Client Journal: Unmothered/Mothering

Marta: If we mother our mothers, we will have our children mother us. We will use our children instead to fill our voids instead of taking care of them. We need to find the mothers inside of ourselves to mother ourselves. It is not a child’s job to take care of a parent’s wound. You can feel compassion, or any feeling for your mother and express it, but do not minimize your feelings and make yourself unimportant.

Client: I do try to mother my mom. That pattern would also leak out in my friendships, with me dropping everything and changing my plans to accommodate their needs all the time. This leads to me feeling resentful of them, because after I would change/cancel my plans for them they would feel happy and able to accomplish whatever they wanted to accomplish. I don’t really do that now. I try to make sure I have time for myself to do the things I need to do, and time with my friends. Thinking about that pattern is making me aware that I have a lot of resentment towards my mom for choosing to take care of her over myself. It feels like a fiery ball in the center of my chest. I just feel so angry!! Because I want it to be my turn! My turn! My turn to look after myself, my turn to care about myself, my turn to love myself, my turn to get to know and feel myself, IT’S MY TURN!!! Fuck her!

Marta: Hit the pillows and scream that out. You don’t have to fight to get your turn. Your mother does not hold the power of whether you love yourself or take care of yourself. It is important to move through all the resentment and anger. These feelings are what you don’t want to let your mother know about you: How hurt, angry and sad you are. You don’t want to talk about your feelings because you ignore them and she ignores them. So again, when you don’t tell her the truth, you are taking care of her and making your needs second. This is an important pattern you are getting. Stripping this pattern and moving toward the place where you can find wholeness from this fragmentation of not having the mother, mother you. To reach this place takes a grieving process and renewal of yourself and the child within.

Client: After I finished writing you, I screamed. A lot. It felt good to let it out, to not hold it in, but you are right, I do need to strengthen the place inside myself so I can get to place and feel myself enough to tell her about my anger and resentment. It does make feel happy to admit that I’m angry, to admit that I resent her, to admit that I hate her, and admit that I try really hard to impress her. To admit that I am starving for her love and approval. This is extremely hard, realizing how enmeshed I am with my mom. Sometimes I start to freak out, trying to find where she ends, and where I begin. But I think that’s its a fear thing, a victim thing. It is giving me a lot of validation to acknowledge these parts of myself. It has me feeling more grounded and more even.

Client Journal: Mother Memories

My favorite memory of my mother is one sunny day when I was a child and out playing in the yard with my friends. It was spring and a perfect day. I remember that she baked cookies for us, which was unusual because my mother never baked. She also seemed happy that day which was also unusual. It is difficult to write about her. She had a kind side that others saw. Family members and friends would confide in her. I did not see that side of her. I learned to hide my sadness from her. I wanted a mother who I could talk to, who would comfort me and share her wisdom with me. My mom was not that person. She was not comfortable with my sorrow. She yelled at me when I was weak. Made fun of me when I did not act like she would have in a situation. Every day she would criticize my hair, makeup, clothes because I didn’t look like she did. Always telling me to wear more fitted clothing, tame my hair, be more conservative. Sometimes I did not know where I came from since I felt so different from my family…so right brained and creative and sensitive. My mother had been a cheerleader in high school and all the boys loved her. She had a great figure, short, curvy and very feminine. I was build like my dads family; skinny and built like a boy. The only time I remember my mother being nurturing towards me was when I was sick. When I was healthy, I was on my own. When I was sick and stayed home from school she would sit with me all day, bring me meals and take care of me. I was sick a lot as a child and now I can see why – that was when I got the mom I wanted.

My worst memory of my mother was when she drank and I was not in school, especially in the summer. She would start drinking about 3PM and always drank beer. When we were in school she would go up to the local bar to drink and then be home by the time we got home from school. We had no air conditioning and it was so hot in the house. She would start to drink and then start talking…after a while she would stop making sense or she would get mean. Sometimes she would fall asleep and we’d have to wake her up for dinner. I feel fear as I write this – the child’s fear of not knowing what would come next. Would she yell and abuse or sit quietly. I hated being in the house with her in the summer. The neglect seemed so much worse since I was with her all day. At least as school I wouldn’t have to deal with it. In the summer it was in my face. I remember we never could afford to do anything so we sat in the house. I would go and watch TV in her bedroom to get away from her or I would hide in my bedroom and read. I would read as much as possible to escape her. It felt so oppressive there in the summer time. My mother’s rage and unhappiness was huge and filled up the house. Everything I did felt like a disappointment to her. I’m not sure what she wanted in a daughter but it was not me. She wanted a popular cheerleader and I was a bookworm. She wanted the popular girl and she got an introvert. I could never understand why she hated me so much for being different. Why that was so wrong to her.

Marta: This unhealthy attachment to your mother’s pain must be very comforting to you in ways that the life you live does not give to you. As long as you keep living such a life, your mother will be larger than life to you, which keeps you young. There is much material here to work with, but you need to ask if you truly want to let go? This does not mean you lose her, or stop feeling, but you won’t feel her feelings and sacrifice your life for her thinking you can’t be happy unless you save her, which is an impossibility now. Only saving yourself is a choice. I am picking up a pattern here. I believe there are other factors that are keeping you there. There is a collusion between you and your husband, which is deep, to stay in the victim together. It is safe and feels loving; this is huge patterning.

Client Journal: Letters to Myself

Dear Little M,

I feel sad that you feel like you’re nothing. Because you are amazing. You are more than just pretty, you are beautiful. You have a caring heart and you like to make other people happy. But I want you to be happy.

 You can have all the things you say you want, the pretty dresses, the nice make up, the nice safe house and dates with boys who think you are special. Because you are special. I feel sad that you feel like you are nothing. A lot of that is my fault. I keep leaving you to fend for yourself so that I could try to win mom and dad’s love. That was mean of me and I am so sorry. I know how scared and alone you feel because I feel that way too. It seems like it’s easy to try to be the “perfect” person. To do everything and be everything we think the other person wants us to be. But the truth is, trying to be perfect is so painful. It is painful because we feel sad or like we’re not good enough when we don’t match our idea of “perfect”. Perfect doesn’t exist sweetie, and I am sorry it took me so long to realize that and to tell you that. 

The truth is, you are better than perfect. You are real. Real people get to make mistakes and try again and learn new things. Real people get to make funny faces and tell the people around them how they feel. Real people get to laugh, cry, scream and shout. Real people get to live. Honey, I want you to live. I need you to live. Without you, I can’t survive.

You have been so brave and strong protecting yourself the way you knew how. But it’s ok now. I am here to protect you. I am here to love you. Please let me get to know you, support you, love you and take care of you.

Older M

Dear Older M,

I want to be a grown up. I want to wear pretty dresses and nice make up and go out on dates with boys. I want to keep living in a nice safe house close to trees and animals. But I am scared that I won’t have these things. I am scared that I’m not good enough, that I’m not smart enough or pretty enough. I feel sad and lonely.

 Because I think that if I just keep trying to be perfect, than mom and dad will notice me. And if they notice me, they will love me. And then I will be able to love me and wear all the pretty dresses and have all the nice things I want because they love me. I need them to tell me I’m good enough. I feel like I am nothing.

Little M

Marta: If you dig deeper you will realize why you believe this…and why you keep sabotaging yourself. You even write it in your note, unworthiness and acting in ways that re-affirm that truth for you…so…what makes you want to keep believing this besides your unworthiness…and how did you learn to be unworthy? being in this belief keeps you connected to your family, keeps you attached, and keeps you in blame, judgment and jealousy….this way you do not have to let go…you can stay collapsed and never take responsibility. it also internalizes your anger so you can punish yourself…it is a vicious unconscious circle…this is why I said your anger and grief underneath the blame is not over…you need to make these connections…

Client Journal: Mother Love/Mother Expression

Unmothered Daughters

We love our mothers, hate our mother, are angry and hurt by our mothers and hunger for their approval. How do we learn to be the daughters to mothers who are needing mothers as well? Most of the time daughters go into power and control, try to be bigger than their mothers to feel powerful so we don’t feel how insecure and needy we are. Or we collapse and fall into self hatred because we feel rejected by our mothers, and reject ourselves if our mothers don’t approve of us. We want to get rid of our mothers, ignore our mothers and pretend what they say doesn’t bother us. Or we lash out, rebel, or caretake our mother’s unresolved childhood needs. We become sisters to our mother, friends and listen to their problems about their marriages, and their family of origin patterns with siblings and parents. Sometimes we collude with our fathers against the mother so we feel accepted. All the same, our mothers are our role models and if we reject them, we reject the feminine. This is the feminine shadow side; the critical mother, the collapsed mother, angry mother, the sister mother, the sacrificial mother, the care taker mother, the people pleaser mother, the wounded child mother. Then we have the universal archetypes. The Madonna, the Prostitute, The Virgin, The Goddess, The Greek Goddesses; Isis, Persephone, Artemis, Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, then there is The Savior, The Good Mother, The Bad Mother, etc…the mythological Divine Mother. There are many aspects to the feminine. It is important to explore what aspect of the woman is hidden and running your life. Our mothers embody who we are. When we can learn to accept our mothers we can learn to accept ourselves. That does not mean we don’t express to our mother, but learning to express from our need for our mothers, vulnerable and clear, we can begin to be daughters and grow into the mothers that allow our children to know the multifaceted qualities that deepen their understanding of themselves… life becomes more dimensional….

Mother Expression 1…In Black American culture, hair is extremely important. It is a sign of beauty and proves that one has assimilated successfully into White America. I bring this up because about a year and a half ago when I decided to cut my hair my mom flipped out and still continues to flip out and critique my hair every time she sees me. Over the phone she asks, “Is your hair growing? Did you cut it again?” When she says this, I feel sad and angry. Sad because it hurts my feelings. Angry because I think how long or short someone’s hair is doesn’t determine how pretty they are, I also get angry because for right now at least, I feel that my current hairstyle suits me better than the boring shoulder length hair I used to have, I get more compliments now on my hair than I did then. And maybe this is a little beside the point, but I am angry that she buys into that whole slave mentality bullshit propaganda.

The next time she asks about my hair I will say, “Mom I feel angry when you keep asking me if my hair is growing. I like the way it looks, it is healthy, which are the only things I am concerned about when it comes to my hair. I feel sad and hurt when you keep asking about the length of my hair because I feel that because it is short, I am not good enough or worthy enough as a person.” This week in general I have been feeling really angry. I am angry that I have such a cold, critical mother and that nothing I do is good enough for her. And I am really getting that trying to live my life just to please her only hurts me more, because I’m trying to be this imaginary perfect person and doing so just turns me into a numb robot. It hurts that nothing I do will be good enough for her. But at the same time, it is starting to give me the freedom to stop living for her and to start living for myself.

Mother Expression 2 I was thinking about conversations with my mom and the things that she says that bothers me. Something that came to mind, was the topic of dating. Over this summer, I went out on a date with someone, my mom called to ask me how it went. When she asked about what we talked about, she asked if the topic of family came up. Like how many brothers and sisters, what do they do, what do the parents do, etc. When I answered and told her the general information I had learned about the guy’s family, she immediately asked, “Oh, did you tell him that your sister is a lawyer? How did he respond to that? Did you tell what school she went to? How many kids she has? What law school she went to? Where she went for undergrad? Where she lives? Who she works for? That she is a partner in a major law firm?” When I told her that I only mentioned that she was older, married with children and lives in Virginia, she asked, “Why didn’t you tell him the other stuff?”

At the time, I shut down and changed the subject to cover up the hurt and anger that I felt. I was hurt that she was wondering why I didn’t talk about my sister more. Why would I? The guy was trying to date me, not my sister. I also felt angry that she thought that someone who is trying to date me would rather hear about her life than mine. When that situation comes up again, I will say something like, “Mom, I feel hurt when you wonder why I don’t talk to my date about my sister’s life. He is trying to get to know me, not her. It also makes me angry that you seem to think that her life is worth talking about more than mine. I feel sad when you do this and it makes me not want to talk to you about my love life.”