Letter to My Estranged Mother (Part 2)

Louisa Leontiades Complicated Roots, Maternal Narcissism

So three letters have arrived since my letter to you three days ago. And all filled with justifications, explanations and analysis of why our past relationship isn’t the painful one I have experienced. You’ve even backed your explanations up with quotes from eminent adoption experts to support your position. It feels like you are telling me that I have got it wrong all these years (even if I can see it might be an attempt on your part to make me feel ‘better’ about our relationship). But frankly, the way to do so is not by making my experience out to be ‘wrong’.

If I gave your words the same power now I have done in the past, they would make me feel diminished and insecure. But don’t worry, that’s not what I do anymore.

To put it clearly –

  • If your goal is to try and change my childhood experience, it is impossible. Past experience and emotion cannot be changed. The way I experienced it then, was real and always will be. My experience is that I lived in fear of you for years.
  • If you want me to support your belief that you ‘have always been a loving, affectionate person, and [I was] not stinted of love’ therefore, I’m afraid this is also impossible. My experience was far from that (and there’s nothing you can do about this).

But I also want to tell you – if you are interested – that I have no need to feel ‘better’ about the past, because it is impossible that I could feel more wonderful about it than I do.

You were an actor in my experience but it was mine and mine alone. I thank you for being part of it and for contributing so fully. And whilst my childhood experience may be painful for many reasons, it is at the same time this pain which has freed my understanding and broken my prison. I now am truly joyful and grateful for the experience.

My contentment is the product of years of therapy, reflection and personal development. It is – essentially – the product of accepting what is without trying to change it. You would like to make yourself right about the past and therefore make me wrong in my experience. But I will not change my opinion of the past, even if I can reframe it.

We both had experiences which was our individual perception of what happened. Our experiences were vastly different. Life is indeed funny like that. Two people can experience the same event totally differently – it’s called subjective reality. In any case, the hows and whys of our differing subjective realities is of little relevance for our situation. The fact is they are.

I know this is hard to accept. I understand more than you know…

Because in order to move forward together I have to equally accept that your subjective reality was one where you were a loving parent despite my experiences. Just as you cannot invalidate my feelings to move forward, neither can I invalidate yours. I cannot be ‘right’ in my judgement of your actions or events in our past. In fact I have to let go of any judgement. I have to accept what you say. That you did everything out of love, even whilst I experienced it very differently. I have to accept your subjective reality as your truth. That’s a tough call, but I’ve done it.

So where do we go from here?

We will go nowhere if you persist in the explanations, clarifications, judgements, opinions, beliefs around what happened in our relationship. In fact the more you do this, the more it reinforces my experience that you are stuck in your past experience and this polarizes us.

We have each claimed our respective subjective realities to be ‘the’ one and only truth over the years, but as it turns out there is no one and only truth. We can’t change our realities, only accept that my experience is true for me as your experience is true for you. I am not trying to make you wrong. But nor will I undermine my own reality to make you right.

My acceptance that your experience is that you are a loving parent when my experience was one of abuse, is a big ask. And yet I’ve done it.