Midnight Pub

Behaviour under duress


Into Narnia

My mother came to visit me a few weeks back and I decided to take her up the mountain to see some snow.

She can't ski, but I thought it would be fun to do a little snow hike through the forest next to the slopes so that she can experience the quiet glory of it all whilst she (and maybe humanity in general) still can.

Now the thing with my mother is that she's a bit unadventurous; you have to coerce her into doing things she is unfamiliar with using quite a bit of mental and physical persuasion, but afterwards she is clearly the better for it and is much more likely to do the activity again alone.

Faint Tremors

Things were going initially well. We had stepped off the slopes and onto the padded trail which snaked vertically down the mountain. Mostly uniform descent, with one slightly tricky part that I was mentally preparing myself for because I knew she would fight me on it. The whole trail was barely 2km, so I didn't think it would be such a huge problem when push came to shove.

However, before we were even a few dozen steps into the canopy she immediately started complaining. I coerced her on with the promise of seeing something beautiful, and we continued on. Another few dozen steps, her foot slips slightly, but she catches herself, and immediately starts complaining to go back again. Again, I promise her that it will be worth it, and again we proceed, repeating this pattern many many times.

The Pot Gets Stirred

A pair of smartly dressed hikers pass us on the trail in snow shoes, telling us that it gets really steep and we should turn back. I know this trail, and I know the type of people who are cautioning us to go back; overdressed, overcautious, latest-fitness-tech-wielding worrywarts who are more afraid of appearing undignified than of the actual danger itself.

My mother knows their type too, having been raised in a summer mountain village herself, frequented by rich, delicate, and boastful tourists. (Yes I realize this entire post comes across as quite judgemental, and I do agree that not all tourists are the same.)

Up until then, my mother had been silently building a case in her head to turn back, but with the added support of these two hikers, she really dug her heels in and demanded to go back. At this point, we've covered more than half the trail, and going uphill for her will not be any easier than continuing downhill.

Awakening of the Inner Child

Most adults would see the situation they are in and simply make the most of it through gritted teeth. Not so with her. Once I told her how far she was downhill, and that turning back would be even more work, she went into full tantrum mode where to all intents and purposes I'd say she reverted into the stage of an 8-year old.

For the remaining 500m of the trail I had to literally hold her hand whilst she refused all other instruction from me on how to descend. She'd decided that she was too angry to listen to instruction (e.g. walk on the flat parts), and instead forcibly used me as a walking stick, putting me in more danger than was necessary as I had to walk on the more perilous side of the trail because holding her hand whilst walking in front of her was not something she wanted. Any attempts to get her to do it more easily and without endangering anyone else was just ignored. It was about control.

Alligators Get a Bad Rep

At this stage, she was wailing loudly (though, strangely enough, no tears) into the peaceful wilderness and any coherent bouts of communication with her only occurred when other hikers were walking by so that she could loudly shame me by making as large a spectacle as possible.

She was rebelling against me, like a toddler would rebel against a parent for dragging them to the theatre and some of acting parts are too loud; wailing not because they're genuinely upset or believe they're in danger, but wailing because it's the only way they can exert any semblance of control over the situation.

Back on Earth

Slowly, slowly we made it down. Once the hard part was over - and she had to first be told that the hard part was over - she was completely content to keep walking by herself, and once we were finally down into the clearing it was like it had never happened at all - smiling and laughing and taking "stoic hiking" selfies, as if she hadn't just had a tantrum coming down the hill.

Later that day, she genuinely had no idea why I wasn't so happy with her, and nor did I receive any apology for her emotionally abusive behavior. I tried to get some kind of human reaction out of her, by apologizing first for bringing her onto that trail without forewarning of how it would be (though I had no idea it would be so bad for her)... her counter apology was less than sincere.


I'm used to this, so I let it slide just to buy me some peace, but there's really nothing quite like remembering why you put a bit of distance between yourself and your parents.

I can only think that she was acting out of desperation, and that she genuinely feared for her life, but I don't buy this excuse because she was trying harder to fake cry and attract attention to her perceived injustice, then she was to actually get down that slope.

Her victim complex comes from a trauma she experienced in childhood, but it's insane how much she's willing to put her own well-being first above anyone else when under stress.


I suspect there's a humorous, roles-reversed rewrite of that from her point of view on the slippery slope of your literal birth day. :-)



hah, good point - I screamed, she screamed, it all evens out eventually



Her victim complex isn't so insane in light of her childhood trauma.



It's not, but she wields it in almost every scenario in which she wants to get her way, and it gets really tiring after a while.