mental health

[Two Pronged] There is a void inside me because of my mom, and I want to fill it

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] There is a void inside me because of my mom, and I want to fill it
'I sometimes share with her stories about my childhood, but every time I do so it makes her cry, so better not to'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.


Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

Thanks for posting my letter in your column. So, I don’t totally, for a lack of better word, hate my mom. Though I admit there is a large void inside me that I don’t know will ever be filled, I try not to think about it. I have a good relationship with her at the moment and I plan to have her live with us someday (my wife and I are migrating to the EU). 

Writing a letter to you definitely helped me and your reply is greatly appreciated. I sometimes share with her stories (good and bad) about my childhood, but every time I do so it makes her cry, so better not to. I love my mother; it’s just that there really is a void inside me that won’t go away. 

The past that I went through not only made me tougher, but I’d like to think that it will make me a better dad someday. The moments that she makes tampo sometimes is the trigger for my inis. I felt that I was never even given the chance kasi to make tampo in childhood when I protest her absence. I get a sermon instead. But now me and my mom talk like friends lang. I wrote the letter to understand what I’m feeling and how to erase this void.

Dan

Must Read

[Two Pronged] Should I cut my ‘toxic’ mom out of my life?

[Two Pronged] Should I cut my ‘toxic’ mom out of my life?

———  

Dear Dan,

Given the upbringing you shared in your first letter, your self-confessed ambivalence towards your mother is totally understandable: “I don’t totally…hate my mom,” “I have a good relationship with her at the moment,” and “there is a large void in me.”

However, it is perhaps time to put matters in perspective. For good or for ill, most people have ambivalent feelings towards their parents. Some may be lucky enough to have “Hallmark” relationships with their mothers e.g. “Home is where your mom is” or “A mom loves you first, then forever;” others, like you, not so much.  

You now have to decide whether you are going to continue to allow your past to define your future by just passively accepting your fate, or alternatively, whether you are going to take control, work through your issues with your mother, and shape a better future for yourself and your family. 

Therapy is an obvious avenue to pinpointing not only your concerns but the best ways to address them. Whether or not therapy is a viable option, improved communication with your mother is a vital way to tackle the problem. However this is not usually something that can be achieved simply by having a chat and putting all your cards (grievances?) on the table, particularly if your mother is reduced to tears every time you bring up uncomfortable subjects. Instead, you need to build up a degree of trust between you slowly but surely so that you both create a safe space in which ultimately you explore an improved relationship. 

JAF Baer

Must Read

[Two Pronged] Advice for a daughter who badly wants to connect with her elderly parents

[Two Pronged] Advice for a daughter who badly wants to connect with her elderly parents

Dear Dan:

Thank you very much for this, your second letter. In truth, follow-up letters like yours are my favorite kind. Such letters allow all three of us (and, hopefully, other Two Pronged readers) to have a more nuanced, more “depthie” and more “breadth-ie” response to your situation.

First, you are a brave man and a model of direct and fearless communication. I say this because you do not worry about judgmental people who do not understand the sense of abandonment and futility you went through.  

People who do not understand Wordsworth’s “The child is father to the man” will not feel your pain  when writing “The moments that she makes tampo sometimes is the trigger for my inis.” All they can see is your seeming anger.  

The seeming anger that you explain so well when you write: “I felt that I was never even given the chance kasi to make tampo in childhood when I protest her absence. I get a sermon instead.”

No WONDER you are triggered! What you were not allowed to do — share how alone you felt when she left — she now does right, left, and center, and with impunity at that!  

You shared your deepest feelings – fear of abandonment – in the best way you could at a very tender age. Perhaps you even cried when she left. Instead of taking you in her arms and telling you she hated to leave as much as you did, she (and/or your grandparents) scolded you.   

YET when she does this as a grown woman, you are supposed to be understanding and just accept what she does as valid? Indeed, where is the justice in all that?

In our previous column, I suggested you try “having real conversations with (her).” Such conversations would be the first step to easing your pain, to filling that void.

But I now see how you have tried to and again have been thwarted! 

“I sometimes share stories with her (good and bad) about my childhood, but every time I do so it makes her cry, so better not to.”  

Amidst so many tears, you are made to feel like a bully.

I am so, so sorry, Dan. I don’t know how compos mentis your mom is.  

If she is, then you have every right to tell her how her crying feels like a manipulation, a manipulation to stop you from being honest about your feelings. Even if you are now supporting her as opposed to vice versa, it still feels like nothing has really changed!  

Not only are you made to feel like a cad for making your mom cry, you are still not allowed to say what you truly feel; you are still asked to keep your mouth shut – while she swans along, doing what she wants, unaware (or worse, uncaring) of the effect this has on you.

So yes, tell her how you feel, if she can understand (whether she tries to is another matter). Please write us again should you want our responses to this situation. And if she no longer can fully comprehend what you’re saying, oh Dan, I am so, so sorry.  All you can do is try and fill the void yourself. 

Should you feel unable to despite your letters to us, in my opinion, going to therapy would be your best bet. Please, please write us again should you feel there is something else we can do for you. 

All the best,
MG Holmes

– Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.