My late mother’s cruel words are hard to forget, even though she spoke them long ago and logically I know they are not true. They also still make me feel guilty.
For example, if I’m in a rush to get the children to school and myself to work and we are running late because, for example, one child can’t find any clean socks and the other just remembered he had to finish some homework, I leave the breakfast mess on the table until I get back home mid afternoon. I can hear my mother’s disapproving voice that then echoes in my mind for some hours.
She also insisted on clearing up as you cooked, while I have preferred to clear up in one go once I’ve finished preparing my dish. Even now I sometimes find myself thinking about my mother’s disapproval and that she’d take advantage of the opportunity to criticise me. I even tell myself I’d better clear up a bit half way through.
When I was in my twenties most of my friends had a live-in relationship with their partner at some point and their mother would welcome them both to the family home. My mother would deliberately make me feel cheap with comments like ‘you’re spoilt goods now’ or ‘when is he going to make an honest woman of you?’ When I look back I see it was one reason while that particularly relationship failed.
I decided not to tell her about my next serious relationship until we were engaged. Luckily I was working in France for a while so it was easy to do.
Because I still hear her voice at the back of my brain, could you please help me get rid of these thoughts.
We all absorb the words our parents use to describe us as we grow up. For most of us these words are largely favourable. But for those who have a horrid parent they are often critical, mean and hard to shake off. Not surprisingly they can linger in your mind for years. .
There are a few things that you can try that may help. Make a note of some of the thoughts that come to you most frequently and challenge them by saying: ‘my mother may think this of me but is there any truth to her comments?’ If, for example, you’ve left your kitchen untidy but plan to clear it up later you could say: ‘I’m doing it my way and in my time mum’ and feel proud that you have stood up to her. Practice various responses and even shout: ‘shut up mum’ or ‘leave me alone’.
Another idea is to use visual imagery as well as answering her back. Try to imagine that your mother is a doll so when you hear her critical voice in your head, pick her up and put her firmly in an imaginary toy box. Surprising as it may seem, it can really help.