For Part 1 of this series, click here.
This blog is about the experiment and experiences with emotional expression in my relationship with my mom a couple years ago. For a couple years, I’d been aware that I was resisting dealing with mother emotions, in particular anger at her and how she has treated me over my life. Jesus and Mary had helped me see I was wanting to stay in an angry place and not wanting to feel the pain underneath it all. I am still in that place to a large extent, though not as stubbornly as I was, and have now been able to access some other deeper feelings too.
I knew that my not dealing with my mother-based emotions was affecting my relationships with other women as well as with emotional expression, my self-esteem, facade, creativity and more.
I also was planning on moving to England to be with my husband Perry, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my mom in person for at least a few years or longer. So I asked her to meet up in the hopes I could make some progress with some of these emotions I still had.
As I mentioned in the last blog, I realized I had never once emotionally expressed myself with my mom. However, previously, my mom and I had had a number of conversations over the years about the issues between us. These talks went nowhere, with her always denying and gaslighting. I always wanted a lot from the interactions; I wanted her to see what she’d done, understand it, and validate my pain. I wanted her to change and stop doing the same things now, and basically, to love me and hear me. Of course, none of this has never happened, and so holding out for it and demanding it got me nowhere.
The previous discussions I had with my mom about the issues between us were much like a political debate. I was physically stiff, didn’t really make facial expressions or gesticulate, and was also monotone and didn’t cry or display emotion. My mom has similar facade and desire for emotional control and so she was this way in the interactions as well. The talks were about very serious issues but we were really just doing this intellectual competition debate thing with each other. We had had a few hours-long discussions in this manner, just arguing really, but in this extremely “calm” and controlled way.
With her I always wanted to appear like a “together” and “respectable” grown woman. I wanted to win the intellectual debate, to strategize my arguments into an analysis and conclusions that she simply couldn’t deny. I wanted to win the competition with her that she had began with me as a child, about who was the more mature and impressive woman. I also wanted to take back the power she’d always had over me. I never could.
The facade my mom taught me is that women should never be angry, because being angry means you’re a bad person. Anger is shockingly evil and horrible, especially in a woman. Being emotionally messy in any way, including with sadness, is unattractive and shameful. Fear should be justified or downplayed but never felt properly. Always portray that you are pleasant, only ever have lovely feelings, and have it all together.
In the past, my attempts at discussions with my mom never helped me get into deeper emotion because my motivations to make her understand and change were all wrong, and my desire to get power were just to prevent feeling small and helpless and bad about myself. I wanted to take anger out on her. I now realize that I wanted to enter the discussions to avoid emotion, not to feel it.
So I knew I had to do something different to what I’d done before. I needed to go into it with a completely different motivation: I needed have the sole desire to get emotion out of me, and challenge some of my own addictions. I needed to give up trying to get power or win a competition. I needed to have no expectation that she understand or change in any way. I also realized that if anything was going to be different, I needed to express myself with my whole body and self, not just in the words I said. I felt that my sole desire had to be to get suppressed emotion out of me so I could keep healing myself. In some ways, you could say it had to not even be about my mom at all.
The emotional expression part is what terrified me the most. I felt that emotionally expressing myself with her was overdue since I was about 5 years old and I had no idea what would happen if I finally did it. I didn’t even know if I could do it. I have always felt shackled emotionally, locked in a stranglehold, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to do anything different. I didn’t feel confident at all.
I also had no idea what it would look like. Would I cry? Would I be angry? Would I gesticulate? What would I say?
I prayed a lot to God and journaled a lot in the week leading up to it. The prayer was pretty much just to do something different than I always had and get some emotion out. During the “prep” for this, I realized that I had been so focused on the fact I had anger with my mom that I needed to resolve and get underneath, that I had completely forgotten I might still have fear in my relationship with my mother. I had not been focusing on fear at all. But the thought of expressing myself in a more real way with her was incredibly terrifying, and leading up to meeting her a lot of fear started to kick in.
We arranged to meet in a park, and by the time my mom walked up to the blanket I’d set up, I was shaking like a leaf. My whole body was reacting involuntarily and I had never experienced this before. I was shaking and sobbing at the same time, and her initial reaction was disgust. She offered to rearrange the chat for a time when I wasn’t so emotional.
I had no plan going into it but I began to just say how I felt. Rather than arguing points in a philosophical way or debating about things that happened, this time, I just said how I felt. It felt completely different than before. Rather than trying to be an adult woman peer of my mother in a power struggle with her, I gave up the power struggle completely and just remembered that at one time I was her little daughter and she was my mommy and I am devastated about our relationship.
Throughout I just said things like,
“I’m feeling really scared of this chat.”
“I just feel like you’ve always hated me and I don’t understand why.”
“I feel like you never listen to me.”
“I’m so completely heartbroken about my childhood.”
In just saying how I felt, the emotional expression also flowed more.
The whole time I was sobbing and shaking, I had snot running down my nose and was gesticulating. At times I was yelling and crying and shaking at the same time. Beforehand, I had no idea what would come out of me but I now think I felt terror, anger and grief almost all at the same time (or at least all within this short span of time). I felt a kind of a childlike hysteria and emotional desperation, broken-hearted and devastated and raging and terrified. I found that just praying to express myself and then saying how I felt, without trying to argue any points, naturally meant the emotions came out better.
My mom tried to get us back on the philosophical arguing points and continued to do a lot of attacking and blaming and denying. I didn’t take the bait of getting back to intellectual debates, I just kept praying to God to feel my emotions and express myself truthfully. During the interaction, other emotions I felt were helpless, powerless, small, and out of control — all emotions I’d never felt when trying to be adult-like rather than childlike.
Twice my mom walked away in the middle of me talking and went back to her car, returning after a few minutes to tell me why I was wrong. It was an odd behavior from her that I didn’t expect, but now I can see was her wanting to punish me with abandonment, but then deciding she couldn’t leave until she had me back under power and control.
I was taken aback at the total coldness and the rage and condescension coming from her. I was sitting down on the ground sobbing and she stood over me the whole time, never sitting with me and never touching me. At one point she threw tissues at my feet, as if to say, get yourself together, you disgusting disgrace of a woman. The feeling she gave off seeing me on the ground sobbing, shaking, screaming, snotty, hair messy and red-faced, was utter disgust and pure rage.
I had thought she might have some concern for how upset I was, to show some empathy or have some response to my vulnerability, but instead she was more cold than she’d ever been.
Finally, for the third time, she suddenly walked away from me while I was saying something and sobbing and shaking and screaming, got in her car, and drove off.
I stayed and cried and shook for a long time. Eventually I left, and started feeling severely spirit attacked and began spiraling and worrying I was an evil, abusive person. I talked with a dear friend who was utterly kind and just encouraged me to not self-attack and worry but rather keep feeling about how my mom had responded to my emotional expression and vulnerability, and that this has told me a lot about my childhood. In the following days, quite a lot of emotions continued to come out of me.
This experience with my mom (especially right before and during the interaction with her) was the first time since listening to Divine Truth that I’ve ever properly felt fear. Mary has a great blog called “Let Yourself Fall From the Plane” and for the first time I understood what she wrote in that blog because that is exactly what it felt like.
Since then, I have been able to access some sadness and grief about my relationship with my mom. Previously to this experience, I felt only anger and was not aware of having any sadness or grief with her at all. I could not access it whatsoever. Now some of that sadness flows at times, which is really important for me to continue allowing. I also still have a lot of anger, but am far more aware of grief and despair and heartbreak that I feel with her.
One of the things that I felt in retrospect was that in the previous controlled and “polite” discussions with my mom, that I was projecting way more rage at her than when I was in the park actually yelling and swearing. I could be wrong here (also something I’m still working out) but it felt like when I was hysterical in the park, though I was loud with my sobbing and yelling and even swearing, my emotion was flowing and was somehow more contained, and less was actually coming out towards her. In the park I was just concerned with getting stuff out of me, and discovering some more truth, whereas previously my real desire was only to punish my mom and force her to listen to me.
So it felt like an important lesson in that I can be sitting, hands folded in my lap, talking in a “polite” way without any swearing, voice never raised, and project more rage at a person than when I’m owning my emotion and yelling and sobbing and gesticulating wildly making a commotion. In my family the seemingly-polite-but-underhandedly-raging manner of relating is considered nice, respectable and reasonable, wheareas emotionally expressing like I did is considered evil and shocking. And so to my mom, my emotional expression was far more offensive, and yet I feel I was projecting less at her than when I was more in the facade that she approves of.
One of the other striking realizations that came from this experience with my mom was thinking about how little she could handle of my actual emotional expression. In the controlled debates we’d had before, she would sit for as long as four hours with me, or engage in many very long back-and-forth emails and seemed comfortable, even though I was saying very confronting things. Before the park, we had discussed our issues to death already and completely exhausted the topics of concern between us. In this interaction in the park, I wasn’t saying anything new that I hadn’t said many times before. And yet, when I was fully emotionally expressing myself, she couldn’t even handle talking to me for 15 minutes.
In other words,
Me saying things without emotional expression – mom will stay for four or more hours, for numerous debates.
Me saying the same things with emotional expression, just once in my entire life – mom won’t say for fifteen minutes.
This was a huge revelation for me about why I have struggled with emotional expression and facade. I’ll discuss more of these reflections in later blogs.
The truth is, how my mom reacted isn’t really how I expected her to. Because of her facade about loving her kids more than the world, and the kind of person she presents herself to be (and my investment to still believe that facade), I truly thought she would have a more heartfelt response, but there was no warmth. This is part of what triggered more sadness for me in the days following. It felt like her “true colors” had now come out only when I expressed emotionally and hadn’t ever before this.
More thoughts to come on what this taught me about emotional expression, facade and self-doubt. The next blog will be about the experiences I had with my Dad with regards to these topics.
Photo 1 – Will Truettner via Unsplash
Photo 2 – Will Paterson via Unsplash
Photo 3 – Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash
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