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Wanting A Better Life

Question:

I think my mother has a toxic influence on my life. As a child I attended 17 schools. My mother constantly moved house, from one crisis to the next. When I have attempted as an adult to discuss the negative social aspects of this, my mother has always found reasons why it was "not her fault." Also, having trouble fitting in at school, I had a lot of "sick" days off, all with my mother’s blessing and encouragement. She appeared to enjoy my company on these days. She also expressed a low regard for both formal education and peer relationships. Mum’s ideal peer relationship for me appeared to be peers’ being envious of me, eg: smarter, prettier, etc. When I sometimes got teary about my disappointments with school friendships, mother would usually tell me it was due to my peers’ envy. I am now in my mid 30’s and have a very unsatisfying social life with very few and light friendships, and no partner (fortunately I overcame my scholastic disadvantages, made it through university and have a very good career). I have had very regular ongoing contact with my mother over the years. She has recently moved to my neighborhood and I have had even higher contact, seeing her most days, and speaking on the phone around 10 times per week. I have actively sought conversations and time together. I am now feeling that my relationship with my mother is very unhealthy, and having a negative effect on my ability to form satisfying relationships, but am unsure about what to do.

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Answer:

Both you and your mother are having a difficult time separating from one another. Clearly, your mother discouraged you from developing a separate life and identity from that of her own, by criticizing your friends, your education and even your attendance at school. She was probably and extremely anxious woman who needed to have you nearby for her own comfort. The same pattern continues to this day. For you the problem is how to assert your independence and your right to a full life, with friends, romantic relationships and even marriage and children, if you want those?

My guess is that you experience a lot of guilt at the thought of living your life apart from your mother. Guilt is a powerful force and can keep people from achieving all they are capable of. In this case, you probably feel responsible for her and even depend on her for some of your social life. Now that she is older, your feelings of responsibility and guilt are even greater in the past; at least that is my educated guess.

The fact is that there comes a time when every human being must "leave the nest" and fly away towards an adult life. It is time for you to do that now. So, what can you do to enable yourself to spread your wings and "fly away?"

First I want to urge you to enter psychotherapy where you need to begin examining your relationship with your mother. The fact is that whatever happened in the past is now gone. It is now that you are continuing to be dependent on your mother and to feel responsible for her. The goals of your therapy need to center around separation from her and developing your social and romantic life. I suspect that you also need to develop more of your identity as a woman separate from your mother. At work you appear to be doing fine. Remember, mental health translates into living and experiencing a full work, social and romantic life.

Second, and with the help of psychotherapy you need to move away from the neighborhood that your mother has just moved into. In addition, you need to severely reduce the numbers of time you speak to and interact with her.

Third, you need to begin making friends along with socializing with them. Work is probably the most common place where people meet and form friendships. The other ways center on leisure activities, hobbies, and even attending religious services and getting involved in the activities of the religious institution. These are simply a few suggestions, but, however you do it, meeting people and socialization is important for you. Again, psychotherapy can be a wonderful for both support and learning, in helping you achieve your goals.

Bottom: You want a better life and you deserve one but you must separate from Mom.

Good luck in your efforts to become a truly independent person.

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