Posted by: Marie | November 30, 2010

(455) The appropriateness of confrontations

Post #455
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, June 13, 2010]

I had a dream early this morning . . .

“X” showed up at my house and started talking to me like we were old friends. His manner was arrogant and self-centered. I was feeling dread and hatred, but I was civil.

Photo by Martin Chen

He asked if I wanted to go out for a light dinner. I didn’t really want to, but I thought it might give me a chance to confront him. But, I realized it would be difficult to have such a conversation in a public place, so I decided to confront him before we left the house.

He started telling me it had been my fault, that I had seduced him. I challenged him by pointing out I had been a child and he was an adult. He kept insisting the blame belonged to me. I thought, “Men always blame me, but I’m not accepting the blame, not this time!” I stood my ground with him. He got mad and left. I felt victorious and empowered.

After he left, I realized the sense of empowerment I was feeling was much the same feeling I experienced when I confronted him via a letter (which did happen in real life) – except this time (in the dream), I knew for sure he had done it. When I confronted him via the letter, I wasn’t sure.

A little bit later in the dream, I was telling my best friend Melodie about what had happened when I realized my mom was I the room. I was horrified because Melodie and I had been using “X’s” real name. I knew my mom had heard what we said so I knew I was going to have to tell her the whole story (which I haven’t yet in real life). I knew she wouldn’t be pacified with an evasive answer. I looked at her and took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to tell her without causing her too much pain. That’s when I woke up.

Phew . . . that was a scary feeling! I’m glad it was only a dream.


Yesterday, my Mom and I went to a big family reunion in the southern part of Colorado. My mom had passed along the invitation to my brother several weeks ago and he was going to try to get off of work. But, neither Mom nor I put a lot of faith in him showing up. We have learned that everything else in his life trumps his immediate family – I’m guessing because we don’t raise a stink about it and the other people in his life (his partner, his boss, etc.) make his life difficult if he tells them “no”. He seems to not be able to set boundaries and he seems to always the victim of circumstance.

Sure enough, we didn’t hear anything from him in the days leading up to the reunion. We didn’t contact him to check on his plans because we figured he knew about it – he would either show up or not. Sure enough, he didn’t show.

Today, my mom happened to be going through her email and she realized she had passed along the wrong date to him. She told him it was in July.

When I talked to her today, she was feeling horrible about it. She was saying she should have double checked the information in the email before she hit the “send” button, she should have checked on his plans in the days right before . . . she felt just terrible about it and was really beating herself up.

I felt so bad for her . . . I wanted to take away her bad feelings. I hated she was feeling so guilty about it.

On an aside, when she apologized to him, he assured her he couldn’t have gotten the day off anyway . . . he was training a new employee at work. He told her to not worry about it . . .

But, the whole thing left me thinking about how badly she would feel if I told her what happened to me with “X”, or if I confronted her about the physical abuse perpetrated by her and dad. If she felt this bad about getting a date wrong, I can only imagine her guilt about my childhood would be devastating to her.

I don’t think I could ever do that to her, especial knowing that telling her would not benefit me much, if at all. I want to protect her from that . . . and I’m thinking that is appropriate.


  1. Many people with abuse struggle with disclosure and what is appropriate.

    There are many different views.

    I think it is very important that you are clear about what you want to do. Would you feel better if you told her? It is a big issue I think.

    • Hey, Evan –

      You bring up a great question . . . and, I don’t think I would feel better if I her which is why I’m thinking I won’t tell her. Your question really makes the heart of the issue clearer! Thank you!

      – Marie

  2. The flip side of this scenario (I’ve found with my own family) is that often people who are very repressed make a big deal about small things like getting places on time, dressing appropriately, saying the “right” things, sending cards, etc.

    But often these same people seem to “underreact” to things like abuse, cruelty, etc. Like I had people in my family try to downplay or dismiss the level of abuse that my brother and his wife had perpetrated in ways that left me shocked. But these same people would make a HUGE deal about showing up late for a family gathering…

    So, I guess my point is that if you told your mother, don’t assume she’d be as disturbed as you’d like to believe she might be…

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I hadn’t even thought of that possibility. Wow.

      And, to your point, she is very detached from her emotions. I have only seen her cry twice . . . once when she received flowers from my brother and again in the hours after my dad died. I’ve sat with her through a number of funerals of immediate family members and close friends and I’ve never seen her shed a tear.

      So . . . you have given me something to consider!

      – Marie

  3. She may also already feel a tremendous amount of guilt about the abuse that she is aware of (the physical abuse). Talking to her about it *might* actually help her to process those feelings, and perhaps give her a chance to apologize. But then, I tend to be overly hopeful about these kinds of things. If she is as caring as she sounds, then I’m sure it bothers her on some level.

    • Hi, Zip –

      And you bring yet another angle to consider . . .

      I find it hard to believe that she even thinks about what happened back then. I’ve never seen any indication that she thinks about it and/or has considered the possibility she may have acted inappropriately. It is my guess she has blocked it all out.

      But, I could be wrong. Just because she doesn’t talk about it doesn’t mean she doesn’t sometimes think about it.

      – Marie

  4. If your mother is at all like mine, the results would be totally different from this minor mistake. If I mentioned something serious like abuse to my mother, all her defenses would kick in – she would deny, or if that was not possible minimize (all for your own good) or in some way discount my experience. I would be in the wrong. Then she would freeze me out, as I would be causing her to be uncomfortable. Then she’d wait a few months, then we’d see each other again, and she’d never ever mention the situation again.

    Like Aaron mentions, perfect standards for oneself for small things doesn’t translate to big things at all. My mother also tries to have the perfect meals, be perfectly polite, and correct in all things. That just seems to be part of the whole denial apparatus somehow.

    YMMV (your mileage may vary) Take care

    • Second thoughts on my comment Marie…what my mother is like is not really a measure of how yours would respond. I guess my point just was that being upset about a minor mistake doesn’t necessarily show how she’d react to bigger problems…And I haven’t actually confronted my mother either – though I’ve seen her be unresponsive many many times.

      Perhaps your mother is altogether different. I hope that is so. Cheers.

      • Hey, Ellen –

        I understood that you weren’t saying my mom would respond the way you believe your mom would . . . but, you have a great point . . . one that could well be applicable in my situation, at least to some degree.

        As I was reading your comment, I found myself cringing at the pain I imagine you must feel around all of this. Ouch! (As Edward would say!)

        – Marie

  5. These comments are really interesting and helpful to read. I have always struggled with how my mother reacted to small things with an extreme response, but when I would attempt to even go near bigger stuff, she would just shut down/deny/cry and tell me and how much she had done for me why did I hate her so much (even if it was nothing to do with her – like when I tried to broach the subject of difficulties at school). So she would always go on about how much she had always tried to protect me, how she would never cope if she thought she had failed me, how much she had always done for me, and how terrified she was of the thought that something bad might have happened to me. I used to think that this was because she really did care, because she really had done her best. And I also thought maybe I am making it all up. Maybe they are right, it’s nothing. But then I started to realise this is what she used to keep me away from ever daring to say anything to her. Ever daring to challenge her. I have had very little contact with my parents for the past 4 years – my choosing to cease contact – when I informed them of this my mother went on about how she wouldn’t cope without me, how she coudln’t survive, why was I punishing her like this. Even though I had said I need space to work some things out for myself, to work through some heavy stuff in my past – she never once mentioned this. It was all about her. Then in early 2009 I attempted to contact them through email to see if they had moved on/changed, to see if they would actually listen and hear me. I started by saying that I had done a lot of work over the past few years and had realised just how much stuff in the past had effected me. Again I got the defensive “we did everything we could for you, she couldn’t cope to think that she had failed me…” But I pushed through this and carried on but I kept it all away from anything they had done. I started off with things like being bullied at school, having moved every 2-3 years including to foreign countries. And the response? “well we didn’t move that much and lots of people get bullied”. Outright denial – and it wasn’t even anything about them. At that point I knew they weren’t ever going to really listen or hear me. So there was no point in even attempting to talk about the stuff that was to do with them.

    But I have always wondered why she would be seemingly so distraught over the little things – or even the potential that there might be something, but then flip into utter denial over the bigger stuff. Like I said, it has added to the disbelief of myself I have over my past. But reading these comments have helped it make a different sense.

    So thank you!

    • Hey, Beautiful Stones –

      This thing of mothers/parents blowing a gasket over little things but being in denial about abuse seems to be a common theme! I guess it happens quite a bit.

      I’m so glad you are finding some comfort in reading of other people’s experiences. That is one of the benefits of being part of this community. Thanks for contributing your input, as well!

      – Marie

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