Toxic relationships with your mother: how to recognize and what to do
“I put up with everything for you,” “You’re not going to make it,” “Why do you always do this” – since childhood, a child can become a victim of a toxic relationship with his mother, which then affect his future. Together with the psychologist and psychotherapist Tata Feodoridi, we examine who the victim mothers and critical mothers are and how to deal with parental pressure.
The problem of the lack of unconditional maternal love
A mother’s unconditional love is a warm, enveloping blanket of acceptance and calm, support, affection and warmth. Very often psychologists compare a mother’s love to a charged battery. A girl or boy who received it in childhood goes through life much easier, they believe in themselves and cope with difficulties more easily.
A key component in a mother’s love is a lack of conditioning. “Whatever you are, I love you,” “whatever you have going on, I love you,” “lost, failed, mistake, fall, I love you.” But just as a battery can be charged, it can also be discharged. And, unfortunately, children who have not felt this unconditional motherly love as they grow up have a very difficult life. They are more prone to depression, abusive relationships, doubts about whether they are worthy of love at all, whether anyone will treat them well, accept them as they are, and not break them.
Types of mothers in toxic relationships
We can identify three basic behaviors of mothers who subject their children to conscious or unconscious pressure.
The Critical Mom.
Such mothers often put a lot of pressure, creating complexes like “you’re short” or “you have a big nose.” When their daughter grows up, she becomes her toughest critic: constantly doubting herself, feeling dissatisfied with herself and often even hating. Such girls have global problems in romantic relationships and any other areas of life. They belittle themselves, criticize, do not accept and literally smear themselves on the wall. And no matter how beautiful, charismatic, intelligent and talented a girl is, she will still look at herself in the mirror and think, “I’m a freak and not worthy of anything in this life.”
Girls who grow up with a perpetually embarrassing mother are engaged in masochism through life. They are in abusive relationships, enduring humiliation, beatings, an alcoholic husband, and all kinds of bad attitudes. Sometimes from the outside it seems as if they are willing to put up with absolutely anything.
Next to shame is always humiliation. It can be of different nature – through psychological or physical violence – and of any format: derogatory remarks, coercion to some embarrassing actions, shaming, ridiculing, teasing. Criticism of the child by shaming mothers reaches a climax and passes into the format of public flogging. This is a very aggressive form of relationship. Mothers can put pressure on the child not directly, but indirectly, for example, by saying, “What you want is vile. What you like is disgusting.” Sexual education is absent in such relationships, or it is a shameful topic, which then leads to problems in further liberation.
It’s about an unhappy mother who endured a lot for the sake of her children. “I lived with your father for you,” “I denied myself a lot for you. The mother may not even say anything directly to the child, but she will show it with her whole appearance. In fact, such parents cripple their own lives in front of their children, for example, if they constantly put up with alcoholics, beatings, or psychological abuse.
When the children of such mothers grow up, they begin to feel guilty before them and are ashamed to be happy. Their typical words are, “I want to go on vacation, I have a nice family and children, but I know that my mother is very bad. I tried to get her out of the situation, but she doesn’t want to. I am ashamed that I am doing well and she is not.” The second way things work out is through copypastes. When children grow up in a climate of tolerance, they often carry that format of relationship into the future.
How to understand that you have been traumatized in your relationship with your mother
Do you overreact violently and painfully to minor events? Or are you voluntarily abandoning stable close relationships in favor of transient relationships? These are just two symptoms of maternal trauma that we are often not even aware of. A crisis and trauma specialist talks about how it affects our lives.
In psychotherapy, maternal trauma is defined as emotional trauma from a relationship with your mother. This is the impact of some intense adverse factors on the child’s psyche. Stress that he has not been able to cope with.
How to understand whether you have a mother trauma and how it affects your adult life? Tells Irina Parfenova, Gestalt therapist, specialist in the field of crises and trauma:
“Of course, not all adverse events lead to trauma – children have a flexible psyche and can withstand many difficulties. For example, some manage to survive abuse, a mother’s mental illness or her alcoholism. In this case, they won’t be traumatized, but they will probably form an unhealthy view of themselves and how relationships are built.”
A child experiences trauma if they experience:
- Unbearable pain – physical abuse, punishment;
- Fear – something threatens his or her health or the health of relatives;
- Severe emotional distress – there can be a parent’s divorce, the death of a pet, or even a move.
The event that triggers the trauma is often pushed out of memory, and only its consequences remain. Therefore, an adult can suddenly experience fear for no reason, in his or her view. Or feel categorical rejection of something. This is the effect of childhood trauma.
What can cause maternal trauma?
Bethany Webster, author of “Finding the Inner Mother,” discusses the relationship patterns with a child that can trigger trauma:
- A mother uses a child as a way to calm herself by directing a flood of her unprocessed emotions at her child.
- The mother is content only when the child thinks or feels as she does and does not contradict her position. If the child shows independence, the mother rejects it.
- The mother uses the child as a narcissistic extension, that is, she switches all attention directed to herself.
- The mother is excessively demanding of the child. And he spends too much energy worrying about the mother or trying to solve her problems.
- The mother has too much control over the child’s life.
- The mother is afraid of being called a bad mother, so she denies his “uncomfortable” emotions – what if they are taken as a sign of her parental failure?
Symptoms of maternal trauma
Reactions disproportionate to events
You overreact to any minor event – for example, if your partner is late at work and has not warned you about it.
You become physically ill, in addition, you feel very anxious and cannot do anything. Nervous breakdowns and tantrums are possible, which are difficult to stop. You cannot calm down, even when the situation is resolved safely – nightmares and fears get in the way.
Behind such reactions are often hidden experiences of abandonment or rejection, if the mother had to leave the child at an early age or if she often threatened him or her with separation. For the baby, the fear of losing his mother is like death, because his life depends on it.
Lack of a relationship
You voluntarily give up the relationship or prefer a fleeting relationship, taking care only of the “safe” needs – those that do not stir trauma from the past.
In doing so, you realize that you are not satisfying your need for intimacy. You may even be trying to take certain steps to create a close relationship – for example, going on a date, but unconsciously you resist it.
Behind such behavior is often emotional, physical or sexual abuse – you feel a constant sense of threat, and your body is trying to protect itself.
Apathy and chronic fatigue.
As well as forgetfulness, confusion and inattention… Because of the trauma, a person lives in constant tension: his energy goes to experiencing the background fear and anxiety, rather than doing anything.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs or medications is easy to explain – these substances allow you to forget, dull the pain and stabilize your condition.
What’s behind this: the mother was too cold, controlling, and emotionally unavailable. The child is used to living in tension all the time and is afraid to relax, because he thinks it is dangerous. But everyone needs rest, so the adult finds his or her own way to relax.
Headaches, neck and back pain, asthma, digestive disorders, spastic colitis and severe premenstrual syndrome, of course, are not always related to traumatic experiences. But if there are no objective reasons for these illnesses, it’s all about stress-the painful energy takes advantage of every available aspect of our physiology.
Feeling Separated, Alienated and Isolated
By denying our experiences, by “disconnecting” them, we cease to understand our needs and desires. This means that we feel dissatisfied with life and unhappy.
What leads to this behavior? Unbearable feelings that the person has not been able to get over. He becomes afraid of any emotion and tries to “shut down” the negative feelings, but along with them the positive feelings are also blocked. As a result, he is left alone with a sense of desolation.