I am the adult child of a mother suffering from depression (and possibly OCD). She regularly calls me to complain about how much she hates my father, one of my siblings, and her life in general. I’m afraid to suggest she seek professional help, because any response other then “yes mom, I agree” results in her viciously turning all of that anger on to me. I don’t know what to do.

I realize that, as an adult, I should be able to be a sympathetic ear for her problems, but it makes me uncomfortable to hear the things she says about our family and I’m tired of listening to her nit-picky grievances about life. I’m also afraid of what she might do if I refuse to listen to her since she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about these things to. Is there anything I can do to help her that would allow me to remove myself from the situation?

A: You are trying so hard to be a good daughter and all it is getting you is more to worry about. Unfortunately, you may be inadvertently reinforcing the very behavior you find so disagreeable. Your mother may think that because you listen to her, you agree with her! You are right to not argue with her, though. She’s not going to listen. She’s too invested in her self-pity to be able to hear any solutions to her many complaints.

I suggest that you make the contact with a therapist and ask if you can bring your mother in for a “family session.” Tell your mom that you need help understanding how best to be a support to her and invite her to go with you to “your” session. An experienced therapist will know how to engage her so that eventually you can hand your mom’s therapy over to the therapist where it belongs. Then you can go back to being a loving daughter instead of a reluctant counselor. If she won’t go, go any way. It’s only the truth. You do need help knowing how to support your mother while at the same time changing your role with her. The current situation isn’t good for either of you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jul 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). How do I resign from being my mother’s confidant?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/07/16/how-do-i-resign-from-being-my-mothers-confidant/