Coping skills and family secrets

Baker asks what coping skills I used to get attention or protect myself as a child. This is another tough question. I think my real problem was that I did not have coping skills, unless you count wallowing in self-pity as a coping mechanism. I should have learned to accept reality, sunk costs, past conditions, and past decisions. Instead of obsessing on things past that could not be changed, I should have learned to focus on the present and plan realistically for the future. I’m learning those things now, just over four decades late.

Then Baker asks, what was the “family secret” that everyone was trying to protect? I think the family secret — not always so well-kept — was hatred and self-pity. My mother was a very hateful person. She hated the neighbors, the church, her in-laws, and God-knows who else. She often, almost exclusively, spoke ill of her mother, people we knew, people on television, and others. The phrases “keep this private” and “don’t tell anyone” loom large in my memory. She often compared herself to others and expressed envy and jealousy. She seemed to believe the world was quite unfair. Consciously, I remember being annoyed by all her comparisons and negativity. Subconsciously, it appears I took it all onboard. For decades, I carried the same self-pity and anger I had learned from my mother’s example.

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