Do you feel like you’re living a double life?
Your smiling face radiates happiness sending an “I’m great” message to the outside world. Meanwhile, that scared child inside you is imprisoned in a dark tower of hurt, resentment and shame — the tower built by your self-centred mother to keep you under control.
Your life is a nightmare. You never feel safe and grounded; you’re longing for freedom. But while dreaming of escape, something keeps you stuck, paralyzed, emotionally, mentally and physically.
I lived in prison like that for decades, and my mum held the key – my fear. Fear to make her angry and fear I would lose her if I told others about emotional torture that she put me through.
What keeps you from making changes in your life?
Fears that keep us stuck in a personal hell
To fight our fears, we have to understand what causes them. There are reasons why we stay in hell instead of looking for help. Let’s look at them.
1. “A known hell is better than an unknown paradise.”
You might say: “Ha? You must be joking!” However, think about it for a moment. After all, you know how to ride a bike and survive your mother’s emotional outbursts, you’ve done it for years. But you never flew an aircraft or lived on your own, how safe does that feel?
Don’t worry, to fear change is in human nature, even good ones like marriage and getting kids. How many people got cold feet before their wedding or went through an existential crisis after they have children?
Can you see what I mean?
Staying in a dysfunctional relationship with a parent or another person may feel like a prison. However, the problem is that you know how to survive there because you’ve done it since you were little. On the other hand, what change will bring hides in the clouds. Your emotional brain trusts the familiar, so it tries to spook you to keep you where you are, even if the price is your wellbeing.
If you want to overcome the fear of change, you may first accept the uncertainty. There are plenty of things out of your control like the outcome of a change. Instead, focus on what is in your power – how you view the situation.
Need help with that?
Tap on your natural curiosity and ask yourself: What would my life be when I successfully change it? Also, ask yourself: what will it be like if I stay where I am?
In fact, the change that you’re about to make may turn out to be amazing! Do you want to know more? Check this out.
2. “My mother can change.”
You may still hold onto this idea, believing that your mother (father, sister) can become the person you want her to be. We all wanted to believe that. I mean, who in her right mind won’t wish a loving mother?
In situations like that, we need a reality check. And the truth is that chances that your mother will transform into an image you have in your mind are not bigger than to win a million in lotto.
Stop fooling yourself and let go of this dream go, so you can finally heal.
3. “Nobody will believe me” because “I was misunderstood, judged or ridiculed in the past when I tried to tell the truth.”
Just like me, you’ve probably tried to explain what your life is like. However, the people you confided in didn’t believe you, did they? Maybe they even didn’t want to listen. They tried to dismiss or minimize your concerns; some even called you a liar.
All you got was this:
“Are you looking for attention?”
“How can you be so ungrateful?! You have everything you need! Look at other kids who have no parents and no roof over their heads.”
“How can you say such horrible things about your mother?”
They added more pain to your aching soul.
As my old GP doctor commented when I told him about the reason for my depression: “Well, all women have difficult relationships with their mothers. Get over it.”
Emotional wounds can still be a source of shame and isolation, but times are changing. More scientists are researching trauma, and more psychologists and psychiatrists learn how to help children and adults from abusive homes to heal their wounds. More therapists learn how to treat trauma, and more adult children of abusive parents step forward and claim their lives back.
There are people out there who can help you but choose wisely.
4. “What if I lose my mother or my entire family as a result?”
I know how scary the uncertainty feels. I mean, no one can know exactly what’s going to happen. What we know, though, is that silence will keep you inside your mother’s drama.
You don’t want to be her puppet anymore, do you?
I thought, not! Keep reading, my friend.
You see, it’s not about standing on a busy square and telling your story of abuse to every stranger that passes by. Instead, it’s about sharing this side of your life with a person you can trust – a dear friend, an aunty who always loved you, as you were her own, a therapist – these are just a few examples.
Because if they don’t know what’s going on in your life, they won’t be able to help. Also, you need all the help you can get – healing shouldn’t be a lonely path. You don’t have to do it on your own.
Also, do you know what the experts say? People’s response to our shared true story is often the key to our recovery. Remember that.
5. “I deserve what I get.”
When we grow in an extremely critical environment, we learn to hate ourselves. Eventually, we believe that we’re unworthy or damaged. Your mother’s message may still live inside you as the toxic inner voice that holds you from taking care of yourself, pursuing a carrier, or accepting yourself for who you are.
Allow me to sat things straight here – it has never been your fault. You hadn’t deserved any of it, even when you stole money from your mother or smoked your first cigarette when you were 11 years old. No one has.
6. “It’s too painful to talk about.”
The anticipation of the pain from re-living the past may prevent you from seeking help.
You see, the way that we, humans, deal with trauma explains why – we bottle it up, then lock it deep inside our minds and build walls around it hoping never to reencounter it. Unfortunately, it’s like burying your head in the sand – it may feel good for a while, but the problem is still there.
It will hurt, I know that it will, therefore you don’t have to do it alone. Instead, let someone help you.
7. “What if she cuts me off financially? I have a lot to lose.”
Are you still living with your parents or dependent on them financially? Or maybe you’re broke and have no place to go?
That’s tough, but as they say – there’s a solution to any problem.
To begin with, ask yourself this question: What’s the price I’m paying for their financial support? It may be your mental wellbeing, self-respect or mental health. Is it worse it?
If not, look at possibilities and make a sustainable plan.
If you cannot leave your abusive parent now, focus on creating a financial foundation for your independence. Prepare to move away – take or complete your education, find a job, and then start looking for an affordable place to live. Remember, as long as your mother pays for your lunch, the co-dependent status of your relationship remains.
Please, don’t give up. Instead, take responsibility for your own life, and I promise that you’ll see results.
Owning Your Life
You are not in this world to suffer but to live your life with joy. You owe it to yourself and the little girl in you whose childhood was ravaged by her emotionally immature, self-centered mother.
Allow yourself to say “yes” to help. It is only then that you can let your scars heal, and feel safe, cared for and loved. Discover and nurture your talents and become the person you want to be.
You can’t heal if you remain inside a prison, depending on your parents emotionally or financially. A prisoner is not free until she stands outside the prison’s gate. So leave denial, guilt, shame, fear and distrust behind and open up for a change.
Are you ready?
If so, then I’ll happily help you with setting your goals.
See you soon.
Irina Bengtson is a daughter of a narcissistic mother, clinical psychologist and a founder of www.LoveGrowBeHappy.com. She combines her professional knowledge with healing experience to help other daughters of narcissistic, hurtful mothers break free from their dysfunctional relationships. She’s a creator of the online course: The Ultimate Guide to De-Stressing And Enjoying Life Now.
Image courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez.