Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflections on the Dynamics of Change in the Face of Estrangement

I am 5 years into this estrangement and so many things have changed for me. I have gone from being a mother with three grown up children to a cast off person, a persona non grata in two of their lives.*  As a cast off I was adrift in an ocean of insecurity and doubt.  I was forced upon a path of change for my very survival.

As more time passes my perspective has changed.   I see things very differently now than even just a few years ago.  I have gone from wanting reconciliation at all costs to accepting that reconciliation is highly unlikely, even doubtful.  

Why has my point of view changed?

First, over time, I have learnt that the adult children who estrange tend to hide behind generalities.  Story after story reflects this.  My own estranged daughter said “she could not talk to me”. She somehow thought that this vague statement would explain to me all my shortcomings without her having to face her own inner personal demons, or put into words exactly what she thought I had done wrong that left her feeling this way.  

By using a generalized statement that does not lend itself to any kind of dialogue, she protects herself from the need to face her own shortcomings. If she opened up a “REAL” dialogue, questions might be asked that require thoughtful answers. 

  • So much easier to hide behind a smoke screen of abstract words that do not lead to a healing place.
  • So much easier to chart a path away from communication that towards it. 

  • So much easier to throw up barriers than to face the consequences of hearing a different point of view or extenuating circumstances. 

  • So much easier to lay all the blame at my door step than to face the error of some of her own choices.

It is almost as though these adult children think that by not facing the real issues in their lives they can perpetually blame us, the parent, for everything that is wrong in their lives. By deflecting the truth of their own inner inadequacies away from themselves they don’t have to face the tragedy of their own failings. By using us, the parent, as their scape goat they get to pretend a little while longer that they are better people than us, their parents. By not facing their own shortcomings they can pretend to be better than they are.  

The second thing that has changed my perspective, is that in facing all my shortcomings, living through all the grief, experiencing all the pain that I have had to endure as an estranged parent, I have come face to face with all my inner demons.   In order to survive such rejection and abandonment I have had to look at all the ugly bits inside me.  The parts of me that fears to be alone, that part that needs the approval of others to be validated, the part of me that needs to “fit in”, to be appreciated, to be loved and wanted. 

In coming face to face with these inner demons I have been forced to learn and grow as an individual, to overcome my self-doubts, to start building a new inner personna more empowered than I ever dreamt possible.

But more than just facing my weaknesses, I have also learnt about my inner strengths and attributes making me a better person in the end.  I have been facing my demons; I have looked my shortcomings squarely in the face and acknowledged what I unintentionally failed to give to my children. 

I have been seeking knowledge and awareness about myself.  And that knowledge has empowered me to find a better understanding of people and their actions and why they hide from the truths they don’t want to face.   In doing so, I have been learning how I can improve and grow and become a better person.  I am proud of this new version of me, the one that sees and understands so much more than the old “Pollyanna” me.

The more my adult children continue to hurt me with their silence and rejection, the longer the estrangement and abandonment lasts, the more the unnamed accusations hang unspoken in the air between us, and the more I learn about the nature of these adult children and what motivates them to seek this particular course of action, the greater is the awareness of my own needs and driving forces.

The more aware I become, the greater the divide between them and me becomes.  

For I am growing and becoming and changing whereas they are stagnant in their denial and refusal to learn and grow. As they hold onto a grudge it keeps them rooted in the past and there is no learning or growing in the past.  

  • Learning and growing happens in the present. Learning a growing happens when you face problems and seek for solutions.
  • Learning and growing happens through reflection and communication and seeking understanding through other points of view. 

I am learning about compassion and forgiveness and acceptance, whereas they live with denial, a refusal to forgive or ask for forgiveness and they persevere in behavior that is the antithesis of accepting the failings in others.  

I face my mistakes and my humanity and frailty, and they deny that they make mistakes and insist that they are above reproach and are unerring in their judgments.

It is at times like this, when I face the growing gap between the positive changes in me, and the unchanging, unyielding anger in my estranged children that I realize that the future with a reconciliation in it is a very unlikely event for we are growing apart rather than together.  

  • I am evolving and they are remaining embittered and blaming.  
  • I am stretching my definitions of who I am and what I am capable of and they are still putting our relationship inside a “history box of unchanging recriminations”.  
  • I am seeking to know and to better understand what motivates them to act the way they do , while they are working hard to not know or understand me.
  • I am learning to let go and forgive and they hold onto grudges as though it were a life line.  

As long as we are on such divergent pathways, how is any kind of compromise possible?

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2014 - 07 - 20

* 2015 - 07 - 11:  I is now 1  year since I wrote this blog, and one estranged child has started to make an effort to rebuilt bridges.  This is a work in progress and I am appreciative of the effort she is making.  Having said this I must also say that reconciliation brings with it new emotions, new challenges and new trials to become aware of. These lead me to a totally a new set of challenges and a many different topics for contemplation.
2016 - 10 - 28:  More time has passed, and the anger my estranging adult child feels has not changed.  Her brother asked her to consider change and follow a new path and she exploded in fury.  I sorrow that she feels the need to live with such unrelenting anger.  Sadly the family remains fractured. We try to build new traditions, new ways to move forward, but always there is that empty place, like an elephant in the room that we don't talk about. 

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