Ask Amy: I want to go no-contact with my mom


Dear Amy: I wish to go no-contact with my mother.

She is a narcissist who does everything in her power to gaslight and avoid blame, and she will never acknowledge her behavior as anything other than “joking.”

I have worked with a few therapists over the years who have helped me to protect myself from her abuse and understand where it’s coming from.

It has also given me clarity that she will never change.

The only reason I haven’t gone no-contact yet is because the rest of my family (my dad, sister and nephew) are wonderful people.

I have tried speaking with them to help set boundaries in the hopes that she may one day learn that her behavior is unacceptable, but they all would rather keep the peace.

I understand completely, but merely being in her company is emotionally exhausting.

But to truly be estranged from her would also mean cutting off the rest of my family, and the thought of that is devastating.

I would value your outside perspective.

Outs: It seems possible that you might be able to have some contact with your father, sister and nephew without your mother being present, but if that is not possible, then you will have to continue to focus on ways to protect yourself and work toward your own emancipation.

Your mother might have trained you not to trust yourself. (Keeping someone off-kilter is very much in the narcissist’s playbook.) You will need to claim, then reclaim, your autonomy and give yourself permission to do what you need to do.

Despite your clarity regarding your mother and your understanding attitude toward your family members, reading into your statements, I wonder whether you are actually still trying mightily to force your mother toward change to try to control the outcome.

This would be the natural and fervent wish of any person in your situation, but the next thing for you to work on would be to develop a strategy for cutting ties completely, or, if possible, train yourself not to care.

A sample scenario of you not caring would be for you to anticipate the slings and arrows your mother flings in your path, then exercise your ability to resist being emotionally triggered or goaded into a specific reaction.

Experiment with contact of very short durations, and always know where your coat and keys are, in case you need to exit.

I highly recommend you read “Adult Survivors of Toxic Family Members: Tools to Maintain Boundaries, Deal with Criticism, and Heal from Shame After Ties Have Been Cut,” by Sherrie Campbell (2022, New Harbinger).

Dear Amy: I have had a long-term love affair with foreign languages.

I have studied several, and I speak one very well.

My question is this: Is it always rude to ask someone which country is their place of origin?

I am compelled to do this for selfish reasons. I love practicing my language skills whenever the opportunity arises.

I try to refrain from asking outright for several reasons.

I realize that most people are striving to learn English here in the United States, and others feel as if their English is so good that their accent is undetectable.

Others may feel as if I’m pointing out that they are from another country because I have some bias against immigrants. (I don’t!)

Can you suggest a polite way of inquiring about this, or should I let it possibly come out naturally?

Language Lover: Asking a stranger you’re encountering in North America, “What country are you from?” really does a great job of highlighting how you perceive their “otherness.”

For many people who might not look like you, the answer would truthfully be: “What country am I from? I’m from this country.”

However, asking anyone at all, “Where did you grow up?” or, “Where did you spend your childhood?” is a conversation starter.

(That way, when they say, “I grew up in Cleveland,” you can ask them all about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

Dear Amy: I was extremely dissatisfied with your answer to “Worried Mom,” who was having trouble managing her adult children, including a child with “significant mental health issues.”

Why didn’t you offer her any advice or resources for coping with that?

Concerned: The writer specifically asked how to develop “compassionate detachment.” That’s what I offered.

People who have family members with mental illness can find a “family support group” through the National Alliance on Mental Illness,

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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