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Dear Carolyn My mother makes everything negative. Tell her a piece of good news, like a job promotion, and her first impulse is to belabor how bad job security is, how much hard work managing people might be, etc. There’s never really an, “Oh that’s great!” and no matter how much I try to shake her off the path, she inevitably reverts to negativity.

It’s severely impacting my mental health — I’m in therapy for anxiety — but I can’t find a way to reveal so much as what I ate for breakfast without her going down a negative wormhole. I feel like my only choices are to cut her off completely, or spend every call fighting this battle. Any ideas? — Negative Wormhole

Answer • You say mom’s negative, I’m thinking anxious. With the important disclaimer, as always, that I’m not a medical professional, I think she’s a candidate for treatment. Maybe it’s not just mom’s negativity that pushed you to therapy, but also your genes. Worth asking your therapist, at least.

There is a third choice besides “negative wormhole” and “cut off Mom completely”: Keep calling but stop resisting her.

Let’s say she is indeed anxious — and your good news activates her fears that the more you have, the more you have to lose.

You can choose to reframe her bad scenarios as Momspeak for, “Oh that’s great!” The more she reels off, the more certain you can be that she recognizes your achievements. Twisted, but logical, no?

You: “Mom, I got a bonus!”

Mom: “Oh no, more taxes!”

You: “I know, great, right?!”

Once you stop looking for kudos phrased as kudos, then you’ll be better positioned to work with her vs. constantly pushing against. “Yes, Mom, managing people will be difficult. I look forward to it!” And/or, “Thanks! You gave me a lot to think about.” She clearly isn’t moved by statements counter to her fears, so acknowledge them, thank her and move on. Give her the satisfaction of being heard.

If you’re feeling particularly confident: “Do you have any suggestions?” Because that changes her role from diagnostician to healer, meaning, it asks her to think of pros for her cons. Only if/when you’re ready, of course.

If you just can’t get there — if her words are your rip current — then end the conversation. You always have that option: Make the call, steer it where you want it to go, end it if she won’t come along.

Stepping back entirely might be necessary for your mental health; these suggestions are only if you still want to “find a way.”