Emotional Abuse: Dealing with Manipulation and Guilt

Ever since I reported on the high suicide rate of Asian American students, I’ve been thinking of writing something for them that addresses cultural conditioning.

Here is what I have observed from my own experience and coming from a first-generation asian immigrant family:

  • Many asian parents are amazing at using manipulation, guilt, and self-pity to get their kids to do whatever they want, or at least make them most miserable if the kids disobey. They aren’t necessarily being malicious on purpose, they just learned it from their parents.
  • I need to live the life I want to live, NOW, or I’ll die living the expectations of my parents, and do a crappy job at it anyway because I’d be miserable.
  • Most families – asian or other – are pretty dysfunctional. I know I’m not the only daughter who has ever fallen victim to a mentally unstable mother. Knowing that I’m not the person this has ever happened to makes me feel less alone and more optimistic about overcoming these mental and emotional obstacles I’ve built over the years.
  • I get depressed because I turn anger inwards, on myself, instead of expressing anger and setting boundaries.
  • The harder I resist and try to change who my parents are, the harder I fail, because I can’t change my parents to get them to love me the way I want them to love me.
  • I have learned to count my blessings and appreciate friends and my spouse for loving me the way that I want to be loved.

Up until a few years ago, I would get into fights with my mother whenever she starts to “talk trash.” What I mean by “talking trash” is making condescending statements or saying things to elicit guilt in other people or being very negative or wallowing in self-pity. She knows how to push my buttons, and I let her push my buttons.

One afternoon we were speaking on the telephone, and my mother started talking trash. She made comments like she shouldn’t have brought us to the US, and how we don’t behave like caring children because we never visited, and how her friends’ children treated their mothers so well compared with how we treated her, and if she died we probably wouldn’t care one iota.

Sound familiar?

Normally, my brain would pick up the signal to pick a fight and try to prove to her that she was wrong and that she should look at her own behaviors and that we were good kids.

For some reason I got sick of resisting that day, and something else came out of my mouth. I started agreeing with her.

I agreed that she shouldn’t have brought us to America. I agreed that we were crappy kids. I agreed that she was all alone and being ignored. I agreed that we might as well have come out from a rock. I agreed with whatever she was complaining about, and I offered no solution or reconciliation or amends whatsoever.

And she grew quiet and we ended the conversation rather well because we had no argument.

The toughest part about this technique is working with my ego to swallow the insults and offer no resistance and agreeing with something I didn’t agree with. But with practice, my ego got over it and my mother’s manipulation loosened its grip on my sanity.

The strange thing is that our relationship has actually improved since I stopped resisting, even when I have offered her no behavioral changes on my part.

I’m not going to lie and say that my emotionally and mental well-being has completely recovered from the different things I had endured with my mother when I was a little girl. To this day I still work on my mental conditioning and internal messages on a daily basis – so we’re talking about 30+ years and counting. But each day, I get a little better and I unlearn a little bit of the cruel messages I had learned to believe about who I am.

And it can get better for you too.

Related… (and a 2011 update) - This post is, in many ways, part of a long journey of me writing a book that I’ve wanted to write for 9 years but wasn’t ready to write it or knew who I was writing it for. To read about it, go to “About This Book” for The Youngest Light.

———

You may also want to read:

Note to the Hyper-Self-Critical Child Who Has Grown Up

Independence: Dear Daughters of Tiger Mothers

A View from Negativity

Why I Wrote ‘The Youngest Light’

“Jane Chin, for Joy”

Why You Still Cry When Your Parents Hurt You

Author: Jane Chin

  • Anonymous

    yes. i feel the same way with my parents. whenever i`m not the absolute BEST in a class or group, they say my principal downgraded me because they dont like me. they say they’re jealous -__- i find this very annoying. i can never satisfy them. when i get 100% on a test, they want over 100. i feel like dying sometimes. i just can never be loved.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane

    hello anonymous:

    i’ve learned that i could never make people love me the way that i want them to love me if they are incapable of loving me that way. any effort on my part to force people to change into a certain way is wasted effort.

    so, i started counting the people who love me as i am, and these may not be your parents. i spend more energy appreciating those people who build me up and relate with me the way that makes me feel good.

    remember you have a choice to believe what you want to believe. you can choose not to buy into what they said about jealousy or “being liked” or even needing to satisfy them at all.

    jane

  • [Anonymous]

    I had no idea I’d find someone with a relatively similar problem as mine. I liked your choice of words “loosened her grip on my sanity” what freaks me out the most is, am I truley prepared to know the truth of whether my mother is aware of her abusive tactics or if she is oblivious to how much of a pain in the neck she can be? Some people are a certain way and aren’t aware of the damage they cause around them, especially if they have a diagnosed mental condition. Nonetheless the whole situation is very unfortunate and emotionally draining.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi [Anonymous], this is one club I hate to welcome you to, but welcome.

    Does it really matter whether you find out whether your mother is aware or unaware of what she is doing? I used to think so. I thought so because I figured, if she is aware, then I would have a legitimate reason to live in my victim role. If she is not, then I would have a legitimate reason to live in my victim role.

    (No, that was not a mistake in my typing.)

    The truth is, it doesn’t really matter whether another person is aware of her actions or not. You can’t change it – and especially you cannot “try to be the best little girl in the world hoping to get her to love you.” If that had worked, it would have worked long time ago, when you were still a little girl.

    The only thing that matters is how you have decided to live your life, see yourself, and love yourself. Regardless of how your history with your mother may have conditioned you.

    My best,
    Jane

  • L

    Hi Jane,

    This is a great article, and I think this particular flavor of parental guilting is very distinctly Asian-American.

    It especially doesn’t help when you’re the only child of a needy and insecure single mom who still lives with her parents in Taiwan. My flighty and bull-headed mother focuses all of her energies, hopes, and desires onto me and what I’m doing with my life, and it’s nothing short of exasperating.

    She’s never satisfied with the boyfriend, who always seems to be intruding on me-and-her time. On a good day, she’ll humor my ideas of bringing him home to Taiwan. On a bad day, she gets bitterly jealous and breaks out into tears over how much I break her heart when I even bring up his name. It leaves me speechless. She wants me to be her husband, and restore (literally) the home and property she lost when her marriage fell apart.

    I don’t know what to do, except savor the days in between her phone calls and the months in between her visits, never knowing whether our next conversation or meeting will be a pleasant one or end in tears.

    Does anyone have experience with reasoning with this kind of difficult, possessive mom?

    • Suz

      Yes, I am also an only daughter of a single, Korean mom. She correlates my success with her own success, because she feels that she has accomplished nothing in her life. And because she didn’t abort me, and has given up her own life to have me, I somehow owe my life to her.
      Right now I am pursuing a degree in nursing, and she seemed okay with it at first, but she has told me yesterday that she is not. I am currently in my mid twenties, I feel that I should have gotten used to her by now, but somehow she still manages to stress me out.

      • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

        Suz, I’m glad you are pursuing a nursing degree. The patients whose lives you will help save and touch over the course of your nursing career will be glad that you are becoming a nurse. On their behalf I want to say, “we believe in you and keep going!”

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi L,

    It sounds like your mom is experiencing identity issues, namely, not really having her own identity (not sure if this is due to becoming a single mom and no longer having the identity of “spouse, wife, Mrs. so-and-so” or whether living at home with parents has something to do with that also) and therefore she has identified her life almost completely with yours.

    It sounds like you have that physical distance between you yet no emotional distance. I’m wondering if you’d consider trying what I had done and just agree with her that you’re breaking her heart and not offer a solution. You’ve however accepted the burden of guilt that is not yours to bear, and as hard as this may be to hear, you may want to examine deeply why you have accepted this and allowing yourself and your identity to be possessed.

    You may ultimately need to turn the tables around and become the mature parent that she is not. Imagine if you have a needy, dependent child who is no longer a child (i.e. that child has grown into an adult of thirty-something years – way past the “child needs” period) but who cannot cut the cord from you and live her own life. As a parent who looks at the best interest of the child, how would you parent her so that she can survive on her own? You don’t have to give her the boot, per se, and do something dramatic, but you may want to encourage her to develop her own independence by engaging in relationships and the world beyond *just you*.

    This is by no means easy.

    My best wishes for you,
    Jane

  • jenifer

    Hi Jane,

    I like your article, my mother raised me the same way, I could never be enough for her, and it dawned on me one day that she probably resented me for some unknown reason, I just did not know for what. But when confronted, she admitted that since the day I was born, she did resent me because I recieved attention from my father, and she no longer recieved 100% attention. And now I still try to have a relationship with her, but I know I don’t have to have her approval to accept myself today. What a spiritual awakening!

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi Jenifer,

    Isn’t it amazing that the moment we no longer needed someone’s approval, we seem to garner it more readily than when we go out of our way to desperately gain it!

    I understand where you are coming from, as my personal experience has been similar. When I was young, my father gave me attention as I shown a liking to study, and he was a scholarly type. It was obvious that my mother felt left out as well as developed an inferiority complex, and as I was growing up, she accused me of acting superior and arrogant and looking down on her.

    I am now more awakened to the love she was probably deprived of all of her life, and therefore, the insecurity was very strong and this led to a sense of competition when there is truly none. Of course I was oblivious to this growing up, and it made me a basketcase.

    • Katy

      Hi i really do need need to break free!! There have been so so many things going on an NOW its like they are trying 2 make me pick them or my sister who i will never leave. An what they are doing is they push her a side and they hate me but they still use me to make her fell alone an when sis ìs around they treat me like they like me. But wen she gone ma mom like you make sick . Help plez

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  • amy

    hi. My mom is a combination of all of the above ;P I am looking for a solution. I am feeling out boundaries, for one, in order to protect myself. I want to ask about your technique of being compliant or always agreeing. I feel that when I agree, I am being dishonest. I am encouraging her. I am often, depending on context, taking on burdens and giving false impressions. How is it healthy to, for example, agree that it is all your fault or that your intentions were ill-founded? Are you suggesting that we present two faces, one to the world and one to our mother? Wouldn’t it be wiser to just be an active listener; to paraphrase what she has said? I appreciate any insight ;)

  • Berenice

    I am so in tune with this. I am 51 now and my mother is still a tyrant at 80! Only now all my family have died and it’s just me and her!! I live on the other side of the world from her now but still the guilt trip continues. What a waste of energy and time.
    The best book on this subject is: “When you and your mother can’t be friends” by Victoria Secunda. You can get it from Amazon. It really helped me….

  • K

    I want to laugh and cry after reading this – just got off the phone after another major fight with my mother. As far as I can tell, she wants to control every decision I make – especially when it comes to things that reflect badly on her (education, major, boyfriend/husband, buying a house, kids). We used to be super close and I think that was in part because I lied to her all the time. I agree with amy above that we shouldn’t lie, even though it seems to be the more protective thing to do (and much easier on the ears). First of all, it encourages us to be ashamed of and hide who we really are. And secondly, it just feeds the cycle and doesn’t improve how we feel about ourselves. Just tell them the truth. Lay it out there. Let them scream and rant and cry and disown you. [While this is going on, I try not to cry and remember "I love them, I love them, I love them". Warning, this is a painful exercise if you're a daughter and have never tried it before, but it's necessary. Yes. Absolutely necessary. ] And then when they’re done tell them you love them and then remind them when you’re coming home next. They have to learn to deal with reality is the bottom line. If they have a problem with reality, then it’s really their problem. And reality is that you’re not a bad kid and you’re good the way you are (unless you’re doing drugs or purposefully hurting yourself in some way, which then you should probably stop). You love them, but you’re going to refuse to let them make you miserable.

  • B

    Wow, i’m so glad to have found this site. I feel a sense of relief to know that i’m not the only one going through this. My mum and i used to be very close when i was very little, my father was very abusive as we were growing up and i was always the one standing up trying to protect her from his vilonce etc. Now that i am 36 we have a very superficial relationship and she uses all forms of manipulation and guilt on me…i no longer fall for the guilt and see through the manipulation. I have constant nightmares about her, where i am trying desperately to make her understand and listen to who i am and in my dream she knows everything but doesn’t want to listen to me anyway. I find this so selfish because it’s all about her and getting me to live the life she wants. I refuse to pretend to be something i am not. If anyone can give me some advice i would really appreciate it as i feel crazy at times and depressed because she shuts me down. I’m visiting her at present overseas and i have 9 weeks living in her house. I’m finding it very difficult to deal with.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    To Amy, who asked “Are you suggesting that we present two faces, one to the world and one to our mother?”

    No, I am suggesting that we present our true self to the world, which would include our mothers (I know some of us believe that our mothers are not living in the real world, that’s another story)! HOWEVER, we also must be prepared to face the fact that not everyone – including our mothers – can accept or like what we present. They will try to change us so that we present what they can accept. Then the decision remains with you: are you courageous enough to still be who you are, even when you know someone you love don’t want to see the real you?

    To B: From the little you have shared, I feel like your mom is having a hard time accepting that you’re no longer going to make her the center of your universe, and serve as her protector WHEN IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE OTHER WAY AROUND. She should have been the one protecting you from your abusive father! Now that you are grown and you are building a life of your own, she may feel like she has lost the luxury of living unconsciously and counting on guilt from her child to enable this unconscious living.

    My advice for you is that YOU ARE FEELING NORMAL FEELINGS of wondering if you’re crazy and depressed because the person you love can’t seem to “get it” and grow up like the adult she’s supposed to be. Your feelings will not necessarily stop, but believe me, you’ll become better at managing these feelings, and they will have less of a grip on you. Minimizing contact where possible helps.

  • NFT

    Hi Jane I have been reading the comments on this site for a while. I too am a member of this dubious clan.

    I am a surgical resident and I get 40 hours of rest every week. I was recommended this site by my girlfriend who thinks that if left unaddressed my depression could affect my work. I am really glad to have read the posts above and realized that I am not alone.

    Unfortunately, my entire family lives in an alternate reality – thanks to the trash my mother has been feeding them. They seem to think that I am the only heartless and selfish member of the family. I am treated to stories of how good other “children” are. I am 25 and I still get compared to 7 year olds.

    The worst of it is, whenever we argue, they cannot see the hypocrisy and outright lunacy of their “demands.” I have tried lying to placate them, but this only seems to whet their appetites. “I have made progress recently”, they have said in the most condescending voice. I really hate lying to people who I care about. It’s like taking lines out of one of those Communist Chinese New Year specials. It just disgusts me, but they indicated I have to do it because they raised me and their intentions were always good – despite being predominately absent in my life for the past 20 years. (Why can’t my intentions be good and suffice?)

    This is all intermixed of course with nonsense that I am a failure at life and socially incompetent – so I must learn from them. I lost my voice in my last argument because their reality is starting to color mine. The constant attacks have made me weary of any statement or evaluation I get at work – mostly because they seem TOO positive.

    I have this morose look about me most of the time and people constantly ask me if everything is all right. I don’;t know who to turn to and I don’t want to drag my girlfriend into this (she’s Norwegian). I am afraid she possibly can’t understand and I am afraid of dependence on her for my happiness. I really don’t know what to do or any of us can do. How can we be a good person in both worlds?

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Dear NFT,

    while I can’t tell if you have clinical depression (this may be something for you to find out from a licensed medical professional even though you may be tempted to self diagnose bc you’re a MD)… I want to expand on something your girlfriend said about how depression, if left untreated, can affect your work.

    Yes, this is indeed true. Untreated depression can affect your work, but this pales in importance next to the havoc it can wreak on YOUR LIFE. Believe me, “work” is not as important as “life”, even though some of us behave in contrary to this reality.

    Thus first, find out if you may be suffering from depression for your own Life’s sake. I didn’t start seeking help until I was 26 or 27, and I WISH I HAD REALIZED I HAD DEPRESSION YEARS EARLIER. It would have saved me from so many self destructive actions.

    I would not have made my own life a living hell. I would have believed that life can actually be lived with a big smile on my face the very moment I wake up (this happens on most mornings in my life now, even if I have many of the normal stresses and worries in life).

    You’re trained in the sciences, and given how far you’ve come in your medical career, I assume that you have a strong command of logic and reasoning. This makes what you are facing from your parents extremely painful, as I personally experienced. My pain came from 1) my desire to be loved in a healthy, positive way from the very people whom I should depend on to love me in a healthy, positive way, and 2) my inability to change my loved ones’ behaviors such that being around them would not be the emotional equivalent of diving into a nuclear waste dump and 3) my inability to reconcile that we all share the same genetic pool and whether this meant I was as nutty as my family members (I may very well be)!

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like your repeated attempts to ‘reason’ met with futility and this has caused you tremendous frustration and sadness. You said “the worst of it is…” they can’t see past their own hypocrisy. If you hate lying to people you care about, then stop lying and start telling the truth AND be willing to face their reactions when you start telling the truth. Often, people drip with sarcasm and condescension when they feel like their very foundational beliefs have been threatened. It can be very scary for a person who has believed in doing something the same way all his or her life, to suddenly have to accept that this is a big lie, and that in the process he or she has severely and repeatedly injured a child. Now this child has grown up and is coming back and telling them the reality of these injuries – and this makes people very defensive.

    Maybe you can try what I have tried on my parents, and stop resisting. Let them believe, and even agree with them, that what they say about you is true to them, and that’s how life is going to be. Example:

    MOM & DAD “You are the most heartless and selfish member of this family!”

    YOU “Yes, you may be right, I am the most heartless and selfish, I have the heart of a wolf and the lungs of a dog.” (I think this is a common chinese term to describe a horrible person, I’ve been called that by my parents at one time)

    MOM & DAD “look at mrs. li’s kids- # 1 in everything. perfectly obedient. gives random foot rubs to parents!”

    YOU “Yes, you may be right, you really don’t have a good son, I feel very sad for you that I am unchangeable and can’t be the son you wish you have.”

    do you see what I’m trying to suggest? if you stop putting a lot of energy resisting, then they have nothing to push. simple physics – action v. reaction.

    Look at all the people who DO believe in you, who DO think you are a wonderful, smart, productive, kind-hearted person. Are you saying that all those people are much more stupid than your own parents, because they can’t see all the negative things about you that your parents seem to see?

    Look at the facts and evidence – this is where our scientific training becomes useful. Look at the personalities and characters of people who believe in you and your ability to do amazing things. Look at the personalities and characters of people who constantly tear you down. Which group, as an objective outsider, would you believe in?

    My best wishes to you,
    Jane Chin

    (p.s. this can be a life-long practice for you, because it is for me, and I promise you – over time, you get better at managing it, like many things in life. you can build up your mental and emotional toughness like a muscle. I have, and i still practice doing it every day.)

    • jenna

      Alright so well… My life isnt exactly like that, but my mother has a nervous system disorder that has no cure, and she gets mad so easily and dies slowly while shes angry. Shes been abusing me AND my brother for long. The fact is, I dont care if she hits me like im a pinata, but what matters to me is my brother. He acts like hes my parent, when i have two parents. He acts like hes all handsome, and hes a man, but hes only 16.
      Im just an 11 year old, who has just been locked up in a bathroom while not eating anything the entire day -Im Fasting- I was so weak hitting the door I was crying so much. It happened because i was playing cuz my lil sis kept throwing books on me, so i took a paperback soft book – didnt mean to hit her – and it accidentally smacked her head. I has about to faint in the bathroom. And all my parents did? Yell at me. I felt i was gonna DIE. Im fat, to admit it and so is he, but he did an operation to be thin. Now im gonna be the only fat one in my family, and im gonna be made fun of my entire LIFE. I just cant stand it! I run away, yet my brother finds me and hits me so much. He calls me retarded and i just quiet. My parents dont even care! The notes i write saying im suffering, my brother LAUGHS at. I hit myself so much, he calls me emo. I have nobody to talk to, or else my mom will kill me. I have a dimple on my chin, so it looks like i have no chin so he keeps laughing and saying : Chinless! Wheres ur chin? Maybe i can fix your facial disabilites!” I get SICK of it. I tell him how i feel, he laughs. Hes had a harder past then me, but i dont see why he should ruin my life. Hes popular at school, hes loved by everyone. When i just got for my FIRST TIME OF MY LIFE a chanel bag, my grandpa was upset at my mom for buying it. My brother is a BOY and he has a Louis Vuitton Walet, a coach walet and so much more. He gets custom made nikes, and almost all his clothes are Ralph Lauren. And im a girl, im supposed to accessorize! Im A GIRL! I get good grades too! I cant deal with my brothers abuse. I play games with him, he still hates me. I buy him BEATS, he still hates me. He barely even HUGS me. He always checks my computer, my emails, what i do in my online games, EVERYTHING. He even checks my youtube history! I write letters, i let him know hes loved but i just cant stand him ; – ; Jane, please. Help me. My brother wants to kill me and he SAID it to me. Please. Im being abused so badly, Im crying in real right now. I get hit by EVERYONE. My dad hit me for yelling at my sis to not touch my only laptop and its the only thing im loved in cuz they dont know me in real life. I need help.

  • susan griffin

    My mother knowingly or unknowingly can push my buttons. I was a single parent thirty years ago, and she stills continues to say that she is my daughters mother to, that she raised her too ( we lived with them for four years) I have tried to say nicely that she is not her mother, but she just pushes the matter. What makes this more hurtful is that my daughter does not correct my mother. I stand alone. I have let this go for years, but am tried of my mother not knowing her place as grandmother not mother. She seems to have no bounderies
    It is so hurtful and I’m told I’m jealous, but I’m not I just do not understand, this way of thinking, and I get terribly angry and explode at her.
    Everyone who knows my mother says that she is manipulative. How do I stop this circle so I can stop hurting?

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Susan,

      I am sorry that this relationship with your mother is giving you so much pain.

      The truth about emotional manipulation – and therefore partly the answer to your question, “how do I stop this circle…?” – is that emotional manipulation is possible because of 2 requirements:

      1) the person doing the manipulating finds the “buttons” to push, and
      2) the person being manipulated agrees what the “buttons” are.

      In other words, your mother can’t manipulate you with what she says or does regarding your daughter UNLESS you agree that these are very important buttons for you, and therefore, pushable. The more you resist and fight and argue, the more positive feedback you’re giving her. You are giving out signs that say “yes, that really pisses me off, that is what gets me angry, I care tremendously about that.”

      To stop the circle, you simply stop resisting. If she says your daughter is her daughter, don’t argue – and if you want to have a little fun you can even say – “I can see why you would think that way… thanks for caring! Our daughter is so lucky.”

      To stop the hurt, that’s harder… and it takes time, and when you choose not to let this hurt you – that what she does to you, does not change how you are as a person and does not prevent you from still making a positive life for yourself – that may be a starting point.

      My thoughts are with you and ((((Hug))))
      jane

  • HMM

    Wow. I just read through these posts and am relieved to know I am not alone! My parents are not Asian (although I have amazingly wonderful, Asian friends) but I feel extremely manipulated and guilt tripped by my German mother. As a child I felt I had a good relationship with her but after dad left mom for another woman (when I was 15 years old) she dumped her pain and anger onto me, screaming at me about the smallest things. She no longer screams at me but still is extremely harsh and bossy and has often put me down critizing me in front of others people even my friends. As a result I am hesitating to let my friends have contact with her anymore. Experience has it that if I try to ask her to not do these things, she tells me she has done nothing wrong and that I am oversensitive (which may be atleast partly true) and she seems unwilling to admit that she has anything at all to learn from this. There is no reasoning with her. Sometimes I feel downright sorry for her because I know she is lonely and feeling rejected (my father is not well these days and I spend a lot of time helping him and not seeing her as much). I feel a lot better when I can spend time daily praying (when I am alone) for her and her own healing… I try not to think about the insulting things she has said to/about me, and I try to focus on the good – but there are days when I still struggle with deep feelings of worthlessness. My brother agrees she can be very critical and insensitive, but he just chooses to “not take it seriously” and thinks I should do the same. He was a rebel growing up at home and today his relationship with mom seems much better than mine is with her. I would like to be like my brother and just ignore the hurtful comments she makes. I will think about some version of agreeing with her, although I have to admit I don’t want to lose my integrity and feel I am lying. Perhaps I could simply restate what she has said in terms of her beliefs, ie “I understand that you believe such-and-such about me”. and leave it at that. I realize nobody can change my mom and I need to focus on changing how I feel – easier said than done though. Thanks for the above posts. I am feeling a bit more hope. If anyone has further suggestions I will consider them. Blessings to you all
    HMM

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear HMM:

      Some thoughts as I read your personal experience with emotional abuse ~

      “…she tells me she has done nothing wrong and that I am oversensitive…” Of course – because you were conditioned to be oversensitive! How else would you have survived living with a parent who has transferred all her anger of betrayal onto you? You had to learn to walk around eggshells because this was literally the world you were given by your mother. Your sensitivity was developed as a required adaptive skill so you can survive. Now that you are an independent adult, you can assess whether this degree of sensitivity serves you – whether it is situational (i.e. when you are around your mother) – or all the time with other people. Then you can decide whether you want to do anything about it.

      “she seems unwilling to admit that she has anything at all to learn from this” You can choose to stop trying to help her learn anything from this. A person can only become aware and awakened to her life lessons when she chooses – and even then – we may not be the best (or right) teachers when our parents become ready for this learning. I am speaking from personal experience ;)

      “but there are days when I still struggle with deep feelings of worthlessness” I understand. When we have been emotionally abused for such a long time, we become conditioned to view ourselves from the abusers’ perspective, and then we add onto that perspective our personal feelings of being unloved – and this becomes a deep feeling of worthlessness. It takes consistent self-reminders of who we really are to counter this false image of ourselves – and even then – it will take years of disciplined self-reminder and proactively living life courageously before we begin to slowly – but surely – believe that we are lovable and valuable and worthy.

      Finally… you and I are not our brothers, you and I cannot be “like” our brothers or anyone else other than who we are, with the experiences we personally have had. The best approach is to be ourselves and then make our choices and decisions from this place of integrity.

      Best wishes,
      Jane

  • HMM

    Oops, I should clarify something from my last post:
    When I said “As a result I am hesitating to let my friends have contact with her anymore.” I actually meant “As a result I am hesitating to invite my friends to her place when I go there”. I have no desire to control when and where my friends meet my mother … except that I may not explicitly invite my friends to meet her when I visit her.
    cheers –
    HMM

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  • HMM

    Hello Jane,
    Thanks for your insight, especially the part about “sensitivity” having been a survival mechanism I could choose to decide what to do about. I very rarely experience these kind of problems with anyone other than my mother. I do struggle with the whole idea of what is my emotional obligation to my mother (she is in good health and has plenty of money but she is lonely – though my brother lives next door to her and she has a good relationship with him as far as I can tell) as an adult daughter living in the same town, my mother wants me to visit her weekly if possible but I just do not wish to be in her environment of criticism and I feel guilty about avoiding her. this is one of my main struggles now. But I am also coming to the conclusion that there is not much point in visiting her out of “guilt”. It will only be worth anything if I choose it out of love, and can try to not let her criticism get me feeling bad about myself. Easier said than done though! But I do believe it must be possible :)
    Thanks again. and also I appreciate your letter to the soul of the wounded child.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-26490-Third-Culture-Kids-Examiner Emylou

    Oh wow…thanks for writing about this. I can relate to a lot of what you say. I feel like I have failed my mother because I am not the woman she would like me to be.

    But…

    According to her, I think they are monster parents. I don’t.

    I try to make things better for them and protect my sister from this kind of treatment. That’s the worst part for me, my sister has to live with my parents. And she is treated like this.

    Another thing I hate is the fear of what people will say. My parents are constantly afraid of what people will say and trying to manipulate me into being afraid. I can’t write what I want because, “What would people say???” I am torn between doing what my parents want and doing what I know is right for me. (sigh) I like what you said about not needing her approval. I will never be able to please her. So, why try? Everyday I should just let go of the guilt of not being able to please her.

    Anyway, I wrote an article on cultures and abuse here: http://www.examiner.com/x-26490-Third-Culture-Kids-Examiner~y2010m1d14-Cultures-and-abuse-part-three–Emotional-abuse

    Thanks for your insight.

  • JKChoco

    Asian parents are absolutely ridiculous. We all hate them, but inside we just really want them accept us and to love us no matter what grade we get. But then again, we all know that this is a dream. This is very unfortunate, and I just cannot comprehend how they do not understand the negative affect that they are causing to their children. Manipulation, verbal/emotional abuse, mental health problems, depression, anxiety, social problems… These are the things we suffer because of our parents’ heartless words that only promotes our resentment of them. It’s unbelievably sad. To be rejected by the people who should have unconditional love for you as they are your parents. It’s heartbreaking and something that should be addressed. They care more about your grades than your happiness and health. I find this to be ridiculous and unethical. It’s definitely hard to talk about this to anybody that I know because if an adult becomes knowledgeable of these serious problems, they are most likely to contact your parents. And that will cause further problems. We can only suffer silently. It’s unavoidable and depressing. Even though we live in this new modern world… How I wish things could change.

  • CO

    Hi Jane

    Too be honest, I’m not sure I really belong in this circle of people. Yes, I’m Asian, with incredibly overbearing and ineffably annoying Asian parents. But, I’m only 14, so I can only relate to the childhood section of what you’re saying; though I hope I’ll never have to relate to the next part.
    My parents really are ‘Asian’, in the way you and other readers have discussed. Top expectations, no pride in their children, no sense of their children’s rights, thoughts or opinions. Just their own ideas and opinions, and absolutely no thought about what their children want or like. They’re always comparing me to other kids. “Oh, wow, Mr Li’s son is top of his class, and everytime I see him he is studying.”
    “Go and do your study. No child at your school does as little study as you do.”
    I’m in Year 9. I get straight A’s most of the time. No, I’m not top of my year, but so what? How about I compare YOU to other parents?
    “Matt’s mum is really nice. She always treats him equally and quite obviously loves him. God, I wish I were him, it would be great not feeling like slitting my wrists everytime I’m around my mum!”
    And then she’ll always talk some crap about me being the most selfish, stupidest, ungrateful child a parent could have. Oh, how much she suffered when she had to walk so far to that university, not being able to afford anything. How she had to work so hard to provide for her children.
    Okay mum. You’ve suffered. You’re not the only victim. I’ve studied hours every week to please you. I’ve spent hours every night learning a language I hate. I’ve sat and listened to your endless lectures about my uslessness and other kids’ greatness. Hey mum, how ’bout I kill myself? A win-win situation; you don’t have to put up with your dimwitted, useless son, and I won’t have to put up with having crap parents, and a depressing life!
    Yeah, that’s a good idea mum! I bet you’re surprised an idiot like me could think of something like that! Actually, let’s do it now! I’ll kill myself, and we’ll both be better of won’t we!
    Honestly, I don’t see how everyone else put up with their Asian parents and reached 25 years of age. It’s nuts. It’s screwed up. I can’t explain it. It’s ineffable. Yes, I love my parents. They feed, clothe and shelter me. But I think, and notice that that’s about it. They are perhaps the worst parents in the world. Their value as role models is zero. They do nothing else except expect me to take their dust, and turn it into gold. So, after a good think, I’ll always come to the conclusion, that I hate them.

    Thanks for listening,
    CO

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear CO,

      Thanks for sharing so honestly about your personal experiences with your mother. You do belong in this circle, I am sorry to have to welcome you to this group, we all started out as the 14 year old realizing a very skewed standard of expectation from a parent who does not add the type of “love” we need to the phrase “tough love”. And we do not even ask for much in the “love” department… a kind word now and then and maybe something like “I’m proud of you! Even though most of the time I’m really hard on you, but it’s the way I learned how to parent…”

      Thinking back to my adolescent years (I’d actually left home at one point), it was around the age of 13 or 14 when I decided that I’ve had it, I wasn’t going to believe the stuff that I had long believed about myself from my mother’s careless comments or deliberately cutting remarks. However, 14 is also a very tough time to begin with, for any young adult. Your hormones are raging and it really messes with your mind sometimes too (I’m almost 40 now and I STILL get messed up by my hormones now and then :) and this makes the experience all the more difficult to bear.

      Writing about it helped me a lot. It was one way for me to get my thoughts and anger out on paper and get it off my mind, at least temporarily. Having one or two friends whom you really, really trust helped a little bit for me. That was because I was so introverted and troubled, I didn’t want to have friends. I was too self conscious, and I wondered why anybody would want to be friends with me (since I was told that I was too ______ {whatever negative you could think of}), but having a person you trust who truly sees you for all the great qualities that you have – and you DO have them – I could tell from your writing – that can help provide a bit of balance to the mind trash that you may get daily.

      As for the thoughts of self harm… I think those in our situation will have them at some point, but take it from me – it is not worth wasting your time trying to change them this way. And it really is our desperate attempt to get them to see things the way we see it, and admit how hurtful they can be and have been. They just don’t get it, not because they don’t love you or hate you – but because they are simply incapable of getting it, at least for now. I actually told my mom what you wanted to try, and you know what she did? She laughed at me! Talk about rubbing salt and gravel into a bleeding heart. That won’t change them.

      Here is how I changed them (it took me 30 years to figure this out but I’ll tell you the secret now so you don’t need to use 15+ years to figure it out) – I trained myself to discern between people’s whose opinions are based in FACT and COMMON SENSE – and I learned to believe the good things about me that these people whose opinions are more “sane” – then slowly but surely I removed my personal need for my parents’ approval, and learned to not believe at face value everything they said about me. Because let’s face it, the reason why I was so miserable was because I DID believe it deep down inside, and I hated that I believed it, but I didnt know this.

      See this as going on a diet – the principles are the same. You take in more positive, good feedback about your value as a person + reinforce it with your behaviors supporting your own goodness and value, than you take in the negative crap that erodes this perception of self worth. As long as you intake more positive than negative, you can keep that negativity in check.

      Believe it or not, one day down the road you will be able to see your parents as role models; I look at them and I am grateful that from them I can learn what NOT to do with my life, my relationships, and my child.

      My best to you and all of you who are in this group!
      Jane

  • HMM

    Dear CO – Thanks for your post. Even though I’m not Jane – I still want to reply and say first of all I really can empathize, having often struggled with suicidal feelings myself, on account of emotional abuse I experienced from my mother. Please do not kill yourself, as tempting as that may be! Your are a very valuable human being in God’s eyes – no matter what you have experienced at home.
    I am now in my mid 40′s. and today I am really glad I did not kill myself, having come to understand (especially recently) that the way I was treated by my mother has nothing to do with who I am, and I can still feel good about myself. In fact the more I have grown in this confidence recently, I am finding she is actually starting to treat me better. But even when she does not – it does not bother me as much any more. I am beginning to enjoy life more and more, almost daily now! You may be wondering why it took me so long, so many years! My problem was that unfortunately I did not recognize the emotional abuse (I blamed it all on myself) for so many years. Fortunately you are recognizing it so you can begin to deal with it already now. It is not easy but I assure you there is hope. Try to love yourself and (I know this is very hard, but) try not to hate your parents as that will only hurt your health in the long run. You can hate or disagree with the abusive ways that they treat you yet try to forgive them (not that you have to agree with what they did because it sure was wrong) because this will free you from the horrible grip of the abuse they subjected you to – and try focus on seeing yourself as valuable and get support from other sources, friends who can value you for who you are. You are in the fortunate state that you can start young now. (it took me till I was in my late 30′s till I even recognized my problem!)
    CO – please remember you and your life are valuable. You have years ahead you can enjoy – and deserve to enjoy! I send you best and warmest wishes!

  • michelle

    Hi, Not sure I am in the correct area but will write it anyway. My (adult)niece moved back to home state once her husband was under sea (navy) for 6 months. Prior to this she was not speaking to family members because she is dirty to her mother and I defended her mother (my sister) to her. Although she was not speaking to me she text me asked me for help with her child while her husband was under sea. I told her I could not come to her state but be happy to keep the baby for a week if she would bring her to MD. She did and one week turned into 2. Her mother stayed with me (baby’s grandmom) and we had a blast with the baby at the same time concerned that a mother should not be away from her child for 2 weeks. We were not going to say this because my neice will write you off at drop of disagreement and we wanted the baby in our lives. Few weeks later she dropped her off again for 2 more weeks. The she took her mother home with her for 2 weeks. All the while treating her mother like dirt because she claims to have had a bad childhood. (her childhood was not bad it was skiddish after her parents divorced but not awful.) NO abuse or neglect. Anyway she ended up rented her married house out and moving here with her family. She stated she wanted out her marriage and wanted the baby to have her family nearby to love. So she did she moved here and we (my sister and I) watched the baby love the baby. Having the baby to us was better then winning the lottery. My neice and I got a long ok but mostly because I ate up her crap so she would not write us off and we would not see the baby again. Over a period of 1 yr she left the baby with me about 70% of the time and some of that time about 25% my sister the baby grandmother was with me. The baby grew to love us as when she was here our whole house (uncle, cousins,) just loved her to death. She almost never wanted to go home with her mom. I felt bad when she cried to stay with me. Then one day her mom took her to see her father in ct and came back to MD had a moving sale and moved to CA with a guy in the Navy who she met in CT., she changed her phone number, we have no contact because I told her what she was doing was unstable and unreasonalbe. Taking the child from her family she loved and loved her to move with a guy in CA. Well thats all she wrote. We think the child is still with her father a month later and he was allowing us to talk on the phone with her. He was ok with what his wife was doing (he was the only one ok with it ) which was strange to me.
    The father agreed to allow us to see the baby for a weekend then changed his mind said we needed the moms permission knowing well we could not get hold of her. I got upset and asked him where his backbone was. Well that was all she wrote on that end. We are not allowed to call the baby now. My sister (baby grandmother last time she talked to the baby said the baby asked to see her and me in a desperate tone. My sister got emotional and told baby mom mom will call you back in a little while. Well we have not been able to get him to answer the phone since. We dont know where in CA the mom is or who at this point has the baby. We want the baby back in MD and I have a feeling my neice will call on me when she wants a two week babysitter, but my sister cannot stop crying and worring. I cry everyday and so does my sister. I think they wanted to hurt us and in the midst is hurting the baby. I am looking for advise how to handle these type of people so we can see the baby. I dont feel we should kiss up to them because I feel that is allowing them to use the baby as a pawn to treat people any old way they want and thats not fair to the child. But on the other hand I will do anything so that my sister and I can spend time with the child. Because I feel this is mental abuse to the chld – I would take custody of her if I thought I had a shot and the money to fight for it. But I have been laid off for 17 months. Can you offer any advise. I feel the treatment is mental abuse to the child, unstable (as she has no place to really call her own home, and I am worried when the mom gets her back what will she do for a babysitter when she wants to play with her boyfriend.

  • Lina

    I found this at the most opportune time. I am dealing with a mother (not Asian but still a foreigner from the East) who seems to have the identity problem mentioned above. Our father died 21 years ago and she never remarried. Her sole job was to be our mother (I have 3 brothers). She is now having a very difficult time with our growing up and wanting to have our own lives. She has a great sense of abandonment and sometimes goes into hysterics if she feels alone. She entices us with food as a way to show her love and to have us come over. My youngest brother still lives with her and he just graduated from college and wants to move out bc she regulates how late he comes home and will be passive aggressive if he comes home late. She relies on all of us for absolutely everything. She doesn’t have personal hobbies, true friendships, or any social life. She plays the victim in a lot of situations (like the few friends she still talks to she has unrealistic expectations of them and complains about how she’s unlucky with finding real friends). She never thinks about what she brings to the table. She’s a horrible listener and if something doesn’t pertain to herself she tunes you out like she has ADD.
    I am obviously venting a lot of frustrations but I also work with her! We have a restaurant business together and she brings her personal drama and passive aggressiveness to the workplace. I feel overwhelmed with trying to run a business and deal with someone who is constantly being negative because they aren’t getting their way. Is there ever a point where you just say “deal with it yourself, mom? bc I don’t want to be your age with all your regrets”?? She hates my boyfriend and will say those exact words when we’re arguing about something totally unrelated to him. It has caused friction in my relationship with him bc I guess a part of me thinks “mom knows best” but then another part of me fully realizes her perceptions on him are skewed by her own psychosis.

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      This is difficult – you may need to sell your share of the restaurant business or sell the business altogether. You’d only prolong the torture by staying in business with her. She needs help and if she is unwilling to seek help for herself, then you have to make a choice about how toxic you want your life to be and whether your mother’s “love” is worth the level of toxicity you have to live with. Hard choice, but a living hell is a harder choice.

  • Cazzie

    I found this site while searching about emotional abuse.
    I am 55 years old and am just coming to the realisation that I am not a horrible person, but have been subjected to emotional abuse and at times physical abuse, all of my life, by my mother.
    Over the years I’ve been suicidal, depressed, which is ongoing, and involved in many bad relationships, including being engaged to a man who was physically and emotionally abusive.
    I alwaays wondered why I kept choosing the wrong men to be involved with.
    I am lucky that I broke the cycle and married a wonderful, loving, supportive man and have two grown daughters who love me.
    Each of these people have seen my mother abuse me and have little respect for her.
    I have always had trouble dealing with women in authority, as I get so emotional.
    The straw that broke the camel’s back was this week when I offered to help my mun with her garden, as she prepares to sell he property.
    She has made bad financial decisiona and lost my father, so this is a stressful time for her.
    I phoned and asked her if she wanted help and she said ” I never want to see your face again ir that ugly thing you call a husband. Your daughters are horrible, because they grew up with you. You have been nasty and horrible since you were 12 years old and everyone knows its you not me that’s the problem!”
    There was lots more and I just said” Are you sure this is what you want? and kept saying this a couple more times.
    I tried to explain how we had done nothing but try to help her, but to no avail. She hung up.
    I realised this was it, as I couldn’t take her attacking my family, but the next day she phoned, got the anser phone and said hello a couple of times then “Goodbye” in a really nasty tone.
    I am seeing a psychcologist, as I have been reliving a lot of things that went on when I was little and I am not having any contact with her.
    This is hard, as my brother, who she adores, has always mimicked the same behaviour towards me with her blessing and her family knows nothing of her behaviour, as when any of them is around she is so nice to me its sickly.
    I’m finding this an emotional time, but I’m trrying not to phone her as I ahve tried all my life to be loved by her and I have to accept that I never will be.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Cazzie, I’m sorry that this has happened to you for so many years, and I’m glad you’ve found a loving partner and have built your own family.

    You deserve the best life you want to give yourself. On the same vein, this is the time when you also have to realize that your mother deserves to live the life that she chooses to live. It is her right. She chooses to see a certain reality and live with that reality. So lovingly let her live that life, and let her go.

    Once you remove the last few roots of attachment to the illusion that never was (“mother will tell me that I was her best little girl and that she loves me”), then those roots become free to grow with other people – like your husband and your children – who truly deserve your love and who want to grow with you.

    My best,
    Jane

  • tessla

    Dear Jane:
    I discovered your site after reading the WSJ article this week on Amy Chua’s “Why Chinese Mother’s are Superior”. A friend emailed us a link to the quora forum and someone’s comments led to another website and then to yours. Reading the article brought back many flashbacks of a similar childhood but a resolve raise my children in a different style. Unfortunately, it is hard to escape our upbringing and negative words will come out before I know it. I am trying to retrain how I say things ands apologize when harsh words do come out. What I wanted to ask was, what are the symptons of depression in Asian women? I distinctly remember in 6th grade that I wanted to kill myself because I was so angry and hurt by my Asian mother and I know there were other times I had those thoughts but isn’t that normal among tweens/teenagers when they are angry with their mothers? I am in my 40s who has had a lifelong struggle with rage that I have kept from my friends and aquaintances but not from my parents,husband, children or strangers that “piss” me off (road rage, at the cashier once in awhile if I feel disrespected etc.) It is alot less with strangers now but it’s mostly directed at my family the ones I truly do not want to hurt. I have been battling fatigue for the past four years and have tried sleeping varying hoursfrom 6-10 hrs, diets, exercise, herbal medicine to combat my fatigue. I did have hypothyroid but these past few years my tsh level has been tested in the normal range. It has been very frustrating and I am wondering if it may be depression? Can you let me know what the symptons are for Asian women? I have gone through counseling at various phases in my life and most recently in the last few years but none of the therapists mentioned depression. I just never linked that possibility with anger, although I am emotional and do cry very easily. I can see that it is affecting my children and my marriage but nothing seems to be working. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Tessla: I don’t know if there is a special subset of symptoms for depression in Asian women – there may be some cultural context that can apply, but the symptoms for depression include:

      * Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
      * Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
      * Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
      * Reduced sex drive
      * Insomnia or excessive sleeping
      * Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
      * Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
      * Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
      * Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
      * Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
      * Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
      * Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
      * Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
      * Crying spells for no apparent reason
      * Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

      When I suffered from depression it was more the “agitated” type; and looking back, my mother’s symptoms were similar (she got agitated very easily and was constantly ruminating, obsessing, worrying, and restless). What I mean by cultural context is that perhaps we were brought up to see “laziness” as the biggest sin in the universe, so our depression symptoms can manifest more as agitated depression than what we typically associate with depression (lethargy, sleepiness, lack of activity). Even though I felt exhausted and tired, I refused to “be lazy” so if I could do something I’d keep moving. Only I wasn’t able to do anything productive, it was mostly ruminating over the same things and mulling and obsessing and worrying. Like my mother’s symptoms.

      It was probably the reason why I was originally MIS-diagnosed as suffering from type 2 bipolar disorder when I actually suffered from clinical depression. The agitation was misinterpreted by the psychiatrist as hypomania.

      Rage and anger are symptoms I experienced as part of my depression. I’ve heard the expression that “depression is anger turned inward” and it was true for me. I also noticed rage turning outside eventually, because I’ve already occupied all the “room inside my mind” with rage and I had still more rage!

      I’d suggest that you continue with counseling but see if you can find a therapist who specializes in Asian Americans (or AA women in general), or at least has experience treating Asian American women.

      The reason why you are so easy to “rage” toward your husband and children is because you feel “safe” with them, and if you don’t express that rage you were feeling then it was going to burn you alive from the inside. This is why getting counseling and therapy becomes critical – so you have a different “safe place” to express this, and do it in a contained and controlled environment that also helps you learn how to then manage this rage in the “world out there”.

  • Jim

    Wow. Folks, you are fabulous in your sharing. And you all and Jane have given me another arrow for my quiver to communicate with my estranged spouse.

    Yep, this attitude doesn’t come only from parents, but from wives and husbands, as well.

    Keep talking, folks.

  • W

    Hi Jane,

    I found this site while looking for ways to cope with my overprotective, overbearing asian parents. As a female high schooler, it sucks to say that my mom has been divorced twice and I have to live through it with her being an only child, and when she can’t find an outlet for her anger or sadness, she blames all of it on me. She takes out her loss, insecurities, and neediness on me, not directly of course, but with angry words and countless hours of shouting things like threats of disowning me, making me feel worthless and hurt, and merciless cold laughter. She doesn’t have a social life (I suggested to her that she should go out and have some fun with friends, but that didn’t work because she’s usually “busy” with chores and Korean dramas), so she’s very needy and depends on me and my dad to talk to and interact with all the time. She gets suspicious over the smallest things, like when I’m on the internet she blames me for webchatting my friends and threatens to throw my computer out the window. Perhaps this is a cover of her real insecurities, and keeps a facade over the fact that she has no one else to socialize with except a few coworkers and my dad and I. Not only is this hurtful because she makes me feel worthless and I lose all my self confidance, but a direct result of that is that I don’t do well in school and everything I do ends up of self-doubt and panic. I become depressed and my circle of friends decrease. I feel alone in this world because no one can help me. My grades drop, and guess what? Mom and dad sees this and blame me more. I try to cope with it all and tell them I want to do well and I’m doing my best, but they won’t listen. Every time we argue, I feel very upset, yet I don’t want to backlash and get angry, so all I can do is cry and see the disgust on my mom’s face. They claim that everything is for my own good, and that they really care for me, but really, all they care about is my grades and how I’m doing in school, like that’s all it matters in life. They only see the bad in me, and not the good. All they do is spit words at me, and the worst part is, I believed them for the longest time.
    Most of the time, I try to keep a calm demeanor when they are arguing and listen to them, repeat back whatever they say to keep them satisfied for the moment: They want the control and power over you, so give it to them and keep them satisfied. They want the child to be obedient and get freaking A+s in all the science and math subjects, so give them that if you can. It’s kind of a two-faced thing. Keep them satisfied at one end and live a different life on the other. All I’m wondering is when this is going to stop, and when can I finally live my own life, without them watching over everything I do like Big Brother from 1984.

  • Michelle

    There were a few ways I coped with this type of stuff when I was a teenager.

    1) Ran away from home, but they eventually found me. I confronted them with all my problems and the depression I was feeling.

    Of course any mental illness in the asian culture is considered taboo so they didn’t buy it. They didn’t even take me to see a counselor. Well few years pass by.. things get a little bit better because they were afraid I was going to run away again.

    2) Tried my best in school and even if I didn’t get A’s I still showed them my report card and said to their faces “I tried my best ok? I really did” (YOU MAY START CRYING HERE) they may actually start to feel sorry for you.

    After all the yelling and craziness they will just kind if give up on you. Some parents never get tired of yelling.. but my parents have given up on me of ever becoming a doctor or anything fabulous. I am now in school for nursing and that’s good enough for me. They thought I was going to be a homeless person for going to a community college school. But you know what? I will still get the same education with the same RN degree to make decent money, without all the student loans..

    Your parents will tell you your decisions are stupid (it’s their job to criticize) but you will have to tell yourself that you are the opposite. Keep telling yourself you are not a failure and will never submit to their ways. Keep telling yourself that you are strong, beautiful, worthy, and happy with just the way you are. Then move out when you graduate from college and make enough money to live on your own.

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  • Granny Smith

    I am in my 30s, working and planning to make a self-financed career change into something that is considered more prestigious than what I am doing now. However, I am not interested in it for the higher amount of possible compensation – I just took a class and fell in love with this area. I went through lots of career counseling, took all of those career inventories and all results pointed to this job. I even have a dinner arranged with someone who is working in this field. My parents thought that it was a dumb idea for me to consider changing careers at my age and said that I should look for a spouse (I am looking – but I am not pining either). There is a family member who just finished a degree in this area I want to study in but hasn’t found a full time job yet. It is probably most likely attributed to this person’s lack of social graces (yes, the truth was thick in the air – but I wasn’t going to bring that up – out of fairness for the family member).

    I read other people’s comments and realized that there is a need for some solutions to handling difficulties with Asian parents – and maybe parents who are just difficult in general. I feel like struggles I had with my parents led to unnecessary self hatred and “helped” me align myself with people who cared more for themselves and more about what others thought of them a lot more greatly than they cared for me. Although I know that my parents care about me, I also know that they do it imperfectly and some of the interactions with them have misled me to some really ignorant and nasty people.

    Now that I have better friends and I have cut down significantly on drinking, I have developed a lot more clarity about how to handle difficult parents. I think that on the scale of difficulty, I have lucked out. My parent have been relatively more accepting of my own personhood than my AA friends’ parents have (very sad). But it doesn’t discount how hard it is to feel like I am on an island – especially when dealing with the difficulties of life.

    All I know is that my door will always be open to a teen or young adult who is struggling with a relationship with a difficult parent. Maybe the best way to redeem such a difficult situation is to find ways to help younger and more powerless people become whole again.

    Thank you for this blog, Dr. Chin.

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Granny Smith, Thank you for adding your comment.

      In today’s times, “30s” is relatively young – people are living way past 70s and even 80s, so we’re not even supposed to be having a “mid-life crisis” in our 30s anymore – maybe this has pushed to 40s. Still, career change at any age is no easy feat, regardless of how many times you’ve done it (ask me how I know :)

      I commend you for having the courage to lead the life you want to live, starting with a career plan that lets you do what you love.

      I agree with you that there is a need for solutions in handling “adult children-parent” relationships. I don’t know what these solutions are, but it looks like the very first step is to know that:

      1) you’re not alone (one of the reasons why I share personal experiences, some of which are brutal or personally embarrassing that I still cringe when revisiting those memories)

      2) you can disagree with and dislike your parent’s approach to raising you without disrespecting them as people – a tough balance, I know

      3) you have the right to lead your own life the way that you choose to lead it, as long as you also take full responsibility and ownership of all the decisions good and bad

      I’m glad that you’re opening your door and your heart to someone who is struggling with a difficult parental relationship. It brings tremendous comfort and relief for young people to know that they have someone who can understand, who’s been there, and who can see them as they really are, without judgment of what they “should” be.

      The journey may be difficult and those of us who dare to brave it will often feel lonely, but there is no reason we need to go through it alone.

  • JJJ

    Hello Jane, I just wanted to add a bit of my story here. I have both traditional and non-traditional Asian parents. They were not the type that made me go to piano lessons, or expected me to get straight As (they tried and I just couldn’t no matter how many lesson books I did) but they are very Asian in every other sense. I wonder if my mother is just being a “typical” Asian mother or if she has over-anxiety-probably a mix of both. I have an older sister, who is really into being the perfect daughter-she is in her late 20s and I am 22. I am less into that because it makes me miserable, and I just don’t like the idea of spending so much time trying to please my mother when nothing ever really pleases her. She gets so worried about everything that I feel so negative when I speak to her. I also feel like my sister was treated differently growing up, but no one admits it. She was given a car and I was never allowed to drive any car, so it was always hard to find work in the suburbs growing up. I was always told that I was the stupider one, and treated basically like the stereotypical girl in the fam, and her as the boy, so I think that at least in some way my sister and mother can coexist but I cannot with either of them. My mother insists on calling me everyday, which takes away the point of me moving out in the first place, which was mainly to get away from her. I feel like I talk to her twice a week, which to her is so little that “I am being disrespectful, while my sister is fine”
    To make matters worse, she’s like this when she overthinks about things, and wasn’t like this earlier, so I invited her to visit me next week…now that she ranted at me, I completely regret it. Im super mad at myself right now. I hate that she’s such an alpha dog, I feel like growing up it really crushed my confidence and I learned to get by with charm, but never with intimidation or power that my sister has. I do not know what to do. She confronts me with things like “Well why don’t you call me back?” and the answer-the real answer is “Because I don’t like you.” But I can’t say that, and I do not know what to say instead, so I just scramble for answers like “I hate the phone” or whatever. I want to love my mother more but I just feel empty when I think about her. I hope that that doesn’t make me evil.

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi JJJ, thank you for sharing your story.

      I have learned that when I have someone in my life who can never be pleased, satisfied, or happy, my job is not to “change” her to be someone who can be pleased, satisfied, or happy. The best that I can do is to accept that this person whom I love is persistently displeased, dissatisfied, and unhappy – and I work on myself to accept this as reality, without turning myself or the other person into something we’re both not.

      I don’t think getting by with intimidation or power is an act of confidence, usually it is a way for insecure persons to pretend to be confident. It’s a bit like a small animal using defense mechanisms of blowing out its chest to make it appear larger than it actually is. So I am wondering if redefining what true confidence “looks like” may be something you can do for yourself.

      One thing you can try with the phone ordeal is to be truthful without having to say the whole truth. Instead of saying “I hate the phone” (lie), you don’t give a reason, and instead try something like this:

      Mother: Why didn’t you call me back?
      You: Oh my gosh! I didn’t call you back! That’s true isn’t it! I am SO sorry! You know how I am. {then you stay completely silent, do not offer a reason.}

      Mother will then give you criticisms that you’ve already heard before, this is why there is a mute button on the phone and a speaker phone button, so you can let her rail away on speakerphone, mute yourself, and you go make yourself a nice hot cup of tea in the kitchen. It’s about making life more pleasant for you AND let her have her fill without giving her resistance to strengthen her patterns.

  • Carol

    Hi Jane,
    Your website is helping me tremendously. I am in my early 40′s and Asian American. For years I have been experiencing rage and anger and guilt with my mom. I feel trapped, and hate myself for not being able to cope.
    My mother is never a bully, but plays victim. As an example, if I have to leave after visiting her, she will put on a very sad face, seeming to be near tears, say in a quivering voice, ‘you are leaving?’. That makes me feel very guilty, and angry that she only thought of her needs. She complains about everything in her life, making me feel guilty that she suffers so much, then angry at myself for feeling guilty, etc etc. She might say ‘if you can behave this way to me for the rest of my life, I will die happy’. It appears to be a compliment of how ‘good’ I am, but creates in me more guilt. She also likes to isolate me by always siding with my spouse, pointing out how ‘wrong’ I am and how ‘right’ they are. When I push back she will act very hurt and will be sure to let me know, when things calm down, how much she suffers because of me.
    What should I do, say, when she plays victim, when she doles out the fake compliment which really is to manipulate me to behave in a certain way? What should I do when she co-opts my spouse to shun me?

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Carol,

      Thank you for writing, and I am sorry to learn about your suffering. I’m very familiar with the “Asian guilt” although I have friends from other cultures and nationalities that tell me we don’t have the monopoly on “parenting by guilt”… anyway I digress.

      Guilt is like a stubborn wart that is hard to get rid of (ask me how I know!)… I’ve heard sayings like, “you only feel guilty when you know you’re going to make the same mistake again” and I suppose it is saying to me, “if you know that you will never ever make the same mistake, then don’t feel guilty about it. Because by feeling guilty you are acknowledging that you will commit the same act that landed your guilt in the first place.” In a way this is true, and to some extent, for certain situations, this rationalization works. But I’ve found that it rarely ever works when I’m confronted with the same trigger, over and over and over again.

      And that’s what your situation sounds like. So we need a different strategy.

      One source of fuel for your mother laying on the guilt is your resistance to her laying on the guilt. You resist by having thoughts within yourself that says, “I’ve already done my job as a good daughter, I came to visit you, didn’t I? How come you don’t acknowledge this, and only see what is MISSING or NOT ENOUGH?” While you are 100% correct, you have laid a trap for yourself, because the anger that arises from your realizing that you’re not being appreciated is now being turned into a different from of energy by parents who have perfected the art of alchemy for generations – your anger has turned into guilt.

      The problem with this is that your anger, which originally acts as a mechanism for self preservation, transforms into a mechanism for anti-self preservation. Essentially, the response you started to protect yourself ends up becoming a knife to cut away at you.

      So your task is to figure out a way to prevent this energy transformation. One of the things you can do that is immediate, is to stop resisting. By not resisting, you stop giving out energy that becomes fuel for guilt. By not becoming angry, you don’t give the raw material needed for this insane alchemy that some of us have been genetically endowed with.

      But what do you do with the surge of feelings you feel if you can’t become angry and if you don’t resist?

      How about taking your mother’s side and agreeing with her self victimization? for example:

      Mother: You are….. leaving?

      You: I know! My god I am leaving already! I feel so sorry for you, mother!

      Mother: I have been such a victim my whole life, the whole world is against me!

      You: I know! You see yourself as being taken advantage of, your daughter (that’s you) is hardly caring, I can see completely why you see yourself as the victim! I feel so sorry for you, mother!

      In the above, there is nothing you are saying that isn’t “true”, from the perception of your mother. You aren’t disagreeing with her at all. In fact, I would actively discourage you to disagree with her, because that’s resistance. Don’t push back, but don’t give in either. Simply agree wit her that she is a victim, that you are victimizing her, that you are just not a good enough daughter and you aren’t sure you can ever be, and how sorry you feel for her because of this.

      All you are doing is parroting her feelings back to her, without judgment from you, and (this is very important), without anger from you. If she has no adversary in you, then she is less likely to solicit your spouse to “fight with her, against you”.

  • Candice

    Jane~
    What do you do when the parent that caused the emotional abuse has passed away? My grandmother raised me (along with my Grandfather) and it seems like she still has that “hold” over me even though it’s been almost 3 years. She was a very controlling woman. Nothing was ever good enough. She would tell me how to do my job, treat my husband, etc. She always told me “Never have children. They only bring heartache and pain.” She had been emotionally abusive ever since I could remember. My mother is bi-polar and spent most of my childhood in mental hospitals. I think my grandmother was trying to make up with me for the things she didn’t do with my mom. At the same time, she felt resentment for having been “stuck” with me. She would help me out after I divorced, but it always came with a steep price. I could never live my mistakes down. When she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, I did what I felt was the right thing and helped to take care of her. My mother and I put our lives on hold to stay with her in her final weeks. Up until a week before she passed away, she still complained. Nothing was ever good enough. I feel almost ashamed to say this, but as I saw her take her last breath, I felt relieved.

    There are times when my husband will say something that reminds me of something she would say and I react as I would have with her. I cop an attitude with him when he doesn’t deserve it. It’s causing a great deal of stress between us.

    How do I let her go?

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Candice~
      You intellectually “know” what is going on, why you are having these feelings of anger and resentment, that you didn’t express or express to your satisfaction when your grandmother was alive. You can either write her a letter detailing all the things you wish you’d said to her face – or take a picture of her and verbally say all these things to her. Keep doing this until you’ve drained all that poison that you’ve harbored all these years (because that poison is destructive to you, as you’ve noticed). You can do this in a therapy setting or alone, although a good therapist may be able to guide you with strategies for undoing past harm caused by your grandmother.

      Another strategy is to forgive your grandmother and forgive yourself for not being able to stand up to her and to forgive your mother for being bipolar and rendering you at the mercy of her own mother. This one is difficult but has the best results because you are transforming one type of energy (anger) into a different type (compassion). The previous strategy simply tries to exhaust your anger energy until you feel like you’ve got no more anger to stew in, but the truth is, you can always create new anger. And it sounds like you are doing that, by allowing “triggers” to create new anger and resentment.

      Once, someone had suggested to me that I imagined my mother as a little girl. What would I see in this little girl? What would I say to her? It was a useful exercise to visualize my mother as a child that was also once defenseless and at the mercy of insane adults… while it did not lessen the effect of my mother’s parenting on me, it allowed me to gain more understanding of her behaviors. That little bit of understanding is a beginning to my ability to neutralize the load of anger and resentment I had toward her.

      Perhaps you can try to imagine your grandmother as the little girl that she was. She had so much hope and dreams in looking forward to being a mom and sharing precious moments with her daughter, having a bond that mothers and daughters were supposed to have. She had no idea that she would have a mentally ill daughter, going in and out of mental hospitals. Did she feel somehow guilty or responsible for her daughter being mentally ill? All those things that she had dreamed about as a little girl, gone with the very ugly reality of “life with mental illness”. It is difficult for even the most enlightened aware person to not become anger and hateful or abusive to release her disappointment and sadness and self-blame.

      You may already know this, but you have created a projection of your grandmother within your psyche to continue your own abuse. At this point she is dead, and you are carrying on her script. You may want to visually create a tape recorder or a stereo that is playing this script, and know that this is within your total control. Unlike the past, when you cannot shut your grandmother’s criticisms, you have control of this tape that is playing when something feels or sounds familiar and you push your finger on the “play” button. You can learn to externalize this script and see it as external to you, something you have control over instead of something that is controlling you. Again, working with a therapist may be very useful in managing this script.

      I hope this is a helpful first suggestion -
      jane

      • Candice

        Thank you Jane. I had already written her letter before I’d even found your website! I’m going to try out your other suggestions and see if they help. I think they will.

        Thank you again for taking the time to help.
        Candice

  • sem

    Hi Jane,

    I’m completely lost and depressed. My mom has been very dominating in my family. She was never happy with her marriage but she stuck to my father because I was born (typical asian family). When she gets angry she just looses her mind and scream all sorts of things. I suspect she still holds me as reason for not leaving my father. She scolds her family and parents for the life she is living. Actually our living standard is not so bad but she never feels contend with what she has. During my childhood, our relationship was better. Atleast I agreed to whatever she said. But during my teens when I opposed any of her ideas, she became very wild.

    When she gets one of a panic attacks, she just scolds everyone. She makes sure that she has insulted that person. After venting her anger, she becomes calm. Then she justifies that she scolded for our good. But I still think she could better handle the situation by talking in a calm and cool manner. But I’m used to her behaviour and tried to compromise in everything I did. But in university I fell in love. I directly told my mother. She accepted. Now my boyfriend and I are engaged. He lives with us.

    Since my boyfriend moved in with us her panic attacks have become sereve. Now she works fulltime too. So she takes all her stress on him. He was never abused by his parents, so he just can’t deal with it, like the way my father and I tolerate. Either she passes nasty comments daily or gives advice (unbearable)!!! She is just not satisfied with him. Now emotionally blackmailling me that I have to choose between my boyfriend and her. She is forcing me to end my relationship if he doesn’t plan to go to graduate school. Recently, there was a big fight. My boyfriend did not tell anything but she was yelling like hell. I was at school that time. She ruled my life. Now she wants him to do what she thinks he is fit to do! Even I don’t accept this. But I don’t know how to make her understand the mistake. My boyfriend has the rights to choose what he wants to do with his life. How can my mom interfer with that. She claims that she understands life very much, and she knows everything but how can’t she understand that she can’t overbear someone else’s life?!

    Please!!! I need advice on how to deal with my mom and boyfriend. He is very depressed and wants to leave to another state. I accept it, he can’t cope with this anymore. Please how can I make my mother understand. Any advice is most welcomed!!

    Thank you in advance!
    Sem

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Sem,

      I’m sorry to hear this is happening to you. If you are living with your parents then you are there in their house and they can do whatever they choose. You cannot make your mother understand, so don’t bother trying, you will only frustrate yourself and waste your time. The real choices you do have all require you to live independent of your parents. You are caught in the middle because you have brought your boyfriend into this situation that you have grown accustomed to, but it’s not a normal situation for anyone. Is there a reason why your boyfriend has moved in with your family instead of you moving out to live independently with him? Since you are engaged, would your future plan be to live outside your family’s home?

      I can tell you right now that realistically the only way you can break free of this is by leaving and living independently from your mother. You cannot change anybody else who does not want to be changed, and trust me, your mother does not want to change because she has no incentive to. She has been successful terrorizing everyone and getting her way this way, why would she ever want to stop?

      Perhaps when she forces you to choose between your boyfriend and her, you make that choice and tell her that you do not choose her, if that is the truth.

      Jane

  • janet

    Jane thank God I discovered your website, and I am actually reading more internet related Asian American mental health issues in the past few months. For years off and on when going through my usual depression, or shameful feelings, I would seek out a therapist in the area of Los angeles near home. I often would get caucasian, jewish, therapist who would almost make me feel worse, like ” YOUR PARENTS HIT YOU! ?
    or THAT IS NOT LIKE THE TYPICAL ASIAN CULTURAL STEREOTYPE REACTION TO ANGER! so recently I’ve found an Asian American therapist, who grew up here in L.A. like I did. What a difference! She gets it! describing shameful humilliating scenarios are not as painful-I know that sounds wierd but there is no shock or embarrassing facial gestures because she understands the Asian culture. Reading your articles help me put together that shameful puzzle of feelings. I think there are many non asian mental health professionals who still think we are the MODEL MINORITY.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Janet, I am glad you found my website too. It can be helpful to find a therapist that has the cultural perspective that may underscore these issues we deal with. That’s an interesting response you’ve observed from the few therapists you’ve tried to seek help with, I’d assume that they would in fact not be surprised at some of the parenting methods (how else do they think we become “the model minority”?).

    Please make yourself feel at home :) My site’s been around since 1998 and so it’s a bit like walking into an office with papers and books and miscellaneous items on tables and desks stacked to the ceiling…

  • Lori

    Thank you for your article, I needed it tonight. I have been living with my Mom’s guilt for so many years that I don’t really know when it started. Now that I live in the same neighborhood with my Mom, I visit her often but she guilts me and makes snide remarks about my adult children not visiting her. On Easter, I invited her to come over so she could visit with my children and grandchildren and she didn’t come stating that she didn’t want to intrude but she made a pint of saying that we didn’t visit her and my children had time to see other family members (looking at their FB pics) but didn’t have time for her. I just don’t see how this is my responsibility. I remind them to go see her but they are adults. I feel fortunate if they include me in their busy lives. It makes me not want to talk to her and I love her dearly but I can’t stand to be badgered. It’s always been so difficult and if I challenge her, she hangs up on me on says that I;m attacking her and being disrespectful…I can’t win!
    Thanks for listening,
    L~

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      You’re dealing with 2 groups of adults here – one is your mom and the other, your kids. You’re sandwiched and it’s not pleasant, I’m sorry you’re going through this. You can’t win with your mom as you’ve said, so don’t try to. Maybe you can find a way to make how she acts toward you easier on yourself, make it a game with a stop watch next time to see how long you can keep her on the phone before she hangs up on you. Turn this negative into a neutral at least. And then just agree with her when she laments about her grandchildren not visiting, since it’s technically true if they don’t go see her, they’re not spending time with her. You don’t have to explain for them, or try to defend them, or try to make her feel better. You can allow her to have her feelings and simply report them back to her: “Yes I can hear that you’re feeling like they don’t make time for you! It’s hard for you to see Facebook pictures of them having so much fun with other relatives, etc. etc.” Take yourself out of the middle but you don’t have to go to one side or the other. Stay on the sidelines as an observer/reporter.

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  • mani

    Your story rings so true in my life. Im 25 yr old male and just recently was feeling alot of self pity and depression cause of my mother. We were just sitting around talking about random stufff and the subject of marriage came up, she said “if you marry an american, then our relationship is over”. That hit me like a house as i sat there speechless in how easly she said that. She said that she has the right to pick who i marry becuase she is my mother. I tried to explain how wrong and hurtful that is, but she was having none of it. At the end of the day depression and guilt and feeling worthless has become a regular thing for me. My mom keeps doing what she does and i just sit and wonder “how can i make her understand”. I really dont know what to do, to be honest. I want to have a good relationship with her, but it seems like is only good untill i let her controll my life. When i say “no” it turns sour again and im all alone. Your article was helpful in a way to know that others have gone through this also. so thanks for that.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      You’re welcome, Mani and I’m sorry you’re going through this. If you can’t make her understand, ever, then what will you choose to do? What kind of relationship are you willing to have with her in your life? That’s a question only you can answer…

      • mani

        Well jane after reading your article. I realized, i cant make people love me the way i want them to. So ill do my best to atleast maintain a good relationship with my mother. However, when she tries to push me into an unhealthy mental state again, i guess ill just have to shut her out mentally.

  • Jon

    I just wanted to say, it was really eye-opening to be reading everyone’s stories, I’m glad I’m not the only Asian (I’m Filipino) who is frustrated with their relationship with their mother. I’m glad I found this site after looking up “guilt manipulation” on Google, because this seems to be what my Mom does all the time, to no end if I ever try to talk about any of my problems with her just for some support, she always brings up how HER problems are so much greater than mine could ever be, how as a mother she’s always right and understands everything about me(even though in the next sentence she could tell me “I’m not perfect!) etc. Not only that, but my Mom seems to lack a lot of common sense and hoards items in our house (including tons of Jesus statues and paraphernalia, I believe she neglects any interest in her own children because of her overt religiousness). What depresses me most is that I may have to move back in with my family because I was laid off and am currently unemployed, and this is after 6 years of having lived on my own. I am really dreading this, and I am even feeling like I would much rather move in with my best friend’s family instead.

    I just feel like there is no hope, because I am always going to hate living with her, and if I ever try to work things out with her or point out any of her characteristics that are driving me crazy (she’s quick to point out my flaws, which I accept, but never recognizes her own), she is absolutely in denial and only listens selectively to anything you say. My only hope is to get a new job, which I am pursuing, but at the same time I am experiencing dissatisfaction with my career choice (accounting). My internal debate right now is whether I’d be more miserable working as an accountant or living at home with my parents.

    This comment ended up being a lot longer than I intended, but I just wanted to say I’m really glad I found this site and am not alone in this unnecessary emotional struggle. I hope I, along with everybody else who posted, will be able to resolve these Asian parental issues.

    • mani

      I know the feeling jon. My mom is also religious, but her religion directly contridicts how she lives her life. If she actually practiced what jesus preached, she would be an amazing mother (that is the sad part).

  • C.L.

    Honestly, I sometimes wonder if my mother has a mental disorder. I am 40 years old and after all these years of experiencing emotional abuse from both my parents and constantly trying to deal with them, I have decided that it would be better to care less of them. I have experienced all the emotional abuse that were shared above. I hope that by reading everyone’s story, it can somehow help me deal with my anger issues towards my mother.

    I have been struggling with respecting both my parents especially my mother. They didn’t have good childhood themselves however it doesn’t give them the right to make mine miserable. As a child I was very obedient and have tried to show them love but I don’t want to anymore. I prefer to get scolded for not doing what they want rather than doing what they want and get scolded either way. I live close to my parent’s house now not because I want to but because I have to. Hearing my mother’s voice just irritates and angers me most of the time. I have no trust in her because of her constant lies. She was so manipulative and controlling but it is less now, only because I wouldn’t let her. I would tell her honestly that I don’t believe her and whenever she tries to control me, I would say to myself “I don’t believe her.” She acts like she is so helpless and she is the most sympathetic person in the whole world. I feel like I am her mother not her daughter. She expects me to solve all her problems.

    Sometimes I believe my mom’s purpose in life is to make her daughter’s life miserable . It angers me that it seems like I am the bad daughter for not being more understanding and caring about her. I have an elder sister and like other Asian families she was treated like the son of the family given a little more privilege than me. As I was the youngest, I was given the lowest status in the family, expected to serve everyone obediently.

    My father and mother have fought all their lives and made it an effort to let us know all the sad details of their fights. Whether we were present to witness it or not, my mother made sure we knew and remembered all about it. My mother has regarded us particularly me as a garbage truck where she can dump all her trash. I have confronted her with this but she would say,” I tell you all these stuff because you are my daughter”. It frustrates me to hear this and I wish her blood is not running inside of me. “The funny thing is that my elder relatives (my aunt) don’t see this as a problem also. I wonder if this is an Asian thing. Another thing that I hate hearing is, “wait until you are married and have kids, you will know then.” I wonder if I was a son, she might treat me differently. My parents made sure we all share the same stress and burdens of their problems (even the tiniest) together. I have tried to be obedient, compassionate, loving but it didn’t help.

    I hope by sharing my story, this can help others who are going through similar problems in their lives and they will know that they are not alone. I have ordered some books that can help me overcome my problems. It is unfortunate that in some countries, counselling is not readily available, especially in Asia. For those who can have access to resources and counselling, please take advantage of them. I was reluctant to submit my story but I believe that my story like the other stories here, can help someone. Lastly, do you know why mothers(not all mothers) can’t seem to stop hurting their daughters?

    Thank you for this blog, Jane.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi C.L. Sorry for not responding to this sooner — I caught the question you asked at the end and realized I didn’t answer it:

      “why do some (not all) mothers hurt their daughters?”

      Most of the time parents who hurt have been hurt. Yes you will have some sadistic human beings who take pleasure in hurting other human beings and their children are convenient targets, but I think this is a very rare and small percentage. Most of the time you have people who are struggling with their own personal histories, and they re-enact their personal histories throughout their lives trying to resolve their own traumas and wounds. So they inflict the same traumas and wounds on others and hope that the recipient (whom they project themselves onto) can miraculously resolve this. This goes on for generations.

      Some parents burden their children and manipulate them with guilt because this is what they have encountered as children, so they are doing what they’ve learned to do. Then they say “wait till you have your own kids” not so much as a curse but maybe because they were once like us, they thought, “I’m never going to do this to my kids!” and then they became parents and then they realized that this is one way they can try to protect their kids or “make them better”, just as their parents have done the same to them.

      There was a time when I, like you, hated being my parents’ daughter because of the negative aspects of their personalities. Now I realized that I am a lot more like my father and my mother than I once could admit, but there is one big difference: I’ve learned to be self aware enough that I am now able to use aspects of their personalities for positive – not for negative. I have my mother’s strong will and dominant personality, so I use that to help me succeed in business (she was very entrepreneurial), instead of using it to manipulate people close to me.

      I’ve tried denying where I came from (who my parents are) — this doesn’t work in the long run — because we cannot control this aspect of our human experience. This even makes us self-loathing, and we can’t go very far when we’re too busy hating ourselves and loathing who we are.

  • TN

    Dr. Chin,

    I am very glad I have found this page. I was recently thinking about creating a support group for people that may have the same problems that I have. unfortunately, I have found this page to late, but again, it’s never to late correct.
    I was hoping you could help me. My mom is almost every that I have read here. Because I am the only daughter in the family out of 5 brothers, and because I’m the closest to being obedient as possible in her terms. but like you say, it’s never enough.
    Like everyone here I was guilt into thinking I’m the only source of happiness in my mom’s life. To be honest, I am smart and it was very easy to balance undergraduate studies and the demands of my mom. But recently in the past two years, I was attending pharmacy school. I tried very hard to provide for my mom such as taking her to the doctor, shopping, etc. But unfortunetely. I was unable to perform academically. I failed 1 course per semester for the past two years, which brought me to this point in my life. I was dismissed from the pharmacy program. because no one on the board was Asian, they did not understand my circumstances. I have a few more days to make an appeal to their decision and I need your help.
    How could I possibly plead to the committe that I should have another chance? I started seeking therapy and taking an antidepressant. but that did not seem to convince them. I know you are a specialist so can you please help me on what steps I could take?

    thank you

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi TN –

      I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances with your school. Without knowing much of the circumstances (I’m also not as familiar with pharmacy programs but I assume you mean RPh?), I am speculating that the committee may be going on academic performance alone, and they may also decide that therapy and taking medication / antidepressant may not be enough to change the situation so that your academic performance could improve. In other words if you are in therapy and taking meds but you still behave the same way with your mother, you would remain tied for time that would still jeopardize your academic performance. Or at least, this may be how members of the committee view it.

      If you are able to present a case where you clearly show them *how* – and more importantly – *by how much” you are going to improve your academic performance, then you may be presenting an argument that they can be more objective about. For example, you have failed 1 course per semester for the past 2 years. This means you have failed 4 courses already. Assuming failure means an F grade (in graduate school, though, a failure grade is a C+, so once I flunked a course because I had a C+ and had to take it again), you will need to do this:

      - show what you need to do to pass all your courses moving forward. For example, hours you will study per class
      - show a commitment to attend your classes. For example, “I will commit to showing up for all of my classes, with no less than 2 absent days per class and that would be due to a real illness.”
      - show how you are going to restructure your time and priorities
      - commit to delivering at least a B+ average in all your classes (then show how you’d do that)

      Being in therapy and taking medication is a start — but does not suffice as reason for them to change their decision. If we’re talking about the 1st year and this is happening, then they may think about this differently. However, this is the 2nd year and they may genuinely believe that you aren’t able to, or aren’t willing to — make the underlying changes necessary to succeed.

      I believe that the most effective way you may succeed in this is to use hard metrics and objective measurements you can deliver. Honestly I see this as you needing to tell your mom that you’re flunking and if this is what she wanted. If this is what she wanted (so you can be her servant girl forever), then you need to make some decisions about whether this is what *you* want for your life.

      Good luck.

  • Thu

    Dr Chin,

    Thank you for your response. I am realizing that the committee is right. There is no possible way for me to convince them. I do not wish to be a “servant girl” to my mom, but I have no choice to accept the role. I want to be able to have my own life but I do not understand how I can “choose” to do so… im 25 years old and I have to live with my mom. moving out is not an option for me because I am still held hostage by relationship even if I live away from home ( the case when I was in pharmacy school) I really feel hopeless about my life and feel that I will never be able to take control of it. I feel that even if I get married, my mom would move in with me. I am very scared of how she may treat my children when I have some. I’m even more terrified that I may become like her. Dr Chin, what can I do to convince my mom in old enough to be on my own. right now, I can’t even go anywhere without telling her and having to be back at home a certain time…I really feel hopeless. what do you suggest I do?!? please help me overcome this feeling of helplessness… thank you

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Thu — can you explain more about having no choice but to accept the role? Are you wholly dependent on your mother financially? I understand from your previous comment that you are in therapy; what suggestions do your therapist have about shifting the dynamics of this situation?

      • Thu

        Dr Chin,

        what I mean by having to accept the role is that, I feel that I can never let go of taking care of my mom. seeking therapy did not help me because the therapist was unable to “understand” the difference in culture. the therapist told me that I need to try to distant myself from my mom. but as you can understand, I’ve been conditioned to care of my mother. it’s very hard for me because I am ambitious in trying to be something great or achieving great goals, but I feel suffocated by the hold that my mom has on me. my dad left her when I was young and one of the things I struggle with is trying to show her proof that I myself would not leave her. to answer your question, I do not rely on her financially. the only thing I seek from her is the love of a mother. I know and understand that she loves me but her methods are just too culturally defined. I’ve talked to my mentors at school and they’ve too concluded that my mom is selfish and too needy of my time. i am really trying to learn how to deal with my mom, but the only thing that works is to bend to her every need or else she manipulates and guilts me into behaving the way I do. I’ve been conditioned to make it my goal to keep her happy but I put my own happiness aside… I guess What I just really want to know is that, is there a certain way of thinking that I should follow in order reduce my sense of responsibility. I mean, I take my mom to her doctor’s visit, to grocery stores, refill her prescription and help around the house. I know I do too much for her and that allows her to behave childishly. I don’t want to ignore her that she feels that I’m abandoning her but I also don’t want to strictly kept under her control… what do you suggest I do?

        • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

          Thu, I come from a similar culture, and I agree with your therapist in terms of the obvious thing for you to do. However, I also see that you have already made a choice: You have chosen to remain by your mother’s side so that you can prove to her that you are not your father and that you will not abandon her.

          This means you have made, of your own free will, the decision to assign your life to serving her in exchange for the motherly love you believe that you need from her. Since this is your life, you are free to do whatever you want because this is your right, and no one can tell you what to do with it, even if they think that their advice will help you with the depression that has emerged because your own decisions are conflicting with each other.

          The only thing you can do to help your mother grow up is the same that all parents do to help their children grow up: they stop doing everything for their children, and some parents will cut off that child financially (especially when the child is a grown adult and has all the means of self sufficiency), when the child gets into trouble because of the child’s poor decisions (like breaking the law), the parents will not go to the police station to bail out that child so that the child can truly learn that each one of us take actions that have consequences that affect other people.

          If you want to reduce parenting your mom, then you need to decide which actions your mom is fully capable of, and expect her to fulfill these actions herself. Like all children who do not want to grow up, you can expect tantrums and moodwings and screaming and crying. Some will threaten that they’ll kill themselves, even. If asking a person to pick up her own medication gets severe threats of self harm, you can either decide that you can’t risk it and keep doing what you are doing for the rest of her natural life and work on accepting your personal decision to be in this position.

          Or — you can do what all parents have learned to do when their tantruming toddlers, and that is, you make sure they’re in a safe environment (so they can’t pick something up to throw at you or hurt themselves) and you let them scream it out. Then afterwards you tell them, “I’m sorry you feel this way, I still love you, and you’re still going to have to do this yourself.” Don’t underestimate the difficulty of doing this. As all parents of toddlers can tell you, once they give in and the child sees that they can break you down, they will make it even harder for you to break their habit, because they know how to control you with fear.

          Good luck.

          • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

            I want to add to my above comment, in keeping with the lines of reason of a “parent – child” relationship:

            There is a reason why there is more call for parents to stop being their children’s friends these days. It’s because by catering to a child’s every whim, beck-and-call you are not doing that child a favor and in fact you have actually hurt the child. In return, the child will not love that parent more, the child can sense the pity in allowing the child free reign and the child will learn to despise the parent, and one way to despise the parent is for the child to behave even worse and even engage in self destructive behaviors.

            Now, zooming this discussion back to the cultural perspective of the Asian daughter. I don’t think we’re doing our parents any favors by catering to their every need, this is like saying we’re “respecting” them by behaving like slaves, and this also is saying that we accept our parents’ roles as slave masters. How is that a sign of respect?

            When I look back at my childhood and see how my father had catered to my mother’s whims and moodswings, I used to think that my father must have been such a good husband for tolerating my mother. Now I see it differently, especially because I am now married. I see that my father was doing what he did to avoid a confrontation, which he did not like, and he would rather allow my mother to do what she wants to do so he would not have to face a conflict with her. Because she is very dominant and strong-willed (like me), it will take a huge amount of energy to engage in a “battle of the wills”. But in doing so, my mother’s behaviors became more out of control and it is no different from a child who is trying to find boundaries that can keep her safe but no one is there to show her where the boundaries are.

            In my current marriage, my husband treats me as an equal, and while he demonstrates incredible understanding for my thought process and decisions, he will never tolerate behaviors from me that is self-harming and otherwise antithetical to the personal values that I hold. It is exactly because he respects me that he knows I’m “better than” manipulative tactics. This is the kind of love I want – not a person who retreats and lets me win every time because it’s too much effort to engage – but a person who will stick it out even when it is hard and there’s an easier option.

            • Thu

              Wow Dr. Chin,

              Thank you for that very explicit response. I guess I need to just keep reminding myself that my mom indeed does behave like a child and I must learn to “cut the cord.” I agree with the husband and wife example you gave me because my mom and I both deal with this problem. My mom’s strong will has driven away the men in her life and I feel that I tend to do the same also. But from your response, I can see that I need to stop following in her footsteps and stop using “unconscious” manipulation on my bf too. Thank you so much for your response. I will remain to return to this webpage to continue to read your suggestions so that I could constantly remind myself that i must draw a line between being a good daughter to having my own life. I really feel hopeful and that I can breathe again after ready your post. Thank you Again!

              • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

                Thu, given that you are developing a level of awareness of what is happening with you and your mother, you get to the be the break in the chain of probably generations of emotional manipulation. You are seeing how the behaviors that you have learned through years of conditioning are coming out in your own relationships. Most of us don’t start out wanting to drive away others or become difficult to live with. We’ve become unconscious of or blind to the behaviors we’ve learned when we were young because we can’t always choose our role models at that age. However, now that you’ve developed this level of self awareness you get to decide which way your life can go.

  • Teri

    Dr. Chin,

    Like everyone else, I’m glad I found this page. I moved home last June after being away for four years for college, and it’s been very difficult. I have gotten to the point where I am depressed and can’t even bring myself to do many of the things I used to enjoy (read, write, bike rides, bake) because I feel so unlike myself — like I’ve lost some of my identity. My parents expect me to be home all of the time and frown upon me spending time with my long distance boyfriend, which has put a considerable strain on our relationship.

    Even though I love him, me constantly catering to my parents (and the fact that they insist that he visit and that every time he visits, we spend time together as a family instead of alone as a couple) is tearing us apart and I don’t know if the relationship will survive. On top of that, I am always made to feel guilty for eating dinner out or spending “excessive” time with friends (more than once per week).

    When I so much as mention to my mother that I want to move out and that I have the means – since I have a full-time job and recently purchased my own car – she cries hysterically and tells me that I am a terrible daughter and too Americanized. On top of that, she screams at me that she was depressed the entire time I “left her” for college, and that she wants to die. It’s very overwhelming.

    Whereas I was perfectly happy and well-adjusted and had healthy self-esteem when I was in school, I now feel lost and depressed. I have anxiety attacks every single day and need an inhaler now for emotionally-triggered asthma.

    What should I do? Would it even help to talk to my parents? I don’t want to hurt my mother, but she’s ruining my happiness and my relationships.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Teri — You may want to read some of my comments to Thu, even though you’re not in the exact same situation, I’d say something similar to you.

      You can talk with your parents but it depends on why you’re telling them, so I’d make sure that you first have the right expectations. If you expect that talking with them may somehow change their behaviors, you’re likely to be disappointed. If you expect to talk with them just to give them a “heads up” on what you’re going through without expectation of them changing their minds or behaviors, then you’re doing this to get it off your chest and you’d meet your expectation.

      Keep in mind that you are truly doing this of your own free will, however trapped you think that free will is by your parents’ manipulation. We get manipulated because we agree to it and we also resist it, this resistance gives manipulation more energy to feed itself.

      Suppose your mother cries and says you’re a terrible daughter and you are too Americanized, and you simply agree with her. She is entitled to her opinion, so let her have her opinion. If your mother is so severely depressed that you believe genuinely she can harm herself, then you need to tell her that if she is serious about this, you are obligated to commit her to an inpatient hospital treatment for suicidal patients. If she’s really going to kill herself and you’re standing by, then you aren’t doing the right thing.

      You’re growing into an adult (college is still young adult) and you’re looking at boundaries of who you are versus who you’ve learned from your parents about who you are. It may take years for you to accept this (it did for me, and I’m still learning) — but I can be the person that I make myself to be, regardless of what anyone including parents say I should be. But whenever there is conflict between the kind of person I want to be and one that my loved ones demand I should be, then I should be prepared to make a choice about what path I want to take, and I need to fully accept responsibility for it and I can’t blame my parents or anyone for “making me” a certain way, because I’ve been complicit all along.

  • Sandee

    wow Its nice to hear I am not alone….Recently the topic of marriage has come up and coming from an Asian Indian background my mother had an arranged marriage. She had decided that I would also do the same. Being raised here and being more liberal I said no. This has been the cause of many heated arguments. My mother and I have never had a great relationship but it really got bad when I informed her that I wanted to marry my African American boyfriend, then came the yelling, taunts “I should have never brought you to this country”, “you have brought us such shame and embarrassment”, “that’s what we get for educating you”. That fact that he is educated and has a good job and is nice person was not even a factor but simply he was not Asian. I have a feeling of overwhelming guilt not only with my parents and siblings but with other family members aunts, uncles, cousins etc. I feel embarrassed and ashamed like Ive done something wrong? To the extent where I don’t even want to attend certain occasions. I feel this has also effected my relationship with my sister. Growing up my parent gave her a sense of “you don’t want to be like her” My parents have done a good job of making me feel responsible, as the oldest for my siblings not following the guidelines of our culture as well. Yet when I’m around my friends or at work around people who know the “real” me I feel confident again? How can I feel like that around my family too?

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  • sue

    I always thought I was never good enough compared to my brothers. It is always me who got scolded and canned. My brother can never do no wrong, if he doesn’t cry at a funeral, it means he is trying to control his emotions but if it were me, the reason would be I don’t care. It has always been like that for me even until this day. I married and live overseas (my way of rebellion) , so now it is I’m so far away and when my father died my mother would talk to relatives and say (I have my son) like I don’t exist. She has never forgiven me for marrying so far away but I always try but still it is always about my brother and his family. She has never praised me once and everything I do is always not good or I don’t know how, I always feel let down by her, but oh no! as for my brother he is the perfect son, no flaws whatsoever. I am 48 and have two children and I call her everyday but we have not much to talk about and she takes her anger out on me when things go wrong at home cause she never has the guts to tell my brother or his family in their faces. I get all upset as I didn’t call her long distance to be scolded and sometimes cry myself to sleep. After reading about similar articles I know that it is not about me and that she is the one with a problem but the situation will never get better until she leaves the earth. She is still a tyrant at the age of 88 and I don’t understand why everyone butters her up, I don’t do that and she thinks I don’t care. I really cannot take it when she speaks with venom in her voice to me and mostly the matter has nothing to do with me.
    Sometimes I think she hates me. I have two brothers and I’m the only one she speaks harshly to.

  • CC

    How do you reconcile “agreeing with something I didn’t agree with”? It bothers me if I lie. One thing I found that works better for me than resisting or arguing is to just not respond, not say anything, to my mom. Then it’s not a lie.

    Regarding “To stop the circle, you simply stop resisting”, but by agreeing, isn’t that what the manipulator wants? She wants you to agree with her and you are (on the outside).

    I recently learned what emotional blackmail is. They cause you more pain if you don’t do what they want, so they get you to do what they want. I got stuck in an abusive friendship this way. I stopped resisting because she caused me less trouble if I put up with her.

    Some people get raped this way. They get tired of resisting over and over and think it will get over with faster if they just “agree” to let it happen, or they are reasonably afraid something worse will happen if they resist.

    Did your mom stop this behavior or do you have to agree with her continuously? Is this a strategy you came up with yourself or is there any support for it from clinical psychology?

  • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    I don’t mean you agree with a lie.

    I mean you accept that the other person can have her own opinions, which you don’t have to agree with, but you won’t try to change her mind (because you can’t). Your agreement is this: “I agree with the fact that you’re entitled to your opinions but I don’t have to agree with the opinions.”

    There is also a difference between stopping resisting and giving up, and not resisting because you are withdrawing your energy from the conversation. I certainly don’t mean “stop resisting and give up.” I mean, “stop resisting in a way that you keep engaging in this dance of manipulation with the other person.” You let the person know that “I’m not going to try to change your mind and argue my case, since you know how I feel about it, but I simply disagree with your opinion, and that’s fine.”

    I don’t know about support from clinical psychology since I haven’t looked for that evidence. I’ll tell you that most psychologists will tell their patients “leave”, which will make complete sense but not all of those patients can, or are willing to leave their mothers. You may also want to check this out: http://www.quora.com/How-does-a-person-get-over-being-humiliated-and-shamed-for-something-most-of-their-life-by-family-or-friends

    Your last question about my mother, she’s learned to detect my tone when I make statements like, “you can think that way”. She knows that she’s not going to get much else out of me in terms of agreement or disagreement, I’m simply reflecting what she’s saying she believes without judging or giving her bait of what I’m thinking.

  • Kirsten Logerquist

    I too, like many people who have responded to this, am trying to deal with an emotionally abusive parent. It’s my mother. She complains about every one of my actions even if the action is to try and please her so I’ve learned not to try anymore. I try to express to her how she makes me feel and she manipulates me into feeling bad for her as if it is my fault. I know she has emotional needs that are unmet, but I am collapsing under the weight of the guilt she forces on me. In the meanwhile haven’t even begun to meet my own emotional needs. I feel as though my mother has destroyed my self-esteem and sense of self worth, but unfortunately I am too young and financially insecure to break away from her. If it weren’t for finances I would leave tomorrow. What should I do? How do I deal with an emotionally manipulative mother to whom I am financially bound?

  • CC

    Thanks for your reply. I see how you handle it here. It sounds different from how it was described in the blog post in the paragraph that says, “I agreed that X, I agreed that Y,…” vs. “I agree that you think X, I agree that your opinion is Y,….”

    I gathered from the Web that some advise “leaving” but I also thought that it’s harder to leave your mother than a friend or someone else. Sometimes it seems like the choice to not “leave” isn’t validated. I wonder if therapists in an Asian society would advise differently.

    I actually found your site from Quora because I liked some of your answers that I saw, although I don’t see an answer from you on the question you linked.

  • Ash

    Hi Jane! I am not asian-american, just a white girl- Im 36 yrs old and recently figured out that both of my parents truly hate me. My mom blames all of her back-aches on my birth and as a child she was not affectionate to me but my brother was her cuddle buddy… my dad is truly insane, he was a hard worker my entire life and excellent provider but never wanted to be around for the hate he had for my mom…which spilled out to me, I was the bad child so they say… my mom blames me for her bulimia…. I don’t understand where she would be coming from with that statement! Ive prayed about them and taken everything ive witnessed and done the complete opposite on my children…i cannot hug and love on my kids enough. there is so much more to this but what should i do to just drop them from my thoughts?

  • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi Ash, that’s the problem: you can’t “just drop them” from your thoughts. It doesn’t work, and you would be suppressing these thoughts until one day you can suppress them no longer.

    A possible way is to change the way you think about them, so that when thoughts of them enter your mind, it gives you a different feeling than the one you had before, assuming the feeling you get when you think about them is quite negative and hard on yourself.

    For example, you can look at the spectrum of feelings you have for them: bitter, angry, pity, acceptance, compassion, understanding (you can forgive without forgetting what they’d done to you).

    Then pick the emotion you’d like to have when you think about them that is *best for you* (not them, you). Figure out a way to think about them that will elicit the emotional response you want.

    When you choose acceptance or compassion for the way they are, you aren’t saying what they did is “OK” and you aren’t condoning their actions. You are acknowledging that you can’t change other people including your parents, and in the interest of self preservation, you may see how miserable they have made themselves and their lives, and if it’s not you, they will find someone else to blame or make a scapegoat because they can’t own their own choices.

  • Ash

    Dr. Chin– I want to THANK YOU so very much for your insight and perfect advice on my situation. You are right, I have absolutely let them break me down emotionally by harboring the worst of feelings, I don’t think they should be that powerful in my life anymore. As of yesterday and the aggressive conversation I had with them I am letting them go on and just continue praying for them and at the same time just wishing the best for them so I can be free for once. I was able to tell my ‘mom’ how I felt doing her job for her as a mother before she discovered the art of binge and purge! (just throwing this your way, not to pad their image even more harshly but telling a bit of my childhood- I was molested for years and years by my moms baby brother who she adored and raped by a very wealthy family friend at the age of 13- my dad didnt even look up from his work that night he just said in a smug tone “you should not have put yourself in that situation!” and my mom saying “they have more money than we do, they will ruin your reputation if we call the law!”…) These are things that I hang up on! I HAVE to let it go I suppose, I just don’t understand how they can even look people in the face! my kids are my life and in the event someone harmed my kids i would be on cnn’s nancy grace explaining how i killed them, ya know?

    I do thank you! Ash

  • Paula

    My mother is quite manipulative. On one hand she is cruel but on the other hand she is “kind”… She loves without “love”. It is humiliation. I thought that I no longer have hard feeling on my mother’s manipulation. It was not true until a few days ago. I started dreaming that she may die someday, she may get knocked down by a car, she may have a heart attack, she may be killed by a robber, she is dead already and is a zombie… Although I am still upset by her manipulative acts, I am more aware of my feeling/emotion. Perhaps by saying that she is “dead”, I build a wall between us.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I am sorry to hear this, and I imagine how painful it is to have a mother who loves without loving… although I’m not sure it is truly “love” if you aren’t “loving”. Not all mothers need to be lovey-dovey and touchy-feely to be “loving” but they show their love in more reserved, quiet, but very obvious ways to their children. Being cruel and manipulative is not loving; it is being cruel and manipulative. I’m wondering if perhaps you have suppressed a lot of anger about how you have been treated deep inside, which means you have only buried those hard feelings — not because these hard feelings have completely disappeared. I’m wondering this because that was what happened with me, I thought that I had “worked through” my anger but I began having dreams where I was very angry toward my mother and even had a dream where I was shouting at her and another dream where I was close to choking her. I think building a protective wall (whatever that looks like) between you is a good idea — keeping your energy separate, and not allowing her negativity to poison your energy and thoughts toward yourself. Have you ever tried to write her a letter that tells all the truths you wish you can tell her? You don’t need to ever mail it, but it is useful to get it off your chest.

  • areej

    i have a big problem with my mother , she always think am not going to be a good wife in the future and she doesnot want me to get married , thats not the problem ,she said thid infront of people , it get worst esp that we go for traditional married , when i tried to proved thats she is wrong by actions like help her in serving the quests and do some cooking , she still refused that i have done something to mention or to be proud off , she keep telling people how bad person am , not just that she keep on comparing me with my sis and she said that they are better than me .she never said anything good about me even when i got A and become on top of the students , she would rather said the students are lazy thats y am on the top pf them , people easily ask me to do what my mother wants and they often ask me to do so many things and they keep joking about me each and everytime they see me , i kept laughing on their joke and then i cry until i sleep , but now i try not to laugh , am just wondering if i try to show to my mum that i can do it > would that lead her to more manpuilation ? or i just forget about it until i get married > my biggiest fear her constant complaining and put me down before i get married and feel misery for doing so instead f happiness . also am afraid that she said that to my husband and he make jokes out of it like the other people who have done this to me or his family and keep suffering to the rest of my life ? she has bening doing this since i was 12 years old .

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I’m sorry to hear that you are finding yourself in some type of a cruel game where you are an unwilling player. I don’t think you can forget about it; if you can, you will have already tried that, and it doesn’t look like it has been working for you. One key is to find yourself a real (true) friend, not pretend-friends or fake-friends who are really your mother’s friends. A friend is someone who does not participate in bullying you, and is someone who will stand up for you.

      Another key is to see this as a game and turn it into a game that you can win. So if your mother says you’re not as good as your sisters, then you can say “I’m glad to give my sisters the chance to shine, I am fine with letting them get all the attention about how good they are.” [Notice how you are not saying "I agree that I am not good". Instead, you are implying that you are graciously allowing your sisters to get the attention because you don't need that kind of attention to know that you are a good and beautiful person inside.]

      Other examples:
      Mother: You are a bad person.
      You: I’m sorry that you think that one of your daughters is a bad person, that sounds very sad.

      Mother: Other students are lazy that’s why you’re at the top of your class.
      You: I am glad that lady luck is often on my side! I hope she will be by my side again and make more lazy students.

      In the above examples, you are refusing to allow them (and your mother) to make you feel bad. So you turn everything they say into 1) feeling sorry for them that they have these miserable thoughts and 2) reaffirming that you are generous to let other people shine and “look” better than you and 3) acknowledging your luck and good fortune.

      In the best case scenario you will leave your home and be with a partner who recognizes your good qualities and respect you as a person. Good luck to you.

  • Pookie girl

    First of all I want you to know that I am not Asian American, however I related to every single word and beyond what you are saying and everyone else are saying. I Love my mum she is my everything in life her husband (who call my dad) who has raised me as his own since I was two is also wonderful. However I cant not have a relationship with them. This has been going on for years. You know how certain parents just love to victimise themselves and cant get over their past so they put it on the children. Thats me, my mum is so emotional, dramatic and loves to over exacturate to the point that one is BEYOND the point of even knowing what the problem is. I am the oldest child I have three younger siblings. As the oldest I deserve a certain respect, whenever there is a issue between me and my siblings my mum will back them up 100 in everything. I moved out when I was 19 went to college, Uni etc and am a succesful young woman, yet she always finds things to complain about. She has hurt my feelings so many times. She keeps on insisting that I dont have a relationsip with her beacuse I am mad at her cause my biological dad past and I never got to know him . I forgave my biological dad along time ago,I moved on a long time ago. She seems as she hasnt. She till has hanger towards him. She constantly likes to remind you about her struggles and pains, she always complains to me to my younger sibings to the point where they are loosing respect. I feel that her and my dad CUT The base under my feet as a older sister and as a daughter. Like you mentioned, she states I hate her, when she dies I will regret things, I dont appreciate her etetc. None of that is true, but my mum needs help, I tried so many time to have her seek help. Her past is whats makes her instable and its all been put on me. I am so tired of drama with her all the time. I feel so low in my family. You know how the western culture works, WE DONT GIVE UP ON OUR PARENTS that would be a crime, but what she puts me through emotionally is indescribable. I feel alone, my mum and siblings will be there for one another. I live in a different country. I cant change her, she never will. I can only change me, my best friend stated, get tough skin and trust me I have, but there is only so much one can take. Our parents need to realise that WE ARE their kids, they can not put their own unhappiness in life on us that makes us unhappy. In my culture the mum is NEVER wrong no matter what she does or say. People see what I go through one thing that they all agree on is the fact that you dont belitter the older sibling infront of the younger ones. I have no back up from anyone. I know that she is frustrated cause I dont have a relationship with her and feels that I exclude her in my life. But thats the only way to deal with her. If one dont whatever you tell her she will use against you sooner or later. This has also destroyed my relatioinship with my siblings, cause I feel that they loose respect as they see her constant complains and bicckering.

    I just really now that I need to change me. It just feel as if my voice will never be heard in my family. It hurts cause I truly love them and they are not bad. I just feel so low in my family and the problem my mum has with me is BEYOND something I will ever understand. I think my biological dad has alot to do with it and that she might have felt guilty and she wants to us to be close but I cant cause she dont give me my place as a oldest sister and first born in my family. Talking dont help and my dad dont really say much he is one of thoose lovely people that just sits in the backround and nods his head to everything. I never see him stand up and tell her as he should. I belive he KNOWS her to well and avoids any drama with her thats why he dont say anythig
    Emotional blackmail I understand its to the point that when she cries oer issues between us, I am just numb to it cause I am so used to it. Always making up stories for people to feel for her. She can handle other peoples prblems well but not her own famiies. People say live your life, and nod your head and agree with everything she says etc etc (like you mentioned Jane) and one day she will realize , but its hard with her. She is instable one day she will admitt that she needs help and apologise and next day she will get a tandrum. I am not perfect I know that I should include her more in my life, but when you deal with people that are so emotional, dramatic and over say and over do everything its really better to keep everythng private. Really I am 30, I just wanna be happy, but this whol issue with my family just gets to me and its all with my mum and I know she will never ever change.

  • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi Pookie Girl:

    I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties with your mother. Let me go through something you’ve mentioned:

    People say live your life, and nod your head and agree with everything she says etc etc (like you mentioned Jane) and one day she will realize

    This is a common misunderstanding of what I mean. I don’t believe in “agreeing” with the things that manipulative people say. To do this is to lie, and that’s not productive and does not move anything forward except for continual drama and manipulation.

    What I mean is that you “allow” the other person to have her opinion, and live her reality, without trying to change who she is.

    The key here is “without trying to change who she is.”

    You and I and countless sons and daughters have tried everything we can humanly think of, short of resorting to violent means, in our attempt to “change” someone else’s minds. It simply does not work. No one can ever change unless he or she wants to.

    In fact, by engaging in a dance of “let me try to change who you are and how you think,” you are giving the other person a continual reason to resist you and prove you wrong. It becomes a vicious dance, a vicious cycle.

    Instead, you are agreeing to let your mother be who she is, and telling her that she is entitled to her opinion, even if you don’t agree with what she is saying. This removes that “resistance” portion of the vicious dance.

    For example:

    Mother: You exclude me from your life, I bet you enjoy how I suffer!

    You: I’m sorry that you feel this way. I don’t agree with you, but I can hear (or I can see) that you really believe this. What a sad situation this is.

    Mother: You do this because you are still angry with me! You are taking it out on me!

    You: I’ m sorry that you feel this way. I’m not angry with you or taking it out on you, but I can see that you really believe this. I don’t know what I can do to change this reality for you. This makes your life very hard.

    In other words, you are describing what she is feeling without trying to change how she feels. You are allowing her to have these feelings and you are taking the place of a compassionate observer who is not personally involved, no matter how hard she tries to involve you into the dance, by accusing you of feeling or thinking things that you don’t feel.

    One of the techniques that parents use with young children who haven’t learned how to control their emotional impulses and frustrations is to put words to what they are feeling without trying to change those feelings (because you can’t, only the person feeling the emotions can change it), and describing to the child what she is feeling. Maybe this is a technique that can help with many manipulative parents, whom I’m beginning to suspect are stuck in a “helpless child” phase in their emotional development.

  • LR

    Asian women and women of other races commit more suicide than Asian men and men of other races because their parents tend to restrict them even more. Daughters must be completely obedient. If she cheats on her husband or boyfriend with other men, for example, and gets pregnant, kidnapped, or raped. Either her parents or in-laws disown her or even kill her, even if she commits heinous crimes as well.

    Well, anyway, when Asian parents are like that from what some described, their children bully other children as well, especially children of other races by calling them stupid, spoiled, and even beating them up as well. Have you seen the 2010 Karate Kid movie with Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son? He was always being bullied by Chinese kids because he was a foreigner but he fought back. And I’ve heard of Asian children bullying other children for making mistakes and failing classes in schools and they bully mentally disabled people as well because of how their parents raise them to be. They even do this to their own friends too. And this is why Asian people are always accused of being rude and arrogant, especially with Chinese and Indians.

  • Lisa

    Hi Dr. Chin, I realize I’m not nearly as old as some of these other posters, in fact, I’m still in High School, but nevertheless, my mother is still very cruel to me. I can relate to almost everything everyone has said, I was beginning to feel like I was the only one until now.

    My mother is diagnosed with depression, and she uses it against me, my father and my brother as often as she can. We live in constant fear of triggering a fit and tiptoe around her and everything we do is for her, to keep her happy. It’s so tiring and some of the things my mother has said to me is so painful. I can’t count how many times I’ve considered suicide because of the things my mother’s said to me.

    For example, just recently, my cousin had died in Afghanistan in the military, but the details of his death had not been released yet. Around that time I also had to take a very important exam to qualify for scholarships, and I’d studied a minimum of three hours per day for three days before the exam, I’d worked my butt off because I know this is important to me. Well, the night before the exam, I’d decided I should take it easy and so when I overheard my parents in the kitchen talking about my cousin, I decided to look articles up online because several newspapers have been keeping up with his story. Well, my mom had come into the living room where I was and told me to go to bed because I had my exam tomorrow. So I said yeah, in a second. And she asked me what I was looking at.

    She’d been trying to keep news from me so my mind wouldn’t be boggled and weighed down by thinking about my cousin’s death, but I really couldn’t help it. I’d grown up with him and known him all my life, how could she expect me to sleep soundly without knowing what happened to him. She’d tried for a couple minutes to get me to go to bed, and getting aggrevated with her, I told her I would in a few seconds and she could just go to bed first. She freaked out, slammed the laptop screen down on my hands and started screaming at me until my dad came downstairs and took her back to her room. All I could do was cry.

    The next morning, I went to school, took my exam and I haven’t gotten my results yet, but I feel that I did pretty well on it. When I came home, my mother was giving me the cold shoulder, and still is right now. And to be honest, I’m not sure why she is. I went to ask her where the scissors were because I needed them to cut some yarn because I was knitting her legwarmers, but she just snapped at me and told me she didn’t know and that it was pointless for me to do homework and I should just drop out of school because I probably failed the exam. This didn’t really bother me, I simply didn’t say anything and just walked away. But then she kept going on, and what hurt me most was when she mentioned my cousin. She said I should just drop out of school and go into the army and get myself killed like him.

    She has honestly never said anything that hurt me more than that before. And she told me I was stupid and that I should just drop out of school and go die because she didn’t even care if I wasn’t going to listen to her.

    I talk to my brother about this, but he doesn’t understand. When he was around, she wasn’t diagnosed with depression and she was a warm, loving, kind mother who was considerate and didn’t berate every single thing my brother did. My brother used to get C’s, at best, and I haven’t gotten a single grade lower than a B all my high school career, yet my mother continues to call me retarded and stupid and worth nothing and continues to tell me that I should just drop out of school and die on the streets.

    I talk to my cousins about it, but their mother isn’t like that too. And when my cousin was over one time when my mother started yelling at me and calling me stupid for no reason, she stepped in and tried to defend me but my mother just shot her down too. My dad says wait. That it’ll be okay in a few years, but he said that 5 years ago. Everyone keeps telling me it’s going to be okay, and that I’m going to make it but frankly, no one understands how much my mother hurts me, no one understands that what my mother says and does to me has made me contemplate and attempt to overdose on pills.

    I think I’m better now, I’m trying to be strong but it’s really hard. I don’t know what to do.

  • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Dear Lisa:

    I am very sorry to hear about what is happening with you and how your mother has behaved / is behaving toward you. Is she receiving treatment for depression? She needs to be evaluated by a physician and treated.

    Depression takes over a person and turns that person into someone who is almost unrecognizable. Depression rarely (if ever) “goes away” and “becomes OK” no matter how long, how many years. In fact, untreated depression can get worse and worse and worse.

    I don’t know if it helps to tell you that the words that are coming out of your mother’s mouth are coming from a disease. Your mother may indeed be a loving and warm person, but depression taking over a person’s brain and left untreated will eat away that loving and warm personality, and leave a shadow of a person. Whatever negative and hurtful things your mother says about you, remind yourself that you are hearing depression’s voice, that this voice tells lies and you can choose NOT to believe the lies of a disease. Don’t believe the lies that a disease tells you. You are not hearing your mother’s words you are hearing depression’s words.

    Stay strong by knowing that these lies about you are not true. Focus on the truth about the “you” that you are.

    I’d suggest that you find a trusted adult who can be your mentor, surround yourself with friends you can trust, and ask that they remind you of the good, lovable person that you are, especially when you get a daily dose of lies from untreated depression overtaking your family.

    I don’t know if your father is in denial about your mother’s depression, or if he genuinely believes that your mother will “snap” out of it. I don’t know if you’re comfortable enough to ask that he bring your mother to see a doctor as soon as possible, but ask. The worst that can happen is he says “no.”

    My best to you.

  • ZL

    Wow interesting site, Glad I found it. My parents are similar; they too are clingy just like most stereotypical old fashioned Chinese parents. It seems weird that I been able to deal with them all this time (probably because I thought listen to my parents’ complain and manipulation was the right thing to do, and thought that I was not good enough because I was young) until recently, but things have changed.

    I spent 5 years away from home in college and began to realize what is normal what is not. My mother uses manipulation all the time, when I was little she uses my cousins as examples, such as “oh look at them they are great, get 100s on all their exams. They got to prestigious colleges and bah bah bah”, now she uses my friends as examples. As a result, I start to build a wall against her and my dad. One day I tell them something about my friends next day they are using it against me. I mean really?!

    Moreover, in the past 3 weeks they began to call me selfish, and how cold hearted I am. My mother would push my button 2-3 times a day, so I can “cough” up some “happy” news for her. It’s not like I am a magician who can predict whether or not I can succeed at getting into med school or the fact that i can get a job in 2-3 days because I got a master degree. I kept telling her everything takes time, and that I will do my best and do what I like. I mean I do not know how to solve it. I tried to tell my mother that I will take care of everything myself, and she does not need to worry or push my button every day. And yet she still does, and says it is me at fault for not listening to her. But, she doesn’t understand it is her who never listens. Now I am tired of the fighting and yelling. Ever since I got home from graduating I began to get angry all the time, and I feel horrible. Well I hope it could get better.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      It is not unusual for certain parents to be extremely clingy: some of these parents believe that they have given up their chance at life in order to “give” a better chance to their children. As a result, they feel that they are entitled to control their children’s lives. They become very frustrated when children grow up into adults who decide to make their own decisions in life.

      Ah, the peer comparisons. Here’s what I used to do when my mother said, “Oh look at so-and-so getting into {Prestigious Ivy League School} and how accomplished they are!”

      I’d say, “Oh wow, they must have incredible parents who provided them with all the opportunities and connections! No wonder they got into {Prestigious Ivy League School}!”

      Now that I’m mature, I don’t do the above tactic, which is using manipulative comment to respond to another manipulative comment.

      I don’t know what is happening with your mother, but in the past I have met mothers who do not have their own lives outside of their children, and their only way of “caring” is by nagging and pushing buttons. It’s a bit like watching the kettle boil water, and saying “hurry up and boil, hurry up and boil” — as if by nagging, the water will boil much faster.

      Maybe you can try a different approach. Instead of waiting for your mom and come and push your buttons 2-3 times a day, you can proactively give your mother a “status report” 3 times a day, at predictable hours.

      So 9am, you let your mother know, “I have not yet gotten into medical school. I have not yet gotten a job. Just FYI. I will give you another update at 12pm.” Then you give the same status report at 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm.

      You don’t have to yell or argue or fight. You can provide status reports like you’re punching in a time card.

      This will only get better when you come to a solution that allows you to preserve your own sanity without having to change your parents. Only they can change themselves, and people change when they personally want to change.

  • Zeebs

    I agree. I agree. I agree.

    Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat as you. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and they love me. But my mother. Sometimes the root of all problems comes from the person who decided to be the root of your existence. I don’t know what to do. She loves me, she opens to change… verys slowly. I was never allowed to go to a sleepover. I’m 19 and I still have a curfew. I can’t go clubbing. What is wrong? The only thing that keeps her and me going is the fact that I’m going to university. I’m tired. I want her to love me- for me, and not for some idea that she has planned for me. I’ve rebelled, I done things, I cannot withstand her constant tedious jab at my life and the over exuberant self-pity that she shadows for herself with every line. She’s a possessive control freak, who likes to own most aspects of my life.

    I feel like a failure in front of her for not having a great job, a great degree, not being a model daughter. I think all asian children go through a phase of constant comparison to other siblings/ cousins. Me? No exception. I don’t care for them, I don’t stop doing what I want to do. But it hurts. There are some things I can never tell her, like boy troubles, girl drama. It just wouldn’t work out.

    My mum had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, but she’s overcome it. Even then, she uses the sympathy card too often. Yes I get it- your journey was hard, you’ve faced more troubles than most. But it’s like her problems are problems, and everyone else’s problems are pathetic. I try to tell her somedays when I don’t feel well, and she just brushes it off like it’s nothing and moves on to tell me that she’s doing so much after going through cancer.

    I’ve told her I’m going to move out as soon as possible. She’s already looking out for boys for me. Eugh. I’m an only child. My father is good, but he doesn’t want to have to do anything with this- and the only thing we can talk about properly, is TV. There are two kinds of freedom in this world. You have “freedom to” and you have “freedom from”.

    I am in dire need of both. My mum makes snide remarks if I wash my hair more than twice a week. I need freedom to do the things that I want to do. Like travel, become independant, do things. And I need freedom from her.

    Hopefully I’ll get both someday.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I’m sorry to hear you are going through this, and yes, your mother is admirable for overcoming her breast cancer.

      Not all daughters (Asian or not, dysfunctional or not) can share the same level of intimacy with their mothers. Some won’t have conversations about boys – that’s why girls have girl friends – to talk about boys. This should not preclude the possibility of a daughter having a close relationship with her mother. What stops intimacy is when the mother constantly “competes” with the daughter or makes the daughter “less than”.

      Maybe you can free yourself first, in your own mind, before you can physically free yourself (as in, moving out).

      Free yourself from having to be the role model daughter, and embrace your flaws. Celebrate your “mediocrity” with your mother. Your conflict arises when you disagree about your status as a perfect daughter. She’s saying you are imperfect. You are arguing that you are trying your hardest. This is one disagreement you can neutralize by agreeing with her.

      Tell your ma that you’re a lost cause, you’re going to be who you are, and if that’s mediocre, then she may better spend her energy on other people who aren’t lost causes (like you are). In fact, encourage her to focus on others who are better causes than you are. You have to be comfortable in your status in life, and you should be comfortable with “who you are”, even if this isn’t good enough for someone else, that is someone else’s problem, not your problem.

      I’m telling you from personal experience that the most importance freedom you want to gain for yourself is freedom of mind. You can move away (and you should), but this is no guarantee that you will not carry away a tape recorder of your mother to wherever you find yourself.

  • James Kim

    I am glad I found this blog. I realize that I am not ALONE, as being a first generation immigrant.

    I tried committing suicide in my second year in college because I got a bad grade. After that incident, I have been depressed and moody. Korean parents are notorious for sparta-like treatment of their children and when I show them articles like this, they will just laugh and deny everything.

    I have extremely low self-esteem and my parents have a tight control over my life. They are unpredictable and will act hysterically insane if they are not happy. Their failed marriage is not helping but some reason they refuse to get divorced. I tried changing them, encouraging to get a divorce but they tell me I’m a bad son.

    Anyways, I will try this method out. I will just simply agree with whatever they say and not let any of the stuff get to me. I am sick of being depressed and not living my life because of my parents.

    I feel like never talking to them again. They will probably move back to Korea and I will never go back and see them.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I am glad that you did not succeed in your suicide attempt, James. You are important and you need to be alive. This is part of your journey, and it is painful, but you should like a person with inner strength and awareness of what negativity is around you and how that affects you. I think you will be able to help a lot of people some day because of your experiences.

      You cannot change other people, no matter how much you love them: people will only change when they want to change for their own personal reasons.

      There is a lot of freedom in giving up that illusion of the perfect child. Especially when that perfection is demanded as a “fix” to parents’ very imperfect lives.

      Once you give up the fight to be the perfect child, and you become very comfortable in being imperfect, you will be surprised at how strong you learn to become. When I strived to please and be perfect, I looked strong but inside was truly weak; this was driven by a lot of fear. Now I’m open about my weaknesses and imperfection and fears, and this openness has made me grow stronger. Very strange how this works.

  • Leah

    I really am thankful that this conversation space exists. I am empowered to share my experience as many of you have in the hopes of growing my self-awareness of how to live well with myself. By naming the manipulation and attacks my mother targets on me, I want to engage in a process of forgiveness.

    I think forgiveness is critical to our journey as wounded children. Even if our parents do not ask us for forgiveness, we can begin that process within our hearts in order that we become free people.

    “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
    ― Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve

    I am in my twenties and hope to one day become a mother. I hope to break the cycle of manipulation so that I can give love out of a open, healed, joyful generous heart. The heart that I see in my mother is one that is often bitter, fearful, angry and in denial of its very brokenness. I grew up trying to comfort and please her because as a child, I hoped my love for my mother would inspire her to love me the way I wanted to be loved. Unfortunately, this habit only taught me that I am only worthy by how much I can serve and help someone and I had developed a very low self-worth which I wasn’t aware of until recently. And I actually think the community conversation here is a great encouragement for me as I learn to respect myself and build strong boundaries. I want to stop resenting my mother. So lately I have been trying to honestly approach her with speaking directly of how I don’t appreciate the way she speaks to me. She has a temper tantrum and hangs up the phone on me. As Jane recommended, I am trying to walk out of the cycle of triggers. So I don’t get angry but simply say to be my heart, “Congratulations heart, you’re being real for the first time. Be strong. Stay honest.” This in turn is slowly transforming me to unlearn the submissive child syndrome I have lived in the shadows of all my life- “to be a good, quiet child and obey”.

    I want to end my sharing with the thoughts I have about honouring my parents. In fact, we are all broken. And hurt people, hurt people. I think it’s important to not villainize our parents but see them through the lens of mercy and grace. My parents were more of less an orphans growing up through the cultural revolution and did not receive the nurturing love that they needed as children. I am thankful like others who have shared in this blog to have found mentors- parental figures in my life who I deeply connect with and cherish, thanks be to God.

    I am very thankful for the gems of wisdom offered here! Thank You Jane. This conversation space is so important to have. You have catalyzed many breakthroughs

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Thank you, Leah. Your courage and compassion are inspiring. You have truly understood the heart in what I have been trying to communicate through this past and all of my comments.

      It can be incredibly difficult to behave in a way that is both compassionate toward oneself and compassionate toward the other. It’s easier to argue and unleash verbal violence, and it is incredibly difficult to practice verbal nonviolence, especially when a person is continually assaulted.

      I know it was easier for me to write all these methods and advice, than when I had to personally carry out my own advice in my own life with my parents. However, the outcome has been worth the patience and the pain.

  • Lily

    I find this extremely true in my case as well. I know my parents are not rude to me to try to get me to become emotionally scarred. Their insensitive, blunt, and sometimes even arrogant comments are kind of stamped into their brains that this is the right way to raise your child. And starting from around 3-4 years ago, I stopped arguing with them. I just kept silent and withheld all my anger, depression, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. It helps so that any lecture I get doesnt get dragged out into 2-hour long sessions of back and forth fighting, but sometimes I get really messed up, cry, and I just feel sorry for myself. “Why does God do this to me? Why am I being punished when all my other friends have such seemingly wonderful lives?” These family issues are not just between my parents and me, but also my parents with each other. I feel Chinese people in particular can NEVER be wrong. They never know when to shut up. All these fights sometimes turn physical because of both my equally mentally unstable parents. It’s hard on me. But since 8th grade, I devoted myself to become a psychiatrist (maybe specializing in Asian-Americans) to 1) satisfy my parents’ need for a good career and 2) help the thousands of other kids like me. :) This future is what keeps me going, and putting up with everything I have to go through now. I’m sure I won’t forgive my parents for the 99.9% of comments that are unnecessary, but I will appreciate them for trying their best to “provide a good life for me.”

  • Dani

    I am in my mid twenties and living with my mother. I planned on moving out but we had a tragic death in the family. Right after, I unintentionally started a relationship with the man my mother conciders her son and told everything to. Now it got serious and we want to get married. My mother is refusing to get involved and I can’t enjoy finally getting the man I’ve waited for almost 8 years. The death was horrible and then I ended up in hospital almost dead. He stood next to me through that and more… I just don’t know how to ignore my mothers manipulation and negativity , and just enjoy him…

  • ann

    Hi Jane, I must say I’m very relieved to see that many individuals like me, present similar issues as I do. I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I found this website because I too have been experiencing the exact same situation for the past 3 years. At this point my boyfriend and I will be engaged very soon and married afterwards. But for the sake of saving money, finishing my education and obtaining a professional degree I stayed with my parents. As if school and clinicals weren’t hard enough I had to come home to my parents rants and raves about my boyfriend who they casually call “the devil.” They hate him for the most superficial reasons and I hate it. Whether it is about his looks or his profession, they constantly degrade him and I as well. But despite all that I somehow blocked them out and used it to fuel my determination in doing well and graduating college. I ended up proving them wrong by succeeding and that just angered them even more. Well enough was enough and I finished school with two degrees and will soon be obtaining licensure in the health field so I moved out. My parents and I had a horrible fight about 2 weeks ago and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I didn’t deserve this abuse and that their constant lies were just poison to me and my self esteem. Before they could say anymore I gathered up my things and left without any glances back.I am a grown adult so it’s about time I moved out. I currently am living with my boyfriend and his family and by God’s grace they have welcomed me with open arms. I am very lucky in this sense for I know it can be a much more difficult situation. Though I miss my siblings very much I know this was the right decision to make. I’ve spoken to my siblings and they understand me completely and support my decision along with my friends. Though this bold move may have damaged my relationship with my parents it was the only way I was ever going to obtain peace and freedom from their constant oppression. I’m very scared about what my future may hold but I pray every day that things will soon change. Until it does I will continue to move on towards my new future.

  • http://www.myhappeningtravel.com Lerena

    Hi,
    I feel the same way. I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the way my mom used to treat me. She was very controlling and manipulative, almost like it was a pre-requisite for being a good parent. Now, I live far away from her. I don’t even live in the US. Living in Asia, actually, I see what you’re talking about. The relationship between the boss and the employee can be the same way, manipulative and guilt-ridden, to get you to work longer hours for free, etc. I feel like I continue to experience the same emotional issues that I experienced with my mother. It’s frustrating. Even, with dating, I end up with a sincere attraction to the partners that play mind games. I feel like there’s an easy target or something on my head or I must be projecting these messages subconsciously because I still am effected by the things my mother did long ago. I really would like to know how to get to the bottom of dealing with those emotions, so I can stop repeating these relationship experiences and getting taken advantage of.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      It’s not unusual to get into the same cycle of relationships dynamics because deep down, many of us are replaying the same programming of “child – parent” recording in our many different relationships, hoping that one day, for one of these relationships, we can emerge triumphant and finally get people we love most (parents) to approve of us and love us *as we are* — not “for the person they wish we can become”.

      Once you break free of that need to gain approval from your parents, you will naturally disengage from the vicious circle of “child – parent” recording in your other relationships.

  • Mary

    I just submitted a question but forgot to leave my name and email. If it came through, it goes with the above. It was about my son and daughter-in-law.

  • rachel gronow

    im almost glad i found this site

  • rachel gronow

    my mother. Oh my were do i start? why does she do the things she does? we all say mabie nature, nurture?? well do u know what i aint got time 2 think why who were.Ive got a life to live she gave me that much and i aint gonna waste it by complaining about her even though im on this site ha ha ha. FOR A start im alive.Thanks to her i experienced life IF IT WAS NOT FOR HER I WOULD NOT BE ALIVE NOW.Even though in a way im dead to her way of life. Im alive in my own way and sorry to say it she gave me thjat.How can i not be thankful for a chance of being on earth.I HATE YOU MAM BUT THANK YOU

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I like your positive attitude, Rachel! Thank you for sharing.

  • Emily

    Hi,
    It comforts me to have found a site like this with many others that are going through the same struggles as I am. I am turning 30 tomorrow and I still suffer from immense guilt from my parents. I know many people say that it is a choice that I choose to let their ways bother me, but I feel like it is so hard to let it go. It’s like asking a smoker to quit, but worse. I just don’t know what to do.

    Parents: Are they your typical Asian parents? My parents are immigrant parents who came to the country 20 plus years ago. You think that they might have adapted to culture here, but they haven’t they are still as stubborn as ever if not worse. My dad has made a lot of poor choices financially (which guilt me deeply. Plus, he still uses his heart attack 2 years ago as a threat). To make up for all this he needs to constantly prove his worth to other family members (especially his own brothers and sisters) and feel special. He does this by using us his children. He also has a wicked temper. My mom is traditional and has not had many experiences. She chooses to stick by my father because she picks an easier battle of being complacent, rather than to fight him. My sister is married to a Caucasian man (and she broke the walls down for that). My brother is gay and is totally living a lie and lives “outside” the city (my parents don’t know any of this. Although, I feel like they do. They are just in denial).

    I moved out 2 years ago after saving enough money because I could no longer stand being at home. I was mentally drained. It caused a huge uproar at home and my parents said some horrible things. They finally had to accept it, but remained nice to me because I am financially supporting them. Although, they never talk about how I am no longer living at home. They’ve only seen my place once. Now, I am dating the most wonderful man who supports and love me. I am truly in love and can see my future with. Except my parents fully do not accept him because he is divorced and has a son. My parents refuse to recognize him. Sit at a different phew during church, and their main reason is how it is “weird” for them and how it reflects badly to other people. It’s caused a lot of strain in my relationship with my boyfriend. My boyfriend tries to be patient, but he doesn’t understand why I continue a toxic relationship (in believing in the shame and guilt they put on me) with them when they have been only tearing my spirits down. I know I have to put my foot down, but is so hard. I need help on how to approach (what to do) my parents (whether to drop them or still keep them in my life, but distanced). Help!

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Emily: First, a happy belated birthday! We are both January babies although I’m 10 years older.

      “I know many people say that it is a choice that I choose to let their ways bother me, but I feel like it is so hard to let it go. It’s like asking a smoker to quit, but worse. I just don’t know what to do. ”

      I think you have accurately described why we appear to be a glutton for punishment: it’s not that we choose this, but that we don’t know what replacement choices we have if we don’t choose this.

      For example, people who want to quit smoking have gum, patches, fake cigarettes. People who want to quit being emotionally manipulated have ______ ? (replacement parents? emotional approval patches? fake unconditional love?)

      Here are some things that you may want to consider, however:

      “My dad has made a lot of poor choices financially (which guilt me deeply.” — why? Were you standing over him telling him what financial choices he should make?

      I bet not.

      If you were not your father’s financial adviser, then don’t take on the burden of the consequences. Let him take on that burden: HE CHOSE IT. If you take on his burden, then you’ve chosen it. If you don’t like your choice, change your mind and say to yourself, “I give my father the right to make his own choices and suffer his own consequences. I love my father enough to allow him to bear his own responsibilities.”

      “Plus, he still uses his heart attack 2 years ago as a threat” — threaten you for what, and how? Chances are, he is making you frightened that he will die any time.

      So what you can do is to start living as if he had already suffered another heart attack. I know it sounds callous (Yep, so many parents are cursing me right now, I can hear them in my mind), but the most appropriate (logical) response to someone who appears to want to have another heart attack is to live as if he already has one and is no longer around to make more threats of a heart attack.

      You can say, “… And I’ll feel very sad when you’re gone” every time he threatens you, and say this exact same response every single time (do not alter the statement once you’ve chosen the statement you want to say. Keep it exactly the same or you will feed into his drama.)

      Is there a reason why you’d go to the same church as your parents? Start going to a different church. This way you won’t have to face this problem.

      That is how you put your foot down, you start going to a different church where people care more about GOD’S OPINION OF THEIR BEHAVIOR as opposed to OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINION OF THEIR BEHAVIOR.

  • nan

    I’m sick and tired of this being a constant battle between me & my mum. I want my life to be about me and work to achieve a better, fulfilling life. Somehow she make this into being about me & her. Her attachment to my life make me uncertain bout my future, how she will wreck any future events in my life. I have come to a point in my life, where protecting my future and the people i bring to my life comes before getting out there to find my happiness. i have to work to draw boundaries and protect myself first which i find is somehow sad but necessary given the condition of my mother and family.

    i want to be empowered and not blame and resent her, but i do find her a strain on my well being, especially the more i hang around her the more i feel drained.

    among the same type of things discussed by others, i have to deal with:

    * controling
    * emotional/verbal and when i was younger physical attacks
    * she is attached to everything that i need to do, or have to do, and feel proud to be my consious. which i find is very disturbing
    * yet after everything she voluntarily done for me because she is controling and want to be the one orchestrating everything, she is JEALOUS of my life being ‘easy’. there for emotional guilt trip, saying she is being used etc
    * she is unable to do problem solving or be present at emotionally charged event without becoming emotional unstable and start to attack people. (eg, at my grandma funeral, she went crazy screaming at my aunties infront of everyone and accuse them of disliking her which i know was untrue and totally came out of no where)

    * she would then go back to the start of cycle which is being nice and voluntarily do things for you, then on a good day when you finally get a breather she drops the bomb on you and accuse you of using her etc.

    The very annoying thing is, my mum because she is unstable, and maybe wrong values in the head, just me living my life doing the right thing by me and by others, making myself happy is not enough. i dont have the PEACE to live a life doing right thing by me and be happy about it.

    I’m really sick of this and inside i feel like the rest of the people here.. i don’t feel too sorry for myself but i want to be on the way out. I just dont know why of all things, i have to deal with this sort of thing with a parent who wants to be in your life that attacks you. i rather a very bad parent who don’t look after you, at least i can live my own life rather than a parasitic relationship if you know what i mean.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Nan, I’m not sure if you are still living at home because you are a minor or for some reason (usually financial) you cannot live independently. Assuming you have to still live at home:

      If you take what you are describing and substitute your mum for “a person” then you would be describing a classical cycle of domestic violence.

      In other words, your mum is the abuser. You are the abused, and the victim.

      It is entirely possible that she has been a victim at one point in her life, and for that I feel very sorry for her. However, she has become the perpetrator, and we need to deal with the situation where she is the abuser because this is your reality.

      I’d recommend that you look through my past responses to situations where the abuser is gaining power from abusing the victim. The correct response is never to argue (that argument feeds into their power) or resist (that resistance feeds into their power.)

      Instead, you can assume a neutral facial expression (any appearance of sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, pity, or helplessness feeds into their power.)

      Pretend someone has come to you with a leaf and said “a leaf” — you’d have a relatively neutral facial expression because there is nothing really to react to. Practice this neutral facial expression until you are able to put it on at will. You will say “a leaf” in a neutral tone. Practical this neutral tone until you are able to call it at will.

      The next time mum acts out, put on the neutral facial expression. Call upon your neutral tone and say “you sound upset. I feel sorry for your upset.” Then you let mum continue without responding with anything other than “I feel sorry for your upset” or whatever statement you feel comfortable with that is short & to the point. Anything different or longer will feed into her power struggle.

      Once you are able to live independently, I suggest that you leave this abusive cycle until she no longer feeds off the power of victimizing others (while at the same time feels herself as the victim.)

      • nan

        Hi Jane, thank you so much for your response.

        It really helps and am very grateful to see that you understand, this site is very helpful.

        I’ve also noticed also a thing that she is doing is, sometimes if i brush off her inappropriate comment with common sense, she will still hit me with nasty word (it seems those are ‘prepared’ by her to be ‘unleashed’ regardless of appropriatenss) if you know what i’m saying. So it makes her look so out of control and stupid.

        i can go on and on about stupid things i have to deal with, but yes i learn to brush them off and not take to heart. i’m in my late 20′s and i helped my family with our new house so i am starting out towards my own house soon. i look forward to moving away and having a life physically away from my parents, i think that way it is healthier for me and can still maintain my relationship with them.

        Also the very last time i had a proper discussion with mum about how i feel, being very much part of her plan and how i think things were unfair on me, after a very long discussion, i had little understanding or emotional support, or her acknowledge her part. She walked off half way into the conversation like ‘it was too much’ because i was showing how i had not gained the support i required, and in the end after my very long talk she says ‘u cant cut us off in your life ok…’ like she was ‘afraid’. it was verrry frustrating. You had no idea how frustrated i was. i was in no way saying i was gonna cut her off. Then the next day she was nice to me and talked a bit. But i didnt think she understood the core issue you know. She talks about everything else like it was okay..

        And last time i wanted to move out she says ‘everything here is not yours so you not to take anything if you go’.. I feel everything i do in life is hit back with words for EFFECT rather than a mature conversation that helps to communicate. and last time i did ran away she tried to stop me by standing infront of my car & that i had to ran over her to get out, well she didnt stop me.. but i believe now if i moved out when im ready she won’t be like this.

        thank you once again for helping me! i wish you all the best!

  • nan

    and my dad just shuts down most times /ignore so he don’t take charge and she does this to him aswell. I relate to pretty much everything that was discussed here about being sensitive being a survival mechanism etc.

    i just want to believe this is not my battle with her, rather i have to work on myself and better myself. my mum’s sister and brothers don’t seem to be so extreme, i believe the Revolutions has got to her and it made her very bitter and aggresive. and just like everyone else who’s said, they don’t want to acknowledge their emotional void and turn it around, they will not agree they have a problem or seek help.

    i realised that good thing is most times she goes unreasonable i see how she has issues, rather than take it on myself.

  • Sumi Allen

    Hi Jane,

    I just wanted to say that you’re an Earth Angel. Thank you for providing very badly needed GUIDANCE. We need this, and much more of it.

    I’m only half Korean American with a caucasian military father from San Diego and I understand what an overwhelmingly burden Asian mothers can be. It’s incredibly hard to figure these strategies out when the manipulation techniques have this mental and emotional lock, grip and hold on you. Especially when you have to uphold face and accomplish things in the world outside of mom and her issues. Yes jobs and other people (ie. potential spouses, friends, etc. take priority in lives as well).

    “Mother: You exclude me from your life, I bet you enjoy how I suffer!

    You: I’m sorry that you feel this way. I don’t agree with you, but I can hear (or I can see) that you really believe this. What a sad situation this is.

    Mother: You do this because you are still angry with me! You are taking it out on me!

    You: I’ m sorry that you feel this way. I’m not angry with you or taking it out on you, but I can see that you really believe this. I don’t know what I can do to change this reality for you. This makes your life very hard.”

    I think this is very invaluable advice. Although I was able to accomplish things on my own (without her help), she needs to know that she’s worthy. And because I’m only half and a female, I realize that anything I say or do won’t mean much to her because my half race doesn’t mean much to her culture. I personally cannot change her incentive motive and if I can protect myself until I can get out of here, that’s all I need. I wish her no harm, I wish that she can find herself.

    I’ve heard it all before. The threats, the irrationality, the guilt trips, the manipulation and the libel against me. Yes I’m at the bottom of the totem pole in Korean culture which is why I live in the U.S. to begin with (with a foreign name so I can suffer discrimination here! Yay! Discrimination is fantastic.)

    I dealt with my mother by moving out and had other invaluable lessons when the family moved back to our roots in California. But due to the economic downturn, I’ve been almost forced to deal with my mother. The other option was to end up homeless when the lack of opportunities would leave me penniless and less able to gain full time employment.

    Because my dad was in the military, I lived on or near military bases while growing up. The only people who understood were other Earth angels who happened to be other “hapas”, or half foreigners as they call them in Hawaii.

    Part of the trouble is the Asian parent who has to deal with a new culture, language, behavior and Western mentality when the Eastern mentality is harshly enforced in their world. Personally I believe that it takes an entire generation for the older immigrants to feel comfortable in Western Society because they want to see how it balances out. I’ve also dealt with my older relatives by being passive? Graciously and politely allowing them to sense my character for themselves and that worked. They know how people are and since I’m half and raised in the U.S. they expected me to be the typical narcissist and whatever my mother libeled me to them about.

    And of course, growing up in the midwest nobody understood this. And my mother didn’t fully understand how the western mentality worked either which I feel is the basis of Asian parent insecurity in the Western world. Only in the last 5-10 years was she able to make her own friends, Caucasian friends (the midwest is all Caucasian, it’s only .03% Asian).

    Yes we experienced racism, however A LOT of people I met in Ohio were positive and incredibly nice about experiencing our differences. And as time moved on, I noticed that these nice people were often the top performers, the smart, talented and confident people with healthy self esteem. I credit my friendship with these people for the fact that I was able to accomplish many things or anything in my life with the negativity imposed by my quite irrational mother. Your peers do influence you and if the situation comes to it, provide you with a place to live when your parents kick you out for having a boyfriend.

    Children do not ask to be born. However, as my other hypocritical parent pointed out; “CHILDREN DESERVE TO BE BROUGHT INTO A GOOD HOME”. Yes we have strong family values, however the implementation of it has been way off. I strongly believe that parents owe their children unconditional love and support. Not money, but love, nourishment and support. Discipline is necessary but it’s not everything. Kids don’t already know everything, they need to be taught. And as someone who learned Japanese and Korean before I spoke English, it’s obvious that my parents kind of didn’t do their job with guidance in my youth. I had the burden of figuring it all out by myself. And yes, I tripped over my two feet many times.

    My relatives are quite successful and influential. Unfortunately, the hypocrisy in the family rears it’s ugly head like a ferocious beast and the caste system in the family then revealed itself when the money flows in.

    The trouble with this is that the negativity supercedes, interferes and blocks the lack of guidance and support that people need to get through life. It’s tough enough to be the new kid on the block, the “different one”, the minority. Discrimination is not limited to bullying on the playground. It becomes job, name, service and housing discrimination as well. I’ve learned how to overcome some of it without being a threat. I noticed that asian women tend to overqualify with an MBA in accounting and a CFA just to make sure they get any staff accounting job to fight discrimination.. And yes, it works and I’m proud of them. However, softening up to people and being nice and assertive is another way to get people to cool their fears of people unlike themselves. It’s just not as easy to do when your mother puts you down. Because in Western society and it’s imperfections, you have to have self esteem.

    I strongly believe that Asian parents beat their children, mentally and physically because they lack the insight to guide them through life. And this is a problem. Kids do not already know everything. Confidence and self esteem comes with the ability to accomplish something for yourself. Yes I encourage women to do sports if they want to get into business later in life because even in western culture, women do not think that we need to feel confident and in control of our performance and outcome to break the glass ceiling. I know a few very talented women who broke the glass ceiling through hard work and brains. They’re not manipulative, they’re not insecure- they are confident because they have abilities. The results speak for themselves.

    However the discipline I’ve learned was through my coaches. Not from my mother. My Dad made this wise decision.

    But when you beat, manipulate and degrade your children like POW’s and hardened criminals; no “I love you”s will erase the psychological damage because actions speak louder than words. This goes along with the process of discipline, which is really the act of correcting behavior.
    What is the point of the beatings? To get attention? Okay. To discourage the bad behavior. But if you’re not given room or guidance to do the right thing, then you’re just subject to the adverse result which leads to further negativity.

    Which unfortunately happens to a lot of Asian children, at least from what I’ve seen in troubled relationships. So therefore, the discipline altogether was a waste of energy, emotions, effort, etc.

    My mother laid a very severe guilt trip to me. Yes she has her own caste system in her head, her inconsistencies make it obvious. She has beaten and threatened to kick my sister out of the house in the 2nd grade. Why? Because my little sister got in trouble during swim practice for talking.

    As an adult, when I moved to California; I was able to watch the interactions of Asians from the Peanut Gallery this time. And it all came together.

    Something has to be done to help the Asian parents cope with immigration and how to interface with Western Culture-how to balance things out. They feel alone because this isn’t their world. Americans thrive on individuality and youth, Eastern culture thrives on being part of the whole and ageism. It’s not fair that these demands be made of the Asian children (young and adults) when we were never taught these things in America. Like I said before, I grew up in the Midwest with a .03% non-black minority rate. And most of the “minorities” were half-not full Asians. There were not even any Latinos at that school, that’s how homogenized it was. Because of that, there’s no way I could be fluent in my mothers’ culture or language.

    Maybe the Asian parents can use Church meetings as therapy? Anything constructive. The problem is not the availability, the problem is that asian parents are too proud to admit that they need guidance. Nobody already knows everything and I’m incredibly surprised at the arrogance to admit that they don’t feel comfortable with the deep dynamics between mentalities. IT’s not the children’s responsibility to balance it out for them.

    It’s just a suggestion.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Sumi:

      You said, “And because I’m only half and a female, I realize that anything I say or do won’t mean much to her because my half race doesn’t mean much to her culture.” — I always thought “hapas” are the best of both worlds, not half of each!

      I suppose it is a matter of perspective, and we have the right to choose our own perspective.

      I have no idea what Asian parents can use as therapy (other than alcohol or drugs or shopping, which I think are really bad forms of therapy that happen to be very popular forms of self-medicating.) Church may not be constructive if you congregate with people who seem to feed into the same pathos and who gossip about each other (see previous post from a reader whose parents sat in different pews from her boyfriend because people talk about them at church.)

      I’m not sure there is a solution… every family is different and every family dysfunction may be different even if at face value there appears to be some common threads of pride and cultural conditioning underlining them.

  • Sumi Allen

    Oh apologize about my verbose comment.

    When will Dr. Chin be writing a book? Do you have a book already out? I can’t express my gratitude, kudos. This is way better than the junk that Amy Chiu came up with. Please keep doing this work, I nominate you for the Nobel Peace prize.

    -SA

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I have a book out (The Youngest Light) but it’s not specifically about emotional manipulation. It’s more a personal account of memories I have about my relationship with my parents and my growth through these memories and how I am now able to find peace within my relationship with my parents. I feel no bitterness toward my parents and they were supportive of my writing the book, which I take as a sign that we have all grown through our own painful past.

      I’ve thought about writing something for readers who have experienced this type of pain, but to be honest I’m not sure what I’d be writing. I’m sure I don’t want to write a “self help book.” I’m not interested in perpetuating pain or bitterness or anger — I don’t like feeling miserable and don’t want a book that heightens people’s emotions toward anger and misery and blaming.

      At one point I had an idea of writing a collection of letters for readers who have posted their stories here. I’d take on the perspective of their parents, and write them letters that may bring some peace or healing to these children’s hearts. I’ve been the recipient of such a “healing letter” many years ago, and I loved the feeling of peace I felt even when I knew the letter wasn’t written by my mother.

      Thank you for your gratitude and kudos :)

  • Jon Chang

    I feel for everyone in this blog post. I was emotionally abused by my mother (I’m British Chinese) for more than 20 years of my life. I didn’t know it was emotional abuse all that time – I didn’t know to how describe it. I always knew something was wrong in my life, but didn’t know where it was coming from, because I didn’t feel it was coming from inside me.

    In my teens, like many people in the comments, I always thought it was a racial thing – a Chinese family raising style. Well, it wasn’t. None of the other kids in my community were raised like that. I’ve met a lot of Chinese families that were loving. My brother was never emotionally abused – just me.

    She used to say things like “you should’ve been abortioned”, “you’re a mistake”, “you’re stupid”, “you’re just here to be my pension” over and over, almost daily – and then be nice 5 minutes later. Everything I did was a failure to her; if my brother did the same thing, he was treated like a god. Like I said, in my teens, I didn’t know I was being emotionally abused. I thought I had done something wrong and it was annoyed her.

    She’d humiliate me in front of her and my friends, throw out my schoolwork, ransack my belongings. Everything i said and did was met with negative criticism. Over the years, I learned to be assertive and answer back, only for her to go into some self-centred emotional drama thing like some screaming banshee girl. And I would be accused of starting the trouble!

    However – 5 months ago, I learned about emotional abuse. All the symptons fit. All her behaviour fit. In a way, it was the most empowering find of my life – a relief, because truly it meant there was nothing wrong with me after all. It was about her behaviour.

    I went onto confront her last November – to get accountability from her, to get issues out in the open – and my mum did not feel sorry at all. She didn’t care. She felt it was all justified. Initially my dad supported me and tried to peace make – but my dad has a violent temper (which he used to take on me as a kid). And just two weeks ago he violently attacked me (tried to put my head through a window) and said he’d stand by her, no matter what.

    Yeah, it’s hard for me.

    I have no emotional support from anyone as I go through this. Haven’t had any for almost 4 years. None of my friends return my calls. I have perfectionism problems and feel it’s too late to live my life now – because all my early life has been stolen by my mother’s ugliness. I met all the wrong people, had toxic lovers, did mediocre jobs when inside I knew I was destined for something more – and the dream job I’ve always felt I wanted to do now feels too late to do.

    I feel so down about things now I’m thinking about killing myself. I’ve been reading about suicide techniques all night and the best way to do it. I hate what my life has become – and yet I did nothing to my mum for it to be this way. I hate my life, even though I know there’s so much untapped potential within. But I can’t get to it. I’m SO angry about what’s been done and yet what can anger do? You can’t get back the years, you can’t force people to take responsibility. I feel so angry some days I could hit her – but what does that accomplish? This scares me too, ‘cos I’m not a violent person.

    I didn’t deserve to be abused. I did nothing to her to be treated this way for more than 20 years of my life.

    That’s why the suicidal thinking. Because what’s the point anyway – without emotional support, without best friends, without anyone to believe in you, it’s too late to live life the way you want ‘cos everyone else has decades on you. I can’t get back the years.

    What’s the point of living anymore? There is no point.

    • The Peanut Gallery

      Hi there.
      This is just some feedback from another Tiger Cub. Thank you for existing. Thank you for being who you are.
      Hugs.
      I’m not going to downgrade your situation although I hope you don’t go through with it. Please seek support. You’ve suffered too much for nothing and you don’t deserve to suffer anymore. Suicide is more suffering you don’t deserve. And you won’t be sticking it to your mum the way she deserves so there’s no point of you going through that pain and suffering. And plus, it won’t fix anything.
      But at the end of the day, that’s your choice that sends the wrong message to everyone else. And you’re not alone. It feels that way. But you are not alone in your demise.
      The Eastern Hemisphere-which does thrive on societal conformity whereas the western society thrives on individualism which is why we don’t get the balance or justification for that treament we need in the first place.
      Do not give anyone the gratification of getting to you.
      In my humble opinion, the western society feeds off of self esteem and confidence even if you have to fake it. BUt YOU know what’s good about you, you can’t assume that everyone else already knows. You have to kind of just humbly show them why you’re quality person.
      It’s not a perfect society, however I do suffer discrimination in the Western hemisphere and still managed to find real, quality friends who love me despite my differences.
      There is a way out. Come to San Diego. The caucasians there are fluent on Asian culture and they are very nice and tolerant. I’ve also found good kind people from India who are super kind to be around. And other nationalities who respect Asians for who they are and what we’ve dealt with, along with our cultural values.
      But as soon as you are able, distance yourself from your mother. She’s not accomplishing anything, at the end of the day she’s going to deal with karma. She would much rather deal with a forgiving son.
      You KNOW that you’re a quality person. My mother did this to me, then I was her favorite child when I won a track race or did something impressive in the limelight. That’s when I ended up rejecting her, it was disgusting. CHILDREN DESERVE TO BE BROUGHT INTO A GOOD HOME. It’s an obligation to your parents to provide that to you.

      If you have ambition, LIVE IT!!! Life has serious possibilities for you and if you want, send me an email and I’ll talk to you about it.
      I did anyways, I was successful-even though toxic friends and family discouraged me. It does kind of get lonely at the top, but that’s when you’re going to be able to help others through it.

      I’m so much better for facing my fears. You ARE going to be better off in the long run, God has better plan for you.

    • The Peanut Gallery

      sorry about the 2nd post. I wanted to share a few other things that helped me get through it. First is your education. Bottom line, embrace that with a love or passion for what you want to do with yourself, not by negative reinforcement. I was surprised that I ended up with a harder major than I previously expected.
      Two, take good care of yourself. Mind influences health, but you still need your vitamins and exercise. This will help with the depression Might I also add, Asians are incredibly beautiful, absolutely gorgeous when they work out. You’ll see this if you ever visit the Bay Area. Just trust me on this.
      But cardio gets the blood rushing through my head and clears my mind, which destresses me and I do my best thinking on my runs. It is calming and I can focus. The endorphins also make you feel better. It costs very little, it’s better than abusing alcohol or drugs.
      Three, when you do the right things- the right people will find you. Like speaks to like and you want to surround yourself with quality people. Especially since you have burdens and goals.
      And dogs. Or a good pet. For company. It’s common for most young adults between childhood and marraige to be lonely, especially when situations change and you can’t always be around your best buddies for life so a lot of people get pets for companionship anyways. Besides, people tend to socialize with pet owners more than anyone else. A good dog, as long as you’re responsible and willing to care for it. Good dogs show friendship, kindness, loyalty and enthusiasm for life that you might not get from other people. You can’t change your mum or your dad, but you need to be around a more positive energy. Dogs lack an agenda, except to be fed and loved. My family had a dog and it was my therapy, the constant unconditional and genuine love and affection does help. IF you can’t have have a pet, volunteer at a shelter or volunteer to pet sit or to walk someone’s dog.
      Depression is overwhelming, and it’s really important for you to take care of yourself and your mind. Again, if you feel like you can’t get past it on your own, please seek help. Humans are social animals, we need to be somewhat accepted by others and nobody gets through this life alone.
      It will pass, and when it does you’ll be glad you got through it.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Jon, I am very sorry that you have gone through what you have gone through with your mother. I am also encouraged by you recognizing that you did not — do not — deserve abuse. This is an important first step because often children blame themselves for being abused and they believe they deserved it, this is not true.

      You have every right to be angry, and I don’t recommend shutting down your anger: anger is the correct and appropriate feeling in light of what you have been through. Yet we can also channel that anger in ways that do not further harm ourselves. This is why some people exercise, some people punch pillows, some people find a safe place to scream out loud for as long as they need to scream. Whatever it is, have a controlled outlet that lets you safely get angry, because it is NORMAL to be angry. I’ve been told (and I believe to be true) that depression is anger turned inward. Because you have been angry for a long time, and you have turned this anger inward even as you recognize that you did not deserve abuse, depression manifested as this intense anger turned within. So when you ask what can anger do — anger is a signal that something major has happened that begs to be released in a safe manner.

      The point of living is to be the broken chain in the cycle of abuse and violence in your family: you must live on in order to change your family tree because you are the one who have gained this awareness and level of understanding about what is a healthy way of relating with loved ones, and what is not, including friends who aren’t really friends. There is no need to get back the years, these years are the battle scars you’ve earned and not to be ashamed of. You have come this far and you have survived and you have retained the good and kind person you were born as — this was never lost.

      Now that you have earned your freedom through so many difficult lessons, work on truly setting yourself free to live the kind of fulfilling life (and it can be VERY SIMPLE, free of phony bells and whistles and status symbols that superficial people care too much about and make a sport of competing after) you deserve. And you can have it, it is yours to gain.

      I wish you well, I wish you to be happy, and I wish you to be safe.

  • MB

    Hey
    After reading all the stories here, few things came to my mind. One is that the role of a woman in the society is tough, with many expectations around them right from childhood. And these were more in older generations. Its these expectations and the fear of failing them that gives rise to different situations. I guess we all go thru the same cycle.

    As Dr.Chin suggested, its best to turn the negative into positive and lead the life. I come from a family where my mother was strong that she supported what we did. She did have fears like others, but, she overcame them and allowed us to do what we love rather than follow the rules. So, we were always the rule breakers. She never hit us or gave us high expectations. she did compare the siblings, only as an encouragement, but, not to deny the favors on that cause. She grew up that way, with my Maternal Granny being a very gentle woman who would not say a word. We are asian family. Still, I feel and realised that we were different once I got married. My spouse comes from the family that has the history of abuse. Being abused as a kid, its tough to get out of that thoughts. Given that we want to be loving parents, we spend time as much as possible with our kid.

    Its true that a mother daughter relationship changes over time, and some times goes sour. Again. “Letting Go” of the negative thoughts and diverting them to positive and healthy thoughts is better. Though I had wonderful parents, coming from a joint family, I did have my share of bad and negative reviews. And I do have people who look up to me now. I learnt to not to care for what others think, cos, its never possible to satisfy anyone in this world. The more we try to, the more the expectations will be.
    If we stop caring for what others say (ignore, but not let others realise that we are ignoring), atleast, we can have innerpeace, and do our work. And its my mother who taught me this cos she survived in an asian joint family and today, every one respects her for what she is.

    I just felt like sharing my thoughts. And its my personal experience that the moment I stopped thinking of what others would say or try to please some one, I made good progress in my career and personal life. There is a saying in my mother tongue that when a lion is going on the road, people get scared and run away, but for a dog, they pelt stones. If we feel that we are Lion/Tigress, we can be better.

    Like they say in self development sessions, We are what we want to be, and we can change it with our thoughts and thinking. If we dont want to let others hurt us, no one can. Any one can hurt us emotionally, only if we let them. And that true

    Thanks for this site Dr.Chin. And I wish good luck to all who are trying to lead a better a life.

  • nan

    Hi again Dr Chin, thanks for your support. Can i get your advice on something please.

    I feel that in my life I have actually shut down quite a lot in front of my mum, including leaving out details about my personal life etc. It is not because I don’t like to share, it is because she make judgements about people /simple things inspontaneously and i really hate what she has to say most times.

    She is never interested in any given topic, by that i mean she’s not entertained by the idea and you know be transformed.

    Can I tell you last nite at dinner, I casually said to a family friend I’m considering moving out and then he said he wanted to bring this to my parents attention (even though I said no need), she responded by saying ‘oh good.. I don’t care.. its her life’ etc while body language tilting away and brushing off with a forced fake expression. she acts like she is ‘untouchable’ and she always seeks out a power struggle. You know what i mean, she is defensive. But she is never quite into the idea, the TOPIC being discussed.

    Actually and then what happened after that dinner was, the next day she came to me and wanted to ‘dig’ around that topic, you know she comes up to me and said ‘why did you say you want to move out to x, you know if you want to do this you can talk to me and there’s no need to talk to outsiders about our family things, we have been covering for you for so long, you know x has a big mouth’

    That really pissed me off once again, as you know she attacks people based on her own demons. her own demons being
    * people going to talk trash about her,
    * that what ever i said was risking de-value our family
    * that i can not be trusted to say what i want because i am an adult and have a good head on my shoulders

    (and what shits me even more is that truth being SHE is the problem in our family, in my life.. causing this dynsfuncational family dynamic)

    Also I have no idea what she meant by ‘we have been COVERING for you for so long’.. i have always acted appropriately in my life for my family and for our family friends.

    Now i want to let you know, i very casually said to my family friend during dinner, that i was considering moving out because i wanted more freedom (plus i was feeling quite driven up by nature of my family in which was NOT told to this person). And for my mum to always bring every little thing up back to question me, is just embarrasing and pisses me off. She tend to take very little innocent things i say / do and amplify it by throwing it back in my face (due to her own demons), and question, and seek opportunity to lecture my behaviour.

    And plus what also disturbed me was, as she was talking to me about it, i told her exactly what i said to you that it was just a casual COMMENT, and then she straight away said ‘oh well, you have to let me know in advance so i can pack things for you’…

    You know I feel as if, she keep having ideas about how to act on things that ‘I’ have to deal with. This is another thing Dr Chin she keep having ideas about other people’s lives. She pisses off my dad also, because she always focusing on other people’s actions, and then seek ways to ADJUST them. Do you know what i’m saying… I feel as if she can’t sense ‘peace’, you know when people are just comfortable, and everything is good AS IT IS, she keeps thinking and adjusting peoples behaviour.

    So you know, I’m not comfortable having her in my life.

    Also before i had threw out a teddy bear my ex bf had given me, and somehow she picked it out of the bin and placed it on her own cabnet (which i threw out later on). And also in the past, once she wouldnt drive me to my friends house and then her mum was going to pick me up, and as my friend was on the phone with, she picked up the other line and screamed down at my friend.

    Her actions are disturbing, and not to mention her comments just how she is in general. She victimises her family by setting rules and boundaries in every little tiny aspect and correcting people, the moment you stand up for yourself, she will guilt trip you, becomes a victim herself. And does not recognise when it is HER PLACE to comment or that she should shut up, she thinks because she KNOWS BETTER she has to make a point of this and challenge people by making them see HER POINT (she also pissed off her sister a few times because she keeps making a point at her sister’s sons wedding how many seats were required for the dinner by making her see how many seats she calculated when my aunt was just generalising the numbers, like SHE is smarter and my auntie was ignoring her until she kept getting in her face and my auntie said, YES i know i am calling for x number of tables which will accomodate those people its not like its not enough!)… you know what i mean, she is soo annoying. She like try to make a point being my aunt has not being spot on like her and she is brighter, smarter and had the numbers right and was making it a point infront of everyone, when it is not even her place to be so eager because it is not her son/daughters wedding, she does not know when it’s NOT HER PLACE. And also she can not get the subtle hints when people are distancing themselves by brushing her off, i can’t believe how stupid she is.

    What annoys me is she SEEKS out opportunity to correct people, and SHINE in that correction process, making the person she is correcting feel like inferior. And how humilating it is … she just don’t understand the NATURE of her behaviour is abusive not welcomed by others. She also made my auntie mad (her own sister who she is quite fond of) when we were staying at her house while visiting china, and my aunt was asking everyone what we’re having for lunch etc, and while my dad answers, my mum gets pissy.. because she will make a point that my dad is being insensitive to not consider my aunt house getting messy and we should eat out. And my aunt got pissed off because she kept saying she is ASKING us and she was starting to cook and what the hell is her problem.

    You know I’m sorry this email getting long, but she create situations where because HER POINT is so superior, we should always see her point and HOW CAN WE NOT SEE HER POINT. She totally made up rules in a situation where people are COMFORTABLE, and kind of become the POWER figure. And besides it is my aunt’s house who is she to call the shots, get mad at my dad because he answers he wanted to eat and then imply that it was for the good for my auntie’s cleaniness etc.

    Where she thinks how can we not agree that she has the best solution, we think she has a problem. She tend to not see HER PLACE.

    So Dr Chin thanks so much for taking time to read this, but I guess I’m afraid of how to include her in my life. I know her behaviour is disturbing and i’m in the middle of trying to pull my funds together for a house etc.

    In a way, in moving forward in my life, i want to leave this chapter behind and start new, but then she will still be my mum, and i cant have her coming around start correcting my family life once i do have a family of my own. You know what i’m saying. I really can’t divorce her, but I dont like her behaviour having ideas about other people, correcting people, not knowing her place, never let things BE making up rules and making a point of being superior.

    This is a reason why I have delayed settling down, and I’m considering moving interstates. Please Dr Chin, I guess I wanted to paint you a picture of my situation.. what would you suggest is best way for me to handle this situation in the future.

  • nan

    Hi again, and furthermore today my mum puts me off again, by saying how dissatisfied she is with dad etc, and that her health is getting weak nowadays and once i sort myself out, i can leave home and she has less to attend to and just be by herself (i dont know what happened to dad because he’ll still be there), see how she always talk herself ‘sad’ and negative.

    I hate how instead of peple reassuring each other everything is going to be okay, and not to worry for them no matter what, i hate how she is always dumping burden on me like i’m always under this dark cloud, rather than saying live well, do well make her proud you know, positivity!!!, and you know dumps her daily dose of poor me, negativety and like you have to live your life feeling sorry for her or something.

    i feel as if she lives her life on the energy of negativity, she wants it like it consumes her. what can i do hey..

  • Melissa

    Hello,
    I have since a very young child prayed for my moms happiness. Later in life she told me she was emotionally abused. She is in her 60′s and is still a victim in her mind everything in her life is viewed in her negative light.
    I’m a 40 year old middle child who was the one to take her in after she hit a wall finically.
    My problems with her is she has to be in control over stuff that should not involve her. She acting like a second husband and a fourth child when she don’t get her way.
    I have a hard time (always) explaining my feelings because she takes it as an attacked on her.
    I love and still respect her but I’m a grown woman with a family of my own
    She keeps me in her grips and I’m trying to stand my grounds without pushing her out my life. I feel so lost and at My Whitsun end.

    Melissa

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Melissa, you are a good daughter for taking in your mom. That she behaves like a 4th child is not necessarily a bad thing — because you have experience with 3 children and you probably know how to compassionately course-correct your children’s behavior. You can do the same with your mom: you already have experience teaching a child that tantrums don’t get results and do this in a compassionate manner. Remember, you’re the adult and parent now (both figuratively and literally.)

  • Natalie

    Hello,

    Until I read what everyone has written, I didn’t believe that it was possible that I was being “emotionally abused” I’m currently 20 years old, trying to get into university, and still living with my parents. For many years, I was depressed and at that time, I thought it was due to excess stress from school. Now, I realized that what has been causing all this was likely my mother.

    Since I was little, my mother would completely control me, and mold me to become just like her. Frequently, I would hear her say “My mother did the same to me as I’m doing to you”. What’s different though, was that my mom didn’t care much about my grades (on the outside). Yet, in order to please my mother, I studied long and hard, trying to be a perfect daughter. I became somewhat like her robot. I liked what she liked, hated what she hated, though inside, I didn’t feel this way. I felt that if I wasn’t like her, she would disown me and wouldn’t love me. Eventually, I became this person who wore a mask constantly, because I was scared to be unloved.

    A year ago, I met a wonderful man who helped me conquer many of my fears about going into the world again, after being so isolated. My mother makes me feel guilty whenever I go out with friends so eventually, I lost all my friends. I’ve been wanting to apply to a university, which just so happened to be located in the same country as that wonderful man. He’s persuaded me to be who I want to be, to be successful in my own dreams. Eventually, we just fell in love.

    My mother found out about this man and she went completely crazy. She forbid me to continue on to university, forbid me to see this man, simply because he was not rich nor very smart. What really upset me was that she had never met him, yet still judged him so. My parents were not rich and both of them didn’t even have as much education as he had. After this, my mother isolated me at home, not allowing me to go out, yelling at me whenever she felt angry. She told me that I had disappointed her and that it was wrong to have given birth to me. Simply because I fell in love with someone she deemed “not good enough”.

    What made things worse was that I had two older brothers, both of whom have made their own choices in girlfriends. None of us are born perfect, none of us chose “perfect” companions. Yet I’m the only one punished for it. My brothers even went so far as to convince my mother that she was doing the right thing, and hating me for not thinking about “the family’s future”.

    First, they destroy my self-esteem, then they destroy my future, then lastly my heart. Would it be wrong for me to want to escape, even if it means that I’ll be “bringing dishonor”?

    Natalie

  • Joe

    I am 34, child number 3 of 4 and have major issues with my mom in the past that today in order to be strong I ignore her when she is in a negative vibe with me. My mother is a elementary teacher who manipulates me differently which is the worse than my other 3 sibblings. She has negative feelings with my wife, and during our disagreements she informed me that she will never be proud of me and that I am terrible father. Believing that it is untrue, I replied stating that it is all her fault.

    My brother and her constantly talk trash to bring me down. She talks trash about my married life to my mother in law and I notice the my mother in law is now keeping a distance from her. The reason was that my mom told her that my wife and I should not have a 2nd child until we own a home.

    At this point I have not had a sincere conversation since jan 2012. I keep my visits to a minimum and sometimes skip the gatherings but send my wife and child. This prevents any tension from when we are in the same room. I have no say at all when the tension is in her home that I grew up in. However, I try hard to block out the guilt and manipulation but still do feel very much hated with big anger from her. I do this to stay strong for my wife and daughter who need me. I appreciate any advise even if means to keep things at a very minimum to keep my wife and daughter unaffected. I really want to escape and make visits only twice a year but I do not know if it is the right thing to do.

  • Chare

    Hello.

    Wow–I see this post is still relevant even six years after it was first published! I stumbled on your website after I had a fight with my mother which was, as usual, over something highly trivial but ended up in tears and left me feeling completely incapacitated to do anything else. I Googled “fights with parents” and found tips on how a mainstream North American teenager (haaaaa I wish I were still a teenager, then maybe we’d have an excuse for our fights) might communicate with his/her parent, but I wanted something that was more culturally-specific (I know from experience that many of the tips they suggested wouldn’t work), and I found this page.

    First, I’d like to thank you for sharing your experiences with everyone. The solidarity that we, complete strangers, might feel for each other is so wonderful.

    It is hard to remember that I cannot expect a rational and reasonable adult conversation with my mother, that we she will never accept responsibility for anything negative until at least five years has passed if at all, that my mother does not intend to guilt-trip me but rather she learned this from her mother (and from what I hear, her mother is much worse). It is hard to remember that some times, my mother is looking for a fight and there is no way out of it no matter how much I watch my words. It is hard to remember that despite our fights, we still love each other. It is hard to remember that I cannot change how she views me, or that I give her the power to make me upset. It is, most of all, hard to remember that I don’t need her approval.

    What your post suggests makes perfect sense–on paper. But I don’t know if I’m able to resist asserting myself when I feel she is being unreasonable. I feel like, as an individual who was raised in a very western, individualistic society, I need to set my boundaries of what is or isn’t appropriate for her to say to me, or an appropriate or inappropriate way to have a discourse with me, or else be forever walked over. I need to honour myself! I need to practice speaking up for myself, but I’m not sure that will ever be possible without just more heartache and tears! Is it really the best to just accept and stop resisting? Is there no way for me to relate this in a way that even the most “Asian” of Asian moms will understand? Is there no way for my mother to finally see me as an adult who is capable of carving out my own life with my own relationships, and that the role I expect from her, my mother, is to stop being so childish and to support me emotionally the way I think mothers should?? (okay, okay, I know I’m asking for too much with that last one, haha)

    Sometimes, I catch myself saying, “I told you so!” or being passive aggressive. Sometimes, I find it hard to forgive people and I hold meaningless grudges. Sometimes, I have a hard time saying I’m sorry. When this happens, I cringe, and I hope that I won’t continue down this road and end up like mom-junior.

    In any case, thanks again for sharing your story with the world and for allowing this space for dialogue about this issue. It really means a lot.

  • BR

    Oh my god. It’s really not just me.

    I grew up feeling alone and severely trapped in life because of my relationship with my mother. It’s more or less wrecked my life and my self-confidence. Which is weird, because I consider myself to be an ambitious person. I really want to put myself out there. There’s so much I want to accomplish, but my relationship with my mother is holding me back.

    Only now I’m turning to self-help books to re-teach myself to think and react and evaluate myself so I know how to deal with her behavior better. I wish I had met people like this sooner.

    You know, I do feel bad that I’m not the perfect daughter or everything she sees in everyone else’s daughters or what she sees in celebrities on Korean TV. This made me greatly dislike myself. I am upset that I can’t be what she wants me to be, at the same time I realize no matter what I do I can never be what she wants me to be.

    For example- she wants me to be extroverted and more outgoing. She wants me to spend more time with her. But every time I go out with her or try to be more social, not only am I insulted, but the people I associate with are insulted too. She still call me ugly or fat in public and then she wonders why I hide myself all the time.

    I’m very understanding. It’s not just her. She learned this abusive behavior from her own family. Pretty much everyone in my family is like this. And while I feel bad for her, I can’t be an emotional sponge for this kind of behavior. It’s not healthy for me.

    I understand that she’s ultimately thinking of me (or at least I’m trying to remained convinced of that even though I acknowledge that it might not be 100% true). I want to help her, but it’s so difficult being around her and I don’t feel like I can help her without throwing away everything I enjoy about life.

    I might be smart and understand English, but I am her daughter… not her husband! I want her to understand this.

    I want to get along well with her. She’s my mom and even though there are times I hate her, she is still my mom. I know I probably will never get the kind of mother-daughter relationship that I see from other people (and I’m jealous), but I still would like her to be proud of me just for being me… and not because what I do happens to line up with something she wants.

    Sorry for how long this is. But thank you for this article. Knowing I’m not by myself really helps me a lot. And it makes me realize even more that if I continue to feed into her destructive behavior, I could be stuck like this forever.

  • AP

    Wow. I should’ve thought of this EONS ago! I, much like Chare, stumbled upon this website after having yet another no-win argument with my mother (we are Filipino) that ended with me crying (because she just wouldn’t listen to reason and just totally discredited all the help I gave her the past year in caring for my niece here at home) and literally screaming to be heard! One of our worst fights so far, her being her usual “i am not hearing what you have to say because you are wrong and I am always right”, me being extremely angry due to this being an emotional time (am juggling studying for my diplomate board exams and planning my wedding, something I never thought I would do, and now that I am actually getting married, I am so overwhelmed with everything that a wedding should and should not be, not to mention having to deal with my mother’s usual rants about what an ungrateful daughter I am, how selfish my younger sister is, how everyone except her is so incompetent, etc).

    I am in such a tough spot here. And have been ever since my younger sister and mom started disagreeing on almost everything. That was when I was in HS. I’ve always been in the middle, and I’ve never liked my roles as mediator, snitch, protector, interpreter, cushion, you name it, I have been in the middle of it all. Currently, my sister’s 6 y/o daughter lives with us (parents and me), while my sister is living with her boyfriend, with whom she has a 2 y/o son with. From the time I graduated from residency up to December 2011, I took care of my niece daily, even had to skip many dates or outings since I had to watch her. I even told my mom that she was lucky to have me at home all that time to act as a nanny, which she was very happy about, because she could do as she pleased, at least until the evening, which would be my time “off-duty”. My only request was come January 2012, I’d be hands-off the nannying so I could focus on my examinations. To which my dad and her agreed to. But, with a manipulative, controlling, selfish mother, I knew this would never be something clear cut and regular.

    True enough, it wasn’t. Whenever she wasn’t “feeling well” or was “too tired” or “too busy with the house renovations” or had a “meeting with the church ladies and bible group” (the list goes on), she never thought twice about letting me fill in. It got to the point (twice already) that I had to talk head-on about really having to focus and to not be a nanny AT ALL. It worked, for awhile. Problem is, when I CAN help out, I do, but I’ve noticed that when I do that, my mom starts to abuse my voluntary help and begins on a daily basis to guilt-trip me into taking care of my niece. I love my niece, but there’s one thing you have to understand: I generally do NOT like children. So taking care of her for 9 months was a HUGE thing for me. I did it because I wanted to let my mom relax awhile, and I love my niece. But seriously, laying the responsibility on me is not right. What my mom likes to say when she’s really angry is why can’t I take care of her and study at the same time, I should be able to handle it because there are many student-parents who do that. Also, that is what parents do, she says, so I should do it. Her favorite argument is WE ARE A FAMILY (so do what I say). WTF kind of reasoning is that! FYI MOTHER, I AM NOT A FREAKIN’ PARENT AND I AM NOT GOING TO SUFFER FOR THE MISTAKES MY SISTER MADE!! Also, my sister is NOT dead or incapable. She wants to take my niece in, but it’s my PARENTS who want my niece to stay at our home 5 days out of the week! My sister says “but who will care for her when you have chores to do?” and my mom quips “it’s ok, your sister is at home anyway”. My activities are limited because I have to act as nanny for her, and my mom doesn’t even acknowledge that. To her, it’s my obligation because she says so.

    Our fight earlier on was because she asked me to give my niece a bath, and when I refused, she said she doesn’t understand how I can go out visit my friend at the hospital or give time to have my dog groomed, but not use my precious “break time” to give my niece a bath. If break time meant becoming unnecessarily stressed and agitated, then I would gladly give my niece a bath. (remember, I do NOT like children nor taking care of them in any way) When I still said No, she ended up screaming at me, telling me how selfish I am, how MANY parents study and care for their children at the same time (ohmygod.i am not a parent.how unreasonable her argument is!!!), blahblahblah. It’s the usual no-respect-for-her-kids-because-they-are-her-kids principle she has built upon since we were young. We never had privacy, she always rummaged through our desks looking for and reading our diaries, and up to now, during lectures, repeats things we wrote when we were prepubertal, to strengthen her argument about us being bad seeds and ungrateful children. Also, this is quite weird, she says we have no right to ask her to leave the bathroom while we are on the toilet because she is our mother and she has seen all our body parts (I wonder if she’s the only one who does this? she really loves to bother me while I am doing #2, talking/shouting/ranting 3-5 steps away from the toilet bowl, and gets SO UPSET when I ask if we could talk after I am done. I don’t understand why she can’t give that piece of privacy! It drives me NUTS!)

    My opening story is long, so sorry, but i had to get it out. I am SO frustrated and I’ve been this way ever since highschool. As a child of a controlling manipulative conservative mother, I was never allowed to spend time with my friends outside of school, hence was unable to form very close friendships with HS peers. During college, my mom allowed me to go out, but only until about 7pm, preferably only once a month. During medschool, I rented an apartment (medschool was so hard but living alone and only having to see my mother one day out of 7 in a week made up for it), but my mom expected me to be at the apartment at all times after school hours, or at the most, be back by 10pm. I had to make a very difficult decision for intership: either I applied for a position at my medschool, which meant another year of paying 11k/month for my rent (my dad was out of work at the time, so they paid out of their savings), or apply for internship at a hospital near my home, meaning I had to live back home again. I chose the latter, being that I felt bad about the financial expense when I could be saving them 132k for that year alone by living at home. During that year, it was difficult to adjust being scolded and nagged everyday after 4 years of blissful separation, but I got through it. Rather, tolerated it. It’s their home, I should obey the rules, right? Mother relented to allowing me to go out once a week, with a 12mn curfew. Residency came, and same thing, once a week was more than enough. If she noticed I had consecutive outings, she’d be on my back about it nonstop for a few days. Sounds benign, but the things that count in a horrible mother-daughter relationship like ours are the small daily things. Like, even at 30, I am not free of telling white lies about where I am going, who I am seeing, or my plans for the night, because she scrutinizes everything I do, where I go and what time I’ll be back, and if it were up to her, I’d be home ALL THE TIME. Problem is, when I DO satisfy that request of hers, she complains that I spend too much time with my bf (but we’re HOME in the DEN, what more does she want?!), and forces me to sleep at 12mn because she knows that I AM TIRED AND I NEED TO REST (wtf). Also, she doesn’t see the importance of having friends who you can not benefit from. Friendships to her must be a take-take relationship, otherwise, who needs them. They will just end up using you (she used to relish telling me and my sister that; that we didn’t need friends, just family, because in the end, our friends will just use us, turn on us and eventually desert us until there will be no one to turn to but family!!!-she repeated this with zeal)

    She prefers I stay indoors after work hours, because if I am out often, what will other people think? I’m not allowed to commute because I might get raped or killed, and in her opinion, parents who allow their children to commute do not love their kids as much as she loves my sister and I.

    I am very skilled at filtering my stories on just about anything; when I was young, I learned to not be open about a lot of things, especially stories about other people or friends, because in an argument, she loved to recall these stories and use them against me. My bad for bringing them up (yes, everything is my fault and never hers). I can say that I have perfected the skill of acting open with her, at the same time not being open at all, just so I can keep the nagging at bay. She probably tells her “friends” (I use that term in the most loose way possible) that we have a close bond because I talk with her, but that is soooo far from the truth. Being truly open with her is voluntarily (and stupidly) opening an enormous can of rotting worms and having them stuffed in your mouth piece by piece, making you savor each and every bite and not allowing you to vomit nor spit, not even a little. It’s pretty much a direct road to depression, self-loathing and despair, and I’ve learned from it.

    My friends have some pretty crazy mothers and fathers to deal with themselves, but the difference between their parents and my mother is that their parents have redeeming qualities. My mother does NOT. She gives, but with ulterior motives. She treats household help like the poor people they are. When she donates money, she would prefer to have her name written on the envelope and have it announced during an event where many people could hear of her “generosity”. She has repeatedly told my sister and I that we have no right to get angry, or to frown, or to be sad or mad, because we are just her children. What she says goes. Opinions (not to her liking) are unheard of in our household, and to try to have one that doesn’t sit well with her is a one way ticket to an endless sermon that could last for days, even weeks.

    Like you, I used to think my dad was so kind for loving her, but now that I am mature and know better, I know that by being agreeable and wanting to avoid confrontation, he only cultivated her unacceptable behavior, creating more of a self-righteous monster throughout their 37 years together. But, we must remind ourselves that women as strong-opinionated, aggressive, and calculating as her know how to pick their men, and they like them passive and weak. Minus points for my dad. He rarely fights for us, and when he does, he never wins. If he does, they’ll be on non-speaking terms for awhile. No one wins with her, and that’s the way she likes it. I’m appalled sometimes when my dad tries to help around the house, and she shuts him up by telling him to mind his own business, he doesn’t know anything about the house so he should stop trying to help. On the other hand, there are times when he adds nothing contributory to her household rantings, and she gets SO angry at him, berating him for living in a house that he knows nothing about! Crazy, I tell you! She acts like she is so misfortunate to have a husband who does not know his way around the house, sleeps all the time when not in the office, plays golf on his off-days, visits his relatives during weekday lunch break, and can’t keep a desk clean! Yes, those are her “woe is me” complaints about him. Doesn’t she realize that she’s lucky to not have a cheating husband? that he has NO VICES but golf? that he provides for us SO WELL (yes we are very well off, probably the only silver lining in my life-with-mom saga) without wanting much in return except to peacefully sleep off the weekend?? she puts him down all the time for enjoying basketball tv, for loving golf, for loving sleep, and for having a messy desk. Seriously, I am NOT exaggerating. Those are the main reasons she feels she deserves to be treated like a God; because she has to “put up” with a “man like him”. And she is so evil, she talks smack about his family every chance she can. About his sister (my godmother who is one of the KINDEST, most SELFLESS persons I know) who does things without thinking and is too stupid (because she is too kind) for her own good; about his other sister whose son committed suicide (I think because of his overbearing father), that she was never there for him and she allowed him to be raised by his nanny, which she should never have done because it made her less of a mother; about his aunt who she just doesn’t like (because my parents loaned money from her to build our house, and she was asking for them to pay her back, which my mom felt was inappropriate [omg, you should see my mother when someone owes her money...she will be at their back DAILY until she is paid; not only that, she will see to it that she spreads the word of how evil they are for borrowing money they can't pay back on time!!]). The term DOUBLE STANDARD sooo sums up what type of person my mom is. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. She’s uber skilled at turning situations around in which the other person will end up being the villain, never herself (for she is great and divine and untouchable).

    My dilemma at the moment is I am getting married in July, and she (the controlling person she is) has planned out our life. She had our old home renovated (she attests to having used “blood, sweat and tears” to have it fixed up so nicely, my fiance and I should be grateful to her because NO OTHER PARENT would do what she has done for us), and has literally FORCED ME to “ask” her for it. She did this because she said she doesn’t want us to blame her in the future for giving us the house, so she wants us to “be humble enough” and ask for it, out of our own free will. Free will my ass. Since it took months for her to hear even a peep of a request from me regarding the house, she one day practically forced it down my throat. “Do you want the house? DO YOU want it? DO YOU??!??! DO YOU?!?! DO YOUUUUUUU?!??!?!?!?!?!” complete with menacing eyes and “you’d better say yes or else I’ll eat you alive and spit you out!” kind of look. You know how manipulative she can be. I had to say yes. Truthfully, I’d rather live in my fiance’s small condo unit. That way, we wouldn’t have my mother barging in at any and all times of the day, rearranging our furniture, basically running our lives, feeling that she has the right to make decisions for us because we’re technically living in her house. I knew it was too good to be true for her to not ever meddle in my lovelife, but that fantasy fizzled last week. She’s starting. She suggested that my fiance change jobs in order to better provide for me; it doesn’t matter if he enjoys what he is doing now (he has a small business that he enjoys managing because he feels that he is helping other people by providing work for them, and promoting Philippine-made products at the same time), because he’ll probably enjoy a boring desk job if it brings him more money. That’s another thing with her-her life is based on MONEY. You are worthless if you aren’t from a similar background. Or at the very least, not worthy to be treated with respect. I LOATHE that about her. Why she much make everything about money is beyond me. She can’t understand why my sister, despite how “priveleged” we are in life, chose to be with a man who lives in a townhouse in an ugly part of town. She can not FATHOM why she did that, up till now. (to be fair to her, she enjoys living there because there is no pressure to live a certain way or act a certain way; his mother is completely accepting and kind, non-judgemental, and open-minded, traits our mother do not and have not ever possessed)

    What can I do? I am so torn. I can not be financially free from my parents because I still have a clinic to set up, also, refusing the house would really equate to being disowned. It’s a no-win situation. If I were the least bit unstable I would have probably committed suicide a long time ago, or even possibly have physically hurt my mother in some way. My sister, that’s another issue. She’s always had it worse than I did, being the younger, rebellious one. She slashed herself numerous times, had bfs early, did badly in school, wasted her nursing scholarship in the US, married early, got pregnant, is currently being annulled, got pregnant again, and finally left our home. Now, every time she is here to visit or just have a family meal, our mother finds some reason to start a purposeless argument, and they end up on bad terms. And mother wonders why my sister doesn’t come around often. Hmm.

    Being her daughter is extremely difficult. She’s hard to get along with; when she gets angry at one person in the house, she must spread that anger to everyone else as well; everything makes her angry if she’s not in the mood; to get on her good side, you must say yes to what she wants and must always have a smile on your face (because no one has a right to be upset in this household, it is not our right).

    My sister and I are adopted. I sort of feel that my mom treats us like property, and since she “bought” us, she deserves to get what she “paid” for. Why couldn’t she get robots instead? I feel she would be happier with them than with us. Robots don’t feel, they don’t have emotion, they can’t talk back, they can be intelligent, and you can program them to be affectionate with you and even worship you. My mother probably feels that she a right to getting what she wants from us because we were so “lucky” to be chosen by her. Hence, we owe every second of our lives to the woman who made us who we are today. She used to love reminding us that she has taken care of us since we were babies, so we should forever be grateful. I think that the fact that we haven’t lived up to her expectations just pisses her off. Not a good deal in her book.

    I probably did something really bad in my past life to have been abandoned by my birth mother, only to find myself in the arms of a freak. Unlike your other letter senders, I can’t bring myself to respect or love my mom wholly; maybe I love her “just because” she is the woman who raised me, but I can never LIKE her as a person because I don’t agree with the way she acts and how she treats people. She is hypocritical (I am not religious because she was my main role model for religion growing up-who can put his/her total faith in a God who this CRAZY person worships?!), self-serving and unkind. She is a horrible excuse for a woman, and since I know there is no way out of this until her death, my only hope is that she passes before my father does, because if he dies before her, I, being the older child, have no choice but to take her in. What a terrifying thought.

    The only lesson I have learned from living with her is to NOT be like her. I told my fiance that when we are married, he has to TELL ME when he feels I am crossing boundaries. I don’t want a man who agrees with everything I say and do just because he wants to avoid arguments, I want someone to tell me when I am wrong, when I am being mean, when I am turning into someone I vow never to be like.

    Oh, when will this cycle ever end. I have given up hope for her to change or become kind and understanding. She has only gotten worse through the years. There was a time I liked her, but I was prepubertal then; you only see the best in your parents at that age. When I tell my friends about her, they ask, is she menopausal? I guffaw and say, yes, 15 years ago!!! They laugh. They actually get a kick out of my “crazy mom” stories, and I even have a friend who offered to make a comic strip out of our “situations”. Oh, wouldn’t that be fun. My mom, the one person who wants people to think she has created the perfect family, would be the main character in a comic strip about a homemaker from hell. Nice.

    Everyday is a struggle. I want to become the best me I can be, but how can I do that when she wants to control every little step I make, every one of my decisions, from what I’m wearing to how I talk on the phone, from how I act around other people, etc etc. I’m only 30, but I can’t see how life can be better for me, whether or not I pass the boards or get married, because she will always be there, controlling my life, criticizing my decision, putting me down when I decide to do something she disapproves of, and now, trying to control my fiance’s life as well.

    One thing’s for sure. I will not have children unless I will be the one caring for them. Most definitely, I will NEVER let my children be raised by her. The cycle will stop with me.

  • BD

    So glad I found this sight! This sounds like my mom – and I thought my sister and were alone in this. It appears by this article that the attitude of mothers like this is an Asian stigma – but my family is very Caucasian, several generation American, and this is how our mother acts. So I believe this mother manipulation must span all ethnicities.
    My dad has said something to me that I think all parents and children should follow – Worry about being a good mother, not a good daughter.
    Parents should be happy if their children are happy. And we adult children should worry about growing into good parents, being good parents, and supporting our own growing family. But when a parent is miserable and upset at you at a time that she should be happy for you, it destroys you.

  • Jo

    hi, I was just reading the storeys on this site and guess who phoned – Mum!
    So glad I stumbled upon this site. I have questioned her behaviour for some time now but because she’s Mum I used to blindly believe her, n still do at times. Abusive comedy I now refer to it as. I was dianosed with epilepsy when 8 and I’ve always felt like i’ve had to hide it, like it was a burden I had to carry on my own. I’ve forgiven Mum recently though she still tries to push my buttons but I learnt from my experiences that laughing at thyself weaknesses and something Ellen- a meditation teacher told me that has stuck with me- there’s only one person that control u – u.
    Yes much easier said than done! I say this every time I see Mum and tell myself she’s a human first and a Mum second

  • a person typing

    Thank you for this post. I’m an Asian female grappling with how to tell my Asian mother that I’m aiming to become an officer in the military, so I’m bracing myself for an incoming guilt complex whammy. But if I can weather it, I know I will be stronger for it, and can only pray our relationship will come out somewhat intact in the end…

  • Andy Wu

    Dear Jane,

    I like your article and your answers very much. Actually, I am a Chinese.

    Recently, I’ve read several articles about emotional manipulation. Unfortunately, I found that I am a typical person with emotional manipulation issue. It is until now I figure out why my girlfriend dump me. I really hate myself, but I don’t know a way to cure this mental illness.

    I’ve searched almost all the articles talking about emotional manipulation written in Chinese. However, these articles just tell me how to recognise people with the issue of emotional manipulation and how to deal with these people, none of them have taught me how to cure this psychological illness if someone found himself has this problem.
    I found this illness so terrible and I don’t want my life ruined by this.
    Fortunately, I know English and find this website.
    Could you please help me? Do you to how cure my desire of emotional manipulation? I do want to get rid of it no matter how hard the solution will be.

    Sincerely
    Andywu from China.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Dear Andy,

      I’m sorry that you are experiencing a lot of suffering and pain around emotional manipulation (whether you are creating it or receiving it, I believe the source of pain is similar.)

      Usually there is a perception of ‘benefit’ you believe you are receiving when you manipulate others. Find this belief in yourself if you want to tackle the root cause. Often the belief is related to, “I am not valuable or worthy as a human being” or some similar belief.

      This belief then leads a person to find ways to “trap” (usually by using guilt) another person into staying or doing something.

      It may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional (psychologist or therapist) and discuss the root causes of the belief that the only way to get what you want from people is through trapping them with emotions, as opposed to risking rejection (people saying, “no, I really don’t want to do that”) and accept yourself when you feel rejected. We sometimes equate being rejected as being “unworthy as human beings” and this causes us to avoid the feeling of rejection or any perceived rejection.

      Getting help is important because you deserve to be at peace with yourself and how you feel about yourself within. When you are at peace with yourself, you will no longer need to manipulate others to behave a certain way.

      Best wishes for your journey –
      Jane

  • http://Chinspirations.com Nicole Middleton

    Dear Jane, I love your article and honestly I do not know where else to turn for help. I am 17 years old and still living at home with my mother. I will be a senior this upcoming school year but at this rate I had rather end my own life than deal with this another year.

    My mother is emotionally abusive in the ways you described in your article, for example she tells me I do not love her and I do not do well enough in school ( I have perfect grades, 97 and above in every class all year) and that I have no consideration for the fact that she has to work to buy me things. On the other hand she more often exhibits a more troubling behavior, where she screams and yells at the top of her lungs. She seems to get so angry over nothing. This morning she woke me up at 5:19 AM and screamed at me because I threw away a shampoo bottle that she believed wasn’t empty enough. She made me go did it out of the trash can and when I brought it back and apologized she continued to yell. This is a typical day for me and when I hear footsteps down the hall I cringe and pray to God that it is not her and if it is, she is at least happy today. This all got worse around the time that she met her husband. Another thing is, I clean the house every single Thursday. This includes her room and her bathroom. NOONE helps me. Sometimes she sits on the couch and watches and complains about how she is so tired. Yet, she works the same shifts as all my friends moms and they still help their child clean. And if I miss one speck of dust I get yelled at and shunned for days. She literally tells at me every single day and I rarely get a full nights sleep before school because she wakes me up over an hour early yelling. Sometimes I replay the words she says over and over in my head “I loathe you, I cannot stand to look at you, you make me sick.” I never ever argue back with her and I do not know what to do anymore. I always say yes ma’am and I’m sorry but it never helps anything. I just really want to know, is this normal? Should I not be going so crazy? Please someone help me!

  • ni

    I wish all of us in the forum could meet, but I’m happy i found this place.
    I know my parents love their children, but their expectations are suffocating. My parents run a business and everything we do evolves around it. They said ” your studies are your number one priority”. They’d call us if something happens with the business and one of us siblings have to go and solve it. We’re always on-call for them. When we tell them, “manage the business on your own, or downsize the business”
    Parents: we’ve tried to downsize, or get extra help, but no success. Don’t say we didn’t try. whey don’t you try. Don’t just tell me theories, why don’t you do in practical too?
    Children thinking: Didn’t you say our studies were our priorities?

    It’s too much to write everything.

    These days, we’ve been having heated arguments, almost once every week. At the end of the arguments;
    Parents: We’re your parents, so you have to respect us. Even if we’re wrong your shouldn’t be saying this and that. Even if you work very hard and have education, if you don’t make your parents happy/satisfied you’ll never succeed in life. So, make sure to watch your words and actions.

    I just want to scream and cry out sometimes.
    I think my parents are afraid we’d become independent and leave them in their old age and not look after them. They should realize they’ve ingrained in us, the desire to take good care of them when they’re older. My siblings and I have always been careful not to cross the unspoken boundaries in every aspect of life (dating, hanging out with friends, college away from home, etc.). They should have enough trust in us to let us find our identity and our own lives. Without the success that comes through independence, how can we have the means to look after them when they’re old?
    I had friends in high school, because you meet them almost everyday at school. When college started I started loosing contact with my friends and never made new friend because I don’t go out at all. Because I felt guilty if I were to hang out with friends. Now, two years after college, I don’t even have any friends. Even my best friend from high school I don’t contact with her anymore. Maybe I’m depressed?
    I really want my family to go to a family counselors who will be able to understand the culture and help us resolves our family issues. But I know that even the idea of going to a counselor (asking someone else for help), my father will be against it, for sure.
    My solution: Not to argue or say anything anymore. Just keep silent or just agree with them on the outside. Try my best to meet people, have a social life, because social life is very important for career success. Have my eyes and mind set on my goal to get into med school and become a a gynecologist. That should keep me busy enough.
    I pray that my parents will come to understand their children very soon.

    ~Ni.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Ni, it is true that as children our priority was *supposed* to be studying, but the reality of life often forces us to become “super children” along the same lines of mythos as the “super women” (you know, those of us who are supposed to be fantastic mothers, incredible wives, and ascend to become CEOs of our careers.) Hence, we find ourselves riddled with the expectation of being the best in school and everything else including turning around businesses that our parents mismanage… never mind companies spend a lot of money hiring *experts* and even new CEOs to turn around their failing businesses.

      If you are suspecting that you are suffering from depression, please make an appointment with a counselor / therapist and discuss what is happening, and whether you need a strategy that includes professional health services. I did this and wished I did this much sooner (I was in my mid 20s) — it literally saved my life and I’m proud that I was strong enough to finally ask for help.

      Even though you have resolved not to argue and say anything, based on your feelings of guilt and inner turmoil I’m wondering if maybe you have simply internalized that argument and turned your anger inward (that is what depression is about.) This is why I urge you to speak to a professional and look for strategies to help you with an internal dialog that works to foster your inner strength when dealing with a lot of external negativity.

      My thoughts are with you!

  • http://N/A somebodyspecial

    Jane, I love that you encouraged Anonymous— as its easy to see that this is a better family-ones who are willing to help you grow even when you are not 100 percent -at least you try and thats cool-Jane youre a great friend to champion a person beaten down by family expectations. whats important here is to lose the critic.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Thank you, somebodyspecial.

      I personally understand how painful these experiences can be, how it can influence how I view myself and my self worth. I also know how difficult this is to “manage.”

      I am 100% for “expectations” as an expression of elevating the esteem of another person, in other words, the worst thing we can do to someone is to be apathetic to their lot in life. HOWEVER, I am against “emotionally manipulative expectations” because this becomes a way for family members to leverage the intrinsic need we have to seek their approval to hurt our own ability to fully evolve into who we are as human beings.

      Over time, I do notice that we end up becoming our own abusers: even when those critics are gone from our lives (our parents will die one day), we have learned to keep that recording alive and strong by constantly feeding it. This has been what harmed me the most — I realized one day that “hey, this is no longer mom speaking, this is me beating myself up.”

      We have value. We have something worthwhile to contribute. Let’s remember this about ourselves.

  • Ronda

    Dear Jane,
    I have a manipulating mother. I am not a psychiatrist by any means but feel that she has narcissistic personality disorder. She cannot or will not own anything that has occurred in my childhood. In her mind it just did not happen and it was all a figment of my imagination from sexual, physical and metal abuse was all a horrible dream of me and my sister. So 40 years later I have deep resentments towards her and I know I need to be free of this so she does not have the power to control who I am as a Mother, Wife or Friend. I distance myself from her and she phoned this past Saturday with a message for me to call. I called her back Sunday night and 10:00 p.m. and the conversation went like this. My Mom: I left a message days ago for you to call!!! When I leave a message – you call me back! Me: That is what I am doing!! Did you not hear you phone ring!! Mom: I had a party to invite you to Sunday for Father’s Day.. but you missed it – cause you didn’t call me back. Me: Oh well I had plans Sunday, couldn’t of made it anyway. By the time we hung up she had mentioned that I didn’t call her back at least 10 more times.
    How do I handle someone like this? Should I just not speak to her at all? I realize she is a sick person and God would not want me to abandon her, but how do you have boundaries with someone who will not respect them at any and all cost…..:((

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      It sounds like this is the main way your mother knows how to have a conversation with you, so one of the ways is to view this as neutral as possible (“this is the only way she knows how to communicate with me, and she is obviously trying hard to communicate with me.”)

      The truth is that you need to set yourself free of this. If you don’t feel free of this, it is not because someone external is chaining you and keeping you prisoner. It is because you have learned to become your own prisoner, you have taken over your mother’s role and making yourself feel very guilty for what you think you “should” have done or “should” be doing for her.

      Here’s how I see the conversation going:

      Mom: I left a message days ago for you to call!!! When I leave a message – you call me back!

      You: Oh, OK, I hear you.

      Mom: I had a party to invite you to Sunday for Father’s Day.. but you missed it – cause you didn’t call me back.

      You: Oh dear, I missed the party. That’s really nice of you to have a party for Father’s day.

      Mom: You didn’t call me back! You didn’t call me back! You didn’t call me back! You didn’t call me back!

      You: That’s true, I didn’t call you back immediately, that same day. This is true.

      There is nothing for you to gain by arguing with your mom: she is factually correct in that you didn’t call her back IMMEDIATELY. You are factually correct in that you did call her back EVENTUALLY. So make this a non-argument and more of a conversation where she needs to hear herself affirmed. You can affirm her without giving up your integrity by stating the facts in a neutral manner.

      But the biggest work you need to do is within yourself, where you are still beating yourself up for not living up to whatever expectations someone else (mother) has of you, and in turn you become resentful of her, when she in reality does not hold power over you. It is not as if she physically locked you up in a room — but you have learned to take her negative messages, compiled an extended-mix recording, and play it inside your head constantly. You’ve gotten used to this mixed tape, and one of the ways you can change this is to change the tape — make yourself a new mixed tape. It’s not easy (I know, because I have personal experience) but it can be done, and it is our responsibility to be better parents to ourselves than how our parents have been parenting us, because we know ourselves more intimately than anyone else.

      • Carol

        Hi Jane

        I found out your website after I had been emotionally abused by my mum for 4 hours involving yelling, tears, blames, and condescending words. This is one of many in the last however many years. I think everyone to hear my story will think I am hopeless, because I read some of people’s comments here that at least they are ABLE to have an argument with their manipulative parents. But I am not and I am just trying to take it at all my costs.

        It is all centred on one thing – the Asian culture of filial piety. It is not an evil culture itself, as not all Asian parents are deemed to manipulate their children with this, but when parents begin to use it to gain power and control over their children, is that still a good thing that Asian civilisations should be proud of?

        I am 32 and married this year. I came to Australia 11 years ago to study at university. My mum has a number of severe personality disorders – obsessive compulsive personality disorder, hoarding, narcissism, borderline personality disorder, psychological manipulation etc. She is not aware of any of these and never tried to see a professional (she wouldn’t have a clue what psychology is). I can’t suggest taking her to see a professional. So I don’t expect this ever to change.

        My mum’s purpose to give birth to me is for investment. She uses the concept of Asian filial piety to make sure she is making profit from her investment.
        She has spent so much money in raising me, so I am working now, it is time to pay back. Before I got married, she controlled all my income, as my money was her money. Now I am married, she demanded us to pay all her living expenses (groceries, utilities, pocket money, airfare etc). She claimed that she had no savings left whatsoever as she has spent all her money on me. Now I don’t look after her, she will be homeless eating rubbish on the street. But in fact, I know she has money.

        No matter what I do, she is always disappointed about things that I should do to worship her that I didn’t do and compare me to other people’s kids on how criminal I am that she is so bad luck to have me as her child. She will collect these things to put together a 3-4 hours emotional attack. She blames me for everything she is not happy with – my husband, my husband’s parents and her own bitter life – she was divorced 25 years ago and not re-married; she is alone with no partner now; she lives in Australia but doesn’t know English; she has no transportation; she hoards to live in a rubbish tip; she missed lucrative property market instead she spent money on me; All these sacrifices need to be paid off.

        She claimed to have severe heart conditions. She will have heart attack any time, so we have to live with her to care for her. And we have to obey her unconditionally and not to make her angry, because she will have heart attack if she is angry. Once she stayed with us for 6 months and I received 3 emotional attacks. Would anyone want to live with a person with such serious mental issues and abuses you constantly for the rest of her life?

        I don’t say anything during those attacks other than agreeing with all the accusations. If I dare to say anything, I will be accused for making excuses and triggering another God knows how many more hours. Once in an attack that she rang me 39 times to try to get hold of me for a 2nd day attack, I told her I felt very depressed and wanted to commit suicide. She ignored me. I repeated. She said “so you think you are innocent then?” She said her biggest mistake in her life is to give birth to me cos when I was born I didn’t tell her that I would treat her like this.

        If someone asks me if my mum loves me or not, I will not be confident to say Yes. She never and ever cared how I feel. She only thinks about herself and what benefit she could get from me because I need to follow Asian filial piety.

        I am not sure if someone else is in a similar situation to me. I tried to search on Internet but didn’t find anything quite like this. Usually when attacks just happened, I felt I couldn’t do anything enjoyable in my life. It paralysed me. I loved late evenings, quiet, tranquil and reclusiveness. I wished time could stop and days would never come, because I didn’t want to face.

        • Tintin

          Thank you. Same with me. My mom told me i was a bad investment. I told her before that if you want money, work for it. I’m not gonna be a prostitute or mail order bride that you wished for. Do it yourself. Try not to use me. It’s greed. Maybe that’s the reason why my dad was never happy with her. Refuse to work & demand money.

  • Lynnette

    Hi Jane, I just found your website and am glad to find it. I am not asian, but I am the youngest/only daughter of 3 children Both of my brothers,and father have passed away within the last 3 yrs. My mom NEVER lets me forget it! She recently was put in hospital due to not taking her meds properly,etc. So, she’s very angry w/me for calling the ambulance and now WILL NOT talk to me. (This is how she would “punish me as a child ” for god knows what I did) but anyways, she’d go for 2-3 wks not talking to me, which killed me as a little girl. I swear she resents ME for being the living child. ( I always felt she preferred my brothers to me)I would GLADLY exchange places with my brothers.

  • Justine

    Thank you very much for writing this article. It is truly a God-send to have found it. I, myself, am struggling right now with “returning to my true self” because I was emotionally manipulated as a child from my mother. She has Schizophrenia and is an alcoholic, and is difficult to be around when she is sober, but impossible to be around when she drinks. I was emotionally patronized everyday, worrying about when my mother was going to drink again, and no matter how many times I begged her to stop drinking, it would only make things worse, so I learned to suck it up, and let he continue to manipulate me in other ways.

    I’m finally starting for feel “normal” again for the first time in two years. That is, after getting out of another manipulative relationship with my husband. I’m finding ways to cope, and for me, it helps to have some kind of continuous noise, such as music playing all day. Eventually, I’ll learn to think without it, but it keeps me mind from being thrown in a negative direction with my thoughts. Is there any advice or coping skills that you could lend me? I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you again for the article, it really inspired me. Write me.
    nimelia@juno.com

  • Ann

    I relate in so many ways to the people posting about the difficult relationships with their mothers. I appreciate the reference to the book by Victoria Secunda. I am going to read it. I always wanted mom to become my friend like I have with my own daughter. My mother is in her 70′s. She married my father when she was 18. I heard my whole life how popular she was in school (home coming queen, etc) and the great grades she got (could have gone to college but got married instead). Boy was she jealous of my college days and really never understood my desire to go to graduate school. But she takes credit for all the “smart genes” I got from her. Oh well, maybe some did come from er and for that I am thankful. My father idolized my mother. She was his “it” girl in 1958 which lasted just shy of their 50th anniversary. Of the two parents my father was the most supportive and nurturing. I always felt loved by him even though my mother made it a competition. That’s why it hurt so much to loose him in 2007. Now it’s just mom and my brothers who seem able to simply ignore her spiteful, selfish and demanding behaviors that seem to have grown worse since becoming a widow. Not that she is ever alone. She has a crew of friends just like herself. Is that a 1950′s mentality with women? It seems her life is more active with friends now then before my father died. That part is good as it keeps her generally occupied. There are so many memories of my mother hogging the attention or saying things to embarrass me in front of family or friends while I was growing up and even in recent years. My friends however, have always been supportive and while they loved my father did not care much for mom. That made me feel bad for her because she is always desperate to be popular and the most liked in any room. Even my husband of 28 years has difficulty feeling warm and fuzzy towards her. He finds her spoiled, vain and self absorbed. He says “be kind but distant”. She often punishes him for that stance. I remember on time she made him a cake for his birthday that was actually rancid. Not sure if it was on purpoise or not. Today I feel a little guilty. It’s the 4th of July and I declined my mother’s self invitation to come to my house for dinner and fireworks after. I decided to do some things for myself, daughter and husband instead. But I did tell my mother I was going to be doing a lot of cleaning and using the day off as a necessary work at home day so she would be very bored. While it is true I mostly did not want to spend the day with her because her friends are not available to entertain her. I hate being the entertainer of last resort. I got the usual guilt comments “ok, I’ll find something to do with someone” with tears barely contained. I mentioned my brothers and she just replied that they all work so hard they need the time to relax. Not like slacker me who has nothing better to do. I told her “mom, you are always welcome in my home but I am not planning any special activities or meals today becaus I have things to do”. She just said she’d see my on Thursday as she was already spending the day with my daughter anyway. All the guilt for what…ensuring she isn’t alone and has entertainment? So in finding this blog I also found a way to decrease guilty feelings and let go. Wow, freedom rings. Thanks so much. You are a lovely group of people. It’s a hard struggle to find balance but the main thing I am focused on is to listen to the healthy voices of reason in my life. The people who show on a daily basis that I am loved and lovable just as I am. Thanks to everyone on this site. Happy 4th. You are beautiful as you are!

  • Tintin

    Thank you. I enjoyed reading your article. I thought i was the only one fighting for this. My mom is a combination of everybody’s mom & i don’t give her a damn at all. She wants to be with my own friends not hers to tell them whatever just to destroy me. She caused me enough emotional & mental damages that i so really want to throw the biggest punch to her mouth just for gossipping. When confronted, she’s really good in making up stories & would say “do you really think i would do that to my own child?”. It’s all bullshit because i caught her so many times doing it & was even confronted by my aunt because of all these stories that she made up.

    She also threatens me of going back home to the philippines because she can’t stand me & told everybody that i maltreated her. Fine with me, she thought i’m gonna give in to all these dramas, i did not said a word but just went inside my room & booked her one way for the next day flight. She then realized i was so serious & fed up with her & beg me if she could stay instead because of my kids. It’s not because of my kids really. It’s because, because of my kids, she gets money….the 2nd time she begged me to go home, no argument again, gave her one way ticket but this woman refuse to accept one way ticket. She wants round trip for only 10 days. That’s how she’s been maltreated, she wants to go back & stay with me. I’m sick of her already & needed privacy to my own house. I can’t talk with my friends on the phone, she would listen. Up to some point that i have to hide in my bedrooms walk in closet & she even went into my bedroom & stuck her ears on my closet door & my husband was so mad seeing her inside our bedroom listening to my conversations.

    She’s also a golddigger. She’s praying & can’t wait for me to die so she could have a share (maybe she thought) of my life inurance. Too bad, not a penny i am giving her. She did it once before to my dad, i won’t give her any more chance to do it again. While my dad was fighting for his life in the icu, she rushed to the office to process her benefits & pension. She was the happiest person on earth maybe when my dad died. When i called how she was doing, i did not get the answer that i was expecting. The only word that she said was “are you gonna be sending money? How much?” i just hang up the phone & cried. Now, she wants me to pay her back everything that she spent on me since birth. I spoke with my brother & he told me not to be upset with this, he told me to always put in my mind that whatever she spent on us was never her money since she never worked. It was our dads money. She even forced me to work abroad so she could have $$$$ as a prostitute, tried to set me up as a mail order bride too. Of course not. Thank God i’m kind of a rebel that always using my head doesn’t care about money. I’d rather work hard a decent job with less pay at least with dignity. Why not herself?!

    When i was diagnosed with cancer, i needed money for my surgery & begged her & the quickest response that i’ve heard from her was “i don’t have money”. I just wanna die that very moment. She only lend me money when i told her that i’m gonna pay her 2 weeks after my surgery. That’s why i still have to work the night before my surgery & go back to work 2 days after i was discharged from the hospital. I was just crying the whole time not because of my illness but because my co- workers & friends cared more than her.

    She basically was never a mother to me & my brother. She sent us away at a very young age of 3 raised by the maids & drivers. She never wanted to be around me because i was so ugly. She refused to buy me clothes, always hand me own from my cousins, & believe me, my uniform i wore from first grade until 6th & eveybody always laughs at me. Socks, shoes, & even underwear have holes. That really affected my self-esteem so bad but i just don’t know what’s with me that my friends (high class) stick with me no matter what. I was just being myself maybe.

    With all these heartaches that i’ve had with my monster mom, that made me try my best to be a good mother. Made sure my kids will never experience the things that i’ve had in the past & made me strive more to be successful in my own right. And even though whatever i have right now is a fruit of my & my husbands labor, she claims it that she owns whatever we have. Such a hypocrite. She don’t even clean her own shit just lay down on the bed all day long & doesn’t even have an idea hether my kids are already killing each other but wants more money from me. She doesn’t want an allowance. She wants a salary. We started from scratch. No help from family members. They even owe us money without any intention of paying us back. Sometimes, the people you consider as your family are not the ones who gave you life. My family are my friends, my husband & kids. So many times my friends offered me financial help but i refused. I’m not the kind of person who’ll take advantage. My friends would remember my birthday & my kids. Even send/give them a little present for birthdays & chistmas. Family, especially my mom, NEVER & she would even take advantage of that especially if my kids get cash. Will take a portion of it.

    I just don’t know what to do with her anymore. She’s trying to catch on all my friends, brag that she has alot of money & i’m afraid she’ll start passing gossip about each other & cause a fight. As he always does. That’s why she lost all her friends. I just hope that somebody could just slap her so she would learn her lesson that gosipping is not allowed in america. She was even telling everybody together with my jealous aunt that i have a case pending with FBI. That made me laugh. A case against me because of what?! I refuse to marry somebody who is an american citizen? I marry for love not for money. I’m not my mom.

    I guess i’ve said enough & it is such a relief that i’ m not alone to this. I’m trying to break this cycle & i’m hoping & praying that i won’t be like my mom to my kids & grandkids someday. That’s why i work hard & save for my retirement so i would be able to give & never demand from my children.

  • Tintin

    I really really need help what to do with my evil mom. She attacked me today and I’m so glad my husband cane to the rescue. It started during my son’s birthday 2 days ago. I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to see ny family happy. She would always mess it up every birthdays, Christmas, new year, and every special occasion that would make especially my kids happy. There’s always a big drama and fight ahead & me & my husband would just fake the happiness with our kids because of the tension that lies ahead. She’s got the nerve of suing me of me of all expenses she incurred raising me. As always, it all comes down to money. She tried to threaten us so we told her to pack up coz we’re kicking her out & she refused to leave. This is too much emotional abuse for me & humiliation because of her gossip. Then she cried & begged to forget about everything. I’m just so sick of her evil face. I was an unwanted child before I started working. Now that I have a good job she wants every single detail of ny life especially the financial part of course. HELP! I JUST WANNA DIE LIVING IN HELL WITH THIS WOMAN.

  • Sadcat

    I’m really glad I cam across this page. It is a relief to know even though I feel guilty at times, I’m not wrong. Now I’m really beginning to accept the fact I’ve been emotionally abused for the past 10 years. I’m still in my mid-twenties, and I’m trying to get out of this guilt I get whenever my mother tries her blatant attacks.

    I live in a westernized country, away from my folks ever since I started university and now I’m working. I didn’t realize I’ve been in a vice-like grip of emotional abuse until I started living on my own and meeting people who weren’t….well….Asian. Hearing stories of their parents made me think, what the heck is wrong with my mother?

    Thinking about all those times during my teenage years when I’d cry myself to sleep, hoping ever so fervently that I would just quietly die and never wake to another day to torment again makes me feel that my current tactic of distancing myself from my mother, and to a certain extent, my father is in a way, payback.

    Unfortunately, my parents still insist on contacting me everyday, through at least one line of communication, whether it’s email, some form of instant messenger, or smses. If I don’t reply within 24 hours, things will escalate. This got rather annoying after 3 years because I could never go out too long (away from the webcams) in case they wanted to see my mug, or go for trips without telling them which would result in long lectures about how I should not travel with boys and NEVER EVER SLEEP IN THE SAME ROOM AS THEM ELSE THEY WILL TRY TO RAPE YOU.

    My mother is also one of those moms who claims everything bad she has done to her kids were a figment of our imagination and that she would never do such a thing. But she is a woman who never forgives nor forgets, well-documented by her bringing up old and long-buried spats and events. So she is obviously in denial. I also suspect she dislikes me for having taken away my father’s love from her. Which is true to an extent, but everyone in the family dislikes her attitude: always worrying what people will think, being incredibly superstitious and religious, hypocritical, and racist.

    I have tried to reasonably talk it out with my parents, gently explaining to them I need my space and constant communication is not my thing. In return, I got scolded for wanting my own space as “I don’t need my own space”, and “forcing your parents to stop communicating with you! how dare you! I will contact you anytime I wish!” This episode also resulted in a long rant from my father saying he wanted all his money he had ever invested in me, that I had deprived him of a luxury car and home, and all the money in bank account that he had sent to me for my living expenses as a uni student returned ASAP.

    They have, throughout my life, made it very clear that money is important, if not above familial ties. The famous phrase would be “If you have your own income, then you can do whetever you like and I won’t give a shit.”

    This has not proved to be 100% true, because now my mother is using the phrase “WE ARE FAMILY” to try and guilt trip me and turn me against my wonderful boyfriend. That phrase, which another poster used, is the main reason I am posting my experiences. We can really relate to each other, can’t we?

    I remember one episode when I was back at their place during uni holidays and I was sitting in the backseat of the car. I said I didn’t want to accompany her to my aunt’s house to babysit her 3 rowdy kids. She started screaming at the top of her voice, “YOU DONT LIKE ME, IS THAT IT? I ASK FOR A LITTLE BIT OF TIME FROM YOU, IS THAT TOO MUCH? IF YOU HATE ME SO MUCH I’LL DRIVE THIS CAR OFF THE BRIDGE RIGHT NOW! I’LL DO IT! WE’LL DIE TOGETHER!”

    We were driving across a bridge, and that was such a scary moment, I just sat stock-still, unable to say anything. Still a scary moment till today (it was a few years ago).

    Now that I have a loving and supportive boyfriend, I feel it’s easier to stand up to her and shut her down everytime she tries to manipulate me. I also feel guilt-ridden that I have all this baggage and he’s stuck with it too whenever I rant to him. I’ve met his parents and they are fantastic! If my parents were 10% of what they are, I’d be in heaven.

    Sometimes I dream of being a billionaire, giving them lots of money with a note “I have paid of my debts you said I owe you. Never contact me again.” Then I feel like I’m a horrible person for even thinking that.

    Now that I have to go visit them for the first time since they’ve met and disliked my boyfriend on the basis that he is not Asian, I’m feeling nervous. I’ll probably be subjected to a barrage of “I want you to dump him else we will disown you”. My mother has also threatened to take me to a remote monastery and lock me there without any possibility of communication for help to the outside world. She believes that by allowing me to leave the country I now am free to do as I wish and cannot be controlled by her, ergo destroying her chances of a cushy twilight where I am her cash cow.

    Yes, she has said all these things, just not in the same sentence.

    But you know what? I know now I’m a victim of a long emotionally abusive relationship, and I’m going to do what’s good for my happiness, even if it means disowning me/being a horrible daughter in their eyes.

    Dr. Chin, do you think that this baggage negatively affects relationships? After all, our spouses/significant others may not be subjected to the same traumatic years and may think “why am I saddled with this!”. Sometimes I’m hesitant to share my woes with my SO because I feel he doesn’t deserve to be part of the crap I have to wade through in my quest to be a free and happy adult.

  • Jennifer

    It’s great to read that other people have had similar experiences. My mother is great but my father has a bad temper. Growing up, his reaction to anything going wrong (or more precisely, imperfectly) in my life was to blow up. Whether it was a bad grade, a fight I had with a friend, a day in which I was simply feeling blue, his reaction would be either “how could you get into this situation? You always blah blah blah and people like you will never amount to anything!” or “how are you so hypersensitive? It’s not a big deal and you just expect too much; people like you will never be liked and you’ll never amount to anything!” The message was that as long as something didn’t go completely right, I was doomed to failure. Over the years, I’ve internalized these insults and become extremely risk-averse. Every time I face an obstacle, all these taunts play in my head and it’s like I’m berating myself the way my father always berated me. I’ve come to subconsciously think I’m always one step away from failure, and go out of my way to avoid risk.

    My father is also intolerant of disagreement. Sometimes he says things that I find offensive (about other people for example). When I point it out he gets angrier and accuses me of being hypersensitive/twisting his words/attacking him. While he’s the one yelling at the top of his lungs, he’s accusing me of being a bad person/being mean to him. Any time I try to talk to him about how his words have hurt me, he lashes out and says something to the effect of “How could you think this about me? I don’t want to argue with you since you are my daughter but you’ve really hurt me.” This just puts me on a guilt-trip and I feel like I’ve committed some grave sin just by disagreeing with him or verbalizing my hurt.

    I guess what makes this all difficult is that I love my father and don’t believe he’s a jerk. Except for his bad temper he’s a great dad (it’d be easier to write him off otherwise). It’s thus taken me a long time to get to the point where I can begin to understand that I can love him without accepting his insults.

  • webz

    We probably should compare our mothers and see who is worse than the other.
    I am african so race has got nothing to do with it.
    My mother was so cruel i actaully had to abandon her to find my sanity.
    And then she died. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel anything. Didn’t even attend
    her funeral.

    I still needed my energy for my self when she was expecting me to be in her funeral. And like i have no regrets.

    On the flip side i have a child who makes me so happy and proud. God must have had mercy on me to smooth my emotional wreckage.

    Webzi

    • http://stevenmitchell.blogspot.com/ Steven P. Mitchell

      Hi. I empathize with you but whatever the reasons are, God has nothing to do with it.

  • crushed

    thank you so much for your column. i am 35 and struggling with a manipulative, controlling, dissatisfied, insecure, emotionally abusive mother. my mother regresses to a very young child when she is raging, she actually looks two years old, and her logic is not much older. i’ve spent my entire life trying to reason with her, trying to change her, trying to show her how unjust she has treated us. i am learning now that this is wrong. i cannot change her and by trying to i am perhaps becoming like her. i so badly want to be accepted as i am, perhaps i have to start with accepting her as she is.

    my entire life i’ve been given the role of the troublemaker. my family thrust this painful designation on me. i have pushed back at my mother (the matriarch, passive father) because what my heart really longs for is real relationship with her, unconditional love, acceptance. the pushing back would eventually culminate in a blowout that would rage for hours, where the most hurtful statements would be said. then typically, we’d feel so close afterward. after hours of saying hateful things we would get to the root of some kind of evil, profess that it all came out of a deep love and that we needed each other to breathe. this cemented my dependence on her for mental health and acceptance of self and perpetuated this sick codependency. i always felt my mom adored me but in a way that didn’t allow me to breathe.

    i’ve struggled with depression my entire life. i was able to forgive my mom for childhood hurts and that lifted my depression mightily, but we have recently been fighting again. i need to learn how to set boundaries with her on the topics of religion and politics, which in my mother’s eyes are one and the same. any advice?

    on setting boundaries, i’ve read this entire thread and most other of your posts on this topic, so i know you say do not agree with what she says but allow her to have her feelings, for example

    Mother: Why didn’t you call me back?
    You: Oh my gosh! I didn’t call you back! That’s true isn’t it! I am SO sorry! You know how I am. {then you stay completely silent, do not offer a reason.}

    but my question is, is that really a boundary? does she need to know that she is being “boundaried” for it to work? because my mother is so completely un-self-aware and yet cunning and smart that if i use the tactics you provide they will go right over her head and i fear i will be further abused and hurt by her. that she will be thinking, see it’s always been my daughter’s fault, not mine, and now that she sees that and agrees we finally have some peace. she already tells me often how much i’ve changed, which i resent, because it implies that i’ve always been the problem and since i’ve changed it’s lessened.

    how can i learn not to let her thinking this way cause me even more resentment? have i not truly forgiven her?

  • Jennifer

    I have a step-son, 15 years old. I have been helping his father looking after him before he turned 6. My husband shares the custody with his mother, however, he has been living with us full time for the past 2 years. During these 2 years, his mother rarely called, visited or emailed, and said she was busy working and she needed the money. She showed very little interests and made very little efforts in his life. Keep in mind that she lives only 10 min away driving distance. However, he rarely mentioned her at home. In the beginning, it did not seem to bother him that he was not seeing his mother very often. But recently, he started to feel guilty. He started to feel that it’s his fault that his mother is not seeing him often and that he should be spending more time with his mother, and he was forgetting that his mother was actually seeing him as much as she wanted to. In the mean time, his mother seems to play his guilt well. How can we help him?

  • Christie

    Hey Dr Chin, I came across your truly AMAZING website right after dealing with a situation that involves a parent doing what you call “talking trash.” I used to cry and hurt myself but now I no longer turn these emotions inward. A lot of these posts about emotionally destructive parenting style on the Internet focus on Asian Americans but it affects Asians in Asia too. Everything you have written here is a story of my life.
    I’m in my early 20’s, a fifth-generation Chinese living in Southeast Asia and I grew up being constantly talked down by parents, especially my father (“you might as well be dead”, “you’re just like your mother, stupid”, “can’t even do this simple thing, what can you achieve in life?” – the truth is great achievers don’t fuss over little things like that) and beaten with belt, clothe hanger or cane on a daily basis for “mistakes” as minor as accidentally wetting the bathroom mat until I was seventeen. As a child I wasn’t aware that it was gradually turning me less human as I began to take things out on others by being a bully the moment I started attending primary (or elementary) school and became a popular kid. Too much physical discipline does take your empathic soul way. The only way any child could survive that amount of unreasonable discipline without going insane was to allow that soul to be taken and turn into a basically unfeeling, mischievous and superficially happy kid, which adults find cute anyway, as opposed to overanalysing things and disagreeing with their messed up philosophy, which I still did to a certain extent – that’s why my mother has always called me rebellious, probably not knowing that I let most everything bottle up and took my frustration out elsewhere since Asian parents are not the most sensitive/emotionally caring of all. I went to a Chinese school and it was normal for kids to go to school with bruises and other non-life-threatening “discipline”-induced injuries. Teachers there struck their students anyway. I was seriously fascinated when a girl cried after being beat by a teacher, claiming that her parents never beat her and being the immature kid I was, I decided she was weird and a misfit. The trouble began in my teens when I became more emotionally mature and started attending a racially diverse school where I met people who were raised in loving environment. At some point I started to really regret how I took my anger and frustration out on others in primary school and I hope I did not cause too much hurt.
    I started noticing how bad things were and I wondered how I went through childhood pretty much like a zombie. I also hated my school because the seniors and the classmates who were s***king up to them were being cruel to me (karma, much?). Whenever I tried to talk to my mother, she would bombard me with phrases like “You don’t know how lucky you are”, “You are always looking for trouble”, “Why don’t other kids have problems? Their parents have no money and they can get this and that scholarship… All you do is complain when you have everything ” when in fact I just wanted to communicate with her. I have difficulty getting scholarship in this region because the society favors science and maths skills, which elude me. Once I told my mother how the seniors at school were calling me names and saying I was weird, my father overheard and interrupted, “you’re so weird of course anyone will call you weird.” I don’t know, do they expect me to be their pet dog who doesn’t ever question them and only says the exact things they want to hear (in other words, barking and wagging tail) to them? I wanted to be friendly to them, not be fearful of them as I was growing older but they got to be so mean? Obviously they have NEVER wanted to be liked by their children. They have never stopped trying to manipulate my feelings by making me feel guilty for pretty much EVERYTHING. Even back in the “superficially happy kid” phase when I never fell below 18 in a class of over 320 students, they yelled and beat me over trivial things. As I grew older, I inevitably encountered more and more (major) obstacles in life. I find it very difficult to handle even minor situations because those “trash talks” would start rewinding in my head whenever I get anxious, which leads to nervous breakdowns. Major obstacles almost paralyze me mentally. I don’t know how I could overlook them all as a child and I don’t know why I can’t go into that indifference mode anymore.
    I want to get out of that shadow. The shadow of being their child, being molded the way they wanted, being systematically annihilated emotionally. I lived in the U.S. a couple of years before being pulled back to Asia and went through stages of discarding the shadow, finding myself, becoming who I could and was naturally meant to be – happy, easy going, outgoing and optimistic. I almost did not contact them during those stages. I was almost there until I was made to live with them again. Even being on the same continent as them catapults me back into that shadow of inefficiency, demotivation and fluctuating self-worth. I’m not aggressive by nature but being around them makes me become that way. It’s like being in a warzone where you can choose to either be masochistic or aggressive. They don’t seem to have the common sense to realize the more they talk me down and be unreasonable when they talk to me, the more I want to not ever talk to them or see them again once I get the chance to get away again. I understand that I do not have a steady income yet, but that for them seems to be a valid reason to further dehumanize and demotivate me. My father always repeats “I don’t think you would ever take care of me!” “You’re a terrible person!” “You should feel very guilty but I don’t say certain things because I don’t want you to feel guilty!” and “You’re not filial!” Well, I mean, all children NATURALLY want to make sure their parents are taken care of when they are old BUT do parents necessarily need to put that pressure on their children all the time? Plus, the statement, when repeated, actually backfires because it sounds utterly selfish and egocentric and hurtful to some extent. Was I born for your self-serving purpose? Was I born to be a retirement healthcare resource? My father is also the most difficult person to live with due to his being anal retentive about everything. Before I do anything at the kitchen sink, you’d already hear him yelling “you leave all that mess ALL THE TIME!” don’t do this and do that. The thought of having to “take care” of a perfectionistic and highly critical person like that (by visiting very often or living with him, I suppose) makes my heart sink.

    The bottom line is, I don’t think I will ever genuinely love or even like my parents although they have always worked hard and provided for me well financially. The thing about the culture of (East) Asian parenting is that so much revolves around the idea of “duty”, “obligation”, blah blah that nothing feels human anymore. You can’t build a friendly, close relationship with them. I’m sure they for whatever reason think insulting me, destroying my self-esteem and beating me up are good for me and my sanity and definitely serve as a motivation for me to take care of them when they’re old. Besides, I cannot ever bring myself to respect my mother because I just cannot imagine respecting a woman who apparently does not mind being disrespected and deprecated on a daily basis. She is the most unassertive, passive, masochistic, unempowered woman ever. Plus, she used to make me feel Super guilty by repeating “if it weren’t for you, I would’ve divorced him long time ago” and said that she would do so once the kids turned 18. Well, I’m way past 18. She is not a daughter, she is a spouse. She is absolutely free to leave. Has she no dignity? Is it worth mentioning that she acts childlike around my father? Like in the way she asks questions and doesn’t mind being treated like one. She even calls my father “papa”. Yes, even in public, which embarrasses me. The only reason that explains why she is still in the marriage is that she probably enjoys the emotional abuse. These women are the reason domestic violence (be it psychological or physical) goes on and on. I digressed.

  • Raymond

    Hi guys. I’m neither asian nor manipulated by my parents but I just wanted to give some kind words to you all to keep your head up and that there’s something better than the rigors of this life. Keep your head up.

  • Richard Joseph

    Dear Friends,

    Your thoughts and words are very interesting to me. But I will venture to say, I am not Asian. My mother is German, but grew up as a persecuted ethnic minority in Czechoslovakia when the borders shifted after World War 1.

    My mother is EXACTLY as you describe your Asian mothers to be. And I’m a man. My mother suffered terrible trauma during the second world war when her village was bombed by the Americans. And then she suffered years with little food as a refugee before she and her brother migrated to Australia under the Populate or Perish program of the Australian Government in the 1950s.

    I have 3 siblings. None of us were good enough. We were forced into piano lessons, private tuition, we were discouraged to mix with the Australians. The Australians were bad people. Our grades were never good enough.

    I didn’t realise until very recently (now I’m 41) that my Mother was manipulating my emotional state in the most cruel and terrible way.

    I now live in Indonesia where there is a substantial Chinese community and I see this emotional abuse taking place among my Chinese lady friends every day. And it makes me sad.

    To stop the beastly cruelty of my mother towards me I took action very recently and set down some rules and I sent her an email as follow:

    1. Mother, if you EVER raise your voice at me again I will block you from Skype and Email for 1 week.
    2. Mother, the second time you raise your voice at me I shall block you for 1 month.
    3. Mother, the third time you raise your voice at me I shall block you for 1 year.
    4. Mother, the fourth time you raise your voice at me I shall never communicate with you again.

    This has worked. She now minds her manners. Because I did block her for 1 week. She was so sheepish after that and really behaves well. I know it won’t last though. Abusive people feed off other people’s psychological energy (or happiness). Just don’t let them. When next my mother raises her voice and starts talking trash, I WILL block her for 1 month. Let her think about her mistakes. We cannot make people change as Jane says, but we can set boundaries and rules for how they interact with us. It is UP TO US to set the standards of people who choose to share OUR lives. Let them live how they please. But our mental state and our emotional territory is OUR PRIVATE PROPERTY. We wouldn’t let a stranger come and dig up our front lawn would we? It’s the same with our happiness. Build a fence. Put up a Rules Board. Comply or stay out on the street. :)

    I’m on the road to emotional recovery, and I will share this blog with my Chinese friends here in Indonesia and Malaysia. Well done Jane, I’m sure many will benefit. God bless you. Richard.

  • Julian

    I need to share my problem personally .. Can anybodly please help ! Contact me by email .

  • Mishael

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for this, it mirrors my experiences dealing with not one, but 3 of my family members.
    I really am sick and tired of being bullied, and used like their “emotional toilet” where they unload
    And. Blame me for all the bad thing that happens, asks me to fix them,and get hysterical when they don’t get their way.
    I even considered suicide, I didn’t know how much this has messed me up until I got to 30 and can’t even hold down a decent job for long.
    My programming was so intense that I feel like I couldn’t even trust my thoughts.
    I don’t know how long I can keep this up but I’ll keep on going as far as I can manage.

    Anyway thank you for this…

  • http://www.peoplepc.com lucy ann collums

    i have read many stories, about child abuse. i was abused, and sexually abused, and emoltional abuse. when noone does anything abouit this thay are also the blame. i was kicked, pitched, treated to kill me, mama tried to drown me as a child. i had two uncles who sexually abused me, my father abused, and always tried to rape me. my sister becky we werent close until 13yrs ago. she is cancer free of cervical cancer, she said she had been throwing up again i hope she is all right. i have lost all family members except me, and nancy and rebecca. when no one does anything about what happened as a child ; ; you fell like what did i do to derve this. exuise my spelling i get verry upset just writting or talking about this. lucy ann

  • in pain

    Hi there, I just can’t tell you how relieved I am that I’m not alone. I’m Russian, but I live in New Zealand with my husband. I left home when I was 17 and lived in the UK and I feel like I managed to run away from my mother as far as possible and she still gets me. A couple of years ago she divorced my father and her dad died, and she’s really depressed. And I can understand and sympathise with that, but when she treats me like an “emotional toilet”, there’s only that much you can take. The thing is that I’m 26 and just started to realise what she does to me. I always felt guilty and I keep thinking that maybe it’s me, who’s in the wrong, but I looked at other people and I started to doubt her words.
    Recently she started to either threaten with suicide or guilt-trip that I should be grateful that I have a mother at all, because she had such a “hard life” that it’s a “god’s miracle” that she’s still there for me and she was surviving just for me to be at my wedding (a couple of months ago).
    Just last night we had another fight; she was taking her frustration out on me and I told her that I can’t take it anymore. She started screaming at me and I hung up. She started to text me and call on my mobile and she did make a valid point about my character and I took it to consideration and I’ll work on it, but now she made me look like a horrible person who just forgot everything she and dad gave me, I left Russia and now live in this lovely country and don’t give a dumb about them. And all I tried to do is to stand up for myself and stop taking crap from her.
    I’m sorry this post is so long, I just feel so bad to keep crying to my husband and my mother-in-law (I have amazing relationships with my in-laws) just need to tell someone how I feel. It’s like being in abusive relationships, in a vicious cycle of guilt-tripping and blaming game. I’m so tired. I want out.
    Is there anything else I can read on how to deal with my guilt (which I’m experiencing right now cause I’m complaining and saying bad things about my mom)?

  • in pain

    I feel like I should say that my mom and I were actually very close when I was a kid. She was very understanding and loving, she did push me to study hard, but I’m so grateful for it. I have an excellent education and a job I love! I am a very happy and lucky person. But it all started when I left home. At first there was my dad to blame for everything, and now that she left him, it seems to be only me. I’m like her enemy number 1, when I just try to have my space and put some boundaries. I call my mom 2-3 tame a week during all of these almost years of me not actually living in Russia. I just want my mom back.

  • mk

    Even when I was a little girl she used to be a pushy mother. I hated going to elocution classes so i used to hide my books( i must have been 7 or 8). Once when she found out she took out a cane and yelled at the top of her voice saying i was wasting her time by hiding her books and threatened and made me learn the poem that was due for that class and dragged me off. I managed to get good grades somehow which made her want to push me more.

    When I was is grade 5 i was asked to come to the principals office, not knowing why i just went and waited; the principal gently told me that i was not selected as a prefect because of my religion and it was school policy. She went on to tell me that i shouldn’t cry at home all the time and its just school and enjoy time there.I was completely clueless; i didnt even want to be a prefect and i didnt even know they selected. Later I found out that my mom had gone and complained saying i was crying all the time and i should be given a prefectship etc.. I was just a kid, i didn`t argue with her
    Years passed, i was fine with my grades i think mainly because i escaped into the world of books and found my peace there. My mom was never satisfied with my marks eventhough i got more that 80 for each subject, she wanted 90s. I was never allowed to go and spend time with my friends, wasn`t allowed to go to b’day parties. I started listening to music, watching loads of movies and created another world inside my head and lived there; even when i’m around other people i lived in my own worlds with its own set of characters. My mom always dominated and answerd for me when we were with a group of people and i learned to keep my thoughts to myself and not engage in a conversation when i’m with a group of people. When someone asks a question i dont even asnwer-until recently i didn`t know it was not normal.During A/L exam, for one paper i was so sick that i couldn`t move, it must have been food poisoning-the severe kind. I couldn`t get up from my bed or see clearly. I remember my mom yelling at the top of her lungs asking me to get dressed and dragged me to school. I remember crawling along the staircase trying to get to the examhall. I just kept my head on the desk and didn`t even read the paper. When i started throwing up, one of the teachers took me outside and cradled me on her lap, i was lying there wishing if my mom was like that. that teacher didn`t talk about the paper at all, she just said if there’s time u can just mark a few answers (it was the MCQ paper), and asked me to get some rest. To this day i don`t know how i passed that exam when i marked the answrs without looking at the questions.My mom wanted me to go to medical colledge-which i had no intention of going. When i passed the exam i refused to repeat it. She started crying hysterically and told me how much she has sacrificed to bring me up and how much time she spent with me going for tution classes and asked me to repeat the exam. I agreed with her because i just didn`t want to be the reason that made my mother cry. Now i know that it was just a guilt-manipulation stunt Asian parents pull when they want to get what they want. I had no interest in repeating the exam and mom got tution teachers to come to my house. They were all males and getting through each class at home itslef was a major headache for me; she kept saying i was ‘feet flirting’ with the teachers and asked me to keep a big distance and sit. It was such a depressing class because i can see her watchin from a distance (the teacher faced me) .I dreaded these classes. During that year i spent my time like a prisoner only having freedom inside the world i created in my head. Then came the accusations that i was flirting with our driver. She said he was looking at me and accused me of texting the driver who happened to be a married decent man. The fact that she accused me of these during a time when i had no interest in men, made me dislike her. When she was not accusing me, she was busy accusing my father of cheating and they used to fight using the most hateful words and used to smash things on the floor. I started to hate the concept of marriage and thought to myself never to be married. Anyway now that i have found someone to spend my life with ( i mean live together, im still not comfortable with the idea of getting married) my mom gave her blessing at first then she changed her mind and asked me to stop or else. First it was hysterical crying, then came yelling and then the most harsh words. She even threatened to burn down the car, and not to give me a penny. she keeps saying she fed me and bought me a car so i have to marry someone she finds.She started showing up in my room in the middle of the night while i was fast asleep and scolds me and leaves the room. Everyday when i go home i find a note that says that her only wish is that she will never have a useless daughter like me. I can write a whole list of harsh words but i have come to block them with my mind. I donno maybe this is the usual Asian parenting but i know that noone should be subjected to mental torture like this to the extent of wanting to kill themselves. I’m tired of hearing what a disappointment i am(even after finishing my Masters in Science) and how good my brother is.I love her as my mom but i can never have a normal relationship with her, i can`t tell her how i feel about things because all i hear are judgmental comments. When other parents hear comments about their child they usually defend their own kids, but my mom has a habit of making up stories and tell everyone what a horrible child i’ve become after all the sacrifices she made. Even when i’m at work she sends texts msgs and calls me and trash talk in the most hateful words. Swinging a knife infront of me and saying that she is not going to cut my throat just made me wonder how mentally stable she is.
    I just need to move out, I know i dont deserve to be treated like this. She just wants me to quit my job and stay at home with her; did she have a child so that she can keep as a prisnor and serve her own existence? last night she went through my clothes and found my G-strings and threw them at me saying only w****s wear them. I can`t take this anymore

  • Kat

    Hello,

    I’m a mid 40 year old Japanese American Female who has just recently had her spiritual awakening. Its been hard and its still hard. My father was very abusive. He used to slap me across the table for not holding my fork correctly. He would mimick my sayings and forbid me to say things like ” you know”, and I couldn’t stop, you know?..lol. I remember him slapping me hard and kicking me, flining me across the room with my hair and when I was in swimming, I couldn’t swim for 2 months. He hit me so hard it hurt to go under water. Over the years this conintued. He was very detached. Didn’t beat me all the time, but I lived in fear ALL THE TIME. Fast forward, he hasn’t been like that for decade. But a few months ago, he came over and he stepped in dog poop in my yard. He got so mad he charged me with a rake. I finally stood up to him. I said “what are you going to hit me AGAIN???”. it was the most liberating thing I did. Then I said “I’m a great person and I still love you. Have a nice day”. And walked away. Then I wrote a letter and let him have it. I then realized I had to stand up for myself or I would probly commit suicide one day.

    My Mother has been manipulative and controllling her whole life. She has an anxiety disorder she refuses to take medication. She used to call me every day, get mad if I didn’t call her back, Call me 5 times, then have my father call trying to intimidate me to call her, so I would. She has been cold and insensitive. Just recently she told me she never liked me as a child.

    Here is the mind wrecker. They have on other occasioins been loving. Buying me ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING . The guilt just festered into depression, drug use, and loss of interest in life. I was very suicidal. This is what I did. I called my mother and told her everything. Yes everything. I told her that ” I love you but do not like you”. I felt 20 years of pain lift off me. Its been 2 weeks and I feel better every day. I do not recommend this way. However, if you have been living for so l ong wit this. YOu will be forced to stand up for yourself. That to me is the answer. This is my story and I hope I have helped anyone. I am open to any advice too please. p/s. My brother is 37, depressed resenttful, can’ hold a job, has no friends…and still lives at home. He has never left. He does not do drugs. He is just stuck and depressed. I had to stand up first for him too. Maybe that is what has motivated me too.

    • Sumi Allen

      Hi, I just read this. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. It just had to be done.
      People throw blame to “cover their @$$”, to “save face” or whatever. My parents did that. It’s very scary.

      About the depression, I’m with you. Mine is from tackling both racism from society and the fact I need my mean parents for financial support, and they use it to manipulate me. My Caucasian dad tried to throw me into a war when i was sick and my mom also had manipulative agendas for my own life. Have I been suicidal? I still am.

      The one thing that helped me through all of this? I’m not joking. Athletics. Sports.
      There’s one direct cause and effect relationship between hard work and positive results which does wonders to keep things in perspective.

      It’s also my time to be free of negative pressures.

      My coaches and my athletic peers had a positive influence on me, which will sound ironic if I were the MVP of the cross country team. I needed it more than they needed me.

      I hope things get better for you and I hope to hear better things from you soon.

  • Thaler

    My mother, father and step father are disordered. They chose each other.

    My mother is a predator. Her mother used the same tactics. My mother was extremely attached to her mother.

    I have disconnected physically and emotionally from my parents. It helps to be financially indepedent. My advice to a young person living at home is to make a well thought escape plan, and take time following it. Take vitamins, especially B vitamins for nerves because their behavior is stressful and depletes B vitamins which are essential for mental well being. And take exercise which releases endorphins to make you physically and emotionally stronger. Imagine you are Harry Potter and when their behavior is wicked cast a spell to teleport yourself away–walk outside or get in the car and leave. I stood there many times as a child and took it but as an adult I would just not say anything, give her a kiss and leave. Completely shocked my mother the last time she verbally assaulted me.

    I have gone no contact and learned about emotional blackmail. Susan Forward has a helpful book about emotional blackmail. I have done Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) counselling over the internet–free youtube videos from Dr Mercola–which are helpful to me to let my mother go. Mother attachment is a survival instinct. Some people have a wonderful attachment to their mother all their lives. When we find she is poison we have to let her go though.

    I believe I have had dysthymic depression, early onset from childhood. I have lost a lot of opportunities to be happy, healthy and successful.

    My father was mean to his dying day. I did not visit his deathbed. When my mother and step father die I will not visit theirs.

    The best way for me to have the relationship that I want with them is to go no contact and then I am free to think kindly and lovingly toward them. Kindness is a good habit. Hating them causes a bad habit that gets in the way of life.

    I have asked them about their childhoods. They have had sick and terrible parents themselves: incest, mother arrested, physical abuse, gang raped twice, prostitution, poverty, scam artist father. They probably suffer from depression and post traumatic stress disorder. I truly love them and wish that they had had a good life and I feel compassion and grief. I can only feel kindly by going no contact.

    You are all strong people and you will be okay and prevail. You are all fine. Your stories have helped me a lot. Thank you for reading.

  • Tara

    I’m a happily married woman(of epilepsy since 10). Now over 40, my Korean mother won’t let go of pampering me. I’m only half Korean. More/less there’s no way her she’s going to lose control of her sick kid(lost control of my brother). Left her country, divorced, sick kid, no grandchildren. I’ve spoken honestly to her, but she won’t accept the truth(when it’s not her opinion). Her constant criticism of people, life,complaining triggered seizures too often. She said family is who you share problems. I held neg. in best I could for years. I exploded feelings out last yr. She said I’m not the girl she raised. Not any longer, because I’m a grown woman. I apologized, yet she won’t take it. I won’t take it any longer either. I’m not going to repeat telling her I was wrong, it will be your way. Programming myself to live by her desires for the life I share w/ my husband came to a stop I’m behaving the way she did in my younger yrs: being myself. Last seizure was when my stepfather gave me a surprise visit to tell me how I should behave to her. I never went seizure-free this long in my life! I believe I proved that seizures were caused of stress. How to peacefully have her accept the truth: boundaries, choices made by younger aren’t always incorrect(less experience than elders’ excuse), daughter’s not going to follow mom’s commands, yet willing to hear her opinion? I’m tired of her creating stories/excuses to her sisters about me due to diff health. I’m desperate!

  • http://vantruong4179@yahoo.com Clueless T

    Hi Jane,

    wow, i truly felt a connection with you when you talked about your mother always talking trash. She constantly compare me with my twin sister or my cousins on how their life is so much better than mine. And even though i love her with all my heart, i don’t feel the same from her. i can never satisfy her no matter what i say or do.

  • sk

    this has really helped me in a time of great need. i’ve been dealing with guilt and manipulation in various forms for my entire life and it’s wonderful and touching to find so many people who have shared the same experiences. being asian in north america is a unique experience and i always feel there is a lack of dialogue among second and third generation children of asian immigrants. i’m reading some of your stories and finding sentences that describe my mother word for word – things i’ve never been able to share with my friends or with other people.

    my guilt stems from the fact that i think my parents have done more right than wrong. in a lot of ways i’m a success story, in asian daughter terms: i graduated high school at the top of my class, went to a great university, and i’m now in my first year of medical school. i can honestly say that i love my life and i can’t imagine doing anything else. but part of my journey this year has been developing the self-awareness to recognize where a lot of my deep-seated emotional issues come from, and it all traces back to my mother. i love my mother – she’s smart, talented and fiercely competent. she is also aggressively manipulative and deeply unhappy, and the more time i spend away from her lately the more i realize how toxic she is and how much of my anxiety and self-loathing comes from her. she’s pulled every trick in the asian mother book – calling me selfish, accusing me of using her, threatening to cut me off both emotionally and financially, talking about how my brother has “failed” her and how she doesn’t want me to be the same way. when i was growing up, i dealt with it by excelling in school and seeking her approval through external means. now that i’m in a place where i’m happy with myself, i’m starting to realize that her approval means less and less to me. this has led to a barrage of guilt and self-pity from her now that i no longer live at home – the usual stuff about how much she’s given up for me, but also that i’m ungrateful and that if i become independent from her, i’ll fail in anything i attempt to do in the future.

    the worst thing is that i thought all of this was normal up until this past year – that emotional blackmail and guilt were just part and parcel of being a family and a by-product of the closeness we all have. i’ve been told time and time again – by my own brother, who has effectively emancipated himself from my mother – that it’s not normal, and i finally see what he means now. i never thought to myself that i deserve better, that i deserve to be happy and not wracked with guilt. that realization has been empowering and painful in equal measure, but it’s one i needed to have.

    it’s a difficult thing to resent the same people who created you, raised you and provided you with all the opportunities to get you where you are. it’s harder when i know my mother is right about a lot of things and that she is infinitely more capable than me, which has been the basis of her controlling my life for so long. but i’m finally realizing the necessity of pulling myself away from them – emotionally, financially, physically – to regain my own agency and take responsibility for shaping my life into something i want it to be. it still comes with horrible guilt, even now, but slowly i hope to be able to heal. and i hope more than anything that as a girlfriend, a wife, and hopefully a mother one day that i can break the cycle and that i won’t use the same tactics against my children. i hope to empower them rather than emburden them, nurture an environment of support rather than one of dependency and manipulation. i hope to let go of the resentment and not let it define me.

  • Question for Dr. Chin

    It is very ironic that emotional abuse is meted out by the persons who are supposed to love us. Only recently I realised that my mother is emotionally abusive. I find her intrusions in my life irritating, but I was used to it. Slander, guilt-tripping, blackmail, melodrama- you name it and it’s present. Ever since I found out what exactly constitutes emotional abuse, I made attempts to analyse why she is that way. In all the rants which blame me and everyone else (my father, her in-laws, spouses of her siblings, neighbours, etc), she has never mentioned her own mother. Neither appreciating nor deprecating her. Could there be any reason for that, Dr. Chin? Is it indicative of anything?

    • Jane C

      It may be possible that she is not thinking at all about the root causes of her belief systems about herself and any power (accountability) she has over her perception and life. Hence she will react to the immediate people around her as “causing her suffering” as opposed to examining how she has come to be conditioned to blame those around her for her perceptions or decisions.

      The reason why a blind spot is called a blind spot, is because we are blind to our own blind spots while other people may see readily what we’ve grown blind to.

  • Karen

    Oh dear, don’t know if I should say it feels nice that someone has almost exact experience as me that I am not alone in this struggle or it is so pathetic that it is us not the’ perpetrators’ that work hard to make sense out of this controlling manipulative way of loving. I have grown tired and sick of even having a serious conversation with my mother, because 9 out of 10 times she wasn’t listening but dumping guilt and unsolicited comparison on me. She lives in her world seeing judging the world with her unique pair of glasses that she is so used to that she doesn’t even realise she can take them off. I have tried to agree with whatever come at me. I failed to contain my anger afterwards. I feel this isn’t the way to go. …..reasoning with her failed me too…..
    We live oceans apart, and still I feel her manipulation vividly almost at all times. I love her deeply and yet I can honestly say I also resent her for being her. I haven’t found a way to find peace in this relationship and I think this is because only one person in this relationship is working on that.

  • noone

    I have just recently realized that my mother is emotionally abusive. I love her to death and I feel like she is the only person in the world who cares.

    But at the same time I recognized, that she cares, only because it is good for her, to have me at her service.

    I read somewhere before, that sometimes single moms put unreasonable expectations on their children. I made a note of it in my mind, but didn’t research more on that subject until now.

    I live on the other end of the world from my mom. When we talk over the phone, she seems adequate, I can have great stimulating conversations with her. When I came to visit first time in 4 years, it was great too. After that everything turned back to where it was, back to same toxic miserable routine that I thought I already forgot.

    Last year I took her to Greece, this year, I took her to black sea. Everytime I am with her, I feel like I am running around, trying to please her and no matter what I do she is not happy, not satisfied. All my suggestions, everything I offer is dismissed as something foolish or even if accepted, later criticized as if she knew all along from the beginning that it was foolish, but she didn’t want to tell me, because I wouldn’t listen to her anyways or sometimes she even says she told me, but I didn’t pay attention. If I get busy with my staff, she suddenly starts to feel bad, as if her blood pressure strikes or she gets a headache, or heart pain….

    I see that she is acting as if I was her man, who is constantly there to please and satisfy her every little wish. I don’t know if this is because my father left us before I was even born and I don’t know how to deal with it.

    I want to have parents. That was my child dream to have a normal family with mom and dad, who loves me and supports me. But spending time with my precious mom make me feel nothing, so low, unworthy, hopeless like nothing else does. It is like I take a year apart from her, build my confidence, positivity, hope for the future during this year, trying to see where I am going with my life and then when I see her, all of this wipes of in just a couple of weeks and when I go back to my home, I have to start from absolute zero.

    I found my father few months ago. I’ve seen him last 16 years ago. I thought finding him will bring me some peace. But it didn’t. He was in army and besides seeing him as a stranger, I also feel his unreasonable demands of obeying and respecting. He expects me to obey him just because he is my father, and that it is something that should be given and unquestionable, though he didn’t bother to see if I was still alive for the last 16 years. My mom is against him, she doesn’t show it very openly, but she constantly makes negative “jokes” or indulgent comments about me communicating with my father or just him in general. And she is categorical in rejecting communicating with him, even though I told her multiple times that this whole thing is not about her, but it is for me and I have never asked her to talk to my father if she doesn’t want to.

    Now she is acting as if everything is ok, but from time to time she drops a comment like “this is probably our last time together” or “I’ll never come visit you” or “Ill die before you give me grandchildren”. These types of comments make me feel so sick, I want to jump out the window. And I’ve done staff like this before. When I was a teenager, I tried to cut my veins. Once I drunk so much alcohol in front of her, when she was giving me silent treatment, I blacked out and woke up in a bathtub under the cold water a day later. And she told me she was afraid I would die, but she was embarrassed to call the emergency and that I should be ashamed of myself for putting her under such stress.

    I don’t know if I should seek therapy, seems like my horrible childhood is not letting me go and may be the reason, why I can’t make friends or have any quality relationships wherever I go. I need help.