Toxic mums - healing the wounds in adulthood
We are all aware that our primary relationship with our mother is hugely influential to our development. When our early emotional needs are not fully met and 'maternal love' has not been experienced, the effects, both internally and in relationship to others, can be felt throughout childhood and beyond.
We are all, as young people and adults additionally, heavily influenced by societal messages which reinforce the concept of an 'instinctual mother daughter bond'. We become caught up in the concept of 'maternal love' and when It is not present in the idealised way it is portrayed, then the overwhelming message is that there must be something inherently wrong with us.
Perhaps you have spent many years feeling unlovable, unworthy of love, flawed in some way. If your mother failed to love and care for you unconditionally, how can you expect any one else to? Perhaps she criticised you, set unrealistic expectations, didn't celebrate your achievements or demanded more from you than you could provide as a child and now as an adult too.
Perhaps you have spent many years seeking approval, rationalising your mother's treatment of you, doing all you can to be the perfect daughter, in the hope that one day the wounds will heal, the toxic messages will stop and the negative patterns of behaviour which you find yourself repeating over and over again will cease.
Healing these wounds takes time. The messages you have received during your early years and throughout life, and the strategies and behaviours you have used to cope may feel so much part of who you are, that change and healing may feel almost impossible. Taking a step back and acknowledging the existence of the pain and suffering you have been experiencing will go some way in helping you to 'own your own story'.
You may also find it useful to:
- Create your own positive narrative by learning to challenge the negative thought patterns and belief systems that you have developed.
- Step back, take a look at your current relationships, observe (without judgement), where patterns of behaviour are repeating themselves. Learn to identify your needs and work towards having these met.
- Create healthy boundaries. Perhaps you have learnt to sacrifice yourself for others, or perhaps you find it impossible to feel safe and trust in relationships.
- Give up your need for approval and start to develop your own ways of approving and appreciating yourself.
Working through these issues takes time, effort and courage. Working alongside a therapist will help to provide you with a supportive space to help you work through what is a painful but ultimately rewarding process.
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About Saska Plowman
Saska Plowman is a psychotherapeutic counsellor and tutor of counselling skills. She runs her private practice in Victoria Park, Hackney East London E9. Saska has also worked within a range of settings including Camden, City and Islington and Westminster Bereavement Service, Westminster Drugs service and Entrust Young peoples service.