I thought about our conversation yesterday, where we left it, trying to find someone you don’t trust or believe in my childhood, and it’s definitely my mom.
I went back to age 14. My mom was a practicing Catholic, meaning she went to church every Sunday, we were in parochial school, etc. When it came time to go to High School, she wanted to move me into a public school. I was very distraught about this decision. All my friends were going on to the Catholic High School and it would be like I was starting a new school where I don’t know anybody. A school where everybody else went to grade school together. The reason she gave me, just didn’t really fit.
She told me that because she went to an all-girls Catholic High School, she always felt awkward around boys and didn’t want me to have the same experience. But I suspect the real reason was because of money.
If my mom has a life motto, it’s – I save. (laughing) And she has actually saved quite a lot, but… I just have a really hard time believing that she suddenly decided that I needed to be around boys. I just don’t believe her!
Karen: Yes. Yes.
Me: I didn’t believe her then and I don’t believe her now.
Karen: Yes. Absolutely brilliant. So have you got some sense of where you were when she’s telling you this?
Me: Well, most of our discussions took place at the dinner table. So I’m imagining that’s probably where… I have vague memories of being really upset and running to my room. It was more than one discussion because I wouldn’t let it go. I couldn’t imagine going to a brand new school without seeing my friends. And that’s what ended up happening, I only saw them on the weekends.
Karen: Okay. Alright. So in that moment, you’re hearing her and when you’re so upset with her, what’s the emotion? Sadness? Hurt? Anger? What’s the emotion?
Me: Let me sit here just a sec. (pause) Well first it was shock. And then confusion. It was kind of layered, shocked at the news, and really confused by… I thought the plan all along was that I would be going to the Catholic High School. Then not believing what she was saying… (pause) I think it was hurt.
Karen: And when you sit in that hurt, that feeling of hurt… what’s the hurt about?
Me: That money was more important than me. That her desire to save money was more important than what would have been best for me. I viewed the Catholic school as a better school than the public. I think most people did.
And the hurt was just like god, your ability to save money is more important than me? If I take aside that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, that was the takeaway I got from it, that money was more important than me.
Karen: So money was more important to her than you. Was it true?
Me: (long pause) In this particular situation, or in general?
Karen: No, in this particular situation. Let’s stick to the situation. In that moment when you’re feeling like you’ve gone through this shock and confusion and then you’re feeling hurt by her, in that moment, money’s more important to her than you.
Karen: Can you absolutely know that it’s true, that money was more important to her than you, in that moment?
Me: (long pause and exhale) I gotta say yes.
Karen: How do you react and what happens when you believe the thought that money is more important to her than you?
Me: I felt crushed. I feel small and insignificant. I have thoughts like “why can’t I get a regular mom?” And, I think I was pretty mean to her. (pause) Just kind of sick to my stomach.
Me: You know how teens do, I was devastated like my life is ending. Dramatic. And I kind of… hated her right then. (sigh) Yea, it was strong. I felt like a victim of what she was doing, she was doing this to me, she was ruining my life.
I was embarrassed. Didn’t know what I would tell my friends. I wished I wasn’t in this family. Very dramatic response.
Karen: It’s what you knew. (pause) And so in that moment, what is it you’re not able to see, when you’re believing this thought, that money is more important to her than you? You’re sitting there at the table, listening to her tell you…
Me: I always feel lost when… I don’t know what I’m not able to see. Is that similar to who would you be without it?
Karen: Well, it’s about noticing in that moment that, for example, you’re so caught up in the drama in your own head about what’s going that you don’t even see her. You don’t notice that she’s sitting across the table from you…
Me: That’s true. Yea. Everything goes kind of fuzzy gray.
Karen: Yep. It’s like we’re so caught in the drama on what’s going on our head, our thoughts, you know..
Me: Yea. I don’t even remember the look on her face when she first told me, or after she told me, it’s like I wasn’t there anymore.
Karen: Yea. I’m not able to see that she might be really upset herself at having to give you the news.
Me: Yea. I’m not able to see her. I’m pretty sure my brother and dad were there and I don’t remember seeing them either.
Karen: So it’s just noticing that all of the sudden there’s no one else in the world but me. (chuckling)
Me: Yes. (laughing)
Karen: Me, me, me, me, me, Me, Me, ME, ME, ME!!
Me: (laughing) Yesssss. Poor MEEEEE! (pause) Okay. Yea.
Well I wasn’t able to stay at the table, I was just going with the run of my thoughts and I couldn’t stay around her. It’s coming back a little bit more. I think I didn’t even finish my meal.
Karen: Yes. I’m not able to sit at the table and finish my meal.
Karen: Not able to engage with the other people at the table.
Me: Yea. There were so many flood of thoughts like “Oh my god, what are these new kids at the school going to be like… oh my god, I won’t be with my friends… oh my god, what am I going to tell my friends… oh my god, my mom is such a bitch… (chuckling) Oh my god, you know, flood, flood, flood.
Karen: Yep. Notice in that moment you probably weren’t breathing.
Karen: So who would you be at the table, when your mom’s having the conversation with you about going to public school, without the thought that money is more important to her than me?
Me: (very long pause) Man, this is a deep rooted idea that I have. I’m having a hard time. I’m trying to imagine being there without it.
Karen: Just notice, just notice. Be still and notice. Notice yourself sitting at the table… before the conversation started, before you had the thought…
Me: Well without the thought, it still feels dramatic, but the drama with HER is not there. There’s still some things to be resolved, but my feelings towards her are more neutral.
I think I would have stayed at the table without that thought, and probably argued about it. But my feelings for her were so… I couldn’t stay.
Karen: So can you imagine yourself at the table before the conversation? You were at the dinner table, you can feel yourself sitting on the chair. Notice where your mother is. Notice where your brother is. Notice where your dad is. Notice what you’re doing. Knife in your hand. Fork in your hand. Notice your plate. How are you feeling in that moment?
Me: I LIKE our family meals. Getting together, eating, talking.
Karen: So you’re feeling okay in that moment. And then your mom says… we want you to go to public High School next year…
Me: (exhale and pause)
Karen: So without the thought, in that moment, as soon as she starts speaking. And it might be the second or third time that you’re heard it. So you’re probably could have been aware of what she was going to say.
Me: Well, I don’t think it completely registered the first time she said it. It didn’t go all the way in.
Karen: Mm-hmm. So you’ve heard this before, yea? Heard this before. And in that moment when she’s speaking to you, you can still see her sitting across from you, talking to you. In that moment you don’t have the thought that money is more important to me.
Me: Ohhhhh, it’s very different. Then it just a matter of getting what I want. And figuring out… we’re talking about it. It’s got more drama to it than other conversations we have. We argued, we didn’t talk. (chuckling) That’s the way we talk. So it would be I would be arguing my points. And I might be a little terse, but without the thought that money is more important than me, I’m able to stay at the table. I WANT to stay at the table, because this is important to me.
Karen: Yep. So are you noticing your mother?
Me: Yea. Although I don’t like the decision she made, I don’t hate her anymore. When it came to decisions like that, she ruled. It wasn’t my dad. (pause) It’s starting to be clearer in my head, that there were two things going on – me wanting to be with my friends and my relationship with my mom. I can see some division now where before it was all muddled together.
Me: Yea. Because without the thought, I still HAVE a relationship with her.
Me: Huh. Yea, then it’s not necessarily so personal. It’s like a family making a decision. It wasn’t personally against me. I mean, it’s about me, but it wasn’t…
Karen: Yes. Yes.
Me: I’m a little ticked off about the decision, but I don’t feel hurt anymore, without the thought. Now I’m just mad about their choice. And I want to argue and change their mind. I no longer hate my mom.
Karen: Yep. (pause) So turn the thought around. Money was more important to her than me.
Me: I was more important to her than money?
Karen: Yep. That’s one turnaround.
Me: Well I can definitely see that’s true in a bigger picture. You know, like if I was held hostage and they demanded $20,000, I think she would get the $20,000.
Me: So in that way, I can definitely see that I would be more important to her than money.
Karen: So in this situation at the table, where she’s just said to you, that she wants you go to public school, how’s it true that you’re more important to her than money?
Me: (extremely long pause) Well, she had made dinner. And we were sitting around the table. She wasn’t doing something money related. We were spending time together, so I guess, in that way, I was more important than money in that moment.
(long pause) I’m really having a hard time finding…
Karen: So she said to you, her reason for wanting you to go to the public high school, that she had the experience of going to an all-girls school…
Me: Yea, and then feeling awkward around guys.
Karen: So in that moment, she was thinking about YOU and your interactions with men further on in your life, growing up from that teenage period, she was thinking about that, more than spending the money to send you to…
Me: Ohhhhh, that didn’t even occur to me, because I thought she was lying. (chuckling) Okay, entertaining the idea that maybe she was being truthful.
Me: Okay, let me entertain that. (long pause) Well, I mean, if what she said was the truth, that was her PRIMARY reason for making the decision, I can see where money wasn’t in the decision.
Me: (long pause) I don’t know how to believe her, Karen. I don’t. Hmmm. (pause) Like how do you believe something you don’t? (sigh) I might have to work on this a little bit more cause it’s uhm…
Karen: Yea, okay. Let’s just keep working on these turnarounds. So money was more important to her than me.
Me: Money was more important to me than her?
Me: In that situation. Yea, because what ran through my head at the time, was.. you guys drive nice cars, dad belongs to a golf club, I know you guys have the money. So it was kind of like, I want you to spend it on ME. And if you don’t, I’m going to take my love from YOU.
Me: Kind of had that attitude about it. So at that point, actually, what I wanted was more important than her.
Me: Yea, for sure. At that point I didn’t care at all. I just wanted what I wanted.
Karen: Yea, so in that moment, my thinking was more important than her.
Me: Yea. Cause I didn’t really care about her at all. What I wanted was more important. Yea, I can see that pretty clearly.
Karen: So what’s the other turnaround? What’s the opposite? Money was more important to her than me.
Me: Money wasn’t more important to her than me.
(a full minute passes) Well if what she said was true, that would be… (pause) then she was trying to think of how to create a better experience for me than she had. (long pause)
Karen: Is there any other examples that you can think of, growing up in your lifetime where money wasn’t more important to her than you were?
Me: I think I’d like to find those. And it’s going to take a little bit of contemplation and time thinking about it. But I think it’s really important that I find a bunch of them.
Karen: Yea. One thing comes to mind. Has she ever bought a plane ticket to come visit you?
Me: Yea. Yeaaa.
Karen: Right, so in that moment, the money wasn’t as important to her as coming to seeing you.
Me: Yea. Exactly. That’s the kind of examples I would love to just find a bunch of, if I can.
Karen: Has she paid for dinner when you’ve been out somewhere?
Me: Well as a kid, obviously.
Karen: Yea. But even if you can find it where she’s paid for coffee, bought flowers, little things that she’s done like that, where she’s spent her money on YOU.
Karen: Those are the things you’re looking for, yea?
Me: Yea. And I’m sure they’re there. Something’s just….
Karen: Yea. Just sit with it. So, you don’t know how to believe her Jennifer, is it true?
Me: (long pause) Mmmm… interesting. No.
Karen: How do you react and what happens when you’re sitting at the table with her… she’s telling you the decision she’s made, and you’re believing this thought “I don’t know how to believe her”?
Me: Well, I make a decision to not trust her answer. It doesn’t make sense to me. So, I go with what makes more sense to me… that it was a decision involving money, not what she’s telling me. That makes much more sense to me given our history, and the way she’s been, so I just go with that.
(long pause) How do you do the work if it’s true? (laughing)
Karen: How do you do the work if it’s true? If you get two “yeses”?
Me: No, I mean, like, what if I DO have a mother that is… Like in this specific situation, what if it’s true that money was more important to her than me?
Karen: That was the reality in that moment. You’re still trying to fight with reality. That MIGHT have been her primary reason, and wasn’t that her business at that time when she made the decision?
Karen: And the reality is, she made the decision, and you went to the mixed High School. And for all these years you’ve been fighting with her because she sent you to this school you didn’t want to go to. Guess what, you went to the school you didn’t want to go to.
Me: Right. Yea, and things actually turned out okay.
Karen: Yea. And are you okay? Definitely okay, right?
Me: Yea. If it had been an ideological disagreement, that would have been one thing, but the fact that I believed it was because of the money… that’s where the rub is for me.
Karen: Yea. That might have been her main motive. That is her business. You couldn’t change that, right? She made the decision based on whatever she made the decision on.
Me: Right. That actually feels a little more peaceful to me. And even if that is the case, which I feel fairly confident it is, I know she loves me. I don’t doubt that she loves me, or loved me then in that moment. The way she was raised… the way she grew up with fear around money, it’s completely understandable.
Karen: And it’s HER fear. It’s her business the fear she has around money. And her reaction to it is hers.
Me: Yea, it’s not personal.
Karen: Yea, exactly. It’s not about you at all.
Me: Wow. Ohhhhhhhhh. Wow. (laughing) Wow, this is so fascinating, cause me and my brother talk about this often. He sometimes calls me up and asks “why does she do this?!?” and we try to figure it out. But now it makes total sense. I want to tell him “I just figure it out! It’s not personal. It’s not about us, at all. Mom is afraid of not having enough someday, or a whole bunch of other issues around money. She would be this way with the BEST, most incredible sons or daughters in the world! She would still have these fears.”
Karen: Exactly. Cause it’s what she’s believing about money.
Me: Oh. Wow. Yea. Oh man (laughing) That’s amazing. Gosh, I had no… (stammering) I don’t know how I didn’t see this before. I was taking her fears PERSONALLY, and that makes NO sense.
Karen: Yea. Funny, isn’t it. And we do it sooo… unconsciously.
Me: Yea. It’s that whole me, me, me thing, isn’t it?
Karen: Well it’s got to be about me. Of course it’s got to be about me.
Me: (laughing) I AM THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE.
Karen: Of course!
Me: Everything revolves around ME. (laughing)
Karen: Yesss. Except when it doesn’t.
Me: And it generally doesn’t.
Karen: So, you don’t know how to believe her, is it true?
Me: No. I know how to believe her. I actually do believe she struggled with how to be around boys after High School. I think her primary motive was to send me to school for free instead of having to pay the tuition. That was probably the primary reason. But I think the reason she gave me is a legitimate reason. Even if it’s not the primary reason.
Yea. It was all about me taking it personally, cause when I go back to sitting at that table again, with what I’m thinking right now, it’s like… alright. And then it might have occurred to me to make my own money. You know, work out at the club picking up balls, or whatever it was you can do at 14 to make money. I might have been able to earn something so I could go. That’s what my husband did.
Karen: And so, how does this relate to the discussion you had with Sheldon?
Me: It relates in that, when someone tells me something that doesn’t make sense to me, I run with what I think the real reason is, full bore, without even looking back.
And here’s the part where the two connect. Even if it might not be the primary reason or main motivation, what they’re telling me is true for them. They’re not flat-out lying to me. And because I didn’t think it was primary, I complete dismissed what my mom said. And Sheldon’s reasons too.
And it causes a disconnection with me and the person when I don’t believe them, at all.
Me: I mean even if the person is delusional, they believe what they’re telling me. It feels more connected when you believe people. It doesn’t mean you can’t have your own thoughts about it, but believe what they’re telling you.
Karen: And be aware that THEY’RE believing what they’re telling you. And just because they’re believing what they’re telling you, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. They’re not saying “You must believe what I’m saying.”
Me: But at least give what they’re saying a shot.
Karen: Take it in, hear it. Feel for them what it’s like for them believing what they’re telling you. There’s the compassion.
Me: Gosh I do this a lot Karen. With people close to me.
Karen: Great to work it then, Jenn. Another little piece unraveled.
Karen: So what’s your living turnaround? How are you going to notice? What are you going to notice if you’re with someone and you’re in this space of not believing what they’re telling you? What might your trigger be to notice when perhaps you’re reacting in a patterned way?
Me: When I go into my head. When I stop listening, go into my head and feel disconnection with them.
Me: To notice that I’m no longer present and not hearing them anymore.
Karen: Yep. Yep.
Me: Wow. So you’ve experienced this too? Where someone’s talking and you like… you’re lost in your head?
Karen: Yep. Yea. Lots.
Me: Thank you so much Karen.
- This was a major issue to resolve around my mother. Her reluctance, and at times, refusal to spend money on me, has been a major point of contention all my life. What I had failed to notice all those years, was that she’s reluctant to spend money on EVERYTHING. She wasn’t singling me out! The way she handles money has nothing to do with me. I was taking her actions personally, and that’s nuts.
- When doing the work, I have to stick with what I feel is true. I can’t manipulate myself into thinking something when I don’t. Asking Karen the question of how you do the work on something that’s true, resulted in me finding this precious gem.
- This realization has had cascading effects. In the past, both my brother and I have constantly harassed her about being so cheap – making fun of her using grocery bags instead of buying garbage bags, teasing her about her massive collection of twisty ties, goading her into buying a new coffee maker to replace the one that’s 30 years old (I have no idea how that thing lasted so long). I no longer do that. Now when I watch her washing a Ziploc bag, I smile witnessing the power of a belief. And she’s right, the bag is still good and can be used again.