It has been a hectic week. Our club is putting on a contest on Saturday where students are going to recite poetry. It hasn’t left me with a lot of time to myself, but I seem to be coping.

I sent the note up to C on Thursday—because I was leaving home earlier in the mornings, I hope she got it. I hope no one teased her about it. And I hope no one read it. The girl I sent it with last time was my student, but not C’s particular friend. She wouldn’t say anything to C about it most likely. She would be performing a task for me as assigned, but the girl I sent it with this week is her friend, and she will have a personal interest. So let’s see.

I have gotten a clearer picture of my mother recently, and it helps somewhat. I have some ideas about the shame I feel about my whole self.

My grandmother didn’t have my mother’s disordered attachment as far as I can tell, maybe she did. But she really did not have a lot of empathy. We had a decent relationship, but I remember how fraught my grandmother’s relationship with my mother was. My grandmother would criticize my mother kind of relentlessly and my mother would break apart. Holidays were awful because of what happened between them. I can imagine my grandmother really did not think about what my mother needed when my mother was a child. She didn’t necessarily soothe her or respond to her. She wouldn’t take the effort to become attuned.

Anyway, it made me think my mother would be experiencing the same grief I feel when C wants me when I wanted my mother, and my mother would have felt the need to push away what appeared to be the source of that pain, which would be me. So she shamed me, because that is what shame does. It pushes people away. My mother shamed me, but she wasn’t shaming me to teach me that a particular character trait or behaviour was acceptable. She shamed me to cut off the feeling of closeness and warmth that was causing her pain, so it became my whole self that felt shameful and not just something about me. I mean I did not become ashamed of my body or my laugh or my temper or something like that. It wasn’t something particular. It felt like it was everything, because actually what my mother was pushing away was her grief. Only I was 2 or 7 or 13 or whatever, and I had no idea about that. I had no idea why she was behaving that way. The commonality seemed to be me.

Only, looking back, it wasn’t. It was nearly every important relationship where she did this.

The other thing I can see is that lack of attunement for her would have the same meaning it does now for me, which is that it would be catastrophic danger. When she didn’t feel attuned to me—I did something she didn’t like or I had a mood that didn’t mesh with hers, something like that—it felt tremendously dangerous, because as a child when she didn’t feel attuned to her own mother, she was left alone to cope with her own overwhelming feelings. Or she was punished for having feelings. At any rate, she would be left in a state of complete internal devastation that she had to cope with and lacked the resources to cope with because she was a child.

So lack of attunement would feel enormously threatening to her, and she would push me away and punish me for that too, because she felt threatened.

I am not in any way condoning how she behaved with me, or that at no point did she seem to see that she needed to figure out how to cope so that she could take care of me, but seeing it in that way helps me to understand that it wasn’t me. How she behaved wasn’t about me. It was about the mess inside her. And I feel better. I feel safer.