Desperate for some productive way to think about parental relationships
May 3, 2011 2:54 PM Subscribe
I am in agony regarding my parents and their endless emotional dependence on me. I'm a very private and independent person, but their energy drains me to the point of destruction every time I have to see them or even talk to them. What are some mental approaches which might help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
(This is long, but I appreciate any help.)
One problem is that they are not doing anything terribly outlandish. They used to call me multiple times per day, expect me to see them every time I had time off, constantly ask me about my personal life, etc. Now they have backed off a bit, but unfortunately, it will never be enough. Frankly, I could very happily never talk to them again or see them. But I am always trying to balance my total genuine hatred of being around them with trying to be helpful and not totally reprehensible.
However, every time I decide to see them, I am destroyed for months afterward, and become a shell-shocked zombie. Every good habit, every inch that I have painstakingly gained in terms of calmness and healthiness, simply disappear from the extreme pressure of their hawk-eyed interest, the discussion of my choices (which can be vicious occasionally), and the memory of the verbal abuse and deeply controlling behavior during my entire life. One parent is the main culprit in this, and the 'kinder' parent is still recovering from a psychotic breakdown. He has become more emotionally desperate and intrusive since the breakdown, and I am left not even knowing who 'he' actually is, and what aspects of his behavior stem from that. But because of his fragile condition, the unspeakably seductive idea of cutting off contact with them is totally impossible.
This big mix of hatred, disgust, pity, and guilt is destroying me, yet as the years progress, I am probably going to be somehow responsible for their welfare (despite being penniless myself, and I have no siblings.) If they were both categorically abusive, that would be one thing. I just know that if I had a different personality, maybe the situation wouldn't be so bad. I could be emotionally giving to a small degree, and they could feel loved, and everyone could go on with their lives.
Instead, one small phone call destroyed my incredibly productive and calm/focused energy today, and I fear I will never gain true independence from their desperate energy which only increases as they get older and feel more vulnerable. Even the verbally abusive parent is now just projecting pathetic energy.
How can I be compassionate when I lose all mental cohesion just thinking about them? Any ideas are welcome, from general approaches to specific thoughts that I can repeat to myself. I know this is a lot, and I am not seeking magic answers, but some concepts might be helpful. Also, I am in my late-20s, so I really feel like I should have made some progress on this by now.