making peace with your mother

 

Making Peace With Your Mom 
by H. Norman Wright with Sheryl Wright Macauley
Copyright © 2006 - Book Excerpt

Chapter One
Tell Me About Your Mother

"Tell me about your mother."

Doris gave me a puzzled expression when I made the request. She was a middle-aged career woman holding a management-level position. "What does my mother have to do with why I'm here?" she replied. "I came for counseling because of the difficulties I'm having at work. My mother lives three thousand miles away."

* * *

"Tell me about your mother."

Lorianne glanced at the floor defensively, then looked up at me. Tears were welling up in her eyes. "I don't like talking about her," she began softly. "I hear her in my head most of the time. Is there some connection between her and my reasons for seeing you?" Lorianne had come for counseling because of her outbursts with her family, which intensified twice a year just before her mother came to visit.

* * *

"Tell me about your mother."

Denise's eyes brightened with my invitation to speak. "Mom was great. She taught me to be independent and to believe in myself. Oh, she still has an opinion, but she tells us to take her advice or leave it. Either way is all right with her," she said, smiling. "All of us enjoyed our relationship with her as we were growing up. Perhaps that's why I feel good about myself as a woman today. She gave me a good sense of security in who I am, not just in what I do."

* * *

"Tell me about your mother."

How would you, an adult daughter, respond to that statement? I'm sure many thoughts and feelings about your mom rise to the surface. Some may be pleasant and some unpleasant. Later in this chapter you'll have an opportunity to put them in writing.

A Life-Shaping Relationship

Our lives are built on relationships; they are among the most significant elements of life. We were created to be connected to others. People around us shape who we are, what we believe, and who and what we become. This is especially true of the mother-daughter relationship. It affects all areas of your life, as Henry Cloud and John Townsend explain:

Not only do we learn our patterns of intimacy, relating and separateness from Mother, but we also learn about how to handle failure, troublesome emotions, expectations and ideals, grief and loss, and many of the other components that make up our "emotional IQ"—that part of us that guarantees whether or not we will be successful at love and work. In short, the following two realities largely determine our emotional development:

1. How we were mothered.
2. How we have responded to that mothering.

These two issues really do determine who you are as a person today.

If your mothering was negative, you may have developed a pattern of mistrusting, which can continue the rest of your life if not confronted. Some daughters become combative and aggressive. In order to avoid being controlled, they try to control others. Many respond to mothering, in any form, in a defensive or reactive way.

When there are unresolved issues with Mom, two important factors are at work. One has to do with your feelings for your mother, the hurts you experienced, and the needs she didn't meet. Have you identified these feelings, hurts, unmet needs? The second factor is the dynamics and patterns of relating, which you learned as you interacted with your mom. As you consider these issues, realize that the first one concerns how you feel today about your past and the other deals with how you may be repeating the patterns from your past.

Your future is tied to your past. Your early relationship with your mother is the foundation upon which you will build all of your future relationships. You either received approval and affirmation—and internalized those positive feelings—or you received messages of disappointment, which turned into the way you view yourself. So the portrait you've painted of yourself was not as much by your hand but the hand of your mother.

An unhealthy, destructive, or painful mother-daughter relationship can warp future adulthood relationships if you don't come to grips with what happened and its effect. For example, some women connect with others who have many of their mother's most destructive characteristics. Perhaps it's because they are comfortable with these characteristics since they know them so well. Or it could be the woman thinks that if she can change a person or win his or her acceptance, it will prove that when she was growing up, the defect wasn't in her after all. Do you identify with these thoughts in any way?

Some daughters are so protective because of what occurred in the past that they reject or hurt others who remind them of their mother. They're on the defensive most of the time and give people little opportunity to connect.

Some women actually choose to marry a man who was like their mother. But what is especially unfortunate is the grown daughter who attempts to create in her own children the loving mother she never had. Of course this has a detrimental effect upon the children, so she repeats what her mother did in some way. When we see patterns like this, we see a woman who is still connected to her mother and hasn't yet learned to separate in a healthy way.

The good news is that it is possible to make sense of a difficult relationship and enjoy healing.

Excerpted from:
Making Peace With Your Mom by H. Norman Wright with Sheryl Wright Macauley
Copyright © 2006; ISBN 0764202901
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

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making peace with your mother

 

making peace with your mother