Unease, anxiety, or perhaps even a sense of unexplained dread, low self-worth and a lack of confidence, a feeling of being an imposter or living a façade may all be symptoms of inadequate mothering. However, let’s not blame the personal mother as we know now that intergenerational trauma is passed on from parents to children; generation to generation; and that it is extremely difficult to mother properly when inadequate mothering was received.
We have also learned that, for optimal mothering, the mother needs to be adequately contained by the father and/or a community. Inexperienced mothers often find themselves alone in the challenging process of mothering amidst difficult circumstances. Many mothers are traumatized themselves and may dissociate from their internal world and feelings of sorrow, abandonment and betrayal in order to survive psychologically. They become absent to themselves and consequently to their children. These complex emotionally deadening internal spaces, where there is deficient relationship to self – and lack of connection to others - are transferred from mother to child. This emptiness becomes a fault line in the personality.
A psychologically absent mother “cannot recognize or support the child’s psychic aliveness and this denies permission for the child to exist or be separate.” (p. 14) Whether outright or subtle, maternal rejection, emotional neglect or a lack of secure attachment arrests the healthy development of the child. A mother who is unable to relate to her child’s authentic self-expression, treating the child as a narcissistic extension of herself, can’t fulfill the child’s basic needs for love, affirmation and validation. This impacts the child’s the ability to feel and express love in a healthy manner and a self-denigration may develop. The lack of the mother as an internal anchor reverberates through the personality.
Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D. THE ABSENCE OF MOTHER
Image credit: Andrew Peterson
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