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After you figure out or dissect how your parent(s) sabotaged your success or ruined your life, what's the next step?

Asked by XD (1519 points ) September 28th, 2011

I think I’ve figured out that one of the sources of my arrested development is that my mother has regularly responded to announcements of my actions or intentions with “Well, you don’t want to do that…” It can be with big or small things—ideas for job pursuits or mundane projects around the house.

For example, today I mentioned in passing that I keep buying things online and I need to stop, and without really evaluating what I meant in terms of severity, she said “Well, you don’t want to do that… that’s what old ladies do.” During another conversation, I mentioned three possible writing gigs, including one for our local alternative weekly, and she said “Well, you don’t want to work there (the weekly)...”

Hopefully, you’re not focusing too much on the fact that I need to cut back on my spending and instead understanding that I think I’ve been hearing this regularly for a long time. I think it has been a factor in preventing me from trying things that I have an impulse to try, and I think it’s for me one of those subliminal tapes that we all have that ultimately dictate our behavior over the long term and especially when we experience stress.

It’s hard to explain, but she makes these statements often without having a clue about the actual circumstances and yet somehow it is so authoritative that it clears the deck of any thought, judgement or evaluation I might have. I get caught on my heels and generally decide it’s not worth the trouble to correct her (in part, because she frequently responds as if she has never experienced anything in the world before, and I have to explain every aspect of every part of whatever process or thing we are discussing—I don’t know why this is, because she isn’t dumb). The problem is that my opinion somehow gets thrown overboard, and somehow I don’t feel compelled to recover it. My experience of it is sort of a kneejerk reaction. “You don’t want to do that…” = “Well, I guess I don’t.” It’s really hard to stay cognizant and negate that message with a conscious and persisent response.

So therapy is out for the time being, but I would like to hear some feedback and/or guidance on what you do once you become cognizant of this kind of thing. I’ve mentioned this to her before, but I don’t know that I can count on her behavior to change much. She goes on this kind of autopilot a lot, and frequently gets emotional and defensive when confronted about her actions.

Have you dealt with this kind of thing successfully? Thanks for your response.

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