Releasing the past in order to find myself

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mirror, Mirror...I'm Invisible

I wanted to expand on my last post about my feelings that no matter what I do, I can never be a "good daughter" to my mother.  After Quartz's comment about how my mother won't let me be a good daughter to her, my brain started to fit some puzzle pieces together in a different way.   I have felt that the choice my mother presents me with is either to completely do what she wants (act as she wants, respond as she wants, give her whatever she wants) or to be labeled a "bad daughter".  I was describing the situation to my husband as having to relinquish any sense of personal integrity and personal identity OR have a relationship with my mother.  I'm not allowed to have both, in her mind.  I'm not allowed to be "me" if I want a relationship with her.   I've realized that I think it goes a bit further than just not being myself, but that I must be a perfectly black slate, a perfect mirror to reflect back at her.  And in order to be the "perfect mirror",  my soul, my identity must be perfectly invisible to her.  I must become so enmeshed with her that I do not exist at all.

This idea came to me because of two recent events.  Since I've been NC with my N-sister and LC with my NM, my sister have become closer (read: more enmeshed).  They've always been the more bonded of the three of us.  I always always sort of the "spare wheel" (not even the third wheel.  I was the one they used when the other one wasn't meeting their needs).  My younger sister was my mother's "baby" (and by result, also expected to be "my baby".  I was to care for her just as my mother did.)  My sister and mother often "paired off", while I was expected to have my father be my "main" parent.  I was mommy's little helper, but not my sister clearly got the most attention (even if it was mostly negatively gained), time, and support.  My mother often said she felt sorry for her and as my sister was a very difficult child, she sucked up my mother a lot.  And despite them having a very love/hate relationship, I've often felt that they are more closely connected than I was with either of them.  (Not that I think that's a bad thing for me.  I think the two of them are so similar that that is the reason they more closely bonded.)

I have put down my foot on playing NM's "pretend" game on FB and I don't participate in the staged selfies with her, I don't allow her to stage selfies with my kids or use them to further her "grandma image" on FB.  My sister does.  My sister plays participates fully.  Lots of selfies together.  Lots of "love you!!!!" exchanges.  Lots of "momma bear" and "my baby" comments between each other.  My mother consistently refers to my sister (who is 36) as "her baby".  They project, together, a very solid image of a mother-daughter bond.  My mother gushes over her, gushes over her gifts (a very thoughtful gift I gave her for Christmas got ignored until NM could find a way to exploit it for supply on FB.  My sister's gift was gushed over immediately), posts tons of pictures of her, talks about how beautiful she is,,,,,, and on and on.  NM took one of these FB quiz/app things that displays in graphic form the words she uses the most (the most frequent words showed up largest).  Not surprisingly, my sister's name showed up as one of the largest; I couldn't find my name (or even of my kids) at all.

And while I really don't want to be the object of my NM's FB gushes, it is difficult to see such a visible representation of her adoration for my sister.  It does sting, although I'm not particularly jealous.   I don't want to participate in my NM's life as my sister does (and I suspect that evey thing isn't as rosey as they make it out to be), but it's painful to see how "close" and "loving" they believe they are together.

But the thing is, my NSIS allows NM to project off of her without any interference.  She never contradicts NM's little staged scripts on FB.  She never offers up contrary opinions, criticism, or objections.  She never asks to be seen as a separate person.  In fact, the two of them are quite fused.   The have very similar interests and NM revels in being more like a twin sister than of mother and daughter.  NM is WAY over involved in my sister's social life and the enemshement is very obvious to me.  NM also uses my sister as a sort of fantasy.  I believe that my mother secretly wishes she had my sister's life: wishes she was as daring, outspoken, and brash as my sister.  She secretly craves the excitement (drama and chaos) of my sister's life.  She lives vicariously through her.  And that too always NM to reflect back on herself exactly as she wants.  NM can see herself as "strong", "bold", "outgoing", "cute", "beautiful" because she sees in it my sister and, through the enmeshment, claims it as her own.

I can clearly see that having my own feelings, ideas, and thoughts gets in NM's way of her reflection of herself.  If she has to "see" me, than she can't be looking past me into herself.  So, when I put up boundaries, ask for consideration, express my individuation, it is offensive to my NM.  She finds it as disrespectful as I am not giving her what she wants, a completely unobstructed view to the image she's created.

Another reason all of this came to light was due to a relatively silly thing.  My NM has extreme adoration for my old kindergarten teacher.  As my children are now in primary school, this old narrative of how wonderful and great my kindergarten teacher was keeps coming up.  And she doesn't just speak about her, she prefaces it with "Wasn't she the BEST teacher Jessie?"  "Did you just think she was wonderful Jessie?"  It's always important to her that I buy into the narrative.  That I express her thoughts as my own.  That I echo back exactly what she thinks.  I am almost 40, so my memories of my kindergarten teacher are vague.  I know she was nice and kind, but beyond that, I do not remember much.  I don't remember her as standing out any more than some of my other nice and kind teachers.  But for some reason (which she never specifies) NM always claims she was my favorite teacher and that I love her so much.   The last time NM visited, she was pontificating about my old teacher again, how she was the best, and didn't I wish my kids could have her too?  I finally told her no.  That I didn't remember my teacher all that well.  That my kids had plenty of nice and kind teachers.  That I don't remember the teacher being all that important to me.  NM was quite offended.  I remember her looking at me as if I had two heads.  I hadn't been rude.  I hadn't been confrontational, I simply just didn't gush about my teacher as NM wanted me too.

I realized that if I don't parrot back to my NM everything it completely destroys her fantasy.  There is no place for me to have my own feelings, thoughts, or individuation.  It's not that I just have to agree with my NM, I have to completely BE her.  I have to reflect back the exact image that SHE wants to be seen as.  I don't feel as if NM doesn't like me or the person I am, hell she doesn't even know who I am.  My biggest sin, according to NM is that I have any personality, any ideas, anything other than being an extension of her reality.  I am to be completely invisible.  I am to have no needs, no thoughts, no plans, to will that doesn't originate with her.

I've spent a lot of time in my relationship feeling like I'm invisible.  And recently, pondering why I can't be a "good daughter" to my mother, it occurred to me (as Quart pointed out ) that I can never be because she can't see any of that at all because she won't let me.  And any attempts be my to break out of her roll for me completely shatters back that mirror reflection and shakes her out of her illusions of reality.

Even further, the more I attempt to express myself, the more she's attempted to push me back to being invisible.  In this last year I've given her two gifts.  Not because I had to, not because I expected anything.  Just to be kind.  NM didn't want to see that, so she completely ignored them (which is unlike her).  The first gift, she wouldn't turn around from playing basket ball on my children's hoop to look at.  I didn't even think she knew what it was until I realized she'd taken it with her when she left. She never acknowledged it.  The next gift, she minimized and ignored until it suited a FB post (in which she still didn't acknowledge me).  She doesn't like me speaking up, so she ignores me.  She doesn't like me ruining her false-reality, so she doesn't include me (and aggrandizes my sister).  She punishes my kids by ignoring them.  (I upset her the other day too, as she wanted to buy my kids some new clothes.  This is her one of her false realities that I've also ruined.  She likes to be the "rich" person who runs in with money to save people and be the hero.  I, however, have plenty of money to take care of my children and it offends her.  She asked to buy my son some shorts and asked his size.  I told indulged her for a bit, commenting on the several choices she sent me with photographs.  When she asked if he was still his old size, I said yes, but that he has plenty of shorts, so she should size up.  She then asked what he did need.  I answered honestly, that he didn't need anything ( in fact, he has more than enough).  She responded by saying that she just wouldn't get anything at all than if she couldn't buy him his current size.   I ruined her fantasy, so she chose to do nothing at all.)

I am very saddened by the fact that in order to have a relationship with my mother, I have to be completely invisible: no thoughts, no feelings, no ideas, no personality.  I can not be myself at all.  My mother does not love me for me at all.  I know that this is an "old" idea that I've come to terms with several times in the past, but the weight of it all seems to be finally hitting me with full force.  (I'm guessing that my psyche wouldn't allow me to feel all of the feelings towards this at once, as it would have devastated me, and so I keep coming back to it as I'm able to tolerate the pain).  She won't let me be a real person at all.  And that makes me very disappointed and sad.


  1. That isn't a relationship. It's being an extension of her. I have the same trouble. It isn't easy, and there's no "fix" to make it better. She doesn't want to change, and you can't change her. You are a worthy individual and need to be your own person. Only you can be you. Isn't it weird that she wants you to be what she wants but she doesn't actually know what she wants. I think you can't know what you really want until you know who you are. Once you know who you are, you can't be anything else. I admit I'm trying to work this out in my own head. Keep fighting for you.

    1. Thank you Judy for always being kind and supportive. I agree, she wants me to be an extension of her. I really struggle with the back and forth of trying to pull away, while still feeling I get sucked into her "orbit". And it's been such a long process of working on this. Before I even knew about narcissism, I noticed that I always felt like a completely different person around my NM than away from her. It's not like behaved differently or was trying to act in a way to please her, but rather that she'd shoved me into a box so that I couldn't behave differently. I always felt so trapped.
      I've come a long way on knowing who I am, but it's hard to come to terms with the fact that in doing so, it becomes contrary to having a relationship with my mother. But the pull of being myself has become so strong that, you are right, I can not go back and be anything else.
      And it is a very good point that she wants something but doesn't even know what that is.

  2. It seems I spent the first three decades of my life metaphorically jumping up and down, waving my arms and frantically calling, "Mom! Mom! Over here! I'm over here! Can you see me?" And she just looked right through me if she looked at all.
    The person who told me what I thought, felt, dreamed, aspired to-who I was, never had a clue to my Identity at all. She defined me by her illusions and needs only. As you expressed, that's what really hurt. I was as "real" to her as a unidimensional cardboard cutout. And a very unruly one at best.

    1. It's a very painful process to realize that you don't actually "exist" to your own mother. That you are a ghost that she will never, ever be able to see. I'm working very hard on making myself "real" and worthy and whole, but I feel like I've been handicapped to some extent. Being robbed of the validity of being seen by your mother as a child is a really hard thing to work past as an adult.
      The irony of your statement, is that my NM now spends so much time hollering "look at me!" "See me" and demanding I "see" her and how "cute" she is. It's very frustrating and obnoxious (for her to do it to me. Not for you to behave that way towards your mother.)

  3. Oh yeah. Once you start pulling back their efforts to keep you engaged become frantically transparent. From one extreme to the other until the force of their gravitational pull is broken and they no longer matter in your life. When you successfully destroy a child's love and trust there's nothing left but obligation, guilt and fear buttons to push. So they push them harder and harder, eventually loosing their "power" to control the AC even through those unhealthy realms.
    Your "mother's" farcebook posts are a great example of over-acting and parady of self. She's trying too hard to present an image to her imagined "audience," but the paucity of her authenticity demonstrates her empty vessel being. There's nothing "there" there. For anyone. It's all an act.
    She believes she's "punishing" you and your lack of response results in her upping the ante to focus your attention back on her. Extinction Burst in progress. Being the Grey Rock is working for you.

    1. I hope you are right TW, that the extinction burst comes soon. This part has been very uncomfortable for me. (I've also been pushing this part with my ILs too. It can be so exhausting to fight this fight in multiple ways. I sometimes wonder if I can keep pushing through.)
      Interestingly, my NM has pulled her SIL (her "favorite" brother's wife) and my cousin into her orbit. They've never been close, but she has been spending a lot of time and energy with my cousin's kids. "Proving" to them how awesome she is. She has also invested a lot in a relationship with my youngest step brother's wife. (She has gone through my other three step siblings and their spouses and they maintain a distance from her.) Because my step family has some serious dysfunction themselves....and NM is good about calling people on dysfunction and seemingly "getting it"....this rather new member of the family seeks refuge in NM as sort of a voice of sanity. She also has connected with my NSIS. Interestingly, this girl looks a lot like me (except she's blond and I'm not) and it's almost like they've "replaced" me. It's been painful and tiresome to watch.
      And although I can see the utter transparency in it all, it's stunning to see (NM has actually posted memes about 'letting go' of hurtful people and other memes that ACoNs use to describe NC and the reasons behind it. I'm guessing she's referring to me.) I'm hoping I have the endurance to get past this.