Kidnapped by Mom

I was held hostage for years. It was a painful and confusing time.

I didn’t realize I played an active role in my imprisonment. I held the key to my own freedom and didn’t even know it.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? It sure felt so at the time, and it was emotionally expensive.

While I wasn’t locked in a physical cell, as an adult, I found myself held hostage in my mother’s mind.

When we’d visit home, Mom treated me like a teenager. Even though I was a mother, and had matured and grown, every visit home was filled with some kind of drama between the two of us.

Nobody could hurt me or cause me to act as unskillfully as my mother.

Even though I’d long given up my teen behaviours, all my skill and maturity flew out the window when Mom hit an old button. She knew where they were and could hit them with precision. I reacted poorly and predictably.

The most challenging part was watching myself revert to teen behaviours in response to her goading. We fought like two teenage girls; it was embarrassing. I knew it had to stop.

I came to realize, in my mother’s eyes, I’d always be held hostage until I changed my view of her and of myself in her presence. I’d forever be the teenage version of myself because I also hadn’t let go of the past and how I saw her.

I couldn’t change her, but I could change myself. I had to be the one to make the change.

I played a major role in our relationship; it takes two to tango.

I had to forgive my mother and myself. I had to let go, to forgive, to free myself from the tethers of the past and create possibility of a new tomorrow.

I was no longer the person of my youth, and if I wanted the keys to my own freedom, I needed to stop reacting as I did way back then.

I made the conscious choice to free my mother from my judgment. I had to act like the adult I was, with all of the skill and ability I’d developed over the years, and meet her there. I engaged with her like I would any other person, with respect, patience, and curiosity.

It was very confusing for Mom at first. She’d grown accustomed to my reactions, and she wasn’t sure what to do with the new me. Peace prevailed, and a new way of being with each other developed.

What I’d done for years was to react; re-act, follow old patterns of behaviour that only served to keep us locked into a way of relating that wasn’t healthy.

This was such a great life lesson for me.

I realized my own tendency to hold other people hostage in my mind, connected to the memory of who they were, not who they’ve become. I missed out on really knowing them anew.

Where do we keep ourselves and others stuck in roles, or the mistakes of the past?

When I released my older brother from the role of scary dude, and he realized I was no longer the kid, we discovered good things about one another. I saw him through a new lens and I liked what I saw.

The casual relationship we had has been transformed into a caring, respectful, and mutually supportive one. It’s a blessing.

Most people change and evolve over time. When we make the assumption that people have remained static, we lose out on discovering who they are now.

I’ve learned to be conscious, not to hold my own children and others hostage in my mind. I remain curious and meet people where they are at. I love the relationships I have with my adult children, nieces & nephews.

I respect them and I love what I get to learn.

In reality, we’re all humans becoming; humans evolving and becoming more and different than we were in the past.

As we remain curious and open when engaging with people in our lives, we can be delighted at who we get to meet.


Listen to yourself

We’d never speak to another person the way we speak to ourselves.

If we did, we’d be pretty unpopular and I’m sure we’d end up living solitary lives.

In listening to people, I’m often saddened to hear the self-deprecating and self-critical remarks they make about themselves. It’s a cultural trend to put ourselves down and dismiss or minimize our positive attributes. It’s not helpful to thriving.

Recently, I was listening to a client speak negatively about herself. It was shocking, but not something new to me.

I repeated what she’d said about herself back to her.  I used the same words and tone of voice as she had, and the same facial expressions.

She looked shocked and hurt as her eyes grew wide.  I’d insulted her greatly, but I’d used her own words, not mine.

Once her shock passed and she saw the patient smile on my face, she got it. I was only repeating to her what she was continually saying to herself. Hearing someone else say it back to her was shocking.

She smiled as she understood.

Although it’s not uncommon for us to speak negatively about ourselves, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for most people. It’s the internal dialogue in our minds, our self-talk, that’s often even more abusive.

It wasn’t surprising that my client revealed her internal dialogue was much worse than what she’d expressed verbally. She had a habit of telling herself she was stupid, not enough, and even an idiot.

Every time something didn’t go well, she’d tell herself it was all to be expected, because she was a loser.

Her bedtime stories to herself were a rehash of the day’s challenges and a review of her own perceived shortcomings. No wonder she couldn’t sleep.

Any of the wins or accomplishments in her life were glossed over or ignored. She didn’t pay much attention to those or take time to revel in her own success.

I asked if she’d ever hang out with a person who spoke to her the same way she was speaking about herself. She paused as she shook her head slowly.

“Never!  I’d avoid them like the plague. That’s abusive.”

Yes, it’s abusive, whether it’s toward another or toward ourselves.

I suggested she imagine what she’d say to a loved one in the same circumstance.

  • Would she remind them all of their perceived faults and failings? 
  • Would she tell them they were an idiot and a failure?

No, not in a million years, she’d encourage them.

Not surprisingly, she’d grown depressed and her health had suffered. She’d been practising the same, abusive habits of mind her whole life and her health was bearing the consequence.

Our bodies don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Repeated mental habits show up in our bodies as they respond to the thought and feeling atmosphere of our minds.

The good news is we can change these negative habits of mind with awareness and choice.

Start to listen to yourself, to the internal and external dialogue. Stand back and ask if it’s really true, and if such rhetoric is helpful in supporting you in living a happy and prosperous life.

Become your own best friend. Imagine what you’d say to a person you love or care about. Begin to give yourself encouragement, even compliments, and celebrate life’s accomplishments.

Self-kindness and self-compassion are much more effective in supporting a happy and healthy life than criticism ever was.

Give it a try.

You make me sick

H-Bombs went off this past weekend in North America; three of them.

Two exploded in the United States and one in Canada. These ones weren’t atomic in nature, but their effect is devastating.

H-Bombs (explosions of hatred) caught our attention as many innocent people died or were hurt because of hatred.

H-Bombs, fed by blame, fear, and pain distort the rational mind, causing pain and suffering around the world. Hatred motivates horrendous actions.

Anger and hate are normal human emotions when they happen occasionally. But feed hatred and it will grow and breed further negative emotions. It becomes toxic.

Society suffers because of hatred; this is evidenced by these recent mass shootings. A day shopping or an evening out can be fatal. People are injured or they die, families are forever changed. People feel less safe and the sense of freedom is lost.

Hatred is an intense emotion that’s like a magnet, causing us to be drawn back to the object of our distaste again and again. Its powerful energy brings with it a destructive power when it’s turned inward or outward.

Hatred of others has dangerous consequences, even if we don’t act on them, and self-hatred makes us sick and depressed.

I’ve known some hate-addicts in my life.

They’ve always got new and expanded reasons to hate, adding new causes or people to the list of enemies.

Who pays the biggest price for hatred, the hater or the hated?

Hatred and associated anger may feel powerful to one who loathes another, but it’s expensive to their mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as relationships. They’re hard to be around.

Hatred is addictive. As feelings of hatred and rage build up in the mind, we are kept attached to the object of our hatred, and we get stuck in a negative loop. We don’t think clearly.

Two hate researchers, Semir Zeki and John Paul Romaya, discovered a hate circuit in the brain. When this circuit is engaged, it decreases self-awareness, perception, and judgment.

An activated hate circuit keeps us prepared for attack, stuck in the stress response, and increases the development of obsessive-compulsive behaviours. We laugh less often and do irrational things.

Hatred addicts spend more time pre-planning, becoming obsessed and paranoid. Their world is coloured by the dark lenses they wear by habit.

What you practise grows stronger.

Hatred causes elevated adrenaline and cortisol levels, depleting the adrenal glands, and harming the immune system.

The risk of stroke, heart attack, insomnia, anxiety, depression and weight-gain increase. Compromised immunity lingers for six hours following a five-minute experience of holding hatred.

To break the addictive quality of hatred, we have to stop feeding it.

To overcome hatred and anger, it’s important to:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t just push them down or pretend they’re not there.
  • Step back for a moment. Take some deep breaths or go for a walk to calm the mind.
  • Realize why you’re feeling this way.
  • Recognize fear, insecurity or feeling unsafe are often the seeds of the more toxic emotions.
  • Consider whether it’s worth your mental and physical health to stay engaged with the person or issue.
  • Deal with the issue. Try to find a solution to the problem.
  • Talk to a friend or family member to help gain clarity and alleviate the negative feelings. They may have good advice and help put things in perspective.
  • Let go of unhealthy thought patterns. This takes awareness and self-discipline.
  • It’s important to recognize the seeds of hate as they are being planted, and dislodge them before they take root and grow.
  • Seek professional assistance if necessary.

If we can’t change the person or situation, we can change how we think about them. Making a conscious decision to detach from troublesome situations or people can help us restore balance and harmony in our own lives.

Everyone experiences anger or hatred from time to time. Learning how to restore harmony, happiness, and health to our own lives puts us back in the driver’s seat of our lives.

The opposite of hate isn’t love, it’s detachment. We’ve got to make a conscious decision to not stay attached to the object of our dismay.

Why would we give something or someone we dislike so much of our precious mental and emotional coin? What we feed grows stronger, and our health bears the effects.


Listen to your heart

I wish I’d known then what I know now. Hindsight is often 20/20.

If you could go back to offer advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Last month, I attended The Butterfly Effect, an annual event hosted by Central Okanagan Hospice Association. This event provides rich opportunity to pause, remember, and celebrate loved ones who have died.

While booths and activities were offered to enrich the experience, it was The Letter, a song by local musician Norm Strauss, that gave me the greatest pause for reflection.

“If I could write myself a letter and send it back in time, I’d tell the younger me that it’s all gonna work out fine.“

It doesn’t all work out fine for everyone. Many die with their songs unsung.

As I contemplated those I’d come to remember, I wondered if they were deeply satisfied with their lives. As they exited life, were they pleased, did they enjoy their time on the planet?  Or, did they leave this world with regrets, wishing they’d lived life differently?

What about me? What advice would my future-self offer me today?

One day quickly slips into the next. Today is frequently similar to yesterday. Our lives become routine, often following the pack in expectation we’re doing the ‘right thing’; what we’re supposed to be doing.

So many people are just trying to survive, to fit in, and be successful. Success isn’t measured by our bank accounts, but in our happiness.

For many years, I lived life by accident. I spent my days doing to what I thought I was supposed to be doing as a successful, contributing member of society. I lived life on autopilot, unaware there could be a different way.

I was busy, but I wasn’t fulfilled.

It wasn’t until more recent years that I’ve learned to pause and check in with the wisdom of my heart.

  • What do I want to be doing?
  • What fills me up?
  • What’s my gift to life?
  • What am I here to offer the world?

When we remain hypnotized by expectation, not taking time to check in with ourselves, we miss cues offered by the deep knower within.

Recently, a friend reflected how many people put off living their dreams until retirement. Many postpone travel, enjoyment, and following passions until retirement, only to die soon after, never following their heart’s call.

People often make a living without ever really having a life, ignoring the callings from their heart.

A line from The Letter says,

‘any fool can follow his dreams. Following your heart is a much deeper, more profound journey and takes a lifetime to understand.”

Following the lead of Norm’s song, I’ve taken pause again, to examine my life.

Am I living life on my terms, or have I fallen into living life based on routines and expectations?  It’s so easy to fall into comfortable patterns, but is that really living? What’s the calling of my heart?

If I knew this was the last year I had to live, would I be spending precious time and life-energy on the things that concern me today?

What advice would my future-self have to offer me today?

I’ve lived a life uncommon, and I’m glad. My life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else, but it has to make sense to me.

I’ve learned that living life based on supposed expectations and external demands is not fulfilling. Doing things the way they’re done by everyone else may allow me to fit in, but it’s not what’s true for me.

It doesn’t feed my soul.

Each of us is unique. We each have our own songs to sing and our own purpose to fulfill, as only we can. No one else does life exactly like you do.

There’s richness in listening to our hearts, waking up to our own unique gifts, abilities, and passions, and offering these to the world as our legacy.

What advice does your future-self have to offer you today? Listen to your heart, send yourself a letter, and then respond.

What would you love to do?

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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