We need to clean up that mirror and see ourselves for who we really are.
If she has allowed the mirror to become cracked or dirty this distorts the image you’ll see and the reflection of yourself that you’ll believe to be real
We know from neuro-scientific research(particularly from Allan Schore) that the ‘gleam in the mother’s eye’ is vital for a baby’s sense of well-being and connection.
When we experience this glow of pride and love, deep inside we feel …’I’m wanted, I belong here, I’m safe, I can relax, my needs will be met’.
In an ideal scenario. as we grow up we hear more praise from her; she tells others about us and promotes us to them; she shows us patience and offers us guidance. We internalise ‘You’re OK with me and as a person, your needs are valid, you belong here, I’ll help you, I’ll take good care of you’.
But what if we don’t have that ideal scenario?
There are lots of ways to be a not-good-enough mother, and they’re not always obvious.
Our mother may have been too distracted or busy to give us what we needed to feel safe, secure and loved. Perhaps this was due to her own narcissistic needs for attention; or her work or family duties; maybe due to her unhappy marriage and arguments; her own emotional void from childhood; maybe even substance abuse or mental health problems.
It might have been due to her ignorance of what a child really needs. Or she was overwhelmed by her own triggers and flashbacks from her childhood which she then projects onto her child – despising what she saw as dependency and neediness.
There are also many middle class well-meaning mothers who are emotionally negligent, because they don’t know any better. They weren’t ‘emotionally attuned’ to by their own mother, and they pass on this deficit to their children.
All of these, and more, leave the mirror dirty, chipped and cracked; and not good enough for a child to properly see and enjoy it’s own beautiful reflection.
How do we feel without that praise, promotion and patience?
Not good at all. Instead we have an empty space, a void, an aching hurt that keeps us feeling not OK, not good enough, and not worthy of good things.
No amount of talking fills that void. No amount of gifts and ‘stuff’ fills that void.
There’s only one way to fill it and keep it filled – and that is down to us to do for ourselves – with some help along the way from someone who is not related to us and can be objective as well as compassionate and empathic (particularly so if they’ve been there themselves and thrived in spite of their own past).
To fill the void we need:
* To become aware of it – to allow ourselves to really feel it’s depth and texture, and to see how it’s been shaping our life until now based upon fear of loss, failure, rejection and abandonment.
* To accept that it wasn’t put there intentionally – but most likely from the ignorance of a mother’s own unresolved emotional wounds and dirty mirror which she’d had handed down to her.
* Normalise our reactions to things in the past from our new knowledge in the present… we did the best we knew how and that was good enough at that time.
* Commit to self-care, self-compassion and self-healing – in whatever form your little ‘inner child’ wants that from you.
* Keep checking in with your inner child about how they’re feeling, and what they need from you. And promise to deliver that as often as you can.
* Create a new mirror – to use for yourself and to pass on to your children. Make it beautiful to hold, clean and shiny, and able to reflect everything in the best light possible.
In this way we can ‘repair the tear’ and ‘re-parent’ our inner child, and start to heal our emotional wounds and worries, and become free to enjoy a future without the distortions of the past holding us back.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
For information about my online self-help courses, one-to-one and group work with me please see www.maxineharley.com
I have online coaching programmes and weekend retreats called ‘Recover From Your Mother’ and ‘Cast Off Your Father’s Shadow’ which work in a deeply experiential way to help women to make peace with their past.