If I wanted to ask my mother something when I was younger, I would often wait until there were guests around. The reason for this was that I knew that there was less chance of my mother raising her voice or losing her temper.
Through having other guests around or oven just one person, it allowed me to say something to her without feeling completely on edge. But even if she didn’t lose it when she was around others, it didn’t mean that she wouldn’t change after they were not around.
Sometimes these guests were family friends and, at other times, they were staying at our house. Our house was a guest house, which meant that rarely did a day go by when there wasn’t at least one person saying there.
So, as her personality generally changed when these people were around, it made it a lot easier for me to settle down. But when it was just my family and I, I had to be on high alert.
My mother’s inner world had to be a place of extreme unrest; she must have felt emotionally raw for most of her waking hours. If I said something at the dinner table, whilst she was watching TV, it was as though I had said something extremely offensive.
It didn’t take a lot to set her off, the smallest thing would do it, and this behaviour moulded me into someone who was fearful, edgy and withdrawn. I ended up doing just about everything I could to please her.
Not only did I have to worry about my mother losing it over the smallest things, I had to worry about what my father would do, too. There would be moments when I would be hit by my father for doing something that displeased my mother.
Being hit was traumatising, but having a mother who was so emotionally volatile was far more destructive. When it came to the former, it would happen and that would be it, yet even though the latter wasn’t as intense, it wore me down.
The first type of abuse was physical and it could be said that the second type of abuse was psychological. This had a negative effect on my mental and emotional development, and it stopped me from being able to express myself.
My house was like a war zone, but although this was an extremely traumatising time in my life, I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal. This was just how my life was and I had no other choice than to tolerate it.
Absolutely No Idea
My mother would describe me as shy and quiet, and this is how my teachers at school would often describe me. Not only did my mother lack self-awareness, she also lacked the ability to see the effect that her behaviour was having on me and other family members.
It would be like meeting someone who has PTSD, due to being in a war zone, and saying that they are just shy or timid. When in reality, this is someone who has been through a hell of a lot, meaning it is going to be perfectly normal for them to behave in this manner.
The Importance of Awareness
As I look back on this time in my life, knowing what I know now and taking into account all of the healing work that I have done, I realise that what took place was dysfunctional and a clear sign that my mother was in a bad way. From what I know, I would say that her mother was just as unstable, and this caused her to have a similar experience as a child.
This also makes me think about how important awareness is; if someone is not aware, it is not going to be possible for them to stop themselves from behaving in a destructive manner. And, through being aware of what is taking place, they can get the help that they need to heal their pain and to no longer abuse others.