Architects of a New Dawn

We’d like to show the side of the world you don’t normally see on television.

This is a heartbreaking admission. One she would die-a-thousand-deaths to learn I have broadcast across the internet... But how to heal what is kept hidden?

My mother is beautiful. Fragile, elegant, fine. She is also delusional, paranoid and impossibly irrational.

I have tried, my entire life, to please and protect her. She has tormented me endlessly with her endless (yes, I know, twice in one sentence) grief, accusation, guilt and blame. I have tried, in vain, to "make up" for all the suffering and losses she endured at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Now, in her late eighties, her mistrust and illogic have become unbearable to engage with.

Ironically, she is too sharp-witted to be declared incompetent. I have checked with numerous elder-care professionals, and they assure me that, though it is obvious she is making poor and dangerous choices for herself, no psychiatrist or judge would take her rights away, though clearly she is a danger to herself.

The tragedy is that she reaches out for me - believing I am the only one who can help her... Then, in boy-who-cried-wolf fashion, denies me when I come... It is indeed like attempting to hug a porcupine... She is a prickly minefield of unfounded angst and drama... there is no peace, no pleasure in her deeply unhappy company.

The question is, how do I live with myself? I am in a lose-lose situation. When I pick up my life, come three-thousand miles to attempt to wrest her from her hell, she fights me, and I drown in the abyss of her misery. When I stay away, I am wracked with guilt for abandoning a confused and frightened elder in decline... It is a Rubic's Cube of untenable circumstances.

The saddest thing is that I adore her. I would do anything to provide her with happy final memories of this world. Coming to terms with my inability to do so, letting go of my long-held ego identification of "good daughter" is devastating for me. Allowing her to die, bitter, heartbroken, alone - as seems to be the direction this depressing tale is heading - is a tough pill to swallow.

I realized, only recently, that I have essentially been a "battered woman" my entire life. I am traumatized by her grief and frustration. Had she not been a Holocaust-survivor, it is likely that I (and my equally battered brother) would have had nothing to do with her... But compassion, and so forgiveness, have kept us turning the other cheek, again and again and again...

For all our sakes, I admit, I am now at a point of wishing her a rapid passing. I want out of this karmic contract, that I have yet to understand why I chose. If I cannot bring her to peace, as I have dreamed of since childhood, then only God can.

Why are we given such tests?

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Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 8, 2011 at 3:42am

Jesus... Please read again the discussion that Tes posted and point out any part of that which suggests that Tes hasn't listened to her mother or attempted to show affection. What works for you doesn't work for everyone. I am happy that your mother responds well to your affection but it doesn't mean that this would be true in everyone's case. My father had Alzheimer's toward the end of his life and there were so many times I tried to hug him... but he would just become rigid. It made him uncomfortable. His upbringing was that men do not show affection for men. He felt OK about showing affection for children so I was never deprived of affection as a child but, as I grew older, the hugging ceased. It was his way. Other men would react differently.

Being something of a spiky cactus is Tes's mother's way so a different approach must be found. I think the solution that has evolved is the right one.

Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 7, 2011 at 5:15pm

Spread your wings, Tes. Stretch them as far as they will go and soar. I'm sure you have the tools to deal with any reflected issues that may surface but Anne's offer still stands if you need to offload.


Your mother can best be helped by someone with whom she has no history or habitual conflict. You may be the most intuitive healer on the planet but you will always lack the vital tool necessary to help you mother: detachment. This is no fault of yours.


You asked: "Why are we given such tests?"


Ask again in a few months from now or a year from now. Ask what insights has this brought me? Ask what new strength have I gained from this? And then ask how many mothers are able to pass this on to their children?


Sometimes the greatest gifts come disguised as a curse. This is only recognised by those with the courage to face the challenge and the humility to see the gift. Perhaps now you can truly begin to forgive your mother and begin to resolve the pain. How your mother resolves her feelings toward you is for her to assimilate. I wish her the very best. Now you're free to love her... and even thank her for every heartbreak.


Enjoy every breath

Comment by Tes. on August 7, 2011 at 2:05pm
My goodness!  I am moved and amazed by the depth of caring and astute insight that is coming back to me here... Ron, you are quite right on... Thusfar, Mother's investment in her hierarchal role prohibits us from moving into any sort of friendship.  Therein lies the rub, Jose... As a highly effective and intuitive healer - and problem-solver -  in my own right, it is maddening to have a medicine bag of valuable tools at my fingertips, and, because the information is coming from me, it is abjectly rejected.  It seems that Mother's maturity was stunted by the start of the war, and she has remained a stubborn, tantrum-throwing child... committed to doing things, and getting things, her way.  We (my brother and I) often ponder whether she was this difficult a personality type before WWII, or whether the trauma of having her human rights taken has created this fierce attachment to control.  It is painful to witness, as she really is her own worst enemy.  Today, interestingly and thankfully, I have been dismissed from my post as her shackled "saviour."  She, on her own, has finally determined that we are not a match, I cannot help her, and that I must be released to live my life!  Already there is movement to bring in others to replace me, and I see her vitality return before my very eyes... Having been a caretaker her whole life, and programmed to value family ties before all else, I do not think she consciously realizes how much she values the autonomy she has discovered in the last thirteen years since my father's death... Our desires to live our own lives, our own way, are more parallel than she could admit, being so hypnotically committed to having her children beside her, even though we have little in the way of shared values or easy communication between us.  I feel as if I am being liberated, for once without guilt, because these past two weeks together have been so horrendous, and I have been committed to toughing it out until some resolution could be arrived at.  Looks like I will be returning to my home and preferred lifestyle within the next few days.  Perhaps I can finally fly!  ...  God -bless you all for the phenomenal moral support.  x0x0...
Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 7, 2011 at 7:30am

It's done it again! Obviously there is a word-count limit and, being the blabbermouth that I am, I keep exceeding this. So I'll repeat the last paragraph and take it beyond the point at which I was cut off:


Tes cannot stop loving her mother but also she cannot continue being her mother's victim. Tes has a right to a life and a right to find her own centre. Her mother's attitude toward her is a gigantic barrier to that happening. It is Time for Tes to take the plunge and say "Mom, I can't do this anymore. I love you and I will always do whatever I can for you behind the scenes but I can't be here for you anymore. I'm grateful for all you have done for me and I understand the reasons behind the problems you have with me but now I must withdraw and heal my own wounds".


Sometimes we have to accept that the tiger must put up with the thorn in its paw.

Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 7, 2011 at 7:25am

Jesus, I agree in principle but you are not taking into account the emotions at play here. I don't doubt that Tes's love for her mother is unconditional and this isn't an issue of whether or not anyone has a right to feel the way they do. We feel what we feel and rights don't come into it.


I'm pretty sure Tes has taken the approach of being a friend to her mother but, when that friendship is rejected, what then? If Tes could have a detached relationship with her mother, this problem would not arise. But the relationship has a lot of history both ways. Reading the post, it is clear to see that Tes and her brother had a traumatic childhood as a result of their mother's emotional abuse of them. This relationship becomes habitual both ways. Her mother's habitual abuse and Tes's habitual response and this invariably reaches a point at which it becomes untenable.


I think it is possible that some help can be found but it cannot really be provided by Tes. They cannot help triggering the habitual responses to each other and, as much as Tes is trying to help, the effect is the same as picking at a sore. Tes's Mum needs help from someone who can remain detached. Someone who is not going to be hurt by verbal abuse and who can remain passive. This is a huge demand to expect from Tes. Also, an 'outsider' can remain the benchmark of reason and stands a chance of guiding her mother back to the here and now. Because of her mother's habitual responses to her, her mother would never give her the credibility of being the benchmark of reason.


Yes, her mother was a Holocaust survivor and this has to be taken into account to a very large extent. But there are also other issues to consider: For example: the kind of personality that her mother has independent of the Holocaust experience. Is she by nature a controlling woman? Would her attitude toward her children have been of the "you-never-do-anything-right" variety even if she had not had this terrible experience.


There is a natural inclination to suppose that those who are the victims of injustice and cruelty are essentially good, pleasant people and the perpetrators of cruelty are essentially evil but life is never as black & white as that. This is a sentimental assumption. Even unpleasant people can find themselves subjected to oppression and cruelty. It is possible that the Holocaust experience is not wholly responsible for her mother's attitude, irrationality  and mental illness. I don't doubt for a second that it was hugely a contributing factor but it is quite possible that her mother just happened to be a controlling, demanding and irrational person by nature.


Sometimes the process of moving forward requires ejecting the parent from one's own emotional baggage. Then can begin the process of forgiving the parent but one has to make oneself independent of the parent before this can have any meaningful effect.


Emotional problems that stem from a troubled relationship with parents usually continue well into adulthood and often continue for life if not addressed. To have a smooth transition from the parent/child relationship to the adult/adult friendship is the ideal... and comparatively rare. I fear that this relationship has gone way beyond the point at which that could occur... if it had ever been possible.


Tes cannot stop loving her mother but also she cannot continue being her mother's victim. Tes has a right to a life and a right to find her own centre. Her mother's attitude toward her is a gigantic barrier to that happening. It is Time for Tes to take the plunge and say "Mom, I can't do this anymore. I love you and I will always do whatever I can for you behind the scenes but I can't be here for you anymore. I'm grateful for all you have done for me and I understand the reasons behind the problems you have with me but n

Comment by Jesus on August 7, 2011 at 4:10am

Be her friend and not her daughter.  At that age you are not going to change them it is better to be a friend who guides them to where they need to be.  I learned that my parents will always be my parents and that my relationship evolved when I realized they were also my best friend.


You mother has a right to feel the way she feels.  Unless we have lived it we truly cannot understand what she is feeling so don't.  Just give her pure unconditional love and a hug helps to.

Comment by Tes. on August 4, 2011 at 9:19am

It is amazing when my own (wise) philosophies come back to me... How many countless times have I said, 'When I see someone drowning, I have to reach out my hand to them... If they refuse to take it, there's nothing I can do... nor can I sit there and watch them down, either!'... Having the guts to apply it to a parent... that's the precipice upon which I now stand! 

Thank you so much Ron, for all your powerful sharing.  And thank you also for your private email, and the offering of your wife's EMT services ... I have definitely heard of the modality and will certainly consider availing myself of the experience.  Presently, I am at my mother's home in NYC, and not altogether familiar with utilizing Skype, though I do have it installed.  My plan at the moment is to remain through a long-avoided and postponed attorney's meeting to settle my mother's affairs, which is scheduled for next week, after which, it now seems I will be returning to San Diego without her.  Perhaps, once I am back in my own energy, it will be more conducive for me to contact your wife.  PS.... Amazingly, I do have moments of true joy, so the smiles are real.  More consistency will be a beautiful thing indeed... Endless Blessings & Gratitude for your Caring.

Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 4, 2011 at 4:40am

Hmmmm! My post seems to have stopped mid-sentence so I'll finish it here:

I was saying that your mother must cope with her perceived abandonment and you must learn to put aside any self-reproach and swim for the shore.


Our thoughts go out to your mother and also to you. I wish you the very best.

Comment by Ron Tocknell on August 4, 2011 at 4:32am

Wow, Tess! Life has dealt you a tough one! I used to work with people with mental health problems (a million times easier than dealing with such a problem in the family). I particularly remember a talk given by a man whose son is schizophrenic. He finished by saying: "What do I want for my son? I want him to either get better or die". It was a simple yet courageous confession by a man who deeply loved his son.


The hard fact is that you cannot cure your mother. I understand what you mean by trying to hug a porcupine (well put) because my father had Alzheimer's during the last years of his life. That was how I felt.


What would I want my children to do if I were to become mentally ill to the extent that I caused them such pain and self reproach? Right now, in my rational frame of mind, I would want them to walk away and feel OK about doing that. It is my rational frame of mind that counts. If I became so incapacitated, I might feel that they have an obligation to look after me and endure whatever I impose upon them. I might feel that they have abandoned me and so on. But these would be the thoughts of an irrational mind.


What purpose does your porcupine-hugging serve? Your mother has clearly suffered terribly... and so have you. You were not responsible for your mother's suffering and, because of her irrational state of mind, she cannot be held responsible for yours. You are both victims of the atrocity that was heaped upon your mother. Guilt and blame have nothing to do with this. We could go on to say that the Nazis were victims of the ideology that was imposed upon them... and Hitler was a victim of whatever deluded mindset was behind his actions. We could spend a thousand lifetimes either blaming or forgiving.... or both. But to what end?


It is time to break the chain of pain, as you so clearly described it. If your mother is drowning, dive in to save her. If she then tries to drag you under, swim for the shore. You were not born to be your mother's daughter. You were born to be YOU. We can only love. We cannot force our love onto those we love, no matter how much they need it. There comes a time when we can do no more. That is the time to walk away.


The hard part is feeling OK about doing this. I remember as a child, when I was told that Jesus died for my sins, I thought what an ill-thought out decision that was. Had I been around at the time, I could have told him that I will make my own mistakes and his suffering would would not alter that. I could have told him that his responsibility was to live, love and enjoy life to the full and that it was my responsibility to deal with my own errors.


It is your responsibility to live, love and enjoy life to the full. Don't be another victim. You are worth more than that. You are unique. There has never in the entire history of the universe been anyone quite like you and there never again will be. This is a brief window-of-opportunity to be who you are. The chance will never come again and, if you do not fulfill that role, it will be to the detriment of the universe. That is all any of us are ever required to do: to be who we are.


We cannot avoid pain. It is a part of life. But we should not pursue it. Joy is also a part of life. We cannot protect our children from the pain that they will inevitably experience and we cannot protect our parents either. All we can do is help where we can and let go when we can no longer help.


You are right. Love is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. We cannot control how others think, feel or behave. We can only be who we are.


It's time to let go, Tess. Our thoughts go out to your mother and also to you. You both have a difficult task ahead. Your mother must cope with her madness and however she may feel about her perceived abandonment and you must learn to put a

Comment by giovanna marino on August 4, 2011 at 3:55am


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