Taking responsibility for setting boundaries in your relationship with your mother (whether you are in contact with her or not) is like racing a car (or motorcycle, or even a horse).
It’s all about knowing where you want to go and focusing your attention on your destination.
The good news is that your mother doesn’t have to take the trip with you.
In fact, it’s probably better that she doesn’t.
Back before I knew better, I would get caught up with my mother in looking at the past: who had said and done what and why. Basically, even when it wasn’t obvious, these conversations were about blame. Blame is about the past and when you’re looking back it’s hard to move forward.
My husband, who is an avid motor sportsman, taught me about something called target fixation:
“One of the products of your body’s eye-brain-muscle system is that if you want to hit something, you need to look at it intently (think “keep your eye on the ball”). On a motorcycle or when car racing, it is also true that if you look at something intently you will likely hit it.
If an obstacle appears in or near your path, staring at it will greatly increase your chances of hitting it. Your body’s feedback mechanism will cause you to steer directly toward an obstacle if you’re staring at it. As you see it approaching and your panic increases, you will stare more intently, and home in even more accurately.
Target fixation affects your riding/driving in other ways too. You’re experiencing this problem if:
:: you keep hitting minor obstacles (sand patches, oil slicks, paper bags) that you were trying to avoid.
[What obstacles do you keep hitting in regards to your relationship with your mother?]
:: you have to constantly correct your steering when riding through a curve, because you are looking a short distance ahead and driving to that point, instead of looking all the way through the curve.
[What are you focused on? A band-aid or a cure? Her behavior or your values?]
:: you have trouble maintaining your balance in crowded slow-speed situations like parking lots because you’re looking at all the obstacles.
[Where are you wobbly when it comes to your boundaries?]
What is the solution?
Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Practice obstacle avoidance using your eyes…look at the clear path next to the obstacle, not at the obstacle. Pick an approaching spot on the road, and avoid it by looking at the clear path beside it, then letting your steering reaction follow naturally. And if you do find yourself faced with an emergency involving an obstacle, you will be better prepared for the most critical technique in collision avoidance: look at the path of safety, not at the obstacle.” (from Target fixation: you go where you look)
[Focus on your values, your preferences, your needs, your desires…your boundaries]
In this way, you are able to respond to what’s in your path.
Which is what true responsibility is all about: the ABILITY to RESPOND in the present moment to what is in front of you (not what happened in the past) and thus move forward.
You get to feel however you want to feel and your mother gets to be who she is.
You know and honor your values and preferences and you rely on them to support healthy boundaries and your mother gets to be who she is.
You’re no longer relying on blame or clinging to the past because you’re focused on what’s in front of you and where you want to go. Will there be obstacles on your path? For sure! Trust yourself to navigate them by keeping your focus on where you want to go.
Much, much love,
This piece first appeared on Patreon. THANK YOU to my current Patrons!
If you love my writing and would like to have access to it when it debuts, consider joining my exclusive community for as little as $2/month ($24/year). I choose this platform so my writing remains both my own, and ad-free. There you will find all my best work. There you can ask me for advice and I will give you my very best answer…and if it’s unclear or you need additional insight, I will provide it.
My current goal is 100 Patrons. When I reach this goal I will make a monthly donation to Women’s March, whose mission is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.