Can men have a mother wound too?

I’ve been asked this a lot lately and the answer is: Yes men CAN have a mother wound too

It may however be experienced and expressed differently

I am writing this as a therapist who is working with men who are experiencing mother wounds of their own. They can experience the same emotional neglect and meaness women experience, but this is what I feel is different.

Where narcissistic mothers may be in competition with their daughters, seeing them as rivals for affection, for example think of the story of Snow White, or Cinderella, where the step-mother or evil mother figure is vying for the affection of her spouse or the accolade of being ‘the fairest in the land’.

For the young boy there is a different pressure. From a very early age he is taught to suppress his emotions. ‘Boys don’t cry’, ‘You big girl’s blouse’, ‘Oh grow up’, are just some of the phrases that are used to shut boys down emotionally. Yes there are some enlightened parents out there doing things differently, but we’d be foolish to think it doesn’t still happen, and even if it was eradicated as an ideal, we still have generations of men who were brought up this way.

So what are the consequences?

This kind of messaging to small boys has consequences:

  • Confusion-The young child that cannot turn to his mother for emotional support, has to regulate his emotions by himself. As an adult he may find it hard to access emotions or name them, and find women difficult to understand and relate to.
  • Self-esteem issues-A lack of loving care means the young boy feels unlovable, not good enough and like he doesn’t matter. This can lead to an adult man who struggles in relationships, who doesn’t take care of his needs and who uses work, money or power to feel like a somebody.
  • Externalising self-soothing-If mum was unable to help the young boy to name and regulate his emotions, as an adult he is likely to use external gratification or substances to feel better. Gaming, gambling, alcohol, extreme physical activity and drugs are common ways men try to self-soothe.
  • Relationship difficulties-the child who is taught to suppress their emotions becomes an adult who struggles to relate to others emotionally. This can cause distance in your relationships where you rely on sex or money to show love.
  • Suicide-The child who can’t express emotions and share them becomes an adult who struggles to resolve them, when noone understands and all feels hopeless, it may feel easier to end things.
  • Domestic abuse-Suppressed emotions often lead to anger as the only form of expression, anger at the emotional abndonment of your younger self is a recipe to holding women responsible for your pain. This can lead to abuse if it is not dealt with.
  • Stigma-The child that is taught not to speak about emotions, becomes the man who feels shame at having them, in a society that belittles men for being human.

If you feel you are affected by this, don’t suffer in silence, get in touch

Just click on the button below

Love and light

Charlotte

Ps I mean it, please don’t continue to suffer in silence, let’s break the stigma together!

Feeling empty?

Having a mother that doesn’t recognise your emotional needs is hard, it’s like a part of you doesn’t exist or that what you do is more important than who you are.

As a kid you just want to be loved, seen and heard. When we are validated by our mothers we feel whole, worthy and emotionally wealthy. When this doesn’t happen it leads to a feeling of emptiness, a loss of confidence, negative self-beliefs and often a need to people please.

So how might this manifest in you, have you ever felt?

  • You need to tend to your mother’s emotional needs, protect her or walk on eggshells around her.
  • That you people please so others like you, and don’t criticise.
  • You avoid conflicts and arguments.
  • You take on too much responsibility, often for things you can’t control, like others feelings.
  • You over-deliver at work, or as a volunteer but receive little praise.
  • You feel like an imposter, that you are not good enough for your job/partner/life and that soon someone will figure this out.
  • It’s hard to receive praise or compliments but when you do they feel hollow and can never seem to fill you up.
  • You have little self-esteem or confidence.
  • You feel like somehow this is all your fault, and there’s something unlovable about you.

As children we look to our mothers to help guide the way, to compensate for our lack of experience when this guidance is missing, we fill in the blanks for ourselves. We assume it’s on us, we are left because we are not enough, and we carry this feeling with us into our adult lives.

This is The Mother Wound.

If you would like to dig deeper into maternal narcissism and the mother wound, sign up for my FREE webinar. Just click the button below.

Boundaries In A Post Lockdown World

Boundaries are a marker, rule or guideline whose purpose is to say you can go this far and no further. Boundaries can be applied to our physical environment, physical self, mental self and emotional self. These can manifest as laws, physical boundaries, good working practices, guidelines or rules for particular settings, values, principles and determining what we will and won’t put up with from other people.

Boundaries help us to create spaces whether physically, mentally or emotionally where we feel safe. That feeling of safety arises from people acting in particular agreed ways, and when we, or they don’t, one or both of us can feel hurt. For instance on a physical level take the Highway Code, it sets out how all road users from pedestrians to truck drivers should behave. When we all follow the same guidelines it helps to prevent accidents, because it allows us to confidently predict the other’s behaviour even though we can’t communicate verbally. When we choose to not follow it and our behaviour becomes unpredictable it often ends with people getting hurt.

This happens on an emotional level too. If as a child or adult we experience a trauma caused by a person or situation, that experience of the event is usually painful because it has broken an internal or external boundary. That pain either physical or mental will cause us to adjust our behaviour, and sometimes in unexpected ways.

It might seem obvious that if you experience a car accident you may avoid or feel anxious about driving or being a passenger in a vehicle and it may take time to feel safe again. However in instances of childhood trauma and abuse, particularly when the person hurting you is your care-giver or parent, you will find ways to push down that fear and unease as your survival depends on your parent and maintaining a relationship with them. This can lead to behaviours such as denial, acting as if everyting is ok, minimising yourself and the trauma, self-blame etc.

Boundaries are vitally important for our health and wellbeing, so what does this have to do with lockdown easing?

Social-distancing in a cityscape
Social Distancing

We have been following guidelines and laws that have helped to keep people safe, and now that they are easing, some of us do not feel confident about the restricitons lifting. The 1 metre plus rule is vague, and inconsitency when introducing or applying boundaries can lead to anxiety and not feeling safe. In short some people are ok with a 1 metre distance others prefer 2 meters or more.

When we inhabit public spaces such as supermarkets, cityscapes or beauty spots we have to rely not just on ourselves following the boundaries, but also on the others that are co-habiting the space with us. Much like with the Highway Code the more predictable we are to each other the safer we are, and the safer we feel.

It was only a week ago I watched in the supermarket as someone reached over another customer to get a pack of cheese, the person whose spatial and mental boundaries had be broken, exclaimed angrily causing an arguement. This response was clearly driven by the fear of what could happen if the boundary of social-distancing is broken.

It is probable that this incident will cause a change in behaviour for one or both parties. The person whose boundaries were broken is likely to act in ways that are more defensive and have a greater feeling of anxiety about being in a similar situation. It is hoped the other party may be more mindful in future.

All healthy relationships need good boundaries whether they are with work colleagues, family, friends or people we inhabit space with at the supermarket. In this post lockdown world I would recommend following the largest distance possible unless you are invited to do otherwise by the setting, or people involved. It all comes down to respect, and kindness. Imposing yourself on others boundaries whether you agree or disagree with them, is a lack of courtesy and care that causes harm.

If you would like to think more about boundaries or need help feeling safe and calm in these anxious times, do get in touch.

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Mens Mental Health Matters

Men’s mental health and the challenges they face is an often neglected topic, especially around admitting the need for help, accessing help and accepting help. For instance: Did you know 1 in 8 men experience a common mental health problem (1)? Or that many men don’t seek help or talk with their loved ones about how they are feeling (2)?

Father walking with his children
Men’s Mental Health Matters

In my own research I have heard repeatedly that admitting you even have a mental health problem is hard, because of societal and cultural expectations. There is traditional view of masculinity that perpetuates the values of strength, control, being a support, a breadwinner; that a boy or young man learns to live up to. we’ve all heard phrases like ‘What are you crying for, you big girls blouse?’ ‘Man up!’ ‘Suck it up cupcake’ and others. These verbal cues teach the idea that expressing your feelings, thoughts and pain are not manly and therfore are unacceptable. We’d like to think they aren’t still with us, but the research shows, they stop men even admitting to themselves they have a problem.

Accessing help has pitfalls too. If you struggle to admit something by the time you ask for help a moderate problem could have easily become severe. This can mean by the time men access help they are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and self-harm as a coping mechanism (3). Mental health services are typically oversubscribed and have long waiting lists, with the delay in putting yourself forward added, men can feel quite desperate and resentful when help eventually comes. It is no surprise that in 2017, 75% of suicides were males (4) and that suicide represents the largest cause of death for men under 50 (5).  

Accepting help can be hard too, in my experience not only have men had a long journey to get help, once they do, knowing how to use it is hard. If you have never discussed your feelings before you may have to learn a whole new emotional language to articulate what’s going on inside of you. A major cause of men dropping out of therapy is not feeling understood or feeling judged.

So how can we help?

  • As parents we can help equip our boys and young men with the language and space to be able to discuss their feelings and to be heard.
  • We can ask our friends and colleagues how they are and after the usual ‘I’m fine’ ask how they really are.
  • If you notice a friend ‘drowning their sorrows’ make some time to talk with them.
  • If you seek professional help, know that a good therapist will help you to find the words to describe what you are feeling, and will not be judgemental.

Support is out there, and private therapy can help you to be seen sooner, and to work with someone you feel comfortable with. Many therapists, like me, offer a free first session to discuss what’s going on for you and to see if you feel comfortable working together. If you’d like to try it for yourself click the button below and book an appointment, or keep in touch by signing up for our bulletin.

Keep in touch

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References

(1) McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf

(2) Mental Health Foundation (2016). Survey of people with lived experience of mental health problems reveals men less likely to seek medical support. Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/survey-people-lived-experience-ment…

(3) Wylie, C., Platt, S., Brownlie, J., Chandler, A., Connolly, S., Evans, R… Scourfield, J. (2012). Men, suicide, and society: Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide. Samaritans. Retrieved from: https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/press/Men%…

(4) Office for National Statistics (2017). Suicides in the UK: 2016 registrations. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations#suicides-in-the-uk

(5) Public Health England. (2017). Chapter 2: Major causes of death and how they have changed. Health Profile for England 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england/ch…

Tribal women or the benefits of sisterhood

Dedicated to Diane Evans, a good friend, cancer warrior and an amazing sister.

I recently read this interesting article on the benefits of sisterhood to women’s mental, emotional and physical health:

The premise is that women when stressed or anxious seem to ‘tend and befriend’, and don’t fit so neatly into the fight, flight or freeze response to threat like men seem to. The justification for this, is that much of the research into our fight or flight reflex has been historically carried out on male subjects, as women’s moods were seen to be too changeable, due to our ‘hormones’.

However this is the very difference we need to understand. When adrenaline levels rise due to stress in males, so does their testosterone, but in women their oestrogen and oxytocin levels rise. These differences can cause remarkably different responses, and not all of them useful.

For instance if a woman’s response of tending and befriending is provoked by domestic abuse, it can mean she stays attached to the person perpetrating the abuse long after it would be safer to leave. Yet this hormonal response makes much sense out of the reasons and beliefs that reinforce a woman’s inability to leave.

In times of illness, women will come together not only with practical support but also with emotional, and mental support. Talking things through, expressing feelings and sharing experiences is a large part of any sisterhood. Finding a solution is not necessarily goal orientated; the catharsis, understanding and belonging bring feelings of welbeing and an ability to cope.

This support and emotional care received through women gathering together, is often overlooked, especially in an age where we rarely have enough time for our homes, careers, children and partners.

Women coming together to support one another
Women coming together

Making time to gather together with a trusted group can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing. Many red tent groups, moon lodges and women’s groups are springing up in response to this need. Indeed here at The Meditative Counsellor I host a Facebook group called daughters of difficult mothers.

I also hold a yearly weekend retreat for our members where I deliver workshops, talks, women’s yoga and inner journeying. Where women get the chance for some time out, to relax and renew themselves.

If you would like to find out more, please contact me at: charlotte@meditativecounsellor.com or click on the button below to find out more about the support I offer and to join our Facebook group.


Domestic abuse is an issue which affects both men and women and if you are affected, please seek help from your local support services. If you need help, Charlotte can advise you on finding and accessing your local services, just get in touch.