So here's what happened.
Moments after I refused a habitual response with Mom, she collapsed for real.
She fell on the floor and had trouble speaking.
I know this sounds scary and frightening. Not only because I was the only there. Not only because she and I handled it okay and she was feeling better even before EMS came.
What was scary and frightening was for the little boy in me to know that I could not continue to indulge her state of not being present with me. An old impulse would have been to "comfort" and "console" the part of her that was having trouble communicating and truly expressing herself moments before she fell. Instead of doing that, I simply did not respond but looked at her as if to say, "what exactly are you saying to me".
This was what was frightening. Could I have been the one who sent her into collapse? I, who had held her up for so many years?
The answer has to be no. Because before she got into that state, she had already lost touch with what she was feeling. There is no amount of effort I can make to protect from her own feelings that would truly help. She has to take that step on her own.
(Ironically, before this happened she had been considering talking to a counselor.)
Since collapsing and being in the hospital for three days, she is okay.
What is curious here is still the way we respond to each other. It is as if the constant threat of a "charge" and a "startle" are there. I am left wondering if the collapse is simply a reaction to the startle. But that is speaking from my experience and not hers.
I've found a while ago that when I was feeling sexually aroused it was often in response to my mother's presence. It was intensely confusing for me and very disturbing.
Being sexually aroused is not in and of itself unnatural, even with a parent. And as a parent, I experience it all the time with my children. Denying the feeling is what gets one into trouble.
What creates the confusion and disturbing part of the experience is what accompanies the arousal. If there are impulses that are not owned and don't add up to being in the present and in reality, then there can be a loss. That is what happened to me all the time, and I tried to ignore it.
Coming to terms with feelings, including the negative ones as you mentioned, seems to be a worthwhile path. Doing so can temporarily increase the confusion for me, but with practice and breathing and a lot kindness and patience, I tend to get better.
Continuing to wish you space and time for what is needed,