As those of you who follow my blog know, my mother and I have had a difficult relationship since my birth. Recently she had a series of strokes that left her mostly bedridden and afraid of her own mortality. While that would be normal for most people, the reason she said she was afraid to die was because she was afraid she was going to go to the "bad place" since she had not been nice in this life.
This past weekend, she fell out of her wheelchair and fractured her hip. Sadly her life expectancy at this point is not very good, which left me looking at the time she and I have spent in this life together. And that is when the "Cognitive Dissonance" returned.
Psychology Today describes Cognitive Dissonance like this:
Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.
As I looked at our time together I started to think to myself, maybe she wasn't as bad as I am remembering her. Maybe she was nice to me and I took things the wrong way. Maybe when she was beating me I somehow deserved it. Maybe, maybe maybe. With her passing eminent, I know the likely hood of ever fixing things between us is slim to none, and who wants to have this huge unfinished life between her and I.
So I think to try to protect myself I started to distort the reality of what happened between us all these years to make the closing of this chapter of my life easier to digest. Maybe if I somehow except the blame for what she did to me, that I had somehow caused all of it, I could tell myself that she did really love me after all.
And that is just how Cognitive Dissonance works. You doubt the reality of the situation, your beliefs about the situation to not feel the pain of what really happened. See how that works. We think it is helping, but really it is not, as it will keep us stuck in the pain if we fail to see it for what it was.....Child Abuse.
No child deserves to be beaten. No child deserves to be made to feel unwelcome in the confines of the family and home. No child deserves to feel afraid in her own home. No child deserves to made to feel "less than" a valuable human being. Nothing a child could do deserves that type of treatment. NOTHING!
So as I make peace with her inevitable passing, I have to not allow myself to distort what happened. It really did happen, and while I cannot change the past, I don't have to let it ruin my future. It was what is was, and it's over now. She cannot hurt me anymore.