Controlling mother 2
Tips for Dealing with a Controlling Mom
Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. on May 17, 2016
You are 35 years old and your mom is still trying to run your life. She doesn’t approve of your boyfriend. She thinks your best friend is taking advantage of you. She comments on your weight. She “suggests” that you rearrange your living room and “insists” that she doesn’t want to be a bother — but — why haven’t you called her in the last 48 hours? She feigns illness, goes helpless around household chores you know she can do, and implies you aren’t a good daughter if you have other plans for your weekend besides going shopping at the mall with her.
You know she is able to take care of herself. You know that she isn’t sick. At 60, she manages a demanding full-time job. She is still strong enough to keep her woodstove going in winter and to give the entire house a good cleaning in the spring. So why does every conversation with her leave you feeling guilty or angry?
It would be too easy to call her “controlling” as if that’s an explanation. It’s not. It’s a label that may reflect your angry feelings but may not at all describe what is going on. Before searching the Internet for ways to put her in her place, there’s more to consider than an amateur diagnosis that results in setting rigid boundaries and distancing her from your life.
Possible Explanations for What Looks Like Controlling Behavior
Maybe she is lonesome and can’t admit it to herself. If she is widowed or if your dad is distant and uncommunicative, she may be longing for your company. However close her friends may be, they may not know her as intimately as members of her own family do. If she acknowledges her longing for closeness, it would make her feel too angry at your dad to live with him peacefully or too sad about where her life is ending up. As a member of the family, she feels more able to impose on you than on other people she knows.
She may be grieving. If your father died within the last 5 years, she may be having difficulty with the loss. Yes, some people move on within a year or so. But some people grieve for three to five years following the death of someone significant in their lives. Some people never seem to get through it and need professional help. Being with you may distract her from her grief.
People don’t have to die in order for someone to be grieving.
People don’t necessarily have to die for her to be grieving. If your mom is taking care of her 80-something-year-old parent who is failing or if your dad is sick or if a disabled sibling is suffering early dementia, for example, your mom may be having difficulty managing the new reality. If she is losing her closest friend to cancer or is trying to cook and clean for people she cares about who are ill on top of managing her job and home, she may be overwhelmed by both what’s called “anticipatory grief” and by the added chores. Feeling so out of control of these events, she may be exerting some control where she can — on you.
Perhaps she has an anxiety disorder. People with social phobia are fearful of judgment by others or that they will embarrass themselves in some way if they are among people who don’t know them well. As long as she has a child or two with her (even an adult child), a socially phobic mom can keep the focus off her and on you. If she is agoraphobic as well, not having a companion when she goes places puts her in a panic. Unable to make friends, she leans on you for conversation and company.
Maybe she really is sick but either doesn’t want to face it herself or doesn’t want to burden you. You don’t see her every minute of every day. It may be that it takes her hours to do things that used to take her minutes. You see the woodstove burning or the clean house. You know she gets to work every day. You don’t see what it costs her to do it.
Possibly she is pointing out things that you don’t want to admit might be true. Having been the guardian of your emotional and physical health for a couple of decades, she may not be able to give it up just because you are a grownup. (Even grownups can be unwise.) Maybe the boyfriend really is a loser. Maybe your best friend isn’t looking out for your best interests. Maybe you aren’t seeing in the mirror what she sees when you walk in the door. Perhaps she could be more tactful but just maybe you keep wearing those old jeans because they have stretched out enough that you don’t have to face that you have put on two sizes this year. Proud of how skinny you are? Maybe she is right that you have gotten carried away with your exercise routine. If you’re trying to avoid an issue, it’s not fair to be mad at her for caring enough about you to point it out.
Or maybe she really is the problem. Of course, there is the possibility that she has an untreated personality disorder, that she’s a mean alcoholic, that she is one of those sad people who only feels significant if she’s making other people jump, or that she simply has never been a nice person (so why would she be one now). Maybe she plays favorites, makes threats, and tries to buy alliances in the family in a desperate need to count. In such cases, “controlling” may be an appropriate word.
Analysis of a Situation Is Important
Good analysis is key to knowing how to handle the situation. One size doesn’t fit all. Stop labeling. Start analyzing. Take a huge step back and think about what your mother may be dealing with. There may be more hints than you’ve allowed yourself to see. Reflect on what goes on in her typical day. Are there some legitimate needs being masked by what looks like demanding behavior? If so, compassion and action is more appropriate than annoyance.
Consider whether what you are calling “controlling” is something relatively new or if it has always been a part of your relationship. New behaviors speak to a change in someone’s health or circumstances. Think about what may have changed in her life or yours that could account for the shift. Sometimes dealing directly with such changes settles a person down. Old behaviors, on the other hand, speak to an enduring personality type or dynamics in a relationship that have become habit. In that case, it’s more likely you can only work on acceptance, change how you react, and maybe offer going to therapy together to improve your relationship (if she’s willing).
What to Do About Your Controlling Mother
Give up the “guilt.” No one can “make” you feel guilty. It’s easier to accuse another of making us feel or do something than to take responsibility for our own feelings and actions. What you are calling guilt may be the tug of war between your love for your mom and your desire to be less the focus of her dependency, whatever the reason. It may also be your way of avoiding taking action. Feeling guilty is the least you can do if you aren’t prepared to help solve the problem.
Give up the anger. It isn’t doing anything to change the situation. It only makes you feel bad. It may be your way of distancing from any responsibility. If you see your mom as being entirely at fault for what goes on between you, it lets you off the hook for doing anything differently.
Take action. Instead of going away guilty or mad, have a clear discussion with your mom. Let her know that you love her and ask her what she needs. If she is unable to be frank, make some guesses, as kindly as you know how.
- If she needs a social outlet, talk about what resources are available in your community.
- If she hates that she is aging and less able to manage a big house or chores she is accustomed to doing, be sympathetic and figure out how to handle this new reality together. Think about whether the two of you can afford to hire someone a few hours a week. Money short? Consider organizing a family cleanup crew one morning a month or so. An established routine will reassure her that she’ll get help and will prevent you from feeling constantly tugged at.
- If she needs help with another family member, see if you can find a way to spell her now and then so she has some time off. Caregivers need respite and care.
- If she has been grieving for way too long or if she is losing people she cares about to terminal illness, suggest that she see either her spiritual leader or a therapist to help her come to grips with her losses. If you find her a real therapist to help her, you can go back to being her supportive adult child instead of trying to fill an inappropriate role.
- If she is the one who is ill, let her know that it is easier for you to handle knowing about it than to be always be guessing. Understand that feeling sick or being in chronic pain makes people irritable.
- If you believe your mom has an anxiety disorder or agoraphobia, deal with it directly. Sympathize instead of criticize. Talk to her about the possibility of some medication and therapy to help her with this long-standing problem.
Do you always need to be right to feel you aren’t wrong?
Look at your part. Be willing to look at whether you may be overreactive to anything that looks like control. Is your self-esteem shaky? Do you need always to be right to feel that you aren’t wrong? Maybe your mom is just expressing an opinion and you are taking it in as a harsh judgment. Probably it’s a little bit of each. You can ask her to change how she phrases her suggestions, but at 60 she’s not likely to change much. What you can do is change how you respond. If you in all honesty think you’re right about something, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. Simply thank her for her input, tell her you’ll think about it, and move on.
If Your Mom Has a Mental Illness or Is Just Plain Mean
Quit trying to change her. She got to be who she is for reasons that are now too long ago or too complicated to untangle without her cooperation. If she isn’t motivated to get some therapy to figure it out or to improve her relationship with her family, you can’t expect it.
Be clear in your own mind what you will and won’t do. A morning at the mall each month might fit into your life but an every Saturday shopping day may be unreasonable. Make sure that you honor your own needs as well as hers.
Draw some boundaries around what you will and won’t discuss with her. There’s no need to be angry if you’re clear. Simply tell her that the topic is off-limits and change the subject. Refuse to argue when she lies, criticizes or blames. Calmly state your point of view and move on. If she still wants to fight with you, leave. By being matter-of-fact instead of angry, you avoid feeding the argument.
Look for cooperation from the rest of the family. Does your mom play favorites? Does who she considers to be on her “good list” change week to week? Whoever is on top knows they may well end up on the bottom of the heap in her favors with one false move. Get your siblings together and agree that you won’t participate in the game anymore. If she says something negative about one of you to the others, each of you needs to agree that you’ll tell her you aren’t going to badmouth each other and change the subject.
Build your own support system. Not everyone gets the mother they deserve. Good friends, a romantic partner, meaningful work, and a spiritual life can give you what you need. Focus on developing these resources in your life and you’ll be less dependent on getting emotionally fed from a mother who doesn’t have it in her to give.
How To Handle A Boyfriend Or Husband With A Controlling Mother: Part 2
The solution to this whole issue is for the man to man up and start stand up to his mother and saying what's important to him whenever there's some kind of conflict so that he can learn to side with you in the relationship rather than with his controlling mother.
There's really nothing that you can do as a partner in terms of what his mother does, and the solution to the problem is not for the mother to change her behavior. You can't expect other people to change, and we have really no control over other people's behavior.
The only influence that you really have in the situation is influence with your partner where you can say, "Hey, if you don't stand up to this woman and start acting like a man around her and do whatever work you need to do in order to do that, then I'm just not going to want to be around you and I'm going to be out of here. "
The relationship is not going to work if a man is continually under the thumb of his controlling mother. So essentially what I'm saying is that you need to be pretty firm with a guy who has a controlling mother and make sure that this issue is on his radar so that he knows that he's got something here that he needs to go and deal with because there's no point in getting into an argument with his mother, with your in-laws. It's just completely counterproductive.
The man has to be the one that stands up to his mother because every mother is ultimately waiting for the day when her son grows up to be a man and starts living his own life so that she can actually relax, kick back and start to enjoy her retirement or whatever it is that she goes on to do with her adult life without having to worry about him all the time.
Now, you can't do that for her. Only he can man up and start saying, "Look, mom, it's unacceptable for you to do this," or, "No, I'm not going to do that."
One of the best things I ever did with my family was to one year just take off and not even turn up to family Christmas. I got on my motorbike and rode up the coast of Australia and had a fantastic time, and I noticed when I got back that my mother's attitude towards me had changed. Rather than Christmas being this really big deal like it had been, she was a bit more relaxed about the whole thing now and I'm pretty convinced part of that was because I stood up to her by saying, "Well, you know, this year I'm doing my own thing."
A man with a controlling mother has to do the same thing; he needs to learn how to do his own thing, and what you can do is be there to support him in doing that because it is going to bring up a whole lot of anxiety for him and a lot of fear that it's important for him to work through because this is the process that is called growing up.
By doing this, by separating from his controlling mother, he gets to be a man and you're going to find him a whole lot more attractive and more fun and interesting to be around once he's able to be with his mother and treat her like just another woman, rather than being this kind of controlling negative influence in his life.
I know maybe some of this has been a bit hard to hear because if you're in this kind of dynamic with a man who has a controlling mother, what you can actually do about this is a bit limited. It's really limited to what you can do in terms of relating with your man, and another telltale sign of this is that if this is a topic that you find difficult to talk to him about it's probably because he doesn't really want to talk about it and simply avoiding it is not going to get you the result that you want.
It's time for men with controlling mothers to stop avoiding the situation because that's exactly what keeps it perpetuated. So what I recommend you do is take some time when you're both in a calm space when you haven't been arguing or whatever if that's going on and say to him, "Hey, there's something I'd like to talk to you about, and I know this might be difficult but these issues with your mother are really causing me some grief," and talk to him about how you feel about that.
Because if he is concerned about you and loves you and cares about you, then he's going to want to know how you feel and it may not be comfortable for him to hear this, but the way to motivate a man to get him to address this issue is to be really straight with him about how it's impacting you and make him aware that it's impacting you in a negative way. And then if the relationship is important to him, then he's going to be motivated to want to act to deal with his issues with his mother so that he can have a good relationship with you.
Now, if he's not motivated to act to deal with his issues with his mother so he can have a good relationship with you, then that's a sign that, I'm sorry, but it's time to go. If he doesn't care enough to really want to take this on and deal with this stuff so that he can relate well to you, then he's not the kind of guy you really want to be around. And that's the hard word.
So that's my tip: be really straight with your man about how issues with his mother are impacting you. Don't try to deal with the issue with her directly because that's not likely to work. It's really him that has to stand up to her, and you can be there to support him and help him to learn how to do that in a way that's constructive for everybody.
Also, I recommend that you point him to the article that I wrote on this topic of How to Recover from a Controlling Mother, and that'll probably give him some insights into why he feels so anxious around his mother and what he can do to start moving forward so that his whole life can be better. It's not just about the relationship with you; it's also about a man becoming able to be himself in the world which is very important.
For a man to be truly confident he needs to deal with this mother issue. Point him to the article and then see where you go from there.90,000 Types of Controlling Mothers - Child Development 90,001 90,002 25-year-old Elena says: “My mother has always had a strong focus on achievement. She was always interested in what people think and say, who they write about in the newspapers, who won the next competition, etc. My older brother and I adopted this picture of the world: it doesn’t matter who you are, what matters is what you have achieved and who recognized your achievements . I was a nice girl, but, according to my mother, I lacked grace. Yes, I was overweight and I was a little awkward. And I was very ashamed of it. My brother didn't do well in school, but he played on the football team, and in my mother's eyes he was a star. I studied well, but my mother stopped taking pictures of me from the age of ten. I have only a few pictures from that time - they were taken by relatives. This is terrible!"
Children who lack parental love rarely talk about it. Children who are ignored or given complete freedom by their parents suffer from a lack of attention, but they do not feel the pain that a narcissistic mother can inflict. The child of an emotionally detached mother feels intense pressure all the time from having to fight for her attention.
The child of a controlling mother, on the other hand, is trying to free herself from constant pressure and rules. He does not have enough space for action, for reflection, for the manifestation of feelings. Just to be yourself. The accusing mother teaches the child to defend herself, to avoid conflicts and her attention with all her might. An emotionally distant mother, on the contrary, teaches the child to attract attention in every possible way.
In all the above cases, we are faced with the fact that the child lacks parental love. At the same time, children cope with such conditions in different ways, develop different emotional reactions. In different cases, the dislike of the mother brings different harm to the child.
Narcissistic and controlling mothers see their children as extensions of themselves, not as separate individuals. They support and care for their children only when they meet their expectations. It's hard to call it love. Such mothers project their ambitions onto their daughters and do not acknowledge their own needs.
Both narcissistic mothers and controlling mothers appear modern and sophisticated on the outside, although they are actually insecure and fear exposure on the inside. These hidden feelings are the reason for their perfectionism in everything, including in relation to their children. Their desire for achievement and recognition is passed on to children - they also seek the approval and admiration of others. Since such a mother sees in the child an extension of herself, she zealously fights with all his shortcomings, trying to make him an ideal person who is not ashamed to show the world.
Anna, 39, says: “As a child, my mother told me not to be friends with everyone. She believed that some children were a bad influence on me, and therefore I was forbidden to walk with them and invite them home. I didn't like the friends my mom chose for me, so over time I stopped trying to make friends. But she also did not like that I was closed, did not participate in school life, did not go in for sports, but only read books. So she switched to my younger sister, who was more active than me. And from that time on, I became the “scapegoat” in the family. Now I'm 39, but the mother's attitude has not changed.
Narcissism and Control: Similarities and Differences
The two types of motherhood discussed may seem related and even interchangeable, but mothers' motivations and how they justify their behavior differ.
- Narcissistic mothers constantly strive to be the center of attention, and this feature determines how they treat their children. However, they do not understand the reasons for their behavior. They are either happy with the children or not - there is no third way. If the mother is disappointed with the child, she stops paying attention to him, and he becomes a "scapegoat" for her. Narcissistic mothers resort to various manipulations to get attention. This is their main goal.
- Controlling mothers have a different motivation. They care about their appearance, just like narcissists, but they are driven by fears and insecurities. Therefore, they do not let anything take its course. Such a mother needs to feel her value and need, therefore, in raising children, she does not leave anything out of her attention. While narcissistic mothers enjoy power over others (including their child), controlling mothers believe that without their help, children will fail in life. They are driven by fear, but they disguise it under the guise of control and power. The controlling mother is authoritarian - she literally forces the child to obey her rules, but at the same time she considers it a necessity. The way she treats her daughter carries a hidden message: "You can't do it without me."
Insecure attachment as a mechanism of adaptation
Children whose mothers do not meet their needs and do not support them become prone to insecure attachment as they grow up. There are three types of dangerous attachments: preoccupied, rejecting-avoidant, and anxious-avoidant:
- A girl who exhibits preoccupied attachments actually longs for a close connection, but is afraid of being rejected. She is very sensitive to self-neglect and is emotionally unstable.
- Girls with avoidant attachment do not seek to establish a close connection, it seems to them that others need this connection more, and are proud of their independence.
- Girls with anxious-avoidant attachment seek connection, but emotional vulnerability and fear make them defensive.
Daughters of narcissistic and controlling mothers in adulthood may exhibit each of the above types of attachment, as well as combinations of them.
What do daughters of narcissists and controlling mothers have in common? . And this does not depend on the parenting style that their mothers used. Children learn to deal with feelings (particularly sadness and resentment) by interacting with their mother during infancy. According to attachment theory, if this interaction does not occur, the child either avoids his feelings in order not to experience stress (avoidant type of attachment), or cannot cope with emotions (preoccupied type of attachment).
Problem No. 2. Misunderstanding of oneself
Both narcissists and controlling mothers focus on the external characteristics of their children. What matters to them is what their daughter does, not who she is. Therefore, daughters do not pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires. Growing up, they know too little about themselves, because their true nature is hidden deep inside.
Problem #3. Perverted concept of love
Narcissists and controlling mothers teach their daughters that love is based on mutual benefit and affection. Such an understanding of love can remain with the daughter for the rest of her life. She will probably be attracted to people who will treat her the same way as her mother. We are always attracted to what we are familiar with, even if it does not bring us happiness. This also applies to our understanding of love.
Influence of a narcissistic mother
Since narcissistic mothers are skilled manipulators who try to attract attention in every possible way, their influence on their daughters depends on whether the daughter is ready to make concessions. Mother's approval usually means that the daughter ignores her own needs and feelings. If a daughter does not feel affection for her mother, she may herself exhibit narcissistic traits. She usually understands the toxicity of the relationship with her mother, but suffers from internal chaos. She may pay attention to her own feelings and needs or continue to try to win her mother's love. In any case, the negative influence of a narcissistic mother on her daughter will be strong:
- Daughter doubts her decisions and criticizes herself. Difficulties in the mother's relationship with her daughter (for example, the mother's constant statements about the inferiority of her daughter) strongly affect her. Outwardly, the daughter can be quite successful, but inside - insecure. When it comes to success in life, the daughters of narcissists either achieve significant success or fail. There is no third.
- The daughter considers the narcissist's behavior normal . Young children believe that in all families people live the same way. Daughters of narcissistic mothers think that all mothers treat their children the same way, and it is normal to win the mother's attention. Therefore, they are convinced that they need to hide their true selves and become what their mother wants them to be. It is likely that in adulthood the daughter will also be attracted to daffodils. And it will take time for her to understand her childhood trauma.
- Daughter has connection and intimacy problems . A girl may have a need for intimacy, but the inability to overcome her fears and attraction to those who, by their behavior, remind her of her mother, does not allow her to experience intimacy.
Influence of a controlling mother
Today, instead of the word “control”, the term “overprotective” is often used, and this is alarming - because the new term sounds quite benevolent. However, the daughters of controlling mothers feel inferior because they constantly hear the phrase “You mean nothing without me. ” This leads to a number of problems.
- The daughter perceives power incorrectly. She tries to justify her mother's behavior, thinking: "It's hard for me with her, but it's all for my own good," "Mom wants me well," "Mom doesn't understand what hurts me." At the same time, the daughter does not see the difference between power and control. It is likely that in adulthood she will be inclined to obey, although at the same time she may feel unhappy, because those around her will ignore her interests in the same way as her mother.
- Daughter lacks stamina. Women who have been subject to control in childhood may be so developed in the habit of self-criticism that they will by all means avoid failure. Everyone makes mistakes, but such daughters see this as confirmation that without a mother they cannot cope with problems. The attitudes received in childhood from mothers are deeply rooted in their psyche.
- Daughter unable to make decisions . A controlling mother does not give her daughter the opportunity to make her own choices, trust her instincts and opinions. In adulthood, such girls will be afraid to make their own choice. They often rely on someone else's opinion or obey someone else's will. If no one tells them what to do, they tend to let everything take its course (this applies to situations both at work and in personal life). And that makes them feel miserable.
"I was not allowed to make a single decision." How Mothers Ruin Their Daughters' Lives
Peg Streep was an unloved child. This painful experience haunted her throughout her life. Therefore, the publicist researched the topic of maternal love for 10 years and communicated with those who desperately lacked it in childhood. In the "Unloved Daughter" study, the author describes eight types of destructive maternal behavior that her respondents encountered. In Russia, in June, the book was published by the Alpina non-fiction publishing house.
…Ignoring mothers neglect the thoughts and feelings of their daughters, considering them insignificant or not paying attention to them. Here is the story of 39-year-old Ruby:
“If I complained to my mother that I was unhappy and explained why, she went about her business as if I hadn't said anything. I asked if she heard me, and she, without turning her head, answered something like: "Well, it's okay, I also have a problem." By adolescence, I gave up any attempt to talk to her about anything.
Other neglectful mothers openly express contempt for their daughters and humiliate them in a disguised or overt way. An ignoring mother does not give her daughter what she needs, and thereby causes great damage. Without noticing her presence, her feelings and needs, the mother sends her a signal: "You are not important to me, it does not matter what you feel and think." It is a devastating blow to the developing personality and a hidden form of emotional abuse.
As the daughter gets older, the mother's constant inattention—ignoring her appeals, habit of not listening to her and acting as if she hadn't said anything worthy of an answer—often sets off a cycle of protest behavior. In all ways, productive and unproductive, the daughter tries to get the attention of her mother. <…>
Even very successful daughters of neglecting mothers often suffer from deep self-doubt, feel worthless or unlovable. An ignoring mother robs a child of a sense of belonging, whether he is alone in the family or has siblings.
Many daughters of ignorant mothers get into the habit of pleasing everyone and everyone, forever putting their own needs last, in part because they have become imbued with their mother's words and attitude and do not believe that their desires mean anything. The combination of a desperate need to serve and a feeling of being invisible makes them, in friendship and in love, reach out to people who treat them the same way as their mother. <…>
- Difficulty understanding and expressing your needs and desires.
- Avoiding conflicts and arguments, even if others are wrong.
Tendency to please or please others.
- Social unpreparedness and difficulty establishing and maintaining close relationships.
- Acceptance of other people's beliefs and attitudes as one's own and the inability to insist on one's own, even when a feeling of anger or disappointment arises.
- Low self-esteem.
Photo: Emiliano Vittoriosi\unsplash.com
…This is what Ella, 48, had to say about her childhood:
“All the neighbors admired my mother. It seemed that everything in her life was perfect: a well-groomed house, a luxurious garden and an outwardly successful child. It was believed that this was about me - an excellent student, a cheerleader, a girl dressed to the nines. But while I was growing up, I was not allowed to make a single decision. None. Not in clothes, not in choosing friends, not even in choosing a college. You know, I didn’t realize that I was being controlled until I was 30, until I broke down after my marriage collapsed, and when I looked into myself, I saw one emptiness. ”
A controlling mother deprives her daughter of the right to vote, the opportunity to make her own choices and learn from her mistakes, and most importantly, to be perceived as she is, and not a projection of maternal needs and desires. If the ignoring mother is not interested in her daughter's life, then the controlling mother delves into everything, invariably sending a signal: "Without me, you are nobody, if I were not there, you would fall at every step, it will be my way or nothing."
A controlling mother may be a perfectionist who needs everything in her life, including her children, to be "perfect", but often deep down she experiences self-doubt, fear of making a mistake and being seen as "not fitting" by others. She sees her children as extensions of herself, rather than independent individuals with their own voice, and is determined to ensure that they represent her in the best possible light. Otherwise, it takes effect immediately. <…>
A controlling mother teaches her children that love is "given out" on certain terms and if you fail or disappoint, no one will love you.
... Daughter of a controlling mother:
- defines herself by how others perceive her and is alienated from her inner self;
- reaches out to other controlling people because he is afraid of failure or choice;
- intolerant of other people's doubts, because she is convinced that life is arranged "according to the rules";
- emotionally unstable;
- does not realize himself as an independent person;
- whether she plays by the rules or rebels against them, she always acts reactively.
Emotionally unavailable mother
. .. She ignores and does not take her children's emotional selves seriously, does not try to maintain close bonds with them, and feels more comfortable at a physical and emotional distance from them.
Natalie, 46, recalls: “I think growing up I literally craved love and attention. The more mother rejected me, the more obsessed I became. I became a problem child because I knew that she would pay attention to me, even at the cost of punishment ... "
Such mothers do not necessarily resort to verbal aggression or belittle their daughters as ignorant, but the withdrawal of approval and attention is a form of emotional abuse. While some mothers are naturally cold and unreceptive—they themselves have an avoidant attachment style—others use their emotional unavailability intentionally and calculatedly to feel their power. In any case, such behavior tells the daughter that she is worthless, that in this life she means no one and nothing. <…>
Photo: Tiago Bandeira/unsplash. com
“Growing up I was constantly rejected, so I built up my armor,” one reader wrote me, “and I don’t like to depend on anyone.” Her confession reveals an avoidant kind of insecure attachment. Such women keep their distance even in intimate relationships and are proud of their independence.
However, the emotional unavailability of the mother—who is physically present in the house, but out of reach, which drives her mad—can also form an unsettling pattern of relationships filled with anguish, overshadowed by difficulties and disappointments, and overwhelmed by alienation and pain.
- Turning to unhealthy substitutes for motherly love and addiction.
- Distrust of people.
- Extreme emotional dependence and problems setting boundaries or withdrawn and self-isolating.
- Difficulty establishing friendships and other close relationships.
- Difficulty understanding and expressing one's feelings.
- The aggravation of the main conflict due to the extreme need for maternal love.
A fickle mother
…Such a mother does not control her own emotions and rushes from one extreme to another: from an unbearably intrusive presence — importunity, intrusion into personal space, complete disrespect for the boundaries established by the child — to emotional unavailability and rejection. <…>
Such mothers vacillate between hyper-involvement and detachment. <...> Because of this, the child constantly experiences fear and emotional paralysis, because he never knows what kind of mother he will face - good or bad.
A type of attachment is formed, aptly named "disoriented". The daughter experiences internal conflict. The need for a mother makes one strive for her and seek her attention, and the fear of the “other mother” repels and keeps from contact. This emotional turmoil—the psychological tug of war—affects the daughter in so many ways. <…>
During adolescence, daughters may exhibit alternating anxious and avoidant behavior. They are both desperate for love and acceptance and afraid of the consequences of meeting that need. One woman told me about what she realized only in hindsight:
“My mother could at some point be loving (apparently), but it all suddenly turned into nothing. There came a time when I stopped trusting her kind treatment. I saw such terrible cruelty that moments of kindness seemed like a hoax.
The daughters of such mothers have great difficulty in controlling their emotions and understanding their own feelings. They have an insatiable need to make their mother love them, but all their attempts instill fear and a sense of hopelessness in them. For them, the main conflict - between the thirst for motherly love and the understanding of the need to save themselves - is even more intense and complex than for other unloved daughters.
- Aggravated and even extreme incredulity.
- Emotional instability and inability to self-regulate.
- Reconnecting with mother by getting close to violent people.
- Attraction to friends and lovers of the controlling type, since control is mistaken for consistency and reliability.
- Underdevelopment of emotional intelligence and the ability to identify and process emotions.
- An aggravated form of the main conflict with a high degree of inability to sort out one's feelings.
…She is the sun in her own universe, and the children are the planets that revolve around her. Her attitude towards them is self-centered and superficial, it is not surprising that she is not capable of genuine receptivity, since she lacks empathy. She controls the children, but not as openly as the controlling mother. She favors those children who allow her to look in a good light, and punishes others by belittling them. <...>
Firstly, such a mother takes the opportunity to exalt herself with the help of the child, both literally and symbolically. Again, the most important thing is the opinion of others, and not the feelings or true desires of the daughter. Second, she downplays her daughter's thoughts and feelings—especially if they don't match her own—which is why they are often replaced and ignored, despite the child's accomplishments. <…>
Such mothers place great value on how they look in the eyes of others, and in the family there is a huge pressure on children to succeed and shine, being in fact a walking demonstration of what an amazing mother they have.
But the most dangerous—and psychologically significant—lesson taught by a self-absorbed mother is that attention must be won, it is not given simply or without preconditions. In addition, it is given in doses and serves as a substitute for love.
…Because such mothers' attention is focused on outward success—it's pointless to talk to them about a person's soulfulness or good character—their daughters often become careerists, as this puts them in a winning position in mommy's orbit. However, all their achievements do not fill the void in the heart left by the insensitivity of the mother or the understanding of how weak the emotional connection between them is.
The most destructive legacy of the self-centered mother is the belief that love must be won. <…>
— Isolation from one's own feelings and thoughts and problems understanding them.
- Lack of true self-respect, an urgent need for evaluation and recognition from the outside.
- Lack of feeling of happiness with the inability to understand the reasons for this, since the situation is taken as the norm.
- Difficulty establishing close relationships.
- Feeling of loneliness and loss, the causes of which are not clear.
- Attraction to people with narcissistic traits.
- In the case of "superfluous" - deep immersion in the main conflict. The Wonder Child is not aware of the conflict at all.
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The bellicose mother
She is very serious about absolute and unconditional power over the house and children and becomes furious at the slightest provocation. She sees herself as determined and outspoken rather than heavy-handed and oppressive, and takes pride in her toughness as she believes it gives her authority and authority.
In some cases (but not always) she is a tyrant who is tyrannized by an even more irascible and unrestrained husband. In other houses, the father is simply a compromiser, withdrawing from parental duties and allowing the wife to act as she pleases. In addition to being extremely hot-tempered, many mothers of this type are hypercritical, obsessed with the desire to make family life look “perfect”, at least from the outside; they do not tolerate the slightest deviation from the rules they have established and do not hide their displeasure. Woe to the child who does not consider such a mother.
Like the narcissistic or self-absorbed mother, the belligerent mother sees her child as an extension of herself and demands high standards. In this case, too, there is a huge gap between what is seen by others and what happens behind closed doors, as evidenced by Gehry's account:
“My mother's public persona was carefully constructed. She was always very well-groomed and careful to appear "deep", the first to volunteer to participate in a charity cookie sale or fundraiser, but behaved like a despot and a brawler. I went crazy trying to figure out who my mother really was - this woman who harassed me for being too fat and lazy, this ideal housewife, whose garden and pastries delighted the neighbors. No wonder I didn't tell anyone. Who would believe me? <…>
This type of mother prefers verbal aggression, although she may also resort to physical aggression at times. She explains hypercriticality and verbal abuse by the need to correct the shortcomings of children or justifies her words and deeds by the fact that she was “driven”. Denial is another level of violence. The constant shifting of the blame for one's own behavior onto the children is in itself an abuse. ..
A belligerent mother is the easiest to identify, but she leaves her daughter with the most painful legacy - fear.
- Daughter's inability to understand and control her feelings.
- Acute reaction even with a slight hint of conflict.
Difficulties with trust and intimacy.
- Non-adaptive behavior in any tension in interpersonal relationships.
- Problems with emotional regulation.
... The daughter of an obsessive mother disappears in the burning glow of the spotlight of her attention. She lacks a sense of self, because the mother sees in her only an extension of herself and does not respect boundaries at all. It is very difficult and very rare to break out of these extremely closely interwoven bonds, because although the daughter feels that the connection with her mother suffocates her, she at the same time feels loved. This is a complex paradox.
Such mothers really love their daughters, but they are so engrossed that they still maim them. Own needs for such a mother are above all. <…>
The mother's own unsatisfied needs determine and govern the nature of her bond with her daughter. Often the daughter is the only child, but may be the last in a series of children born after a long break. The daughter, who does not know where she begins and where her mother ends, looks for everything in her mother: both a senior adviser and a companion, unconsciously replacing her needs and desires (if she can recognize them at all) with those of her mother.
In childhood and adolescence, the mother's obsession can irritate the daughter, but in many cases she simply gives up and gets used to the rules established by the person who claims to know everything better. In young years, the daughter often experiences a crisis, as she tries to gain independence, and her mother does not let her go. Some go off to college and achieve the opportunity to live their minds, but not everyone succeeds, and they return to the safe, albeit suffocating, atmosphere of their childhood.
This problem is very difficult to solve without professional help, but even under the guidance of a psychotherapist, the task is difficult. <...> Relations with an obsessive mother can sometimes be healed by setting strict boundaries. Mothers of this type are not unloving; they simply cannot allow children to live and breathe on their own.
- Alternating anger, guilt, confusion of feelings.
- Not fully formed self-perception.
- Difficulty gaining independence, articulating one's own needs and acting accordingly.
- Unhealthy mechanisms of psychological adaptation.
- Failure to clearly see the underlying conflict.
Role Reversing Mother
This is the least common pattern, according to the evidence, usually seen when the mother is very young or overburdened (has too many responsibilities or children and not enough resources), physically or mentally ill or experienced another crisis that turned life upside down. Responsibility for the family is shifted to the daughter, usually the eldest, sometimes the most capable. Regardless of age, the girl actually becomes the "mother" of the family.
Such a mother is not necessarily unloving - many mothers of this type love their children wholeheartedly, but for one reason or another she is unable to fulfill motherly duties. This, however, does not negate the harm done: she robs her daughter of her childhood and youth, places an unbearable burden on her and forces her to play an adult role that is not suitable for her. <...>
Sometimes the role of the best friend or confidant of a single mother is imposed on the daughter, which does not allow her to remain a child, burdens her with an excess of adult information and destroys the necessary boundaries. Such relationships have their negative consequences, as 39 told me-year-old Grace:
“My father divorced my mother, moved away and remarried when I was six. Have you seen the movie Anywhere But Here? This is how I lived.