Yeah, my nmother would practically get giddy anytime she thought I was uncomfortable.
Even over the stupidest of stuff. Once I just randomly commented that I usually get more acne when I come to visit. The midwest is pretty damn humid. The change in climate would inevitably prompt a breakout. Heck, my skin is so sensitive, all I have to do is think, "Hey, skin's looking pretty good this week," and that's guaranteed to not last more than another couple of hours.
But as soon as I mentioned it, nmother gets her smug, smirky look on her face. "Glad to know that visiting your family makes you so nervous."
As far as I can tell, it's a way of exerting control. They feel out of control or feel like you're influencing how they feel, and BOOM out comes the cattle prod. Zap zzzzzAP until you feel overwhelmed and out of control.
It's been a while so I can't remember the terms precisely, but I remember running into an aspect of the concept of projection. It had to do with not only seeing something you don't like about yourself in someone else - projecting that bad stuff onto someone like they are a blank screen - but also creating situations and interactions so that the other person feels what you want them to feel and acts how you want them to act to confirm the projection.
So, on some level nmother knows she's harsh and unforgiving, but denies it and projects that onto SG, and then picks fights with SG until SG ends up acting harshly and eventually unwilling to forgive.
It's a really developmentally primitive way of communicating and handling emotions. Think newborn infant feels uncomfortable, starts shrieking. The shrieking creates discomfort in the parent, and they feel as uncomfortable and desperate as the child, and thus are motivated to DO something about it. It's a way of dumping emotions that you don't want to feel yourself onto someone else. You don't communicate it directly - because that would mean acknowledging that you feel it. Instead, you project and create situations where the other person is suddenly feeling your feelings for you, and you don't have to feel them anymore. Cuz, they're out there now where they're no longer part of you.