Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Blaming Mom

Where did this woman’s daughter get the idea that her mother is responsible for her miseries? The intensity of her anger with her mother is impressive, but the letter-writing mother does not tell us where her daughter got the idea. She merely suggests that her daughter “has developed” an idea.

Enquiring minds would love to know where she got the idea. Ideas do not just develop out of nothing. For all I know she was taught this idea by a well-meaning therapist. The letter reads like the description of therapy gone awry.

Actually, I am probably being overly generous there. The likelihood is that this is just plain ordinary insight-driven therapy. It’s not therapy gone-awry, but therapy having succeeded. That means, succeeded in having persuaded a patient to believe in a concocted narrative, the better to absolve her of all responsibility for her own life.

It is not the least irony that the therapy world, now inhabited by beings who believe that they must help their patients to feel their feelings, have decided to concoct narratives blaming mothers for everything. As for the ultimate panacea, empathy, they show no empathy for mothers in question. 

In the letter, you will see, the mother who is being indicted does not mention therapy. She does not say that her daughter has been treated by a therapist. So, I am drawing a logical inference from the facts as presented.

And we also note that said daughter is happy to blame her horrific father for whatever went wrong in her childhood. Yet, her father is currently dead, so she cannot indict him. Then again, maybe she can impeach him.

So, even though the letter never mentions therapy, the mother in question, finding herself under indictment, is writing to a therapist, by name of Lori Gottlieb. I consider this a hint. This is all about therapy-driven guilt tripping.

I will note, also, that the letter tells us nothing about the mother’s life, the daughter’s life or any siblings who are in the picture. It is flat, bland, a straight-up indictment. It tries to affix blame and fails completely to see either of the two individuals as human beings. Therapy has thrown them both into a narrative, and has completely obliterated everything else about their lives. And, of course, the letter writer doesn't provide any of the evidence that the daughter presumably trotted out to sustain her indictment. Perhaps she does not want to think about them. The letter is pure abstraction, borne of negative emotion.

So, said daughter blames her mother and indulger the fine art of complaining. If therapy does not teach you how to complain, what good is it. 

I will pass on Gottlieb’s advice, which mostly seems to involve being compassionate, because it feels like coddling. Perhaps it would be better for the mother to dismiss the indictment and to to remind her complaining daughter that she is now an adult. And that at age 32, it is time, in the words of the apostle, put away childish things.

Gottlieb believes that the mother should do her own mea culpa, because this is the only way that the daughter can learn to take responsibility for her own life. I have some doubts about this, because why would relieving her daughter of responsibility for the adult decisions she has made-- about which we know nothing-- cause her to take responsibility for her adult decisions.

While Gottlieb notes that there might be a correlation between the way the child was brought up-- in a broken home, as it happens-- she forgets to mention that correlation does not necessarily entail causation. 

Without further ado, here is the letter:

My 32-year-old daughter has developed the idea that I am responsible for all her failures—not having the job she wanted, not being a sociable person, not being capable to love and to be loved.

She also feels that I should not have continued a relationship with her father, even after a divorce. She believes that he is the one who turned our lives into a mess and that I agreed to it—being too weak to fight this. Her father died a few years ago, but she still hates him and me for all her troubles.

I would like to know how to deal with this, and how I can help her to help herself.

This tells us that the daughter has been disembarrassed of her free will. Her mother, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, made her do it. Whether or not her father caused all the problems, and whether or not her mother was too weak to stand up to him, we do not have enough information to form a judgment.

Let’s imagine that Dad ran off with a pretty young thing, abandoning home and hearth and children. Surely, we do not want to blame his wife for this.

But, what if Dad molested his daughter and mother knew about it and did nothing to stop it. This would be horrific, at the least, but one suspects that, if this were the case, the mother would have mentioned it in her letter.

Still, as resilience studies point out clearly, most victims of sexual molestation and sexual abuse overcome it. One does best not to counsel victims that their lives will forever be destroyed because their fathers molested them.

And, let us also not forget that some therapists conjure these memories out of nothing-- through recovered-memory therapy-- and persuade young women that horrific things have happened to them, things that have not happened to them.

For example, one day Dr. Phil was interviewing a young woman who claimed that she had been raped by her father and her mother and all of their friends. Literally. She recounted it all with the utmost rationality. She claimed that her parents held sex parties in their house, where she was passed around. She had learned this while under hypnosis.

When Dr. Phil asked her brother about these parties, he, also an inhabitant of the premises, explained that they had never happened.

To which the young woman replied that her father had also murdered her sister’s best friend and had buried her in the garden. But that was not the only homicide. Her father had murdered a half dozen other young girls.

You get the picture, even if this case is extreme. Recovered memory therapy, mixed with hypnosis, is unreliable. It is yet another way to blame mothers, in particular, for every bad decision an adult child makes.

We do not know enough about dear old Dad to say whether letter writing Mom should have stayed in touch with him. Unless he did something truly egregious, the default is to stay in touch. We do not know enough, and we do not know what happened between father and daughter.

The truth is, first that darling daughter ought to get over herself. She ought to exit the narrative that she is using to avoid taking responsibility for her own mistakes. Not to become overly religious here, but the daughter ought to learn how to forgive her mother. Hanging on to resentment, clinging to blame, continuing to punish her mother… none of it seems to be doing her much good. Even if we accept that her mother was not perfect, no parent ever is.

The complaints show the daughter's weak character. They also show her to be the kind of person that others are probably not overly content to spend time with. Or even to work with. Would you want to spend time with someone who keeps complaining about events she cannot change, who blames her mother for her shortcomings and failings, and who conspicuously lacks a capacity to forgive.

Enough with the compassion. Enough with the empathy. How about treating the young woman as a responsible adult. How about getting over the tendency to blame everything on women.


Sam L. said...

BLAME must be put!! I would blame the Klingons who are in the daughter's mind. (My empathy reservoir is empty.)

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LordSomber said...

Heaven knows there's been no shortage of poor parenting these last couple of years. But past 18 one has to remedy things constructively. Finger-pointing is a cheap, unconstructive "out" for so-called adults to indulge in.

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