What is a mother to the unborn child, to the new born baby, to the growing child? What is a mother to the grown-up man or woman? A mother is the whole wide universe, she is the force of life, is the soft breast that nurtures and nourishes, is the warm embrace that protects and keeps safe. A mother is the soft kiss that you always feel on your cheeks, is the joy of sweet dreams in the fresh morning breeze.
A mother can also be the source of your frustrations, your anger and your sense of not being enough. Most babies, right from the moment of birth, have an experience of bringing delight to their mother, to their parents. Most babies have an experience of their needs being met, of being loved and accepted, cherished and respected. Most babies might be seen as perfect by those who look after them. But as the baby grows, life gets tougher bit by bit. Those who are looking after the baby might start to have expectations - to sleep through the night, to start crawling, to hold the bottle without help, not to make a fuss at dinner time, and so on. The mother, the parents, might even start to compare their baby to others and the baby is seen as not being perfect after all. This is the point where conditions of worth need to be met by the growing baby in order to bring the joy and delight on the parents’ faces; the joy and delight that was given so, so freely to him/her until now, but now is lost. This must be the first significant loss in a person’s life - losing the sparkle in the mother’s eyes, the loss of unconditional love and acceptance.
This first loss is of great significance and with devastating, long-lasting consequences. This loss might be the first time when a person might experience feelings of abandonment and rejection and might be the first rupture in the baby-mother/parents/carers relationship. If repairs are not done, if the mother/parents are not aware of the impact of their expectations has on their baby and his/her developing brain, and they do nothing in changing the way they relate to their child, this might be the starting point for future insecure attachment issues. Sometimes repairs are hard to make, for instance when the mother is suffering with post-natal depression, or parents are preoccupied with relationship problems or financial issues.
As the time goes, the baby turns into a toddler, and then a child. The child might learn to adapt to the mother’s or parents demands, the child starts to learn that they need to be someone else in order to make the parents happy. The child learns to deny some aspects of his/her self that might be frowned upon by the grown-ups responsible for his upbringing. The child might start believing that him or her is responsible when mum gets angry or dad is disappointed. The child might start believing that it’s their fault, they might be stupid, they always get it wrong. The feeling of “I AM NOT OK” starts in childhood, and some children manage and cope with this internal state, depending on their resilience and support network. Others start communicating this feeling of I am not ok through behaviour that is seen as challenging by those around them. If the child is not able and is not being helped to break through this not being ok position, this can lead to anxiety, toxic stress, depression, isolation and a general feeling of being stuck, of unhappiness and sadness, not feeling alive. A teenager or an adult might turn to alcohol, drugs or self-harm, and may develop eating disorders. They might start feeling and thinking that life is not worth living. A child with broken wings turns into an adult that does not know how to fly. A parent who does not know how to fly will pass this legacy to his/her children and this cursed legacy can sadly touch many future generations.
For any person, young or old, the love for his/her mother/parents is the first love, a love you are born with, a love that started to grow since you were just a cell. For any person, the first heartache was when the mother/parents stopped loving unconditionally and freely. Ask the grown up who totally despises his/her mother/parents or might hate her/them or think that his/her mum/parents are the worst people in the entire universe. Ask him/her what is underneath all these powerful feelings. Most of the time, under the anger, hate, frustration or loathing for your mum, your parents, it’s vulnerability and pain and hurt, it is a bleeding wound that’s not healing with the passing of time. This wound is the yearning for the unconditional love and acceptance that was lost and no matter how old, part of you is still looking to be the sparkle in your mother’s eyes. It might be a pattern you see repeating in all sorts of relationships and you might be wondering why you always need to meet others needs and expectations, why you need to be less or push yourself beyond your limits just to make others happy. Have you thought that it might be in an attempt to avoid rejection and abandonment, an attempt to prevent that early unbearable pain repeating, pain that was so, so devastating. It is a survival mechanism that you learned since you were a little, little baby. We are born for connection and we can’t exist without the love, care and attention of others and we try to get our emotional needs met no matter what. It might feel easier to kill parts of ourselves, less painful, than to see the love of your mother/parents dying.
As adults, most of us might have experienced feeling abandoned and rejected. Just stop for a minute and get in touch with what feelings these experiences bring. You might feel unlovable, unwanted, confused, not enough, ugly, stupid, lacking certain qualities, isolated and alone with overwhelming feelings. Feeling abandoned and rejected might feel catastrophic and might bring feelings that no one could ever love you. If we go back to early experiences, imagine, just imagine, how it must hurt for a young child to feel unlovable by the mother, by his/her parents. Oh, such sorrow, such darkness, the pain breaking the heart! Early experiences of feeling unlovable, unwanted or not enough can grow into debilitating questions like “how anyone can love me, like me, accept me, when my own mother or parents had difficulties in showing or having these feelings for me?”
What can be done for adults with broken wings, how can they learn to fly? What can be done for parents who are unhappy with their parenting style? As a parent, you can learn new skills to engage to your child, you can learn to listen, to play, to be empathic to your child, to see the world through their eyes, to see how hard it is to be so small and powerless. You can learn to be in touch with your inner child, inside of you still lives a little person full of joy and hope and dreams. SET IT FREE! Talking with someone in confidence about your experiences, trying to understand and integrate what happened to you, reclaiming different parts of yourself that were too much for those that cared for you, can bring positive outcomes and a sense of freedom, a sense of being your own person. Counselling can help you in learning to love yourself, as most of the time, even though the harshness of your childhood is long gone, sadly the harshness still lives in you, invading and claiming every cell in your body. When exploring your past, you might get a different perspective, you might start developing understanding and empathy for your mother, your parents. You might start forgiving and letting go, most probably your parents had also broken wings and they have tried to do their best, they did not want to hurt you. You can also learn and accept that it was not your fault for whatever happened in your childhood, you were just a child that was not met in joy, was not seen, was not heard, but this WAS NOT YOUR FAULT, YOU’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG!
For how much longer can you bear not to fly? How would it be if you could give to your children a different kind of legacy? Imagine the difference you can make! Be brave, break the cycle! There is no better time to make changes like the present!
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About Gianina Ardeleanu
Integrative child and adult counsellor, with a special interest in adverse childhood experiences and in the parent-child relationship. No one was born with a broken heart, fearful, unhappy or sad. Relationships can be destructive, but also can heal. A counselling relationship can help you to mend your heart. Therapy is a gift & it can change lives