I lived till my twenties as an apology for my mother. My mother was beautiful, willful, opinionated and completely self-centered. And as I found out later, she was diagnosed as a clinical narcissist.
My mother asked an acquaintance on her 40th birthday lunch why she didn’t have a date, and was it because she was fat and too old? My mother then launched into extolling her own desirability and how she had countless suitors, all of them handsome, smart and rich. Even as a young girl I felt the stings and arrows that were directed at each person’s most vulnerable spots, and as her child, mine included physical blows
For me her behavior was searingly embarrassing and painful to experience and witness. My way of coping was to be as compassionate and kind as I could be, to somehow atone for her. Until one day in my twenties I realized that I was not living my life, I was living in penance for hers.
I was carrying the heavy burden of guilt by association for someone whom I had little power to change. Someone who sought to control others by manipulation to assuage whatever insecurities or needs that she had. Only then did I realize that I had to forgive not only her for her attitude and conduct, but I had to forgive myself too. To release the burden of judgment and to free myself to fully be me. Easier said than done.
First I had to find out who I really was if I was not just making up for her. This search for one’s authentic self I discovered was actually quite common. The first step is to let go of what caused us to act or think a certain way and to take ownership of where we are and what we are experiencing. But how? Righteous indignation arises oftentimes in the beginning of this recovery process. However resentment and anger burns the one who carries them most. Forgive.
Forgiving is not condoning what happened. It is acknowledging the pain and hurt and to find out what we can learn from them and then to move on. The process is not linear – clarity and forgiveness come and go. And the most challenging person to pardon is oftentimes ourselves. Like peeling the layers of an onion, tears flow and irritation appear during the unraveling in the forgiveness process.
The peaceful moments we experience in between the frustration and the “should have, could have”, will shed light on what life can be like when we release the bitterness and be present to the current joys and reduced chatter in our minds.
One tool that helped me greatly was journaling from my mother’s perspective. Getting into her mind or whomever you hold resentment towards, will show that there could be another perspectives aside from our own. When you know their viewpoint you may feel some compassion or at least a degree of understanding about what happened.
Next step is to move forward. Cease being a victim. When we attribute the cause of issues in our lives to others, we give our power away. Claim dominion of your life. Look for the good that came about as result of what happened and thank the past for the lessons. Use what you learned to help you navigate your life path now. Most of all release the bad feelings that do nothing but weigh you down. Give gratitude and focus on the good. It’s possible, really. Forgive.
P.S. my mother had a stroke and spent the last four and half years of her life immobilized, with no speech and on a feeding tube. I was able to spend time with her, sing to her, massage her, and ask and give forgiveness. The biggest gift I received was that when she died I was completely at peace with her and our relationship. My best selling book, “The Happiness Choice, the 5 decisions that will take you from where you are to where you want to be” http://www.marilyntam.com/books.html was in ways inspired by her. Forgiveness, it frees up energy and inspiration for you to be fully you!