If it weren’t in such bad taste, I would post my mother’s latest letter and use it as an object lesson in “How To Recognize A Mindfuck”. Excuse my language, but there’s no other way to put it. Her entire letter was an exercise in gaslighting. I’m getting much better at recognizing it, but, oh Heaven help me, I didn’t pick up on it fast enough. I still got the stomach ache, the shakes, and the watery eyes before I figured it out. What were the finer points of this latest
poison pen letter?
- It was handwritten on yellow legal paper entirely in capital letters. Her emails are also written entirely in capital letters. It sort of feels like I’m being yelled at.
- She loves me so very much, and she has always wished me every happiness. Even if I thought she did not.
- She then digressed into a sort of strange memory recall of my childhood. It was very uncomfortable to read. She recounted my swimming in a pool in an apartment we lived at when I was a baby. She mentioned my playing with a childhood friend in our neighborhood. She went on to describe me when I was a teen riding my bike to work. It ended with her reminiscing about her visiting me in France and our trip to Paris. This trip down memory lane was unwelcome and weird.
- This is where the gaslighting starts. She started to speak for me. “I THINK THAT YOU DID ENJOY MY COMPANY AND WE WERE FRIEND AS WELL AS MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. THERE WERE BAD TIMES BUT I DO THINK THAT THE GOOD DOES OUTWAY (SIC) THE BAD. MY HEART’S DESIRE IS THAT WE COULD BE MORE THAN ON SPEAKING TERMS. I KNOW THAT I HAVE MADE MISTAKES…THERE WERE BOUNDARIES CROSSED IN SHARING INFO REGARDING YOUR FATHER AND OTHER MEN I DATED THAT I SHOULD HAVE KEPT FROM YOU AND FOR THAT I AM TRULY SORRY.” This is a weird statement. I did not enjoy her company, but she felt free to speak for me as if she had the authority to convince me of my own thoughts and/or feelings. This is often what happens in emotionally manipulative environments. We are told how we feel rather than asked. It’s just yucky.
- She then launched into an exposition about time flying. My daughters are getting older. They are getting so much older! My mother is missing so much not being able to be a part of their lives! I am the only daughter she has. My daughters are the only grandchildren she has. She is insinuating that I have created this situation. I have not. She did. She refused to speak to me for five years. This situation started in 2005 and really took off in 2006. I’m a little shocked that it’s 2013.
- She then resorted to begging as if I am a spiteful queen. Her letter took on a victimized tone. “WE DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO! NONE OF THIS IS EASY AND A BIT SCARY FOR US. I AM BEGGING YOU FOR OUR FUTURE.”
My Queen/Witch mother has become the Waif. I have never seen this side of her. I am beginning to wonder if this persona is working for her with her therapist who has misdiagnosed her. She is playing the victim, and she is now playing the victim with me. So, where’s the mindfuck? The entire letter is a mindfuck. This is why it was so confusing to me.
Imagine a known sexual predator coming into a court setting, facing his accuser, and then cowering in front of her–a woman he raped, bludgeoned, terrorized, and, for the sake of argument, stalked for a year by sending her dead kittens. Who is the real victim here? The sexual offender or the victim? The victim. Who should be afraid? The victim. Who should be begging? The victim. Begging for justice, for healing, for peace. Not the perpetrator. So, when my mother writes me a letter like this wherein she recalls how wonderful my childhood was, tells me how I really do feel about her, and then begins begging me “for her future” because I’ve somehow victimized her because she has missed the opportunity to know her granddaughters even though she made that choice–not me–the experience is victimizing. Her narrative is so off the mark it’s crazymaking.
My mother is indeed a victim. She was a victim in that my father did gaslight her. She is a victim of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. It’s almost impossible not to experience victimization of some kind in life. She was, however, not a victim in our relationship. She was the adult. I was the child. She was the power broker there as all parents are in relation to their young children. There is absolutely no room for her tone in our relationship. I have deprived her of nothing.
This, I have realized, is our primary problem. It is the clash of narratives. Her letter revealed a striking truth. Her story revolves around herself. She only made a few mistakes. Come on, Daughter, move on now! This is trivializing at its finest. The entire letter is steeped in denial. Her latest narrative says that she is now a victim, and I’m victimizing her. I am not. This is very hard stuff to stand up to. Mark my words, this is very painful stuff because my narrative is the opposite. She is fearful of me? I’m no longer shocked. How could I be? I’ve never known my Queen mother to play the Waif, but if it no longer serves her then why not change personas.
I have been crafting a letter to send in response to my mother’s July email. I had chosen not to send it yet as I wasn’t feeling peaceful. I revised it today. I feel it’s ready to send. It is very long, and this is a portion of my response:
I know that there is fear on your behalf, but you have missed something. You are my mother. I am your adult child. For most of our relationship, you have been in the position of power. I saw you almost kill my stepsister by strangling her. I saw you physically attack your second husband on numerous occasions. I saw you punch holes in drywall with your bare fist. I was the victim of a few beatings that left me unable to sit for a day. You withheld relationship, security, privacy, and love from me consistently for most of my young life. The sound of your voice can trigger a migraine in me in 5 minutes.
Who do YOU think is more afraid?
I will not kowtow to this new Waif, and I won’t be victimized by this manipulation. This feels like the work of a lifetime. Earlier today, I felt utterly defeated. I have grown so weary of this fight. It will end one day.
And, I will be the better for the fight.