Is This Emotional Abuse?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi, I am 15 and I’m currently in a bad situation with my mom. We fight a lot, and I just can not control my anger. We argue back and forth, cursing, etc. She told me that she wished that she could drop me off in the pond and let me drown. She has similar things like this in the past( once she said that she wishes that I weren’t her daughter. I’ve said a lot of mean things too. She puts me down and makes me feel horrible about myself. I forgive her, but it will eventually happen again, and it always has. I forget about the things she has said, but when I am feeling sad or depressed, they all just come down on me.Sometimes, I feel like these things she tells me make me think that I am all the bad things she says to me, although I really only notice this when I’m sad. I just don’t know who I can talk to or what to do. I am feeling horrible about myself and furious at her. Please help.

A: It sounds to me like your mom is overwhelmed and probably depressed. Unfortunately, she is dealing with it in an immature way that is painful to you. If she had written, I’d be telling her to make an appointment with a counselor. She needs to deal with her anger and pain and she needs to find a more effective and loving way to relate with her adolescent daughter.

But she didn’t write. You did. So — I do understand how painful this is. As I’ve said to other teens who have written similar letters, not every kid gets the family they deserve. It’s very sad. It’s totally understandable that there are times you feel down on yourself. We all look to the people who are supposed to love us to give us support and love. But sometimes parents can’t provide it. You might find some help in this article I wrote awhile ago.

Your challenge is not to act as immaturely as your mom. People can only argue with someone if that person argues back. You already know that arguing is pointless. You aren’t going to change your mom or her opinions. Although you do get some attention and involvement from her when you are shouting at each other, it ultimately makes you feel even worse.

As difficult as it is, I hope you will drop your end of the routine. When she says horrible things, just say something like “I’m sorry you feel that way” and go about your business. When she curses at you, just shrug and find something else to do. One of my teachers called this strategy “taking the sail out of someone’s winds.” When huffing and puffing at someone doesn’t pay off with an argument, the angry person usually gives it up.

Meanwhile: You need to find a source of love and support outside of your relationship with your mother. You didn’t mention a dad. If he’s in the picture and is a kind person, maybe you could make a tighter relationship with him. If not, is there a relative who loves you that you can call now and then? If not, think about other adults who have taken an interest in you. A teacher, a coach, a guidance counselor, the mother of one of your friends, etc. are all potential older women you could look to for advice, support and, yes, even love.

I hope you will have compassion for your mother’s pain. But I also hope you will give up asking her to give you something she can’t. She needs therapy. You need a surrogate mom. Focus your energy on finding one.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Is This Emotional Abuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/25/is-this-emotional-abuse/