I realised that I am starting to warm up to my T. I think that me cursing in sessions more than I usually would outside of sessions, is an indication of feeling comfortable with someone? This is the real side of me that I am showing her, instead of being extra polite, layering my words etc.
I mentioned to her about feeling that ‘life is meaningless’ because all I do is household chores, follow my mother wherever she wants to go and take care of the kids (as I was saying in previous post that there’s nothing wrong if some people actually enjoy these things). She asked then, what would I consider a meaningful life then? I said that I would like to volunteer in an NGO but knowing how my mother would say that I’d be better off ‘volunteering’ my time at home, I have not proceeded to looking for an NGO to volunteer. If it was my choice, I would have signed up at an NGO in M to volunteer at a disaster struck area of the country. Actually, I do think that I need to do some self-reflection about what actually constitutes a ‘meaningful life’ to me. (What about you?)
At the moment, the only control I have is my exercise routine. I run during the weekends and on weekdays, I’ll alternate between the gym and doing my High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. There are ‘off days’ in between.
Our session then focused on how my job search had been. I told her that some of the jobs I applied would require me to relocate to a different country, and one of which is Japan. She asked about whether I will be able to cope living in a different country. I told her that initially it is difficult but somehow I will find something that I love and eventually be able to adapt to the place. I never thought that I would live in M as well because the culture of the country is actually quite different than mine – But I did and eventually love this place! So it’s really all about adapting to the different culture, assimilating but at the same time not losing your own culture.
We then went on to discuss about how my mother giving the silent treatment affects me. Silent treatment IS a form of psychological abuse in case some of you are not aware. My mother would shut me off for days and pretend I don’t exist. I would enter the room and immediately she would walk out. We went through the thought process – actions/consequences.
My Thought Process: “What can I do to make the situation better?”; “How do I get her to talk to me?”
Actions/Consequences: Increase anxiety, not being able to sleep, eat, fear. (I told her that I would not be able to sleep because I was trying to listen to footsteps outside my door, in case she barged in and start screaming at me)
Now that I am aware of the thought process and how it affects me, how can I react to the silent treatment so that in the future it will not reinforce this behaviour? She explained about the dynamics between ‘the abuser and the abused’. Why for example, in domestic abuse, the abused wife keeps getting abused by her husband? She reinforces his behaviour by remaining silent perhaps because she is dependent on him or due to other factors that requires her to remain in the relationship. Perhaps she gives in to him and apologise for her behaviour and thus accepts the abuse.
I told her that in my case I am unsure because so far, I usually give in and will try to talk to her. However, I did read an article about how if I draw my boundaries and let it known to her, then perhaps it will stop. For example, if she was cursing and swearing at me, I could tell her that “We will only talk again when you calm down and stop swearing”. I have not tried that yet but honestly sounds.. kinda scary.
So how about silent treatment then? I still have not figured out how to get around this. She asked me this question: Why do you feel bad or need to apologise when you have not done anything wrong? I said that I don’t apologise (anymore) but will try to talk to her to ease the situation. So then she asked me, why do you need to talk to her? Why can’t you keep silent as well?.
The first thing that came to my mind was: I want her to know that I exist. So you prefer that she lashes out at you as compared to the silent treatment? I said, ironically yes. I prefer that she lashes out at me than to give me the silent treatment. Isn’t it contradicting that you prefer to be verbally abused than the silent treatment? I said, yes because then I know that she acknowledges my existence.
And then, it was the ‘aha moment!’ which my T pointed out. Actually I think, you just want her acceptance. You want her to accept you for who you are.. so, silent treatment feels worse because then you feel like you do not exist. [Something along that line] I told her that I usually don’t give a shit when people don’t like me for who I am. She said, of course, but this is your mother. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be accepted by your mother. Love and acceptance is part of feeling belonged in the family.
It shocked me to the core because it is true that I do want her to accept me for who I am. There is always something wrong with me – I’m too fat, stupid, ugly, ‘black face and skin’ (I’m of mixed parentage so my siblings and mother are fair skinned). Nothing I do ever pleases her. And I remember at a young age trying to change myself just so that she can accept me. That usually means letting her dress me up (looking like a total dork), cut my hair till it was extremely short (and later she worries that I am a lesbian). I am in my late twenties and yet still trying to get her acceptance.
She went on about how all these are how she probably see herself and then project them to me. Deep in the core, she is hurt but because her defense mechanism is so strong, she want others to become miserable with her too. We talked a little bit about the hurtful comments and sarcasm that she made. I mentioned about how my mother would warn me about “going to a different country as one person and coming back as two”. If you didn’t understand that, it simply means to come back as an unwed mother. I angrily told my T that I am afraid of people touching me, so how is it that I would go from that to even having sex! My mother would also scare me about how in M, people get killed and raped and I used to actually live in fear, always looking over my shoulders.
The main thing is to be aware of my mother’s projections on me. She still sees me as a child whom she can control and keep under her thumb. What she doesn’t realise is that, I am an adult who has my own personality, likes/dislikes and it is difficult for her to come to terms with that. My T told me that being aware of her projections will stop me from internalizing them and that is crucial. For example, my mother is afraid of something and then she projects it on me so that I feel that fear too and internalise it as my own.
The last part – I was actually trying to squeeze some time. Initially, I wanted to discuss with her about why I feel bad/guilty about everything but somehow we ended up discussing something else. I raised this up to her and she said, maybe we can process it through phone/email. It was something she noticed about me but did not want to touch until I was aware and ready for the next stage.
A bit disappointed to be honest that she is not available for another appointment before I leave but at least, we covered a lot in this session. I am very grateful for that session because I was not even expecting a session with her since I thought I would be in M for just a couple of days.
I think I will try to process on me feeling bad/guilty in future posts as a way to rationalise my thoughts rather than keeping it pent up.
I hope that for those of you who are dealing with an N in your life and considering therapy, I suggest that you should seek one. If not, I hope that you find my posts somewhat useful to you which is why I am openly sharing the content of my therapy sessions here.