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Lifespan Development

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Ask Dr. Schwartz
Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

Dominating Mother

I am the youngest of three girls. My mother has been a dominant figure in our family life. My elder sisters are married and live their separate lives. My father passed away 15 years ago. Since birth, I have been under the wing of my mother. Initially as a child, I always tried to please my mother as she worked hard each day. As an adolescent, I was always subject to her emotional black mail. She believes in silence as a tool to make me feel guilty and force me to her way of life. She is extremely disciplined and hard headed and demanding. She uses silence, crying and emotional black mail to get her way. When my father passed away, she ensured that I did not marry the man I loved. I gave in to the family demand and married another man. However, never settled into the marriage and we separated after 8 years.

In reality, I have managed to put most of my sad moments in life behind me and be a happy-go-lucky person. Everyone who comes in contact with me when my Mum is not around says I bring joy and happiness wherever I go. I am extremely popular with colleagues, friends and people around me. I try to smile as much as I can and bring to joy to everyone I come in contact with. I believe there is nothing in this world that is worth being sad about. Life is an experience and we must look at the positives and be grateful for all that we have. I call myself a "people person."

I would love to devote my life to orphan children. After my separation and during my divorce, my mother ensured that she came to stay with me after having blackmailed everyone about her loneliness.

Now that she is here with me, my life has become a rut. I feel caught in this web of "honor thy mother." Yet, I want to live my life. I just do what I am told. I can't express myself, can't have friends around, and can't go anywhere without her scrutiny. Each time I try to set boundaries or break away from the rut, I end up being subjected to her silence, crying and nagging behaviour.

I now lead 2 different lives in which I make the people around me happy, and share their joy or sorrow. But, when I enter the house I turn into a different person and just feel trapped.

We live in a studio apartment and it becomes very difficult to ignore her. Life has become so harsh that I don't wish to live any more at all and just carry on because I don't want others in my family to suffer my plight. Since I am already 38 years old and she is 75 and in  very good health, I really don't know how to cope with my life. I cry myself to sleep and sometimes even use alcohol. I know that this is not the solution to my problems.

I Need guidance on how to ignore the guilt I feel about my mother and learn how to have my own life.

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