As an adult, you can finally tell yourself that you were not responsible for your mother's behavior.
Not everyone's mother was the rock a child could rely on. Not everyone's mother was the forever kind and loving mom who the child felt safe and loved by. If you grew up with an emotionally controlling, distant, or abusive mother, you are likely to carry what is called the mother wound.
The mother wound is the pain, guilt, sense of void, negative self-beliefs, and anxiety caused by the trauma of growing up with an unloving or toxic mother. Here is how you can heal from it.
Every single time your mother was emotionally or physically abusive, you took it in as something you deserved. As a child, you believed the words she chose to describe you and you internalized all her hatred and verbal abuse, which turned into self-loathing. Or, your mother might have been emotionally unavailable and cold, leaving your childlike needs for security and emotional connection unattended. No matter what she said or did, it was NEVER your fault. No child deserves to go through pain or trauma of any kind.
Even if she pretended to do it in the name of discipline, it is wrong. Abuse is abuse. As an adult, you can finally tell yourself that you were not responsible for her behavior. All you wanted was her love and the fact that she couldn't give you that or made you believe that you were at fault, is not your baggage to carry. She was meant to be the adult in the relationship and she wasn't. You deserved to be loved and cared for as a child.
Though you wouldn't have realized it then, your mother may have been projecting her own pain, anger, frustrations, or insecurities onto you. Perhaps, as a child herself, her parents or mother was emotionally distant from her or treated her like she was undeserving of love. She might have felt deeply insecure about herself or been unhappy with a relationship that she took it out on you. While this still doesn't justify all the pain she caused you, it might help you see where all her aggression or apathy came from. She could have broken the cycle when she had you, but she didn't. But now, you can break the toxic cycle by healing. When you heal, you ensure none of the pain or toxic emotions get passed on to your kids and future generations.
You shouldn't feel guilty for being angry at the way she treated you. If you don't feel angry, try to be honest with yourself. You were a child who shouldn't have had to be without a mother's love. She was the one who was meant to protect you and take care of you. Instead, you spent all your life dealing with the impacts of her choice of words and actions. You might feel sadness, confusion, anger, loneliness, or just exhaustion. Accept all these feelings. And if you are someone who feels guilty to feel angry, remember that this is a normal and healthy response to abuse or emotional control. So honor that anger by feeling it. Treat it like a catharsis.
You could even write down everything that comes up. According to Susan Foreward, author of Mothers Who Can't Love, writing a letter to your mom saying how you really feel can make a difference. You don't need to send this to her. This is just for you to feel everything inside you and give words to the emotions. Once you've been freed from all the toxicity of the feeling, you'll find that you have space to grieve the loss of what was meant to be a loving relationship. Crying for what you never had or grieving the days you spent alone feeling unloved once again is a natural reaction. After you have allowed yourself to feel angry, sad, and other emotions, you will begin to heal. And remember healing is not linear. You may go through many cycles of these processes.
Your mother might have made you feel like you are too ugly, stupid, incapable, or messy. A toxic mom's constant criticism can break the child's confidence in ways nothing else can. You begin to replace your own perception of yourself with her version of you—one that is not good enough to be loved.
As an adult, if you make a mistake, you might catch yourself saying the exact same things your mom did. "I am too stupid to get through this interview" or "He doesn't like me because I am not pretty enough." It is very important to become aware of the inner critic (which is simply your mom's voice pretending to be your own). Once you become aware, you can replace these self-negating thoughts with positive self-beliefs. Build your confidence and self-worth back up using affirmations. Remind yourself that you were strong enough to deal with her, smart enough to make it on your own, capable enough of finding a group of people who like you just as you are. Even if you are still not there yet, you are worthy of love right now at this moment just as you are.
No matter how your mother treated you, you can now find people who see you as you truly are. If you grew up feeling just not good enough to make friends, this can be difficult as an adult, too. But the more you begin to identify good people in your circle, who value you for who you are, this bond can help you a great deal. For women, her girlfriends can make a huge difference. So if you are lucky to have some good women in your circle, reach out to them.
Be honest with your feelings and let them know how their encouragement and good wishes make a difference to you. If there are folks who know your heart and want to support you, begin to trust them more. Spend and cherish your time with people who make you laugh and make you see how capable and amazing you truly are. The special bond between women friends can be healing, nourishing, empowering, and a lot of fun.
All those times you got too emotional, too sensitive, or too angry, forgive yourself for it. As a child, these emotions were the only way you knew how to cope and after years of using this technique, it's a hard habit to break. Don't beat yourself up for being too scared to take up new things. Don't judge yourself if you broke into tears just because your partner said something. Considering how much you were put down when you were young, fearing disapproval is only natural. Give yourself a break. Understand that all these emotional reactions were the defense mechanism your young self put up in order to protect yourself from constant overwhelm. These patterns are ways of dealing with the trauma of a child's broken heart.
It isn't easy to do all of these things. Take baby steps. Treat yourself with kindness. And take it one day at a time. Once you begin to heal, you will notice that your free self will re-emerge, but with newfound wisdom that you carry forth from your days of pain and loneliness. This can be an exceptional gift for yourself and others.
Disclaimer: This article is based on insights from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.