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Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5453
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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36 year old widow Mother of 4 I feel as though my entire

Customer Question

36 year old widow
Mother of 4

I feel as though my entire life has been dictated by my parents as a result of me not wanting to disappoint them.I am afraid of making a decision knowing ahead of time that they will insult me and make me feel bad if they do not agree. Where do I begin in understanding how to have the strength to deal with this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

Can you tell me more about your situation? How are your parents involved in your life now? What kinds of things do they say to you?

Thank you,
Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
After my husband passed away, my parents have been on a mission to get a second chance to "fix" what they perceive as my broXXXXX XXXXXfe. They are currently watching the kids so that i was able to go back to school. They felt like I needed a break - a chance to figure out who I really was. I chance to sew my oats if you will. Now that I am in the situation, I feel like they are holding most of the cards. They want me to succeed and anything short of that is me giving up. i am constantly reminded that they thought my life before was horrible and that i need to move on from that and find a new life. i know it sounds crazy to be 36 and afraid to go against my parents - but nevertheless ..... I know that with any decision that I make that they do not agree with there will be a lot of backlash. They will say things like "your quitting has nothing to do with the family - we are fine. Keep pressing on" "You can't stop - you are doing this to better the lives of your children" "Running is what you like to do best - stop running". I truly don't feel as though I am running, i feel like I am trying to make a decision that I want. it may not be the best for the entire family, but it is never without trying my best for myself and the kids. My parents are just very controlling and don't tolerate indifference very well. I will give an example: They live by the ocean - I would love to live back in New York. Their response is "you can't take the kids up to NY - they will be destroyed. They are not city kids and they will just become nobodies. Stop thinking so silly. That's just not an option."
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for the additional information.

It sounds like your parents withhold their love from you by making you "prove" that you can meet the high standards they set. Most likely, they learned themselves when they were young that love equates control. That means that they feel they express their feelings through their "concern" for your well being. To them it may seem like they care. To you it feels like control, which it is.

If you grew up with your parents treating you this way, you most likely never got the unconditional love and attention you needed to feel secure in your own decisions. Parents who base their love on control often make their children feel they can never measure up and that can create a low self esteem.

Right now, your parents are probably using the fact that you need their help to control you. Otherwise, they would not have the ability to direct your life as they see fit. In order to get away from that control, you may need to change your circumstances. There are two ways to do that. One is through physically changing your contact with them. See if you can find alternative child care, maybe a friend or other family member. The other way to change things is emotionally. The first step is to build you own self esteem so your parents remarks and attempts to control do not affect you as they do now. Here are some resources that may help:

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/self-esteem-struggles-and-strategies-that-can-help/

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/30/6-tips-to-improve-your-self-esteem/

You may also want to look into learning more about toxic relationships and how you can help yourself to not respond to them:

Hurt People Hurt People: Hope and Healing for Yourself and Your Relationships by Sandra D. Wilson

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck

Also, consider seeing a therapist to help give you support and to find new ways to cope with your parents.

Another way to deal with your parents is to begin to see what they say to you as their issues and not yours. You are an adult now and although it is painful to realize that they cannot offer their love in a healthy way, you are still ok as a person. You are valuable and worthy. So when they do try to control you, nod your head and say thank you for the advice. Then do what you feel you want to do. Seek out the advice of those you trust. And it may also help to keep most of your personal life to yourself. The more you tell them, the more they will feel justified to butt in to your life.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks so much for your feedback. It rang true and made me a little emotional.

Just not sure how to take that first step. I've spent my entire life trying to be the apple of my dad's eye. My parents put the entire legacy on my shoulders. I am truly afraid of making the decision to move away from them (although it is probably what i truly want) . I hate knowing that they are going to call me names and tell me that i am ruining the lives of my children by choosing to leave - and if that is not enough, they will lay a guilt trip down like we are going to die soon, you need to be here. Why is it that I can't try to find my own path?

When I was a kid, any disagreement would result in immediate punishment or being ignored. I feel as though that still hasn't changed. I just want to be happy. I want to be able to move on and I feel that I can't. I feel like they are keeping me in a "you can't make decisions for yourself" cage.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

You're welcome! I am glad I could help.

You have already taken the most important two steps you can take to make this better- you recognized there is a problem and you are reaching out for help. Once you do those two things, you are well on your way to feeling better.

The next step is to gain the self esteem that they could not give you as a child. By learning more about self esteem and emotionally abusive parents, you can see where the patterns are from your childhood and how they continue to affect you. And I also recommend counseling. Having someone from outside the situation to help you gain insight will make a big difference. And you are always welcome to come back here as well. Talking out your feelings can help you with the stress.

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5453
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I greatly appreciate your feedback and understand the relevance of it all. Nevertheless .... i find myself still sitting in the same spot afraid to make a next move. I am afraid that if I leave school I will disappoint everyone. Afraid that I will be viewed as a failure. What I really want is to just be home with my children - I just can't seem to be able to conquer this idea of failure. I know that walking back into my parents house I will be welcomed with looks of disappoint and whispers that I won't be able to raise my children as good as they do. I do want to state that I am a great mom and have spent my entire life trying to establish stability and happiness for my children. Nevertheless, my parents still feel that I couldn't possibly do it alone.

I went to school with this idea that everyone wanted me to find myself after my husband passed away. The truth of the matter is that I don't even recognize the person that I am now. It is not all bad though, I finally have friends but they are friends with this person that they see not who I really am. It is all this imaginary world that is being created around me. The reality is that I am not that person nor do I really want to be that person.

I just want "me" to be ok. (with everyone). What I don't want is for people to feel as though they need to step in and force me in a direction that they feel is the right one.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hi, I noticed that you relisted your answer. Do you still want an answer from me or would you prefer to work with another expert?

Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No from you would be great. Just didn't see you online.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Ok, thanks for letting me know. I was not sure if you were unhappy with my answer, causing you to re list. I am on line most of the day and sometimes into the evening except for early morning and late night, if that helps. But you are free to work with anyone else as well. Sometimes I have appointments or other obligations and I cannot be on line.

The fear you feel is most likely motivated by your self esteem. As a child when your parents put impossible expectations on you, you learned that no matter what you do, you do not measure up to their standards. Because your parents were the only way you had to measure what the world was like, you probably assumed that everyone held the same standard as your parents. Most children who are emotionally abused feel that way.

But now it is hard to change that thinking as accept that you do not have to reach impossible standards in order to be ok as a person. Since your parents are still in your life, they continually reinforce these standards adding to the belief that you are not good enough.

This may also be why you present a different front to others. You may feel that the one you do have is not acceptable and they would find fault with you.

It may help you to begin to see your parents expectations as dysfunctional. They learned to have these high expectations because they were raised by dysfunctional parents. So they absorbed those beliefs and now they put them on you. But those beliefs are harmful, as you can see from how you feel. It is going to be impossible to ever meet them. So by working on seeing these beliefs as wrong, you can help yourself to get the "voices" of your parents out of your mind and replace them with more loving and gentle expectations of yourself. To do this, begin by listing the expectations that you feel your parents have for you. Then list realistic ones. I can help you with that if you want. You can also learn more about what realistic expectations are by reading the resources I listed. There is also another book you may want to try that I have found very helpful:

Adult Children of Abusive Parents by Steven Farmer

This is a learning process so give yourself time.

Kate

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