No More Drama With Mama | Gayle Kirschenbaum | TEDxBergenCommunityCollege


Translator: Thành H. Châu
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Did you ever feel like you were born
into the wrong family? I did. It didn’t matter that I
was having career success. I was first a graphic designer, then a TV producer, then a filmmaker, and I was awarded – I was acknowledged with awards
along the way. I was seething with anger
towards my mother. From head to toe,
there was nothing right about me. My nose was too big. My butt was too fat. My hair was too frizzy. According to my mother, I couldn’t do anything right, and my brothers couldn’t do
anything wrong. Little did I know
that the obstacles of my childhood would end up being
this biggest opportunity of my life. By facing those challenges, I was able to figure out
the secret to finding forgiveness, and the power and the freedom
that that gives you. Let me take you back to my childhood. I was born in enemy territory, and I was the only one captured. I was the youngest of three, the only daughter, and I grew up hearing
I was supposed to be Gary. Well, they didn’t get Gary,
they got me – Gayle. Now, most mothers would’ve felt
like they won the lottery. Not mine, and if she did,
she had a funny way of showing it. I often wondered, Is that what got us off to a bad start? I was born with thick, dark, curly hair, and by third grade, Mom was having it
professionally straightened. And then there was my nose. When the bumps started growing
when I was a young teen, Mom’s campaign to get me
to have a nose job started. And that went on for decades. In case you’re wondering,
I didn’t have a nose job. I was a slow developer, and Mom used to stuff in the top
of my bathing suit foam rubber. I was thirteen years old when I was taking a swimming lesson
and the foam rubber came floating out. Pretty funny today but quite humiliating when I was young. I wonder if any of you have
a humiliating story from your childhood. My brothers were my mom’s bouncers. The one that was closest to my age
had been the youngest. So, he didn’t want me around
when I was born, and he showed me that by destroying most of my dolls
and then trying to do the same with me. My eldest brother, well,
he just took orders from my mother. So, when Mom wanted me out of the way, she had my brothers put me
on top of the refrigerator, where I couldn’t get down. My father? He himself had been raised abused,
and he had a very short fuse. So, Mom used him as
a German Shepherd to sic on me. Mom today proudly talks about the night
she did a “Mommie Dearest” on me. Do you remember that movie
about Joan Crawford and how cruel she was to her mother? OK. I was a teenager,
I was out with my friends. They were dropping me off at home,
we pull up in front of my house, and all of a sudden,
I see my mother standing out there with a glass of water in one hand
and the dog’s leash in the other hand. I get out of the car, I walk in front, I stand in front of my mother. Now, the car lights are shining on me, and all my friends are
in the car watching this, as my mother throws the water in my face, and tells me to walk the dog. She doesn’t care if I get raped,
if I wasn’t already. That was just the beginning. I lived in fear of my mother, in fear of her punishments, in fear of the humiliation. And that fear had led me to being sick. I had headaches all the time,
dizzy spells and nausea. As soon as I left my house,
I didn’t have headaches anymore. When Mom would go on vacation, I often wondered what it would be like
if the plane crashed. I thought, “I would be free!” I knew there was something seriously wrong
if I was wishing my mother dead. I was so desperate to get out of my house, but I didn’t have the courage to run away. A social worker advised me
to graduate high school early and go away to college. So, by the end of my sixteenth year,
I finished high school, and I went away to a university
200 miles from home. There I was an art major, and I found support
from my teachers and my friends. But I was craving love
and affection and intimacy. And I found myself in the arms
and the beds of many men, often sabotaging those relationships. Years later, when I hit middle-age, I finally gave in to Mom’s demands
to get me to a plastic surgeon. I agreed to visit three plastic surgeons
for a consultation about my nose, as long as I can have
a camera crew along with me. She couldn’t care less about me
having a camera crew, and what resulted was
a funny short film called “My Nose,” about Mom’s relentless campaign
to get me to have a nose job. When I’d get off the stage
after the Q & A, there would be a line in front of me. And the first thing people would say is –
they would compliment me on my nose. And then the next thing,
they would tell me their story. And it didn’t have to be about their nose, but it was about some childhood trauma
that they had suffered, that they were still dealing with. I remember a woman opening up her coat
to show me her weight issues and attributing it to her mother,
who was long gone. That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone,
and so many people were suffering. The mother-daughter relationship is
the most highly charged relationship. One word, one look could transform it. It is the relationship that has
the most power over us. We crave the love and adoration,
support of our mothers. And our mothers look at us,
their daughters, as a reflection of them. So the biggest thing
our mothers criticize us about is our appearance. And specifically, our hair, our clothing and our weight, all of which I experienced
throughout my life. I realized that I had to do something,
I had to change something. I was traveling the world, I was having tremendous
success in my career. Regardless of that, I was fuming with anger
towards my mother. I had anger all the time. It was affecting every aspect of my life. I ended up reacting constantly
to my mother’s criticisms, and in fact, I gave it right back to her. I learned how to put the knife in
and turn it and leave a lasting scar. I wasn’t happy about my behavior. I knew that I was now a victim, and I’d been a victim for years, and I’d given my mother my power. I would have to forgive my mother
to find peace and happiness. But I didn’t know
how I was going to do it. I was already fifty years old
and single and alone. I was living with emotional
and mental bondage. I was trapped. It was like having an addiction
that slowly eats away at you. I had a food addiction for many years as a result of my mother’s
constant criticisms about my weight. It took a car accident for me to change
how I thought about food. I decided I was going to eat
what I wanted to eat, when I wanted to eat it. And as soon as I did that, the addiction went away. I knew I was going to have to change
how I thought about my mother. At this point, Mom was in her 80s, and I asked her if she would be willing
to go on a journey together with me to resolve our relationship
in front of the camera. She agreed. I knew this was a golden opportunity because Mom, in her senior years, without the responsibility
of raising children, had become quite funny –
her humor came out. And not only was she willing, she was very happy
to share her life with the world. What resulted was my feature documentary
called “Look At Us Now, Mother!” It took three steps for me
to resolve my relationship with my mother. The first one was
I needed to understand her. So, with cameras rolling,
I began my investigation into her past. I learned about
her father’s suicide attempts, the untimely death of her sister, and the financial hardship she suffered. Essentially, the childhood she never had. A big light-bulb moment came for me when I played
a psychological board game. I threw the dice,
and the facilitator said, “Stand up and close your eyes.
Imagine your mother as a little girl.” Well, at this point, I knew about
the pain of my mother’s childhood. And I saw a wounded little girl. And then she said, “Imagine yourself as a little girl.” I knew I was a wounded little girl. And then she said, “You both come together.” Wow, she was no longer my abusive mother. She was a wounded little girl
as I was a wounded little girl. That helped me reframe –
which is step number two – how I looked at my mother. I changed my expectations of her. So, now I saw her as
a wounded little girl like me, who really needed love. So, when she would be nasty
or critical to me, it bounced off of me. I essentially rendered her abuse
powerless over me. Because I took her off
that pedestal of my mother who should love and adore me
the way she loved and adored my brothers, and saw as a wounded little girl
who didn’t know any better, who was in pain herself. What gets us all so upset in life is
when we have unfulfilled expectations. I changed my expectations of her. I forgave my mother. I didn’t forget. You never forget. Don’t wait for that person who’s hurt you
ever to say they’re sorry, even to acknowledge
that they did anything wrong. Because they are completely unaware. It’s like getting angry at somebody for doing something
that they’re not wired or capable to do. So, the biggest gift you can give yourself
is the ability to forgive. You forgive for yourself. If you don’t forgive and you hang on to that anger
and that resentment, it only hurts you: it affects your relationships, it affects your health. In fact, when I made
“Look At Us Now, Mother!” I reread my childhood dairies, and I relived my childhood trauma, and I got sick. I developed an autoimmune disease. I developed a very bad case
of Psoriasis all over my hands. It was so bad that my fingers
were always bleeding, and I had to wear gloves. I tried various medical treatments, but none of them were long-lasting. And then I said to myself, “You know, you got yourself sick
by these stressful emotions, and you’re going to heal yourself.” And I did so by changing how I thought of my mother. I released that anger and that hatred
I was feeling towards her, and I felt empathy and compassion
and love for her. And I healed myself,
and my hands are completely fine. Learning how to forgive
gives you emotional freedom; it unleashes that noose around our neck that we’ve allowed
our perpetrator to hold. When I figured out this secret
to finding forgiveness, I applied this method to other people, and I forgave my brothers. When ever I come across a difficult person
or I’m in a difficult situation, I know now how I can turn it around. When I think about
when people are unkind to others, I reflect on myself
when I’m unkind to others. I’m feeling fear, anger, insecurity. We’re not unkind to others
when we’re feeling loved. When we’re feeling loved,
we’re compassionate to others. Love’s the most powerful emotion there is. We can transform people
by showing them love, and our brain is our most powerful organ. It controls our emotions and our actions. By changing how I thought about my mother
and reframing how I saw her, I was able to forgive her. Today, Mom and I are
each other’s closest friends. We speak to each other every day,
at least once if not more, because we love to communicate and share. We travel the world together,
we’ve been travelling a lot with the film, and in fact, it is my mother
who helped me shape this talk. I am really grateful for this opportunity
to share my story and my lessons learned. To recap – it’s three simple steps: Understand, Reframe, and then you can Forgive. Now I want to ask you
to think about your own life. Who in your life has hurt you so badly
that you’ve not been able to forgive them? Remember: it is your choice
whether to forgive or not. We all have a story. Be the hero of your story, not the victim. Thank you. (Applause)

49 Replies to “No More Drama With Mama | Gayle Kirschenbaum | TEDxBergenCommunityCollege”

  1. This is a  thought provoking and inspirational talk with universal appeal.  Looking forward to future projects  by this gifted speaker.

  2. I think it's shocking that only a handful of ppl commented on this. I'm struggling right now about what to do with my mom. She has all the signs of a Covert Narcissist. If you read or hear anything about that, ppl tell you to go No Contact, that they never change and only get worse with age. So I have gone No Contact and I've slipped into a really bad depression. I realized that I was sad, like to my core. I don't know what to do. I have been praying about it. Your story really made me feel that it might be possible for a reconciliation. Thank you.

  3. I'm currently struggling w/this same situation: in on the verge of 40 and my mother and oldest brother are my thorns. I can only hope & pray I can find the peace Gayle has found one day. Thank you. Yes, you could go on talking, but 15 minutes was very thorough. Thank you.

  4. my mother has a hateful look that makes me crying inside.feel so aggressed.need to get her out of my life and heal my pain.

  5. Why is everyone so set on forgiveness being the only solution? Perhaps it isn't for everyone? Perhaps it would work better if people were more encouraged to have the confidence to decide on strategy that works for them when they got hurt by the very adult/s that were meant to nurture them? I believe that sometimes you can't neither forget nor forgive and that's fine. Because it is possible to move on and be happy, and you are perfectly within your right to do so, unconditionally. No. You don't owe that person an understanding either. You owe them nothing.

  6. Forgiveness only works if the other person is willing to apologize & try to change their behaviour. Forgiveness does no good if the abusive patterns continue. Understanding is only part of it. Forgiveness does not work with everyone; many times, it's pushed as an excuse to just "get over it". Abuse — emotional, physical, verbal — leaves deep, long-lasting wounds & scars that we have to work to change & heal from. Why should the abuser get "forgiven"? There's another side to forgiveness, and that's *change*.

    If my car hits a patch of ice, skids, & hits someone else, it doesn't matter that it wasn't my fault; it doesn't matter that the ice caused me to skid. I still have to pay for the damage I did; I still have to make sure the needed info is given, the insurance pays for the damage, I pay the increased premiums, whatever. Abuse is the same way: the abuser might have reasons for why they acted like that. So? All of us have reasons. It doesn't change the fact that the hurt happened, that the abuse affected my life & future deeply. Absolution doesn't come free; it contains solution — you want absolution for abusing someone? Then you have to be part of the solution.

  7. 5:36 '…and our mothers look at us, their daughters, as a reflection of them'. Actually this is an unhealthy thought pattern that is at the heart of emotional abuse. it has been identified in excessively narcissistic individuals who put their own emotional needs ahead of others. You are asking us for forgive narcissistic emotional abuse. That may be possible in milder cases but she be a conditional recommendation.

  8. This is an extremely difficult psychological task. Body shaming by mother and intellect shaming by father basically makes you vulnerable to abuse outside family.

  9. Having watched her documentary on her and her mother's relationship, her mother was awful. So much endorsed abuse, I can't put my finger on it. But, for those of us with legit sociopathic/NPD family systems, there is no way this one size fits all forgive and let it go philosophy applies. NPD parents have compulsions to abuse, simple as that. They crave abuse. And another thing, if those of us that go no contact,, that chose estrangement, does not mean we are seething in resentment and holding on to forgiveness like a poison or a bomb or firecracker, whatever the analogy is. I respect the message, but it is not a one size fits all solution.

  10. My mom doesn’t criticize my looks but she definitely criticize my career (I’m a flight attendant) and my spirituality (I’m a Christian but not holy enough for her)…. I know that she wants the best for me but it’s really hard sometimes… I need to let go and live my life but I don’t know how. I’m an only child and she constantly tells me that she doesn’t have anyone else but me🤦🏽‍♀️

  11. This was EXACTLY muy journey with my mom ! she started developing Alzheimer's but before she went into her own world she told me so many things to help me understand… she would hide at home when her mother came, so she wouldn't find her and beat the ….. out of her, etc…. my mom is not present now, but she still lights up when she sees me, and I can now feel her love 100%. So that has been wonderful… currently working on my Dad !!

  12. Lots of comments misunderstanding what forgiveness is. Forgiveness means forgoing of debt, think of loan forgiveness. You borrowed money, but with forgiveness, you don't owe the money back. You don't have to pay anything back. In this case, the person, Mum, whoever, doesn't have to pay anything back. You set aside the debt without them being sorry even. Because toxic people always avoid their responsibilities. The longer you stay angry at them, the more of THEIR burden you carry with you. It's not easy to unpick from the hurt, set boundaries with them etc. But waiting for an apology will make the pain they cause worse. You will never be at peace. If No contact with the person is possible, GO NO CONTACT. Clear your life of them and their BS. The absence will help you decide what you want and re-build your self esteem. When you nail down what is important to you in your life, no small toxic person will convince you otherwise. Toxic people are like the little bathroom spider: They're more scared of you, than you need to be of it! Despite what they make you feel otherwise. They are all bark, no bite. If you weren't around, they would have no one to project their insecurities on.

  13. First of all, you need to leave them. You can only forgive them if they are not anywhere around you all day.

  14. This was really nice. Although I had the issue with my dad. I don't hear stories of girls who lose their mothers at infancy and have their father and siblings blame the child for their mother's death and be singled out for as the child no one wanted but mom.

  15. I’d rather a system where bad parents are not forgiven it’s fine if the victim wants to find a reason to let go but to just forgive seems more like suspense in disbelief of their pain..

  16. I know what my mother went through as a child but her criticism is following me all my life regardless of forgiveness. Starting from my body image to sabotaging my career and relationships. Yes, forgiveness but damage is done and it would be nice to hear how to overcome the above

  17. I disagree with this. You cannot "forgive" unless there is an authentic process. In order to "heal" you must step away and make boundaries and be in your own sovereignty. You can still have empathy and compassion, while still holding strong to your own boundaries and needs. Narcissistic, abusive and borderline mothers tend to never work on themselves and will most likely continue to treat you abusively, so you MUST step away and claim our own life, and sometimes going "no contact" is the only solution. Not all mother relationships end up in fairy-tale endings, and you are NOT a victim by being angry at the way your mother violated you, it is not blaming your mother to say "I do not deserve to be treated this way, by ANYONE". I don't think this video applies to people with seriously abusive mothers.

  18. I told my mom my good news that I am pregnant and she didn’t say anything at all. It was like talking to a wall.

  19. When u forgive & let go of it you're doing it for yourself, your peace, your happiness, the world doesn't care, u have to take care of yourself & heal u. Don't dwell on the little or petty things u have to tell yourself u have bigger problems & can't b bothered by small stuff cuz the only thing it's doing is affecting u, your mood, your day & your health. I didn't realize this until I got sick a lifetime illness, I realized life is short idk how much time I have, no1 does & we have to make the best of thing's for ourselves & I viewed life differently, all the petty problems & ppl making rude comments didn't matter to me anymore why hold onto that & tell them something back, let them b miserable on their own & u do u & keep living your best, stay positive. When u make the best of thing's & strive to b happy everyday & smile u get that back in life, u attract positive happy ppl that will help u thru the bad time's. A positive mind will get u more positive results, really u can get anywhere u want to. We're only here for a short time & we shud make the best of it & enjoy it, the bad time's are temp & WILL pass & thing's happen for a reason, they make us wiser & stronger. Learn from your mistakes. I hope this can help someone 😊

  20. I can relate, even the sick part from the stress. It's true be on your own as soon as u can & work towards living a happy life & as long as you're happy with yourself whatever anybody says doesn't matter. ppl talk cuz they're not happy & wanna make u unhappy, don't let them bring u down w/ them. If a cosmetic procedure would make u happy do it, people r gonna talk no matter what, take care of u & b a good person & you're good.

  21. Why is she still talking to her mother she should have cut ties these abusers get everything in life and she's not going to get any money in the will either the mom will leave everything to her son's and nothing to her poor girl

  22. Reconciliation is only possible if BOTH parties agree to it. Some people's parents will never accept their role, will never apologize, and will minimize your experience. In that case, I think you should still forgive yes, but from afar.

  23. Another assole parent! Lot's of asshole's in the world that's just one of them! 🙄 I've known plenty! We need to punish asshole's! Some change can be forced! 🤷‍♀️

  24. I don't know the first thing about forgiveness or how it works. Am i meant just to say it to myself and then *boom*, all is well in the universe?

  25. What gets us all upset in life is when we have unfilled expectations.
    I changed my expectations of her. 9:35
    👏👏👏👏👏

  26. Forgiveness , that's exactly what Jesus showed me towards my anger problems . He helped me forgive so many people and healed me from anger and trough him I could stop hurting myself physically. And I know this is what I have to do now again , forgive my mother trough his strength and trough what he has done for me to forgive me and clean me of my sin ❤️

  27. I like the modern definition of forgiveness. The old definition was like condoning abusive behaviour (in this context) and forgetting. Not! To me forgiveness is finding out why our mother's abused us for our sake, not theirs. It made me feel better when I figured out (as part of my healing process) why my mother's childhood, etc lead her to be abusive. I don't condone it but I felt better just knowing why. Having a better understanding. My mother was not involved in this forgiveness at all.

  28. What did your mom tell you she was abused? Most deny they were abused or abused. My mom brags her childhood was better than mine.

  29. If your definition of forgiveness is to let go of anger then I have am in the process of doing that. But my definition of forgiveness is the moment there is no longer an issue between two parties. There is still and always will be an issue between my mother and I and I cant change that. There are just some things in life that we might not like but they cannot be changed. I have to let go of anger but be willing to accept that she will never change. Forgiveness occurs at repentance and not before. And that means a real effort to change.

  30. She's obviously exploiting the situation for profit and banking on her abuse. This is not good advice for the rest of us. Everyone tells a person who's around a physical abuser to GET OUT. Same should apply to emotional abusers. Get out. Don't engage. Don't surround yourself with them. Start the life you deserve and were meant to live. If you want to silently forgive them from within go ahead, but don't make it "ok" to be around them. They are dangerous. Whether they mean it or not.

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