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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Mother Is to Blame for My Current Misery

December 18, 2021

Dear Stavroula,

I grew up with a mother who always wanted to control everything in my life. My parents, divorced and my father was absent. She made all the decisions for me, who I would hang out with, what activities I would do, what I would study. I never dared to go against her. She had cancer when I was still in elementary school and she raised me with the fear that if I upset her she might die.

I studied literature, under pressure from my mother, though I wanted to study Fine Arts. I suffered from the first moment in a discipline that I really hated and my only consolation was the painting classes I took, without her knowing it. I finished the first year with great difficulty and it took a total of seven years to earn my degree. For the past two years, my mother has come to live with me, “to help me.” Of course, after graduation I had to do a master’s degree. I decided to go abroad, despite her objections, hoping that the distance between us would give me a chance to breathe. Being abroad was the first time I felt calm and happy. In parallel with my master’s degree, I enrolled in an art school and started painting again. There I met the love of my life and we decided to live together. I started giving painting lessons to kids and I was really happy. When my mother realized that I was going to stay there forever, she started pushing me more than ever. She kept asking me to come back, telling me that she was sick and that she needed help, that she had sacrificed her life for me and that I could not leave her alone when she needed me most.

Unfortunately, once again I succumbed to her pressures. I returned, and was appointed a clerk in a public office. I broke up with my significant other a year after my return because he asked me to return to him and he did not want to leave his job and come to Greece, as my mother demanded. Years have passed since then, and I have not been in a relationship again. Now I live alone, because my mother died peacefully, but she condemned me to live in misery. This is my story and I hope you publish it to help. I have no question.

Christina

 

Dear Christina,

Many of us easily characterize the parent who neglects his child as inappropriate or dangerous, but we do not do the same for the one who is constantly interfering in the life of his child, who imposes his will, who forces him to give in to his demands, who ‘protects’ from anything that may hurt, damage, or afflict the child. And yet, this parent, no matter how well-intentioned he is, is just as dangerous to his child. His child feels powerless to make decisions about his life. Oppressed because he fulfills the desires of others and not his own, he grows up without self-confidence, with the fear that if he does not comply with the demands of his parent, he will lose his love.

However, although the responsibility of parents is great for the way their children grow up as well as for the way they deal with the difficulties of their lives, the children themselves have just as much responsibility when they become adults.

It is easy for an adult to blame his parents for all his problems, because that way he avoids blaming himself, which can be more painful. Because the realization of personal responsibility for the situation in which one finds oneself or for the emotions one experiences implies the desire for change, the need for action. And this can sometimes be much more difficult than staying the same, in the familiar situation – even if you do not feel comfortable in it. But if someone else is to blame, then one can more easily accept his misery, his fate.

The solution in these cases may be psychotherapy or the help of a specialist who will help you move on to a happier life, freer from psychic pain. Accepting personal responsibility is often redemptive and leads to closure.

It is very important for each of us to be able to escape from the past and move on with our lives. A condition in addition to taking personal responsibility is the forgiveness of the parents, at least in the case of those who had good intentions. The anger that stays inside us can in some cases become more harmful than the events that hurt us, but forgiveness and acceptance bring peace and are the basic conditions for personal happiness.

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