Toxic Procrastination – Part 2
In this session, Lauren deepens the conversation about toxic procrastination to delve into its origins.
From last session, we heard that those of us suffering from toxic procrastination learned early on that it was unsafe to self-express. In this session, she states that this fear “is almost always tied directly to a codependent relationship with a parent” – usually the mother.
Specifically, she talks about enmeshment – where the needs of the parent are seen to be more important than those of the enmeshed child. This parent used emotional fragility and guilt as a means of control. Unlike the bullying type of narcissist, this parent is also narcissistic but of a different sort. They are usually unconscious of their own actions and are seen as sweet individuals who tend to have a strong martyrdom streak.
Basically, the solution comes down to boundaries. Creating some boundaries may be tough, but the lies that we told ourselves (the parent will shatter if we upset them) are not true. Yes, things may be painful for them and for us, but in order to start dealing with their own issues, boundaries must be created.
Again, Lauren might as well have just displayed a picture of my mom and I while describing this session’s material.
Last week, I primarily talked about how I learned it was dangerous to self-express because of my father’s reactions. He was spontaneously violent, unpredictable and cruel in a lot of ways. (He also seems to be where I get a lot of my more positive traits from – he was creative, loved movies and stories, and was definitely an introvert. He had little education, but he was smart. Show him a problem to solve and he could quickly figure it out. He taught himself to weld and eventually created his own line of short wave radio towers as well as a line of trailers for hauling large machinery. It’s only been much later in life that I have been able to see anything positive coming from this man.)
My mom, on the other hand, was the outgoing one. She was caring, sweet, the “mom” to all my friends. I can’t really say what she liked – she had no hobbies and hated reading, movies and tv. When she was in a relationship, she poured herself into it, giving herself 110% to her partner. She was also very much the martyr – always putting herself last, trying to steer my father’s wrath toward her instead of us kids, etc.
They had married young – my father was 18, my mom was 17. He was in construction work, building the interstate system in the late 50’s. She was a waitress in a restaurant he frequented while she still went to high school. I’m not sure if they really “dated”. I do know, however, that when it was time for him to move on, he gave her the ultimatum to come with him or never see him again. She chose to go, leaving a household in which she was being sexually abused by her brother who could do no wrong.
Even though it seemed they were in love at the beginning, my dad soon became jealous, prohibiting my mom from leaving the home and becoming friends with any of his coworkers and their wives. Soon, she was trapped in a mobile home with a cat she hated – a gift from my dad to help her deal with the loneliness she felt.
Ten months after they were married, I came along. And I was her “special” child.
Early on, I was told exactly how special I was. I was born with a caul which meant I supposedly had unusual abilities. Not only that, she made sure I was special in other ways: I was quiet, intelligent, well-behaved, always mannerly (yes sir’s and ma’am’s even when I was 4). I’ve always believed she raised me to be the husband that my dad could never be – someone caring, attentive, and non-threatening toward women, especially sexually.
I became her confidant. Whenever they fought, she and I would go out on drives where she would pour her heart out to me. One of my earliest memories was when I was 4: after an extremely violent argument with my father about wanting to attend a Fourth of July fireworks display, she and I left to watch them. As the rockets lit the skies, I clearly remember saying, “I will never leave you, mama. I will never hurt you either.” Four years old – and I was, in effect, marrying my mother, trying to prevent her from being hurt more by my father.
Troubles within their relationship increased over the years. Soon, I was the one trying to steer my father’s wrath from my mother instead of the other way around. A string of events occurred while I was in high school that almost destroyed me involving both of them. It was up to me to keep everything secret since exposure would have meant jail time for them. Still, I carried on. I maintained an almost 4.0 grade point average while dealing with both my growing homosexual feelings along with these family secrets that would have rocked the community. The enmeshment was total and I became simply a way to achieve that which she couldn’t achieve by herself.
The talks, the confessions, continued even then as their marriage slowly imploded. This time, however, they usually occurred while she was drunk. (She was never previously a drinker, though, so I suspect this period was just due to the strain of their failed relationship.) I would clean up her vomit, then sit on the edge of the bed and listen to her describe her emotional pain. Unfortunately, while drunk, she not only talked about my dad and his failings – she also talked about me and mine. Thus, I was torn, having to remain the supportive son while also listening to how I had failed her time and time again.
As I’ve written previously elsewhere here, this situation continued until I was 35 when I met my future spouse. We first moved out of my house where she, her partner, and my younger brother lived. Then my future spouse and I moved across country from Indiana to Arizona. You’d have thought the world had ended. Things were never the same.
Anyway, I lived through every moment of what Lauren spoke about in this lesson. Only through years of therapy have I been able to see this enmeshment and understand its effects. However, it seems that there’s still some collateral damage hanging around as this toxic procrastination is still a major issue in my life.
As my mom died over 10 years ago, I don’t have to go through the pain of setting up the boundaries Lauren talks about – I guess I went through that years ago. Still, there appears to be work to do. Hopefully I will remain strong in accomplishing it so I can move on and write the book that I want to.
Again, I continue to find this course to be well worth the cost. I look forward to moving on to Session 3 next week. (If you are interested in learning more about it, click here.)
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash