Where is the line between being a good child and taking care of oneself?

by jkadlubo3 min read4th Dec 201454 comments


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I recently saw some posts here about how LW helps with personal stuff and that it's a good idea to post here1. Plus, you are the most supportive people I've ever met. I still hesitate. Know my courage. Also, I pretty much always put needs and feeling of other people ahead of mine, because "mine are not as important" (more on that in note 3 and 5). Saying my feelings and needs out loud is really scary. Writing them down is almost unimaginable.

I recently parted ways with my psychologist, but don't yet want to find a new one. Between our last meetings I had a thought that (as usually) was not explored deep enough. And I think I need to go deeper in it. Maybe you can point me in the right disome interesting directions?


A bit of background information about me and my parents: as a child and adolescent I did not exist as a separate person. I lived by the side of perfection, always not good enough, or simply not good. The chant of that time was "why can't you ... like your sister?" (have good grades, keep the room tidy, have friends, be nice - insert almost anything you can imagine)2. There were also other problems, but let's not make this part too long.  

When I grew up and discovered that this all was not normal nor right, I became bitter and angry3. I keep in touch with them, act as if almost everything is fine, but boil inside a lot.  

On the surface I want to fix things. I want to be able to ask my mum to teach me something (I haven't been able to do this since I was a preschooler, partly because I feared being laughed at), I want to look at my dad and not remember him calling me a murderer3. In my country it's even unthinkable that I am trying to cut the contact with one of my grandmothers4.  

So I invented that I want my mother to understand why what she did was hurting me and apologise. She knows that I think she wronged me, though I doubt she realizes how very bitter I am about it all. For her, the solution is to start anew, with a blank space. I can't do that; I spent my adolescence being hit by her and apologising to her for whatever she deemed my fault on a given day. The problem with my solution is that she's incapable of it. For the sake of simplification: she does not comprehend other people's emotions (but she does have emotions of her own and she mostly comprehends them)5.


My new thought to look at "my solution" from a different perspective. Maybe me wanting to make amends with them this particular way is a bit like looking for approval the same way I did as a child. Maybe my mother saying "I hurt you, I'm sorry" would be like her saying "you were right, you are a good girl". Since I never got approval as a child, I should not expect it as an adult. Does this look sensible?

Maybe the adult thing for me to do would be to stop looking for these pats-on-the-back. And also the tiny pats-on-the-back I get when I act around them as if almost everything is fine while boiling inside and they reciprocate niceties. And that might mean cutting the contact as much as I can (which is of course scary and unimaginable). Or am I just going in one direction, where more are possible?  

Maybe I should stop trying to invent ways to fix things6. Maybe I should tell them how angry I am, and tell them in a way that prohibits them from interrupting me or reacting sooner than let's say a week later. But then again - would that do any good? Would they be able to understand me if they've never tried it before? Or is the question "would that do any good" just an example of my regular tendency to place other people ahead and diminute my needs?


1. Asking personal questions on LW, I don't remember the other ones now

2. She was more brilliant than me, managed to keep some friends even though we were the only kids in our class (yes, younger, but the same class - she went to school early and was always at the top) living outside the area etc. Another chant was "if you don't lose weight now, you'll be a cripple when you grow up", even though I had a perfectly normal figure. Everybody would routinely mix our names. The parents would routinely mix up our preferences about food, colours, favourite subjects etc. In a way: there was no me, there was just her and a faulty copy of her, who would keep being faulty on purpose, in order to enrage mother.

3. This last straw fell when my father (who was much more taciturn in scolding me, so back then I still had some sypathy for him) heard that my son and his (then) only grandchild suffered from a genetic disease that kills babies before they turn 2. After I explained the genetics of the disease, testing fetuses, chances, potential choices etc. he showed no sympathy, only asked "but you do know that you're commiting an infanticide?" His catholicism was more important to him than his daughter's grief over her dying child. Then it took me two weeks to stop feeling for him and decide that his reaction was inappropriate.

4. This last straw fell when she was playing with said dying child while I was away for a couple of hours. I got a letter regarding some testing in another country. She opened the letter, saw it was in English, took a dictionary, failed to make any sense of it and asked other people to help her. And when I came back and got angry at her reading my correspondece, she got outraged because she considered it her right. But I kept quiet for another year or two before I told her I don't want her near my children.

5. She thaught me empathy this way: I was always supposed to take into account how my actions would look from her point of view (given that she would not even try to reciprocate and always choose one of the worst interpretations). Empathy is my superpower now; I see a person and know what they feel about a situation, though I lack confidence in acting upon my insight.

6. At some point I was planning on employing someone to help her with the "understand why what she did was hurting me" part.

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