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I Think My Mother May Be Gaslighting Me

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From the U.S.: Recently, I had a fight with my mom. She misunderstood something I said and was upset. I realized this, rephrased and explained, apologizing that I didn’t explain it well. To that, she harshly suggested an alternative way of explaining. I apologized again, and said I would try to be more clear in the future. (Note: I didn’t feel like I raised my voice or been over-reactive.)

The car became tense which led me to tears, because it made me sad that I had somehow screwed up a family outing. Suddenly, my mom became angry that I was crying, saying, “Don’t act all hurt. You act like nobody else gets to feel things. I’m feeling things and it’s ok if I express them! You think you’re the only one who gets to feel things.”

My reaction to this in my mind was… “what in the world is she talking about???” I had not said anything to her about her emotions, nor had I implied that she was being hurtful. I merely let out a few tears. I gathered myself, very confused and said, “You are completely allowed to feel however you feel and express those feelings. This is how I express mine.” I turned back forward in my seat. (We were in the car… my car, but my sister was driving. MY CAR, mind you.) Then, I tried to cry softer. Much softer. Almost stiflingly so.

After only a moment my mom sternly said, “If you don’t cut that crying out, we’re just going to turn this car around and go home!” I was shocked at the audacity. It was my car. And I’m 23 years old! How dare she demand to react in her own way (implying that I am not allowing her to do so), and then order me to stifle my own feelings. I did–to please her and not cause strife–and found myself having intense chest pains.

She acted quickly as if nothing had happened and asked if we wanted to stop for milkshakes. When I said I wasn’t feeling good and didn’t want one, she said, “Don’t pout because you’re feelings are hurt.” I was confused and felt heavy the entire day, trying to figure out what I had done wrong. I realized that this is frequently how our conversations go. Is this an example of her gaslighting me? Please help.

I Think My Mother May Be Gaslighting Me

Answered by on -

A.

No. I don’t think it’s gaslighting (twisting things to serve her own purposes). I do think that the two of you have some very significant problems in your relationship.

You each seem very reactive to the other. Your mother can’t handle your feelings. You can’t handle her comments. You each seem overly upset about what the other says/does/feels.

You are two adults who will inevitably have differences of opinion. It’s not a matter of figuring out who is right. In a healthy relationship, conflict gets worked out without so much emotional drama. For some reason, the two of you haven’t figured out how to approach a problem in a mutually supportive way.

I suggest you stop trying to analyze your mother’s feelings and actions and instead focus on your own. Please ask yourself why you are so emotional about what your mother says. (If your mother had written the letter, I’d be asking her something similar.) I can only guess that you may have some unresolved issues that are so close to the surface that it only takes a comment from your mom to put you into tears. Whatever the reason, it sounds very painful.

It would probably be helpful to see a therapist for some concrete suggestions and support in redefining the relationship between you and your mother. At some point, you and the therapist might invite your mother into some sessions to help the two of you move into an adult to adult relationship.

A healthy mother/daughter relationship can be one of the pleasures of life. I hope you and your mom will do the work to create a much more relaxed and supportive relationship with each other.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

I Think My Mother May Be Gaslighting Me

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). I Think My Mother May Be Gaslighting Me. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/10/16/i-think-my-mother-may-be-gaslighting-me/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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