One of the most heartbreaking discoveries I made during my first year working at the Department of Human Services was that there were mothers out there who almost hate their own daughters.
I am so fortunate to have had a wonderful mother. I am an only child and I always knew that my mother loved me. She didn’t baby me or allow me to act irresponsibly with my grades or chores, and she most certainly required that I be on my best behavior with her friends and co-workers. She did work for most of my life and I had responsibilities at home. Although at that time a working mother was unusual, but I was very proud of her.
My mother dressed up every day and looked so pretty. She always believed in putting her best foot forward. I think I was grown before she let me know that she usually had only 5 outfits at any given time and that she just learned to be creative with them. At any rate I thought she was beautiful and that her job was glamorous. (She worked at the telephone company).
I was ill prepared when I started my first job as a Social Worker. I was introduced to families where the mothers frequently left their children to go with a man and the children had to fend for themselves. I met mothers who thought nothing of taking their frustration out on their little ones when their day was not going right. Others shocked me by their use of drugs and/or alcohol in the middle of the day when there was little or no food in the house.
I quickly surmised that these women were overwhelmed by their lives and I tried my best to find some way to help them. I remember trying to find some strength they had or to focus on helping them see that they could find ways to make their lives better. For the most part, they responded at least a little to my compassion and empathy.
When I returned to school and became a therapist I was introduced to an entirely different type of mother. I met them through the daughters they hurt and sometimes almost destroyed. These were my patients who for the most part in those early years came from abuse and traumatized backgrounds and demonstrated symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These mothers landed all over the socio-economic spectrum.
Daughters frequently carry their mother’s disowned pain and anger. Mothers have a powerful effect on daughters because girls watch their Mom’s every move. No matter how much mothers try to cover up their pain they serve as role models for womanhood. Daughters have a keen and vigilant eye. Sometimes the mother-daughter wound is based on an unconscious enmeshment, a blending of boundaries and a failure to see where you begin and your mother ends.
Mothers frequently suffer a great unhealed woundedness because the myths surround being a wife and mother did not come true. These mothers may have had to stand by and watch their hopes for their own daughters end in disappointment. In spite of all they may have learned, mothers still may stubbornly struggle to make the old myths work. They haven’t yet found the way to experience and listen to their own intuitive wisdom.
When daughters see that they cannot heal their mother’s pain they feel that that she is rejecting them because they have failed. These mothers set high standards for their daughters and these standards inevitably fail because they do not include the daughter’s hopes and dreams for herself. These things are rarely discussed openly. Until the daughter is able to consciously take a long hard look at her mother’s unhappiness and realize that this is really not about her but is about her mother’s failures and disappointments, daughters are likely to feel emotionally wounded by her mother’s rejecting attitudes where she is concerned.
When the mother is unwilling or unable to make the deep emotional connections with her daughter, the daughter is likely to feel totally inadequate. She then is likely to seek unhealthy ways to get these needs met. It may be illness, immorality, disordered eating and/or other addictive behavior. The daughter’s inner self calls out for honesty and clarity. This is in fact brings many women into therapy.
Unfortunately many important life decisions may have already been made by the time they reach therapy. A skilled therapist can still guide them to a greater understanding of what has gone on and provide the encouragement they need to get healthy and overcome the wounds they have sustained.
I have noticed that many women come to me for therapy at or near the age of 40. I ironically found that to also be true when I was a professional image consultant for 7 years in the 1980’s. This was during the Color Me Beautiful era in the mid and late 1980’s. Yes, I am dating myself and the Gulf War brought this phenomenon to an end about as quickly as it began.
At any rate, I believe that many women want to really be their own person at about that age. They have outgrown the traditions and sometimes the values or their family of origin, raised their children for the most difficult part and are ready to do something for themselves. They want to look better and also to feel more confident and together. That many times includes getting rid of some old baggage that is not useful to them anymore.
Personal Growth Counselors do a great job of guiding women (and men too) through the process of defining their own beliefs and values and building confidence and self-esteem.
They empower people to rid themselves of ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and any toxic residue from childhood and adolescent traumatic experiences.
Give us a call: 931 520-8435
Carole Lovell PsyD LCSW