May 08, 2010

Inside this Newsletter:


Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m only a mother of my 6 cats, but they feel like my children. What a spring we’re having – 70 degrees one day and snow the next. I’m trying to garden, but it’s not easy. The good news is that my shoulder is all healed up (95%) and I am able to garden. I finally feel back to normal (I sent my doctor a thank-you note!).

Although I celebrate all mother’s and all the work and sacrifices they have to make, my mother’s day articles are not typical articles celebrating mother’s day. They are instead instructional articles for those of you who have difficulty with your mothers.

Pick up the June Cosmo when it comes out around May 11 and look for the feature article that I am quoted in with a title something like, “What Guys Look for in A Long-Term Girlfriend.” I am also quoted in n upcoming Life and Style magazine (next couple of weeks) on the topic of how celebrities feel when they’re trying to lose their baby weight.


Handling Difficult Mothers

Our mothers have taken care of us, we love them, and we have been dependent on them. This combination creates issues with our mothers that must be dealt with as adults if we want happy, healthy lives.

To become a strong man or woman, we must separate from our parents psychologically, especially our mothers. Sometimes our mothers won’t let go and want to tell us how to run our lives no matter how old we are. Sometimes we feel like our mother never actually mothered us and instead we mothered her. Some people feel unloved and abandoned by their mothers. These issues can hold us back in our lives, i.e. our confidence at work and our behavior in our relationships.

I have male clients in my Denver practice who felt abandoned by their mothers who now choose women again and again who do the same thing to them. I have female clients who feel they aren’t smart enough to follow their dreams because of what their mothers have said to them. My client Cynthia’s mother acts like a 5-year-old with her, throwing temper tantrums and pouting, which leaves Cynthia confused about how to handle relationships.

Many of us feel criticized or controlled by our mothers. My mother used to say things like, “You’ve put on some weight, haven’t you?” Then she’d comment, “Do you have to have wine with dinner every night?” Or she’d say, “Your hair looked better the other way.”

My client, Mary, who grew up here in Denver, recently asked her mom to help her pick out a new refrigerator and her mom’s response was, “Are you such a pea brain that you can’t pick it out yourself?

What Makes a Mother Difficult?

  • she avoids and denies your emotions

  • she doesn't give you unconditional love, accepting you with your imperfections

  • she still tries to control you, if not directly, then through guilt

  • she doesn't speak up and tell you what's really going on and instead plays martyr or tells another family member

  • she doesn't support you in your risk taking and growth to move ahead in life

  • she criticizes you and makes you feel like you’re not smart enough or good enough

What To Do

  1. The key to resolving issues and making peace with your mother is separating yourself emotionally from them so that you see their hurtful behavior simply as "bad" behavior of theirs instead of taking it so personally; and then holding your mother accountable for that bad behavior.

  2. Take mom off her pedestal. She doesn't know what's best for you anymore; she just knows how to push your buttons.

  3. Don't edit your conversations when you around her. Be yourself with her, not who she wants you to be.

  4. Stop her if and when she starts criticizing you. Tell her to stop and then leave her presence or hang up if she continues.

  5. Write her a letter letting her know that her judgment of you is wrong. Tell her how you are different from her and that you choose to be different from her. Let her know she can no longer judge or criticize you, and that if she does, you will let her know some of her own faults. Tell her how you expect her to treat you in the future.

  6. Prepare in advance for every interaction with her and set up boundaries to avoid incidents, i.e. "Mom, you know I'm only going to stay for an hour, so don't be upset when I get ready to leave."

Or, "If you judge me about that, I won't share anymore information with you. I need you to stop talking to me like that now or I'll have to leave."

Or, "I know you won't approve, but I'm not asking your permission, so please just listen and support my decision."

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How I Handled My Mother

My client, Mary, who grew up here in Denver, recently asked her mom to help her pick out a new refrigerator and her mom’s response was, “Are you such a pea brain that you can’t pick it out yourself?

When Mary told me what her mother said to her, she said she responded that it hurt her feelings, and of course her mother said, “I’m just joking.” Mary and I worked on a letter to her mom, telling her how angry she was about all the criticisms, telling her that she won’t allow it anymore, and also telling her mother everything that is wrong with her. Mary was uncomfortable with this last part, but I told her she didn’t have to send that part, but she had to keep it in mind for a time when he mom won’t back down. Mary did not send the letter yet, but each time she’s talked to her mom, she has started speaking up and making her stop the criticisms, and she’s already feeling better about herself.

Denver client Cynthia has had a very uncomfortable relationship with her mom. When Cynthia visited her parents, her mother would play manipulative games, and withdraw into her bedroom to pout when she didn’t get her way. Her father would just say, “That’s just your mom.” This made Cynthia feel extremely unloved. She took her mother’s behavior personally accountable for that bad behavior. Then she wrote several letters to her mom, trying to make her understand how unloved she felt. Though it was a hard road, Cynthia feels she finally got things worked out with her mom.

"No Regrets When Her Mom Died"

Cynthia sent me a note recently when her mom passed telling me how happy she is that she worked through her issues with her mom. She says, "My mother passed away this past week and I was just thinking to myself how happy I am that I don't have any regrets. I want to say thank you for the help you've given me over the past few years with trying to work through my anger and my frustration with her. Your program helped me learn to separate myself from her and no longer need her approval. I also had set boundaries with her which made her treat me more loving than she had before. I also now understand that my mother’s bad behavior in the past was really about her and her problems, and not about me or her lack of love for me.”

“Being there for her at the end was really nice. I was with her when she died. I was the only one of us 3 kids that rushed to be there by her side, and I'm glad I went when I did. It was an amazing experience. We were able to tell each other we loved each other. She told me I was her best friend. I’m finally at peace with my mother.”

Another Denver client, Delores, wrote the following poem after working on the issues with her mother.

My Mother, My Maker

I've met my maker - what a sight to see.
My maker's my mother - what a woman is she.
My mother's my mirror - I see my reflection.
My mother's my vision - despite my objection.

In some ways she's generous in her show of affection.
She has countless ways to express her rejection.
By my maker's hand, have I turned out to be,
more of her than who I thought was me.

It's a scary thought - to be her clone.
There's more of her than I want to own.
I have worked too hard to be my own person.
Only to come full circle to learn the lesson.

No matter how hard I try to dispel the notion.
I am woven by the threads of her commotion.
Here I am - my mother's daughter.
Swimming in circles in her stormy water.

In this calm of the storm I can hear a voice
that assures me that I do have a choice.
I can try to escape and drown with exhaustion,
or I can use this truth as my internal combustion.

I can kick and stroke to escape her sea
or within its bounds be the best me I can be.

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Therapy Thursday

Life getting to ya? - Have a problem? - Need advice?

Get help from Carolyn Bushong and The Morning Show. Tune in Thursdays for THERAPY THURSDAY.

Therapy Thursday - Listen and cal in (303-631-2985) to KYGO 98.5 FM as Carolyn gives relationship advice every Thurdsay morning from 7am to 9am

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About Carolyn

Carolyn Bushong, L.P.C, is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 25+ years of experience working with people who want to solve personal issues, OR find a healthy romantic relationship, OR improve a relationship they are already in. She has authored and published 3 relationship books, and McCall's called her one of the top relationship therapists in the country.

Besides her successful private practice as a psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado, her credits include 4 appearances on the Oprah show, a segment appearance on the View (reviewing her book The 7 Dumbest Relationship Mistakes Smart People Make), and other television appearances too numerous to mention. Carolyn also has a radio show called Therapy Thursday on KYGO 98.5FM, Kelly & Rider’s morning drive time at 7:30 am in Denver, CO.

Carolyn helps clients all over the country, some who come into her office and others who receive Carolyn's expert advice through phone counseling. Carolyn Bushong is an excellent psychotherapist, but she also lives what she teaches, as she is in a happy, healthy relationship with Alan, her mate of 21 years. To find out more, go to her website at

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