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The Taos News


can be heard discussing Positive Psychology here.


Mothers and their Children

May 2014

Having a child of her own and producing a normal child is the ultimate fulfillment and major goal of most women. And, most women who have children want them to have everything they need to grow, learn, and flourish. At the same time, on the matter of mothers and mothering, we engage in a lot of repression and denial when we pretend the mother-child bond is mostly wonderful, and at the same time pretend that we are not pretending.

In our culture the role of the mother as the primary caretaker of children has especially important implications because she exerts such a profound influence on her family. Because it is impossible for one person to meet all the needs of another person, some degree of frustration is inevitable in a child’s interactions with his or her mother. However, when this frustration is compounded by immature or rejecting mothering, the lack of fulfillment on the part of the child leads him or her to feeling rage and emotional hunger. These negative feelings in the child often have no acceptable outlet and therefore manifest themselves in the child’s building of defenses, their passive aggressive behavior, and their holding back of positive responses.

In the case of girls, where identification with the mother is the strongest, the daughter’s hurt and angry responses to her mother’s conflicted parenting are most often transformed into forms of withholding that resemble her mother’s. Later on, repercussions of the negative aspects of the mother-daughter bond will have a destructive effect on the daughters’ relationships with the men in her life and with the children in her own family. The stultifying impact that the negative mother-daughter bond imposes on each woman’s sense of self- worth as well as her feelings of achievement and personal power is far greater than most people realize.

Maternal withholding has important consequences for men, too. In response to unhealthy mothering many boys become desperate and dependent and cling to their rejecting mother. If his mother manipulates and controls the entire family through weakness, the son tends to take her side and to develop angry feelings toward his father and against men in general. He will tend to become very possessive or jealous with the women he becomes involved with and will act critical and superior to his wife and children. Since his mother was uncomfortable with childlike feelings, he will attempt to cover them up by acting tough and macho. He will also turn against himself as a man

By now some mothers reading this article may be feeling ridiculed. However, this is an attempt not to berate, but to try to understand. No one is to blame. As a mother, to the extent you are hurtful, you must remember you were once a hurt child. Your transmission of destructiveness is in most cases not consciously willed. To speak badly of you is to add injury to injury.

When you are feeling badly about your inability to meet your child’s inexhaustible needs, rest assured that maternal destructiveness is universal. Without exception every mother exerts both beneficial and harmful influences on her child. This is an objective fact and not a moral judgment. When you develop an accepting and compassionate attitude toward this fact, you will have more courage to reveal your destructive thoughts and feelings towards your child and to work through them.

By acknowledging and working through the fundamental ambivalence of your maternal feelings, you can actually have a profound positive effect on your child’s mental health. At the same time you can allow yourself more fulfillment and manifest a stronger identity as you break any debilitating ties to your mother you might have. Learning to understand and to deal with this often incapacitating side of your personality can relieve your guilt feelings rather than create further guilt and self-hatred. By doing so you, and all members of your family, will benefit for generations to come.


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