I have a body, and I have a mother-in-law?

Hi Brooke,

A couple years ago I had a very negative body image of myself and I kept practicing “I have a body” to work on accepting my body. I still have bad days but this seemed to work- I do not say mean things to myself anymore when I look at myself in the mirror. I’m not to the point where I can say “I have a fabulous hot body” but at least the negative fat-talk is truly gone and I can get dressed in the morning and walk out the door without all the mean thoughts in my head, paralyzing my ability to put on clothes (which used to happen a lot!)

I was wondering if I could apply this same process to thinking about my mother-in-law, who I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about. Would it be wise to practice the more neutral circumstance position in my head- “I have a mother-in-law” and then practice thoughts that make me feel better about her and our relationship? She has been going to a therapist for years who tells her to say everything she thinks, and a lot of the times she says things that are really hurtful and judgmental about me and she often talks about my SIL to me, about what she thinks of her. She has NO filter. In my opinion, she says things that really shouldn’t be said and aren’t helpful to anyone. In the past I’ve over-reacted to what she’s said to me and our relationship is not good. I have been icing her out for several months now after a particularly nasty argument we had over the summer, where I snapped and yelled at her in front of my son. I don’t want my son to ever see me that angry again. I didn’t even know I was capable of such a reaction- I seriously went off-the-rails screaming/yelling at her. Definitely not my best moment. Probably close to my worst as a human being, actually. The smirk on her face while I had my tantrum made me think she was truly enjoying working me up to such a state, maybe that I was proving the thoughts she had of me- that I was that horrible, nasty person who would blow up at her mother-in-law in front of her son. During the holidays when I saw her again, I managed to be civil to her but I am not in regular contact with her at all. Neither of us have made up or apologized over that fight. My SIL has had similar arguments and blow-ups, so I’m not alone with having difficulty with my MIL. My MIL truly seems to enjoy bringing up this drama with both of us.

For whatever reason, when she says mean things, I immediately resort to cowering in a corner, crying, or lashing out. The things she has said to me in the past have haunted me for years. I don’t like myself when I’m around her- my thought is, she brings out the absolute worst in me. I know this isn’t true- my feeling about what she says is what causes my overreaction, but I would really, truly like to stop reacting to her. After thinking about this a lot, and listening to the live coaching calls this month where somewhat similar situations were coached on, I think I would like to feel empathy for her instead of being upset by what she says about me and my SIL. But I don’t know how to start these thoughts- most of the time when I think of the situations I get really angry or have feelings of despair and then my result is negative- I’m feeling even more angry or sad or mad at myself, instead of what I want to feel, which is calm and collected in her presence and unaffected by all the things she says. I know she won’t stop being who she is and she won’t stop saying everything she thinks; I can’t change her. And it’s not realistic to not have her in our lives; she’s my husband’s mom and my son’s grandmother, so the icing out isn’t effective and just stresses me out more. So my real question is, should I try to start thinking more neutral thoughts to get past the anger and then keep doing thought work until I can get to the point where I don’t react to what she says as much? I’m not sure I’ll ever have positive feelings about her but I do need to accept she’ll be in our life as long as she’s alive. Is it ok to not have wanting positive feelings about her as the goal?