The Negativity Loop

You have blessed me with many gifts, God, but I know it is my task to realize them. May I never underestimate my potential; may I never lose hope. May I find the strength to strive for better, the courage to be different, the energy to give all that I have to offer.

Help me, God, to live up to all the goodness that resides within me. Fill me with the humility to learn from others and with the confidence to trust my own instincts.

Thank you, God, for the power to grow. Amen.” ~from Talking to God, by Naomi Levy (c)

Gerard Terborch (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1617-1681) Woman Writing a Letter 1655I found a letter yesterday when going through yet even more papers that my mother saved. She wrote it to me in 1983 when she was very angry with me. It was never given to me: I found it amidst an assortment of bills and receipts, photos and greeting cards. At first, I started to read it. I decided I’d leave it for later, but in flipping through it a word struck me towards the end, and I read the last page. She was writing that the good qualities I had were in no small part to the way she raised me.

It ended with “I love you but I don’t like you.”

That ripped through me, as I’m sure it would anyone else. I flipped through, scanned, saw what she was angry with and did not read anymore after that. The negative feelings of that time period. those words, affected a good part of my day. In trying to deal with it, I talked to a few people. The hurt, thirty years after it was written, was too alive at the moment.

One friend said (and I’m paraphrasing): “you’re not looking at the whole: she said she did love you.” That is something I’ve questioned for so long, simply because so much of my mom was bitter in her later years; it’s hard to remember anything other than the negative side of her that I lived with for so long. Rabbi Pam has remarked, as has the therapist, that I hold onto the personal hurt too much, not anger towards another, but the slight and hold it as “truth” in this present moment. In actuality, those hurts are in the past, and should remain so in their own context.

It’s a negativity loop, and I really want to break that habit.

I can easily excuse away anything that has happened, but that is not helpful either. This goes hand in hand with the question of forgiveness: how to forgive myself for things that now are long gone, and can do little or nothing about them. If I learn from it, that is a positive thing, and that is what I’m trying to do. I am sorry she felt that way, and I wish we had the relationship to talk things out, but, as was her want, she would rarely tell the person she was having an issue with how she really felt. She kept it inside most times, and it ate at her (or, in this case, wrote it out, which was not like her at all: I wonder if she really intended to give it to me and was either talked out of it by someone or thought better of it).

So, looking at it from both sides, she wrote of the positive and the negative that she saw in me. We all have that in us; I guess I am glad that she did find the positive traits in me. I know the circumstances of that time period that angered her so, and I also know that there is nothing I can do, now, but to learn from this again: don’t hold things in and let them eat at you; don’t carry a grudge; find some way to let yourself accept, let go, and move on.

I’m still working on the forgiveness to self part.


About Stu

I am a creative individual with many areas of passion: Professional Storyteller; NYS Certified Drama Specialist/Educator; Professional Development Coordinator & Facilitator; Workshop Leader; sometime Puppeteer; Playwright; Director; Performer; Teaching Artist; and sometimes more.

Posted on March 17, 2013, in Anger, Caring, counseling, Despair, Family, Friends, Grief, Healing, Inspiration, Love, Mindfulness, Prayers, Spiritual, Support, Therapy, Transformation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I can honestly say that in my relationships with parents siblings children and friends, there have been times that though I love these people, I have not always liked them. When my father spanked me, I didn’t like him much for a while. When my brother and I get into a discussion of our political differences, I come away with he feeling that I don’t like him much. But I have to remind myself that what I don’t like are his political views, not him.

    Your mother had… issues. This example may seem to trivialize the problems between you two, I don’t mean to. But if she could still admit that she loved you, then most likely it was not you she didn’t like, but certain behaviors that disappointed her somehow. But she transferred these feelings onto you because she did’;t know any better. And, apparently, she didn’t know how to tell you what she felt and work on either understanding you better or modifying your behavior to suit her. That lack of communication is the real tragedy.

    • I agree, Doug. Communications was not a strong suit. And yes…if she had said she didn’t like the certain things, would have been a very different letter. Punched me in the gut yesterday…I’m better now.

  2. We all say and do things when we’re angry that we wish we could take back later. Writing a letter to someone that we are angry with (but not giving it to them) is a time-honored therapeutic device; it allows us to get it out of our systems without injuring the other person. You’re supposed to destroy it when you’re finished, of course, but then it seems your Mom didn’t really throw much away. And she probably never visualized a time when someone would have to go through her things, or she may have forgotten she had it. It’s a shame that you found it; but she did say that she loved you, and thus honored the bond between mother and child even though she was unhappy with whatever you were doing at the time. And I agree with Doug – we often confuse disliking a behavior with disliking the person.

    • Thanks Li…yeah, I know. I’ve written letters like that myself, but I have destroyed them. Venting is therapeutic. Just would rather have not found it at all. As you and I both know from this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory, better to keep the memories you wish you had, in some regards.

  3. Hi Stuart:
    My stepfather and I had a very contentious relationship as I grew up as I’ve blogged about myself. It took me until my early 30s to realize that much of the dissension was of my own doing. My whole life centered on changing HIM, getting HIM to love me. When really the person I needed to change was me. Once I realized that, everything else changed. It is like that Wayne Dyer Quote:
    Change your thoughts and you change your life.

    I’ve taken that to heart, Stuart and I practice it all the time.


    • With a parent gone, things can never change except for how you view it and how you allow whatever negative power you allow the hurt feelings to reign over you

  4. I wish that I could see the good in her statement like the other people who responded. The part about how she loves you… Last week I received an email from my mother and those were her exact words. The things I’ve always felt that she didn’t like me because nothing I did pleased her or made her happy. I would go above and beyond and she didn’t appreciate it. But if another sibling had done that she would brag about and she would light up. Coming from me it didn’t mean much because as she said, “she doesn’t like me.
    I believe she doesn’t even love me. If she didn’t like me because I’ve been an awful daughter to her then I can understand that, she doesn’t like me, but as her daughter she still loves me. But I have been an exceptional daughter to her and so that is not the case. I believe she doesn’t like me and she doesn’t love me and the reason why she told me she loved me was so she wouldn’t feel bad about herself. I think she needed to say that because she didn’t want to feel like a bad mother. I know this sounds really negative, but I couldn’t believe that you had the same experience from your mother as I and I just had to share with you my own thoughts about it and not sugar-coat it. I feel that when we look deeply at things as they are then there can be healing. Maybe in your mother’s life she behaved in a way that made you feel loved and so it’s easier for you to believe she loved you even though she didn’t like you. For me, my mother has been hurtful and at times mean and loveless and so why I’ve drawn this conclusion. I would love to hear your thoughts about what I wrote.

    • Hi Claire:
      I feel that my mother was of mixed feelings, as you described above. A parent has a responsibility when they have a child, but not everyone is cut out to be a parent: they did it because the child was either a mistake or they felt obligated to have a child. As I’ve written in other places, we can’t chose our blood family. Love should be there, but in all honesty, not every parent, sibling or blood relative fosters any experience but pain or remains emotionally distant.

      Did my mother love me? I think, in her own way, she did, but not always and not all the time. As to yours, so hard to say. I’m going to send you the yizkor prayer the rabbit sent to me: I hope it helps you.

  5. Thank you Stuart. Perfect prayer. My mother has not passed away, but I feel it applies for today as well. Yes, my mother is probably of mixed feelings. And it is true that it’s just not always there with blood relatives.. The love that should be. Thank you for your quick response. This couldn’t have been more timely.

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