This is Maria’s story:
“One minute I was a devoted, loving mother who always put my kids first. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but there wasn't anything terribly wrong, either. Then suddenly I was an estranged mother. I didn’t see it coming. My daughter just left and wouldn’t tell me why. All she said was that she doesn't want to see or talk to me, it was like a gut punch and a physical heart break at the same time. I was shocked. I’m still shocked. I don’t know how she could do this to me. I’ve done everything for her, I gave up a lot to be a mom. And now this? How dare she. She’s ruined our family. I can’t believe she could be so cruel.”
So many of us can relate. We see estrangement as something put on us. We didn’t want it, we don’t understand it. We have no power to change it. We feel victimized.
One definition of the word “victim“ is to be “cheated, fooled, or hurt by another.” Seems to describe us estranged moms perfectly, right?
Society would agree. Our sympathetic friends and family support our victimhood.
Seeing yourself as the victim of estrangement, and of your adult child, isn't wrong. It just doesn't feel great. Or help us heal.
And really, all seeing yourself as victim really means is that you have belief patterns operating in your brain.
It can be hard to see our own beliefs - we take them for granted. They feel true.
Here are some behaviors that can indicate you're in "victim-mode":
Blame. It may not feel like blame. It may feel like a simple explanation of what happened and why. Yet when we blame, it means there's a villain. And every villain has a victim: us. And we apply the blame to larger problems - health declines, martial problems, and so on. In Maria's words, "she's ruined our family."
Defensiveness. When talking about estrangement includes over-explaining or using absolutes like "never" or "perfect," then it's likely we're defensive because we feel a victim.
Hiding. Seeing ourselves as victims of estrangement, unjustly rejected, we believe we must self-protect. We fear another estrangement. We question our worth to others. So we hide from new relationships and lose trust in the ones we've had.
Negativity. As victims we do a lot of complaining, both to others and in our heads. When we're so shaken, we can become jaded about people and how the world works. Maria said, "I gave up a lot to be a mom. And now this?" Her view of how things are "supposed" to be has been altered because of her daughter's actions.
Personalizing. The estrangement story we tell is about us. As Maria said, "I don't know how she could do this to me.“ We read between the lines, over-analyze, and make everything a personal attack.
It's all understandable. It's where every estranged mom's brain will naturally go at some point.
But does is help us find peace? Get our confidence back? Recover and move forward?
Let's be honest: Estrangement is hard enough. Being stuck in victim-thinking only adds to our pain.
Our beliefs - whether we're aware of them or not - run our lives.
Our thoughts determine our feelings and our actions -- how we treat ourselves and show up in the world.
My job is to help clients like Maria see their thinking and see how it determines their experiences.
Left unexamined, we are at the mercy of our brains. It seems like our brain should be on "our side" but in actuality it sends us lots of reactive, impulsive messages that simply aren't helpful.
Until we take control of our thinking, we give up the opportunity to purposefully, intentionally run our own lives.
My clients want to feel powerful, strong, and in control of their experience as an estranged mom.
Not like they're at the mercy of their estranged child -- what he does or doesn't do next.
When we're in victimhood we believe, feel, and act as though we're powerless.
Circumstances and other people have power over our emotional health.
Victimhood perpetuates feelings of helplessness, fear, anger, betrayal.
Feelings that we feel, no one else does. Feelings we act from.
In Maria's case, the story she was telling herself made her feel, in her words, "angry, lost, and broken."
Her actions were to lash out at her estranged daughter, leaving her angry voicemails and texts telling her how much she's hurt everyone and is so ungrateful. Maria found herself crying every day. She wasn't sleeping. She felt let down by her family who she thought "didn't understand" and "were tired of seeing her angry and upset." When she was around them, she was short-tempered and distant.
Through coaching Maria learned how to feel less broken and more powerful in her life. Her anger was replaced by compassion, and she grounded herself in more connected relationships that had been faltering.
The truth is, we may always feel that some of our victim-like thinking is justified. But that doesn't mean it should be our focus. Or we should even entertain it. It's simply not useful.
Maria realized that when we function as a victim of our adult child, we're handing our personal power to the person we've identified as the villain. Which doesn't make much sense.
I believe that taking responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions is one of the most amazing opportunities we have as humans. It takes work to take ownership of our lives, but it empowers us to create a life we want, rather than one we fall prey to.
I can help you work through the thoughts and feelings that are keeping you stuck. I offer a free consult to help you get started and give you some ideas and feedback right away. Click here to sign up.
Live forward with strength, human mamas!