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Mothering Sunday

Updated: May 17


Mother’s Day is a difficult time as raw emotional spots can become tender during yearly events such Christmas or symbolic anniversaries. Finding an appropriate Mother’s Day card can be a chore as everyone has had a different type of mother and some may not have had a mother that was attentive or supportive. A common thread in therapy is looking at the impact of family relationships in order to highlight fixed patterns of behaviour that present in the here and now.


If a child has encountered rejection early on from a parent they will have low self esteem. Unfortunately, they will continue to repeat the same pattern - unconsciously seeking out rejection. Parents are the blueprint to how we relate to the world. The child of a depressed / critical / narcissistic mother will develop creative ways of being in the world such as “magical thinking” and have carved a role as “people pleaser” or “mummy’s little helper” as a way of receiving love. As an adult the “magical thinking”may invest in punishing behaviours such as OCD, anorexia or has an inner critic that needs constant attention by being a high achiever or perfectionist.


One of the challenges in coming to therapy is sensitively exploring loyalty towards parents and removing them off the pedestal. Recognising parents as flawed human beings and looking back at the parenting they received can help remove a sense of responsibility from the child. Ancestral baggage allows inquiry as to who's trauma are you carrying? Often the child of a parent who has had mental health issues / addiction or sexual abuse can inherit trauma that was not theirs to begin with. Part of the process is untangling and identifying the trauma and to make time and space to let it go. Understanding the impact of ancestry, social context and history enables compassion to grow.


How were you welcomed into the world? Often clients do not know or may have an inkling as to how they were received. How was your mother’s pregnancy, was it healthy or mired with complications, previous miscarriages, traumatic labour or did she have post natal depression? These events undoubtedly will affect the impact of how mother – child relationship develops. Studies have shown how the first few seconds of a new-born’s life are crucial and “skin to skin contact” is now a gold standard for parents.


Therapy will look at establishing boundaries and seeing if the relationship with the parent can survive or need to end? It is OK not to like your family. Unwittingly we may look for pseudo parents in other people gravitating towards “motherly” types that we want to fill the emotional void and this can lead to another cycle of rejection. Ultimately we need to “parent” ourselves and no one else can take care of us.


Naming abuse is a difficult process as many people have been told to “respect your elders” and “don’t air your dirty laundry”. These messages emphasise the level of shame our culture has talking about feelings and yet instinctively knowing that something wasn’t quite right about how an adult behaved. It takes time and trust to share the experience and acknowledging a child is helpless and it was not the child’s fault. Abuse can take many forms and is subtle and corrosive.


Working over a period of sessions, this permits time and space to grieve for needs not getting met, exploring unfinished business, anger and cultivating an integrated sense of self- responsibility. This is vital as it promotes the growth of investing in healthy relationships where love and empathy are nurtured towards the individual and others.


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