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Re: Family Histories

Posted by allisonm on April 27, 2000, at 21:14:24

In reply to Family Histories, posted by Abby on April 27, 2000, at 10:58:11

>>how do you think your family and childhood shaped you? And what have you managed to learn either on your own or through psycotherapy that you didn't feel you learned as a child as far as social interaction goes?<<

I wish I could tell you. I feel I'm just scratching the surface. My parents never should have had me. My mother's parents never should have had my mother. My grandmother's pregnancy was not planned and my mother knew it but also felt it all her life through her relationships with her parents.

My mother told me on several occasions that she knew she was marrying the wrong man but was afraid to back out and went through with the wedding anyway. They divorced when I was 4. My mom and I went back to live with her parents, who were heavy drinkers.

My grandmother ran the household and managed our lives to minute detail. She was extremely controlling, using saccharine whines at first. If that didn't work it was on to heavy guilt and if necessary, screaming or physical abuse. My mother became an alcoholic. Started drinking heavily and falling down at night before I was school-age. She was hospitalized 2 weeks with cirrhosis when I was 12. That was after a time that we had been living on our own in my grandmother's house while my grandparents wintered in Florida. It became apparent that my mother could not function on her own. We moved to Florida into my grandmother's hell on earth and my mother never escaped. Grandmother died in 1982 while I was in college. Mom was hospitalized again with cirrhosis in 1987 after my grandfather died and she really was alone. She and I and my ex-husband suffered 10 years through her alcoholism and declining health until she finally died in 1998 at age 62. Her alcoholism kept her from being mother. Most of the time she was not there for me. She couldn't be.

My father is controlling, but distant at the same time. He doesn't know how to show affection. He never marrried again. Has never been able to maintain a longterm relationship. Always has immersed himself in work. Work always comes first. Always. My husband of 12 years left me almost 2 years ago. I have learned not to trust anyone.

While growing up the only way to get affection in my family was to comply, be good, do what they wanted or suffer the wrath of my grandmother. It's similar with my dad except he tries to bribe me first, then makes life miserable if he doesn't get what he wants.

I have spent years minimizing myself trying to keep people happy because it appears I cannot tolerate them being disappointed in me. I have been a perfectionist all my life. I was valedictorian of my high school class and an honors student in college. My mother used to tell me stories about how when I was small, when I knew I'd done something wrong I would punish myself -- hitting myself with a hairbrush before my mother even had a chance to come after me. I still do this, but in quieter ways through thought. I hate myself a lot of the time for how I look, what I've done or haven't done, or said or haven't said, real or perceived. I am always checking myself for offenses. I lambaste myself continually in a neverending tape loop in my head.

In psychotherapy I am just now seeing this longstanding need to keep people happy and am trying to learn how not to be bothered so much if I can't. I am struggling to think now about what I really "want" or what I really "want" to do. I have always thought in terms of what I "should" do. I don't know how I am going to break out of this. It has gone on for so long.

As far as social interaction goes, I feel pretty incapable of even trying to have a relationship with someone new. I have little experience with "healthy" relationships and with my track record, have little hope that I might find one. I don't know that I know how to have one.




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