When I was researching the phrase “The sins of the father are the sins of the sons” for this blog, I found two possible origins: the Bible, or William Shakespeare (depending on whether or not you believe in either). Regardless of where it stemmed from, I’ve never liked the phrase. When I first heard it, I interpreted it to mean that whatever “wrongs” a parent does, the child will have to pay for. And later in life, I found that it could also mean the habits and idiosyncrasies of a parent will likely pass down to the child. Neither interpretation is happy: with the former, the offspring would have to “pay” for their parents choices . . . and with the latter the offspring doesn’t have the free will to be his/her own person.
But some things have come up in my life recently that tell me the second meaning is probably more true than I wanted to believe . . .
In doing the research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I learned that quite often children from parents with NPD can develop NPD traits as well. This happens because those children grow up feeling neglected and insecure and those two things often transform into narcissism. It’s a vicious cycle that began with some ancestor several generations back and keeps moving forward until someone breaks the cycle.
Ever since this discovery, I’ve been on the lookout for narcissistic behavior in myself and have been trying to change my reactions to people or circumstances accordingly. But I’ve recently discovered that I exhibit one of my mother’s behaviors more than I was aware of . . . jumping to the wrong (often bad) conclusions. This happens especially in conjunction with trying to be in contact with certain people, namely my brother and Athena (my step-daughter). Both of them tend to be not as responsive as I would like. If I text or call one of them, I might not hear back from them for hours or even a day or two. This then feeds into an insecurity that maybe I’ve done or said something recently that upset them and they’re “punishing” me for it.
This sort of a reaction is bad on a couple of counts. First, it implies that these people have nothing better to do than wait around for a call or text from me. Second, it’s my ego inserting itself saying that I’m somehow important enough to said person that they would take time out of their day to be so bothered by some random thing I might say or do that they would deliberately ignore me.
My own life is incredibly busy right now and I don’t have time to speak with my own friends as often as I would like to. So, I’m probably not as communicative as they might like right now either. But hopefully they don’t jump to a conclusion that I’m upset with them. And I need to remind myself of the same thing with regards to other people who don’t get back to me right away.
Another trait from my mother that I apparently (unfortunately) picked up is correcting people’s thoughts or words. This one bothers me the most right now, because I used to HATE when she did it to me when I was younger . . .
Often, when I would say a word that my mother didn’t like, she would “correct” the word when she responded to me. For instance, if I talked about how “weird” it was that someone didn’t like mushrooms, she would correct me and say “It’s certainly ‘different.'” She did this because she thought the word “weird” meant “bad.” To me, it was simply another way to say “different,” but because it made her uncomfortable, she wouldn’t say the word. She has lots of euphemisms that she did this with, and each time she did it, I felt like I was getting a subtle message that the words I used were “wrong,” or “bad,” or that there was something wrong with me for using them.
Well unfortunately I’ve apparently started that myself (grrr). In trying to better my life, I follow things like The Secret that talk about how your outlook on things will change your perception. It’s like the proverbial glass . . . some people see it as half-full, while others see it as half-empty. And the thought is that those who see the positive in a situation will continue to see positive things in their lives.
Anyway, Craig will sometimes say things that sound like a negative spin than a positive one, and I’ve apparently started correcting him to put a positive spin on it. He recently brought it to my attention and–knowing how badly it made me feel when my mom did it to me–I apologized profusely to him. Analyzing myself, I understand that I was doing so because I want to make sure I continue to see things in a positive light, but it doesn’t excuse my behavior. He’s not wrong for phrasing things the way he does, and I need to stop doing things that make him feel like he is wrong (inadvertent though they might be).
I suppose seeing these things in myself can help me to understand my own mother’s behavior a little better, and not be so mad about it, but right now I’m still in the “I can’t believe I’m turning into my mother” phase of acceptance.