My T asked me this question in the last session – Why did I choose to come to therapy even though it goes against my beliefs?
She knows that the reason why I find it difficult to talk about my mother especially because the topic is taboo. Taboo in the sense that, speaking badly about our parents isn’t widely accepted particularly, in my culture and religion. Islam places parents on a pedestal because Qur’an speaks highly of them. For years, religious preachers focused and constantly reminded the Muslim community about honouring and respecting our parents because of the sacrifice they have made for us since young.
However, not many have actually addressed the issue of: What if the parents are the ones who do not respect their children’s rights? What about children who are being abused by their parents? Child abuse is rampant in all communities and Muslims too do not shy away from this problem. It was only recently that I found a video by a religious preacher on child abuse (I’ll attach it to the end of this post) and I feel it is important that this issue is being raised.
Her initial assumption was that I came to therapy so that when I become a mother in the future, I do not turn out like her. I told her that it is already established from many years ago, that I already know that I do not want to become like my mother. I am blessed with many good role models whom I have met during my time volunteering at an NGO so I imagine the type of mother I would like to become in the future.
I told her that the reason why I came to therapy (and also why I felt it was necessary 2 years ago) was that, the constant verbal and emotional abuse drove me to the extent that I had placed myself in a dangerous situation so that I would get killed as what my mother has always wanted. I was feeling both hopeless because the situation wouldn’t get better with my mother and also anger because I wanted her to feel guilty for saying those things when something bad did happen to me.
I explained to her that yes, to some extent it goes against my beliefs because our parents are placed on the pedestal. Speaking ill of them is unheard of and people generally find it hard to believe that parents (in this case my mother), would behave in such a horrific manner. I held on to this belief and it has kept me from speaking up which unfortunately, at the same time, it was eating me up inside. I carried a lot of shame – not only from feeling guilty for wanting to speak up (that would usually mean I’m being disobedient) and also from the abuse I had to endure from childhood. Seeing how my mother is back to her old self from the way she is treating me, I fear that I would be driven to do the same thing as I did in the past. I wanted to do therapy years ago but only found the courage to do it now.
I said that my beliefs have changed because over time, I realised that no matter what the abuse and who the abuser is, we should not keep quiet. Islam in no way allows any form of abuse and we should not keep silent about this. The community, too, should play a part by not pushing away those who are brave enough to speak up about their abuse, whether it is child or domestic abuse.
I also hold on to this belief – something which I learnt from Brene Brown and that is – “Shame if you do not talk about it, it will fester and grow”. I’ve learnt that when something shameful happens to us and we keep it bottled up, it will be negatively manifested in our lives. We suppress our feelings and let it blow up at those undeserving of our anger. I can attest to feeling depressed and not being able to function for a month without understanding why.
I know I can’t drag my mother to therapy because she wouldn’t be able to see what is wrong with her actions. But I can try to work through my feelings and how to deal with her in difficult situations. My childhood will always be there to haunt me but I can reduce its intensity when I sit with someone in a safe environment to work through it.
Any of you reading this, if you have gone through a traumatic childhood or event, talking about it with someone safe (not necessarily a therapist) can actually reduce the intensity. I would be honest and say that it is not easy to talk about difficult things but it is truly worth it over time.