Someone wisely said – I forget who right now – that as you change, your relationships also change, whether or not the other person has any conscious intention of improving the ways you relate to one another. Sometimes all it takes is one person doing a little bit of work on themselves… and everything shifts. A great case in point – of which I am reminded today, for obvious reasons – would be my relationship with my mother. I still find it hard to believe how deeply it has transformed over the past few years. Of course, I am not the only one who has changed – but I now believe that the main obstacle on the way to its improvement has been my own inner resistance… my own emotional attachment to the idea of being misunderstood and ill-prepared for life as a result of her dubious parenting skills. Ironically, I embraced this judgmental attitude towards her despite claiming that she damaged me so much precisely because of how judgmental she was. Yes, it is true that for many years my self-esteem was in shreds, because she tended to criticize everything about me. However, for some reason I failed to see that being judgmental right back at her only perpetuated this pattern of mutual resentment and separation. I failed to see that in order to forgive her, I needed to be able to forgive MYSELF first. And since I blamed pretty much all my problems on her, I was blind to the concept of my own inner power to change – as well as my own responsibility to do so. And so, in order to see her differently, I had to completely let go of using her as an excuse for all my shortcomings. I had to realize that, at this point in my life, she was only causing harm as far as I was clinging to the idea of having been harmed by her. It may seem like a subtle shift, but “something that happened in the past” is quite different from “a crucial part of my identity”. “A crucial part” being more like “a crutch” in this case. I think, on some level, I was afraid that if let go of that crutch, I would suddenly have to become a strong and capable adult, pretty much overnight, and there would no longer be an excuse for any mistakes I might make. And so, through this attitude, I was doing to myself exactly what I had accused HER of doing: expecting myself to be perfect, infallible, performing life in precise alignment to some preconceived specifications. That was the key: realizing that I was the one doing it, not her, or anyone else. I had entirely taken over the task – sometime in my teens, probably, if not earlier – while still blaming her for the results. And, of course, feeling oh-so-bitter and indignant that she didn’t even seem to know what my problem was.
It wasn’t an overnight shift, obviously. It was subtle and gradual, but it started a few months after I began a consistent meditation practice (with my Holosync tracks). At some point I realized that I COULD, indeed, become a strong and capable adult, and that I no longer needed to lean on that crutch of resentment that was poisoning my relationship with mom. And that as soon as I let go of it, she didn’t seem quite so judgmental anymore. Or that it didn’t bother me so much, even if she was. But mostly she wasn’t, simply because I stopped punishing her in covert and subtle ways, and we could both relax.
We can have a normal conversation now, without all those layers of inner censorship and nervous skirting around sensitive topics. It is no longer such a painful chore to call her up on Mother’s Day. My body no longer tenses up at the sound of her voice, I no longer stiffen and cringe inwardly when she hugs me, I can even spend a few hours in the same room with her and NOT start feeling like I’m about to suffocate. I still remember how indignant I felt a few years ago, when a good friend of mine accused me of “demonizing” my relationship with mom… but that is in fact what I was doing, and the one most harmed by it was myself. It seems so obvious now, I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long it’s taken me to see it. But precisely because it’s taken so long, I feel the need to share those insights, just in case someone benefits from them and is able to speed up the process. 😉
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! 🙂