variety of ways. Over the last year or so I've managed to go into what I call 'Observer mode' with them, which has been a real eye opener. I had no idea just how self serving they actually are until I began to channel the observer in me more often. Emotional detachment can be such a handy thing at times. A lack of feeling allows us to experience pure observance or analysis, without us having to feel what it is we're witnessing. 'Do we state what we observe?' becomes the question. Sometimes I think it's important. You can state it carefully or state it brutally. Depends on the kind of impact you're aiming for. 'You've led me to realise I can't come to visit unless I'm pleasing you' is an honest observation being carefully expressed. Someone who's in denial will say 'That's not true', which can be a serious trigger. Trigger what comes with the feelings of 'Dismissal' or 'Being shut down'. Can either raise us to anger or bring us down.
Do you want to simply reduce the amount of times you see your mum without feeling the need to explain why or do you feel the need to state your reasons to her, in a way that serves the relationship? Two very different approaches.
I hear what you said. It is advisable for you to reduce contact but monitoring for safety reasons...you would not want mum getting hurt simply because she needed to think about things for a while. It is rough. But here you have it.