Posted by: jerry | 2008/07/13

how do I let go of my own issues?

Hi there
my family just had some news about my step-sister having a baby. She's very young, but she's decided to keep it. I am very proud of her decision. When I was a little younger than her I had an abortion -- this was kind of the family mantra of the time: you can come and talk to us anytime, but if you come home pregnant we'll take you straight to a clinic to have an abortion. So when I found out I was pregnant I didn't even talk to them but made arrangements for an abortion straight away. I didn't even think of another solution, ever. I don't blame anyone for the decision I've made but it's so obvious to me where my own fear / belief come from -- it's been a family mantra for ever, my grandparents used to say it to my mom etc. I was treated like crap when they found out what was going on, and no wonder I didn't want to speak to them in the first place. Now ten years later they still don't deal with the issue any differently - now my step-sister is bearing the brunt of it all, they're just as agressive as back then, even more so. Her father has 'written her off'. Me and my sister are showing all the support we can for her (we're in another country however). This has just brought back all the anger for me again also, because I see that they're still re-acting in the same manner. I wrote them a long email to explain that what I've gone through then, and how they should really just show some loving care for a change -- what else is there for them to do? Unless they want to push my step-sister away in anger, so she'll go and get the support she now needs from somehwhere else -- her aunt and uncle, the people she has been going to for a talk for years already. My mother is so pi**ed off that my step-sister only went to tell her dad and her aunt first, instead of talking to my mother. My mother doesn't seem to get that she herself pushes people away with her agression and that she's not the loving open person she thinks she is. This has openend up my own agression and anger again, and I'm thankful because I see this as an opportunity to heal what needs to be healed -- just my mother doesn't want to hear it. I don't know what else i can do, It's like i always carry on playing 'that game', being the 'parent' trying to give advice to my parents, who are acting like kids. I want to stop this. HOW??!

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Our expert says:
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You raise many interesting and significant point. One is that some family policies arise from views that have't been sufficiently thought-through, and tend to be uncritically accepted without examination of whether they are indeed the wisest policy in each specific situation ( many policies ought not to assume a One-Size Fits All application ).
And of course a policy might SAY that " you must always feel free to talk with us about anything" without actually making sure that individuals who rely on it will feel genuinely aboe to so talk, or genuinely not regret having done so. People like to think of themselves as a non-judgemental and supportive person everyone should feel free to talk to, while actually being highly judgemental and unpleasant to anyone who actually accepts the invitation.
And of course your experience also shows how, even though we may feel we have altogether gotten over life events, when something similar arises in someone close to you, many unfinished regrets and concerns may arise again. And as you wisely observe, use this second arrival of your emotions as an opportunity to complete the work not finished earlier, probably now with the aid of counselling. And in such counselling, you can also explore this issue of feeling the need to parent your parents, when maybe that game needs to stop, especially if they are proving, yet again, unable to accept advice

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Posted by: jerry | 2008/07/13

thank you for your reply. Yes, I feel that this unfinished business has been going on for ever, and every time I try to talk to my mother about it, it just gets ignored or brushed aside. The one issue is with my mother's alcohol problem that became worse and worse --- we knew and had witnessed some crazy behaviour in our time, and then we heard the stories from our step-sisters. More and more it became evident that our mother was using all the control issues she had 'inherited' from her step-dad when she was a kid, and was using it now on her own step-daughters. We eventually wrote a long email discussing our concerns. The reply that came back was that we shouldn't take things so seriously, and that 'mom was happy again'. My mom then started writing more to us again, which was great, and she started excercising which seemed to give her a great boost. This was all great news for us. Now we've been getting emails again where we can 'hear' the wine talking again. It's like I'm bashing my head against a wall, trying to tell my mother that I wasn't always happy with the way we've been having this 'non-relationship' all this time. But she always just looks at me like she doesn't know what the fuss is all about. When she drinks too much she gets soppy and cries, then gets agressive and runs off slamming her bedroom door, like a kid that's having a tantrum. My step-dad has to bring her her food to the bedroom usually, because otherwise she won't eat, even when we're all invited to dinner -- she won't eat with us, but waits until we're all done and then eats in bed. Anyways, you can see where my 'parenting' urge comes from, ha ha. Thank you for your advice, I guess I will have to go to counselling for this after all.

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