The most useful tool I've discovered on our life journey is compassionate honesty. It heals so many wounds.
This month has given me the chance to compassionately and honestly re-examine the relationship between my adopted Mother and I, to see whether the wound has healed between us. But my mother continues to want to play the game of 'who-is-right-and-wrong', and I don't want to play that game anymore. She doesn't like that. And so in the last painful letter she wrote me, her parting shot was
I see you're writing a book on compassionate honesty. It would be better titled 'How not to give a Shit by an expert'
It made me laugh. Because she called bullshit on me. For all my lofty ideals and the beautifully crafted articles, she saw clearly the purpose of this site.
It is to help you not give a shit. She also identified that I advocate it (she thinks I'm an expert at it, which is great).
So where does the compassion come in? Can you compassionately 'not give a shit'? Isn't that simply not caring?
Well for me, what is important to note in the 'not-giving-a-shit', is WHY you don't give a shit.
Do you not give a shit because you disrespect and objectify the other persons feelings? Are you overcompensating for your insecurity and trying to be superior? Do you not give a shit because you are in actual fact trying to control the situation?
If you look deep inside and have answered yes to any of those questions, that's ok. It proves you are human. And it's a process. Have compassion for yourself.
Both my letters to my mother were examples of me trying to control the situation by forcing my beliefs on her. Of course that's not the only reason I wrote them, because growing is like a blinking switch. On and off. Some parts were real and vulnerable, others were what I believed (and therefore not real).
I believed I had discovered a healthy way forward for us. I believed my way was the best way. But until I wrote them out, published them and re-read them with a third eye I didn't realise what I was doing. (Blogging is so useful, it forces you to have multi-dimensional perspective on your 'stuff' in a way no other medium does).
'What do you want out of this?' asked my boyfriend
'I want her to accept that my reality was real for me. I don't want to make her wrong. She can have her reality, if I can have mine. It was difficult but I've accepted that. And I also wanted to lead by example for everyone who reads this site, to show that two realities can co-exist without blame.' I answered.
'So isn't that simply another way to be right and to prove your superiority?' he asked.
'You're right.' I said. 'Fuck.'
'It's alright' he said, giving me a hug. 'You're growing all the time. But remember you're still human. You still poo.'
From a different perspective, when I remove myself from 'my' position, I see that she is me.
I have compassion for her, because I have compassion for me.
She's fighting for her reality as if her life depends upon it. She's doing exactly the same thing as I am - defending her experience. Of course my experience is that she's a narcissistic abuser. So I understand why she's fighting it. She's going about it a different way to me, by trying to force me to accept her version of events, whilst I am trying to leave the past behind and force her to leave my beliefs intact.
She wants an enumerated list of abusive incidents, so that she can dissect every single one and justify why it was my fault. I'm tired of that game because it's what we've done for years. Accusation followed by retaliation. I was proposing a different game. But it was still a game.
Of course I'm also trying desperately to be wise and appear wise in public whilst I do it which led to her second calling out of my bullshit...
'Are you god?'
That also made me laugh. She's not exactly spot on. But I do like to believe that we are all divine.
After I spoke to my boyfriend, I sat down and wondered about the way forward which would foster the security I feel without needing to prove my superiority. What was the compassionate way 'not to give a shit'?
The real way is to relinquish control. It's to show your vulnerability.
My mother's memories of my childhood are so totally different to mine, the gap is so huge in our perceptions of what happened that it is as if we are talking about two completely separate sets of people. She accuses me of fantasizing about abuse whilst I believe she's in denial about her abuse. But the key word is 'believe'.
'There is no way that either of us can prove our story,' I thought to myself. 'What if she's right and I'm wrong. Who knows?'
At the same time, I know that my constant to-ing and fro-ing is characteristic of someone who was and continues to be gaslit by her abuser. And then deep down I heard my voice resonate back. 'But who cares? Your beliefs aren't 'real'. They are not you.'
My own beliefs about what happened exist and have created 'a reality'. And yet, they are not me. I don't have to live in or with that reality. I don't have to let my beliefs hurt me. I can observe them like a film and laugh at them. I can observe and laugh at hers (even though she might find that offensive) because if she is me, they are also mine.
I'm not going to feed into our pain by arguing about these positions, because that's not compassion; that empowering the victim/persecutor paradigm. Ultimately it's her choice to remain in that pain and no amount of 'forcing' with persuasionwill help. But I understand why she has her beliefs. I understand why she is committed to them because I understand why I was committed to mine. Her abuse explains a lot about why I attach the way I do.
Yet, I am whole and complete without my beliefs. My relationships are whole and complete. My life is whole and complete. And right now I don't give a shit about her beliefs or about mine because they aren't important to who we are (maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow though. Growth is, as I said, is a blinking switch).
So to all those who read my blog, I'm leaving those two letters up for you to read as an example of the journey we must all go through. This month was my turn. There's some real and vulnerable stuff in them. There's also a bunch of bullshit.
I'm working towards being secure enough to know that I am not defined by your beliefs, because they are not me. My best advice would be not to give a shit about them. If you argue about them and cling to them it means you are trying to prove your superiority (and be aware that this means you are still wrapped up in your own 'story'). I am still, and I really have to think about what would happen if she accepted her abuse. And then what?
But above all I'm trying not to worry about it. Because we all poo.
The Maternal Narcissism Trail
Growing up with a maternal narcissist - a mother who views you as an extension of herself - teaches you to suppress your sense of self in order to be loved. It warps you, stunts you, in such a way as you may never recover. It makes you insecure, hypervigilant and highly susceptible to abusive relationships in adult life. It's horrific, but there is hope, recovery and validation together with others who have experienced it. There's far too many of us.