Q I’m feeling really confused and hurt by my mother’s lack of love and care towards me. I’m a single parent of a daughter, aged 4, and I can see the contrast so clearly now I’m a mum myself, and it hurts me so much. My mother chooses to have hardly anything to do with my little girl – which is perhaps a blessing.
I’ve given up trying to please my mother and to not make her feel ashamed or embarrassed by me. I know that I don’t do as well as I could in life because I don’t want her to be envious of me – how mad is that!
All the positive affirmations and mantras I see on social media and in books just don’t sink in – it’s as if I’m blocked from being happy and successful or being seen as any better than her. I don’t want to be unhappy and miserable like she is – yet she causes it!
I’m an only child and so her nastiness is all targeted at me – but I just don’t deserve it. It’s made me have problems with my self-esteem and friendships – as I end up finding people who boss me around or just want to use me.
I make sure I never rock the boat and I know I’m a fake – to make people like me more. I feel sad and pathetic.
People tell me to just put things in the past but I can’t. When I’m with her I feel like an awkward kid again. I want her approval, and to feel that she cares and is interested in me. I want her to make me feel safe and secure, to be kind to me and accept me and my daughter without those disapproving looks and guilt trips whenever I make a mistake (in her eyes).
The silly thing is I do feel guilty for ruining her life and getting in her way.
I want her to be a better grandmother than she is a mother. I feel disloyal and selfish even telling you about her. Am I wasting my time wishing for all of this from her?
A I feel sadness reading about your emotional wounds. Yes, you may be wasting your time hoping that she will heal them for you.
Our most primal and significant relationship starts from inside the womb. Our mother is our first mirror and she determines how we see ourselves and our world.
If that mirror is cracked and dirty because she hasn’t cleaned and repaired it then the reflections will be distorted.
A mother’s own belief system and personality create the mirror and through this she can pass on her own sub-concious S.C.R.I.P.T to her child.
(Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time © )
As a child we have very limited cognitive functioning and we can’t separate the truth from a lie. We innocently soak up what we’re bathed in emotionally and believe it to be true. We can’t examine it or reject it as false and so it becomes ingrained within us and forms our own S.C.R.I.P.T. – and so the unexamined life and beliefs get passed on.
It takes self-awareness of who we are, and why – and how we affect other people – to give us the incentive to change.
Many people fear looking at themselves and instead they find it much easier to see fault in others – even in their own children.
For the child on the receiving end of this projection it is hard to see what they can do to change things.
Unless the parent is willing to repair themselves, and face up to the bad feelings associated with their own losses, regrets, failures and disappointments then these toxic feelings percolate and spew out onto those closest to them. Unfortunately a small child has no protection from this poisonous emotional vomit.
It’s hard to be a mum. There are lots of expectations, fears of failure, and lots of personal triggers activated both physically and emotionally.
It’s particularly hard when we see so many other positive examples and posts about kind and loving mothers. It can feel like picking off the scab and exposing the wound again. A child’s wound caused by a wounded mother who hadn’t healed herself and so has passed on her poisonous infection.
I’m delighted to hear that you can see this pattern and have ensured that your daughter has a much better experience than yourself did.
I suspect that as she grows through the natural developmental stages you will need to face those new triggers and harsh reminders within yourself, and find a calm and sensitive way through them, both for you and your little girl.
Speaking of which – it’s vital that you ‘Re-parent’ the little girl inside you too. She has had a hard time and needs you to show her those things that you’ve been hoping and wishing to get from your mother.
Allow yourself to create a nurturing and protective parent in your own mind – and become that person. Someone who shows themselves self compassion, generosity and kindness, and someone who loves being more happy and playful.
Your daughter will reap the benefits of this shift in your perceptions too – and that will make it all the more important for you to continue with it.
As you separate your identity from that of you mother, and detach from her behaviour – both emotionally and psychologically – you will be more free and empowered to adopt the little girl inside you who is yearning for your love and kindness.
Become clear about your new identity. What do you want, need, prefer, believe in, and value? What are you passionate about? What will you, and won’t you, stand for?
It’s time to ‘repair the tear’ yourself and stop wishing that your mother will miraculously change into the mother you’ve always wanted her to be.
As you develop and strengthen the robust and reliable adult inside you, then you can find a new and better way to speak with your mother. This needs to be one which ensures you remain in ‘adult mode’ and not regress into a needy, compliant and submissive child.
This ‘assertive you’ will be easier to practice with other people first. ‘Mother’ is the biggest challenge!
I urge you to create boundaries that serve you first of all – about what is, and isn’t OK with you.
Please remember that you have nothing to prove to your mother, only to yourself, your inner child and your daughter.
As you trust yourself you will become more emotionally resilient and robust and will be able to pass these traits onto your daughter.
Ditch the shame and guilt – it doesn’t belong with you. It was never yours, it just got passed on to you when you didn’t know any better than to accept it.
Give yourself permission to become confident, authentic and spontaneous…and the very best mother you can be – as soon as you stop drinking the poison.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com Where you’ll find two free downloads – one called ‘How To Tell If You Need To Sort Yourself Out’ – which might help you to see your mother’s difficulties in a new light; and Opti-Mum Parenting © which will help you to feel more competent in your role as a mother and clarify the contrast between what you’ve received and what you can now give to your own child.