If I told you I cut off all contact with my mother over 15 years ago, what would your first impression be of me? And, be honest, I’m sure some of you will judge me, and that’s ok.
I’m going to share with you why I decided to become estranged from my mother and how it’s impacted my life as a woman and mother today and let me be clear……. I am very happy, healthy and living my best life.
Coming to terms with my decision to permanently distance myself by cutting ties with the woman who gave me life was not an easy one and can sound very cold and disheartening. But I can assure you, I’m not a horrible person nor do I believe my mother is.
Without getting too detailed into my mother’s upbringing, let’s just say trauma pretty much sums up her childhood, hence why she was never provided with the parenting tools to parent effectively when she had children of her own.
I wholeheartedly believe she raised me the best way she knew how given the circumstances and life challenges she was presented with. However, in saying that her negative behaviors inflicted emotional damage on to me which intern tarnished my sense of self which is why I needed to cut off all communication and interactions with her.
BEING ESTRANGED FROM A FAMILY MEMBER ISN’T ALWAYS A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED
We all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and ensure we are doing what is necessary to maintain our overall wellness. Often this can mean making some pretty difficult decisions about what we need to do to ensure we can continue to grow and live our best lives, deciding to become estranged from my mother was the best decision for me to live a normal, healthy life.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term estrangement, let me clarify for you. To be estranged,
‘is the loss of a previously existing relationship between family members. This is done by distancing themselves physically and/or emotionally to the point where there is little to no communication between members for lengthy periods.’
Being estranged from a family member comes with myths and stigmas but it’s more common than you think and in some cases, it may even be healthy for you, as it was in my case.
In our culture, we tend to think that estrangement is a problem that needs to be resolved and many websites and books will offer strategies meant to help families reconcile. And for some, when these strategies are implemented it can result in families repairing their damaged relationships.
But, for others, the pressure to mend a damaged relationship makes things worse. When efforts have been made time and time again with no results, estrangement becomes more the solution to the problem and the last resort when you no longer can trust the relationship and come to terms with having to move on with your life.
REASONS FAMILY MEMBERS MAY BECOME ESTRANGED
There are several reasons why people may become estranged from family members, in my experience the trauma that my mother experienced as a child herself followed her into her adult life and was reflected in her parenting.
Being estranged from a family member is difficult but can be necessary to ensure we take care of ourselves, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’ve listed some common reasons why family members may become estranged:
- Mental Illness, a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning, can be on the part of the estranger or the estranged which causes family tension.
- Substance Abuse – whether on the part of the estranger or the estranged is also a common issue resulting in family estrangement
- Personality Disorders cause significant interpersonal conflicts, particularly the cluster B personality disorders (antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder)
- Value Conflict – lifestyle choices (religion) of family members can often attribute to estrangement
- Child Abuse – children who have been abused emotionally, psychologically, sexually or physically may initial estrangement of one or both parents
- Divorce – can often result in family members becoming estranged – by either the parent or the child
- Betrayal of Trust – Erik Erikson, a developmental Psychologist, says trust is the foundation of any relationship and when trust is broken it can result in becoming estranged from a family member. Disputes over inheritances to perceived insults in public can weaken the bonds of a family
“Estrangement does not result from one conflict, one type of interaction, one type of relationship, one type of parenting style, or one significant event. It is a complex and socially situated phenomenon,” says Kylie Agllias in her 2013 paper entitled “Family Estrangement.”
ACHIEVING GOALS DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE BETTER THAN EVERYONE
Our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally, support us through our ups and downs, always be standing in our corner and have our backs no matter what, but let’s be real, this just isn’t the case for many.
For me, in my experience, every accomplishment throughout my life, whether it be graduating high school, going college, buying my first car, my first home, starting my career, I was belittled and was told that because I had achieved these milestones that I somehow thought I was better than everyone else.
My mother had never accomplished these milestones during her life and she begrudged me for having achieved them. (I’m no Psychologist, but it doesn’t take a professional to know that this is unhealthy behavior) It felt like she saw me as a threat or someone competing against her, so to continue to grow and achieve goals, it was necessary to cut ties.
OTHER RELATIONSHIPS WILL SUFFER –PEOPLE ARE GOING TO JUDGE
So, if deciding to become estranged from a family member isn’t hard enough, a person has to prepare themselves for other relationships that may be tarnished as a result of their decision.
Many people will judge, place assumptions and consider the decision selfish, abandonment, heartless and shameful. But through my own personal journey, I can tell you that, People don’t know what they don’t know.
MAKE A PLAN TO ACHIEVE EMOTIONAL WELLNESS
There are ways to work through some of the feelings of guilt and shame that often are attributed to distancing yourself from a family member. For me, therapy played a big role in my journey. When a person is emotionally broken down as a child and loses their sense of self, it can be a journey to re-discover themselves or even discover themselves for the first time.
Here is a list of things that I found helpful when working through some of those unpleasant feelings after having made my decision cut ties
- Exercise Regularly – exercise releases endorphins which will help to relax and make us feel good, make it part of your routine
- Yoga – calms and controls breathing which can feel like we’re in control of our total self
- Meditate – studies have shown that it helps us to relax and contributes to our overall mental well being
- Seek out support groups and allow yourself to be ok with your decision
- Continue achieving goals and allow yourself to feel empowered
- Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up
REACHING YOUR FULL POTENTIAL
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been taught for many years and is still being around the world. His list of hierarchy needs consists of, psychological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization depicted in this picture.
In his theory, self-actualization is the top of hierarchy needs and all other needs must be met before one can reach self-actualization. So, for example, psychological needs must be met before safety is met and when safety needs are met then love and belonging needs can be met and so on.
When first describing self-actualization, Maslow described the top of his hierarchy of needs by remarking that:
|“[a] musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to |be |ultimately happy” (Maslow, 1943).
He noted people like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson as having reached self-actualization on the hierarchy needs.
In other words, individuals who associated realizing their potential (and the drive to do so) and reaching some form of internally recognized success (self-esteem) and externally recognized success (status) were said to have reached Self Actualization.
WHAT DOES SELF ACTUALIZATION MEAN FOR THE AVERAGE PERSON?
So, what relevance does self-actualization hold for the average person you may be asking?
Self-actualization is not about making the most money or becoming the most famous person in the world. Instead, self-actualization is about reaching one’s personal potential, whether that means becoming a painter, a politician, a philosopher, a mechanic, a teacher, or anything else.
And the reality is that sometimes we have to distance ourselves from those who may hold us back from reaching our full potential, and that’s ok and we shouldn’t feel guilty, shameful or less than for doing so.
NO ONE SAID LIFE WAS GOING TO BE EASY – FIND YOUR PATH TO WELLNESS
For me, saying I don’t feel a void, not having my mother apart of my life today would be inaccurate. It can be difficult to see other mothers, and daughters share a closeness that I will never know. However, in saying that, I don’t regret my decision to cut ties.
I recognize that it was a sacrifice I needed to make to break the cycle not only for my own well being but for my children and I can tell you that I am a much better woman and mother for having done so.
I was fortunate enough to have other strong woman figures in my life that provided me guidance, love and support during my journey.
If you’re considering becoming estranged from a family member, prepare yourself in advance, seek professional supports to help with coping with some of those negative feelings that are often associated with distancing yourself from a loved one.
Start practicing your self-care routine immediately, meditating is a great method for focusing your mind. If you would like to learn more about meditating with the Muse Headband, click on the picture below.
No one said life was going to be easy, we’re all faced with our own challenges but it’s how we choose to see ourselves through these challenges and what we decide to do with those experiences that will ultimately shape the person we become.
We’re all here for a purpose, what’s yours?