Mother-Daughter relationships can be filled with angst. Mine certainly was. I have never read an article that describes what I experienced so well as one written by Bethany Webster which I link below.
It has taken me a lifetime to undo the threads of self-hatred, disempowerment, and squashed creativity that I took on from my mom. Had I not had those experiences I would not be where I am today – leading the life I always imagined and contributing in ways that are meaningful to me. First, I had to see my role in how my life played out and learn to release myself from the grip of these inherited patriarchal beliefs so they no longer ran my life. My mother wasn’t that fortunate.
As Bethany says in her article, The Most Insidious Forms of Patriarchy Pass Through the Mother, “Because of the daughter’s sympathy for mother’s plight, she is more likely to absorb her mother’s pain as her own, creating a toxic enmeshment that directly prevents her ability to flourish in her own life. The more unconscious and severe the mother’s own unhealed wounds are, the more threatened she will feel by her daughter’s separateness and individuality.”
That is how I view my relationship with my mother who had no capacity to look inside herself and take responsibility for her own healing. As a little girl, I knew something was very wrong with how I was being raised.
I remember saying, “When I grow up I am going to help people be the best they can be.” I was going to do it differently. I wanted people to be nice. I understand now that I carried the pain my mother, and her mother and most likely my great-grandmother before her felt in their lifetimes. Emotional, cultural, and psychological pain is passed down from generation to generation. I am grateful I had the chutzpah to break the chains.
For decades, no matter how hard I tried, I seemed to not be able to move past the pain I had internalized. I kept repeating patterns that looked suspiciously like my mother’s life even though I swore, “I WON’T BE LIKE MY MOTHER!” Do you know that feeling?
Then finally I found a key. As difficult as it was to do this, feeling the pain my mother suffered as a child and young mother in my own body helped it move through me quickly with the help of the Self-Healing Dalian Method which I now facilitate. I began to loosen the grip the pain had on me in my present life. I experienced how trapped my mother felt in her life. She was furious at my father for threatening to leave her if she didn’t have children. It was not her plan. So she took it out on me. I had to feel that in order to heal it.
The good news is that with proper support and enough care, courage, and commitment to do what it takes, any of us can heal individual or collective wounds we carry. As these are oftentimes invisible, it takes care to uncover them and set ourselves free. It doesn’t make it right that my mother was so cruel, but as I have learned to take responsibility for my own healing and not look outside of myself for the answer, I have been able to see her in a more compassionate way and lift myself up as never before.