by Susan Vielguth
Since testing positive with HIV, my friend expressed that she doubts that her daughter-in-laws genuinely accept her. She shared that while she’s around them she’s constantly scrutinizing; attempting to decipher whether or not their kind words and actions are merely fronts concealing their true disapproval of her.
She recalled a situation, years ago, when she was shaping her eyebrows with a razor in one of her son’s home. Her grandchild ran over to her in an excited pace and just before she could pick the razor off the table herself she heard her daughter-in-law from a short distance, “Mum, don’t give her the razor!”
She felt judged and very hurt. To her mind, it was clear that her daughter-in-law was undeniably stigmatizing her with the fear that she would spread the virus to the little one. She saw it as evidence that she didn’t accept her.
“My daughter-in-law doesn’t accept me”
Instantaneously she felt unwelcome in their home, like she had no dignity, was ashamed of her status and attempted to mask the hate she now felt towards her daughter-in-law. As a result, she stopped her frequent visits.
On the other side of questioning the thought, she was amazed with the discovery that the the pain she felt wasn’t due to the words her daughter-in-law said, rather, it was the meaning her mind gave to the words.
“Believing what you fear makes it true for you, and that doesn’t make it true.” -Byron Katie
In the turnarounds she found that it was truer for her that her daughter-in-law said it out of fear of her daughter cutting herself with the razor- a mother’s instinct reaction- not from a place of condemning her status. She saw that there wasn’t even any way it could have been contracted, there was no blood on the razor, and she asserted that her daughter-in-law would have known this. In the turnaround “My daughter-in-law does accept me,” all the examples flooded in and, this time, she was able to take them in. Examples of how her daughter-in-law would buy her good quality foods when they came into money, order taxis for her when the cues were long at the hospital, and often call to check in to see how she’s feeling.
I love that this Work can reveal the negative assumptions we make about what others are thinking. And through it we can get back our sanity, clarity, and maybe even a little more quality time with the people we love.