When Mothers Day isn’t all Roses and Thornton’s.
Maternal love is rightly sacred but not everybody will identify with the stereotypical loving mother, who’s so often portrayed.
This Mother’s Day let’s spare a moment for those reminded of the love they rarely, or never, knew. Through no fault of their own, in place of maternal connection, deep in the gut, at the pit of the soul, lies an endless gnawing of shame and emptiness. Motherhood has a much deserved and magical mythology running like an umbilical cord from culture to reality. 2018, we still live in a world where maternal abuse remains a final bastion of hushed whispers and wagging fingers. It is for this reason the people who suffer so often remain keen to defend their mothers at any cost, including damage to their own well-being and quality of love and life.
The world of retail is expert at conjuring a homey mother image of cozy maternal comfort, unconditional love, warmth and wisdom. For some this is hard to swallow and painful to have lived without. A harsh truth borne out by The Crime Survey of England and Wales published in August 2016 by the Office of National Statistics. Shockingly 40% of respondents reported psychological abuse at the hands of their mother, as opposed to 35% from their father. Facts which are all too familiar within my coaching world. In America USDHHS also report approximately 40% of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone. 18.3% by their fathers and 17.3% were abused by both parents.
What does society say about a person who feels a cocktail of sadness, fear, loathing, shame when it comes to their mothers? One of the last bastions of taboo, it’s time to face the reality of this tough maternal legacy and as a society ditch the Disney delusion forever. Too many people are afraid to acknowledge their Mother Wounds, at a terrible cost to themselves.
My own adoption by a woman who was cold, critical and unloving meant I ran the all too familiar route of self-harm for many years. Eventually my own destructive patterns did their worst, however my breakdown fortunately became a breakthrough to a new me and a different life. Over the last 15 years I have gathered a reputation as the coach who helps people turn childhood adversity into grown-up greatness. Often people arrive at my coaching door in midlife crisis, when they’ve run the full gamut of devastating behaviors, common to those who’ve been badly treated, abandoned, unloved and unnurtured by the women who brought them into this world.
The legacy of pain and shame from a broken maternal bond can also provide the foundation for great focus, determination and ambition. The unmothered adult knows the impact of this universal taboo all too well. Unfortunately, coming to grips as to whether your mother couldn’t, or wouldn’t, love you does nothing to ease the resulting deep damage and pain. Many spend a lifetime of self-loathing mixed with toxic addictions designed to numb the inner emptiness which is so hard to describe. Often the pain is so ‘normalized’ we don’t even know it’s there. The truly lucky ones will breakdown and breakthrough to self-love, but it’s hard work and too much for many people who are already fragile from carrying their feeling of unlovability wounds.
Often Mother’s Day exposes our deepest wounds as the world pays homage to mother love. A catalyst for many of us feeling confused, bemused and inadequate. Or the manifestation of the silent “Why? What’s wrong with me?” Some have cut the ties but most awkwardly go through the Mother’s Day motions, whilst burying resentment and feelings of worthlessness beneath layers of obligation. All driven by the familiar need to be a good, grateful and deserving child.
No matter how many years on our earth clock, we’re always our mother’s child. Burying devastating truths, deep scars and pain, along with a whole heap of unwanted emotions. The injustice can be hard to fathom or process, which is why it’s common to settle for a life of turmoil and relationship heartache.
So, what are we supposed to do with this deep burning rage? Nobody taught us how to love ourselves; much less self-soothe and heal our emotional pain. How often do we explore openly and honestly the legacy of hurt caused by mean mothers, unloving mothers, non-mothers and fuck-you mothers?
Walt Disney himself colludes with our deeply entrenched ideal fantasies. I’ll bet you can list a raft of Disney movies with vivid and vile wicked stepmothers. Even in the world of deep and dark cartoon fantasy, real mothers aren’t deemed capable of inflicting pain and suffering on their own offspring. Without fail, it’s the new, evil wife dishing out the dirt and the damage!
Being born to a mother who won’t, or can’t, take care of your emotional needs is a hotbed for lifelong wounds. Wounds of shame and pain carving out our adult personality and shaping our lives. Addictions, compulsions, love intensity, love avoidance, co-dependence, disorders of every hue and every subsequent relationship…. Whether business, love or casual acquaintance – are forged from our maternal blueprint. Without mother love we’re rudderless and destined for a choppy ride against the rapids of life.
From the moment we’re born, some say conception, our mother bond teaches us how to create, expect and view relationships. The blueprint is set. So, what’s different about Mother Wounding versus Dad Demons? Both are serious, both have the staying power to ruin a life, as we hurtle from drama to depths of intensity, designed to numb the pain and shame. In 2018 culture, pretty much all topics are open for discussion, but maternal abuse remains a final taboo. Try talking about your abusive or neglectful mother to even your closest friends. They are likely to run to your mother’s defense: “She was doing the best she could, I am sure she loved you.” Meaning well, but, unwittingly, denying your experience in the process. You may even be judged as heartless – the ungrateful child, yet again!
If your father was abusive, neglectful and damaging people would speak up, but your mother? Indeed, it’s rare for her to be held accountable. So why is the mother wound so taboo? Can you imagine the shame of having a mother who didn’t love you enough to take care of you? Or keep you as her child and let you know you were wanted and special? Imagine the impact of feeling no love from your mother. That you were a burden, a mistake, or born in some way to serve her needs.
Science has proven that the impact of a non-loving mother causes our brain to wire differently to those who have been nurtured with a loving, empathetic mother bond. The list of these repercussions is extensive and includes feeling insecure, unlovable and damaged, not to mention a hyperarousal “Fight, Flight and Freeze” mechanism, most often associated with PTSD. Because of this, the unmothered brain takes careful understanding and navigation but, and here’s the good news, with patience and self-love it can be healed.
Getting to this place is often difficult within a family dynamic and can often create another wall to scale. “I don’t know why you have to poke around in this stuff, no good can come from it” is often the family anthem. However, this battle is worth the fight as when a mother fails her daughter they also fail to teach her how to be a mother. Becoming a mother when you’ve been denied a maternal blueprint is a minefield and many opt to forego motherhood in fear of repeating the destructive cycles.
Walling off, numbing out, drama, chaos and addiction are all ‘normal’ responses as we unconsciously kick and scream our way away from feeling the fear, shame and rage of rejection. A walled heart can form to make us hard and devoid of compassion and love. You may be a high achiever, swearing you would never have to rely on anyone for your survival. The scars are indelible but there’s hope on the horizon.
Perhaps it’s you, dear reader, who knows this familiar pain? Take heart in the knowledge that you may not know how to be a mother, but you do know how not to be your mother. Take it slowly, build a deep and meaningful relationship with your own inner child.
Learn to parent yourself, the intergenerational wounds really can stop with you. Own your power, hear your inner voice and show yourself the acceptance, love and compassion you craved as a child. And most of all, know for sure, the quality of your mother’s love was never about you – it was about her inability to love, attach and connect. Her fractured psyche was never your fault, nor your responsibility. It’s time to own your adult power by being a mother to your vulnerability, the mother you yearned for but never had.
And so today, Mother’s Day, let us take a moment to send love to every soul who hasn’t known a mother bond, those who felt unlovable and unwanted, unheard and unseen. Wherever you are in life, I salute you, only you know how much it takes to overcome the feeling of being an obligation, and unwelcome, at your core. Vow to understand the full impact of your mother wound and how to heal – not just for you but for generations to come. Gently grow yourself back up with self-compassion, self-love, kindness and self-care. These concepts may feel alien to you right now but with time, patience and perhaps a little help, you will start to feel whole. You are not your mother and your past does not need to define who you become. You’ve done a great job to get this far, to survive. Now with love and some personal TLC you can not only grow, but also thrive.
Happy ‘Mother Myself’ Day.
Michelle Zelli adopted by the age of two, unloved by her adoptive parents, left home at 16, determined to be wholly independent. Her drive for security led to a successful career, she became Blue Chip Sales Director by the age of 28 and later, MD of the largest TV Post Production Company in the UK. For 15 years Michelle has built an enviable reputation as a coach to successful people committed to self-mastery. She’s a woman on a mission to help others heal their mother wounding and poor self-esteem. She’s helped hundreds move forward creating an audacious life in healthy and extraordinary ways. Michelle specialises in using clients’ unique adversities to heal wounds and change their life trajectory.
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