I grew up enmeshed with my mother in a suffocating codependent relationship. She is a codependent herself, so the intensity of the emotional manipulation and abuse was twofold. It’s been a tedious and painful journey of cutting myself out of this web whilst fending off the attacks.
I’ve come a far way. Words held such a threatening effect on me. I rarely cried, growing up,but when my parents criticized me, I’d bawl at the drop of a hat. Something in me would give way and tears I didn’t know of would pour out. Their opinion of me mattered, like my life depended on it. Because it literally did. When I came into my teens, the confusion became all the more amplified. I couldn’t find my own identity, it wasn’t possible to distance myself. I was like a marionette doll and I felt I could not survive on my own, so I put up with it. I guess emotional manipulation is a two-way street; I wanted something out of it, too.
Not too long ago, mum lashed out at me like she has been doing lately. She’s utterly frustrated and doesn’t know what’s happening to me, to her, to everything. I can understand the confusion and I empathize with her because she went through what I went through, at the hands of her mother, my grandmother, and my individuation triggers deeply seated pain in her.
On this particular episode, she hit a nerve by accusing me of something I had nothing to do with. She projected her suspicions ,which were completely unfounded, onto me and then made me the target of her ‘justified’ anger. I became enraged, and in a rare turn of events where I talk back I told her calmly but very firmly that she does not have the right to make those allegations. I will not accept that my honesty and clean conscience be tainted with unfounded suspicions. That’s the worst thing one can accuse me of; lies and deception ( I’m an INFJ after all 🙂 )
She was stunned and became quiet. But I knew this wasn’t the end of things; she always had to have the upper hand, the last word. And sure enough, she came around a while later and commenced her ‘all I’ve done for you and all I’ve sacrificed for you’ speech.
She likened me to a project of hers, a house she’s toiled to construct so it could stand tall in its grandeur, and that she could reap the benefits of it. But I sabotaged it all by taking that away from her, by refusing to follow her guidelines she set out for me and ruining my life by insisting on being left to my own devices.
As she continued the guilt-tripping, I went into my own zone, thinking about all those years I was under ‘construction’. I thought to myself, I’m not a house, I’m not a project. All my life I was made to believe if I was good enough, I’d be deserving of love but alas. It was a corrupted and conditional love. All the pain and despair of those years washed over me and I was so grateful, so so grateful to Allaah that I jumped the ship and saved myself. All my life, I’ve been waiting for an acknowledgement, a confirmation of my hurt. But in that moment, as mum recited her latest version of a speech I’ve heard all my life, I felt surprisingly calm. I wasn’t perturbed or even hurt. I listened to her words and heard the murmur of her own pain in her rehearsed words. This wasn’t about me. It was never about me. And to think that I’ve been suicidal for years over this, hating my guts for this- , I’m endlessly grateful that I was guided to struggle through my own fears to change my own world. I’m grateful that this emotional inheritance that had been passed down for generations would stop with me, and would not be perpetuated by me to any children I might have. It makes it all worthwhile, those awful and lonely years. God, was I lonely!
That’s the worst torment, being alienated from your own mind. Feeling empty and being a complete stranger to oneself.
I don’t take this for granted. I really do not. I remember when I made up my mind that I was not going to let circumstances burn me. I remember it so clearly. It was in August 2007 when I started to cave under the emotional horror, and in that moment I thought, maybe I’m going through this for a purpose, maybe Allaah is preparing me for something bigger. That became my silver lining; hope. I thought there was a reason to why I was going through endless traumas and others around me weren’t. I had to think there was, or else I wouldn’t be here today, writing about it. Viktor Frankl is an amazing person whose Holocaust survival story inspires me. He said: In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning. His wife,mother,father and brother died in the concentration camps and he had to find meaning in it all to survive. When he was eventually liberated, he went on to found Logotherapy. He penned Man’s Search for Meaning wherein he detailed his experience.
In this post, this was expounded on by the use of terms such as ‘nonself-conscious individualism‘ and ‘autotelic personality’, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s a great read that I strongly recommend.
To whomever is in plight; everything might be destroyed in your life, but the one thing that no one can take away from you unless you give it up voluntarily is your power of choice. In every instance of your struggle, you are faced with two choices; to follow your heart, intuition, or to follow your fears. Whichever path you take, there you will end up.