It is really common for difficult mothers to be emotionally absent, to ignore, belittle, or seem apparently unaware of your feelings, or need for a relationship with her.
What you learn is that her feelings are paramount, this may mean you need to please her, take care of her emotional ups and downs, agree with her even when you don’t want to, and walk on eggshells waiting for the next rejection.
Rejection usually occurs when you do or say something she dislikes, this may be because you are perceived to have challenged her authority, not put on the perfect image in front of her friends, not agreed with how she sees things, or not played the role she wants you to.
Rejection, ignoring, passive-aggressive behaviours, belittling, and shaming, become forms of coercive control. Mum brings you into line by pressuring you with one of these behaviours.
One of my clients recently put it like this ‘Every time I disagree she cries, I just feel so guilty I end up giving in. I then end up comforting her and making her feel better. It’s like I’m the parent and she’s the child.’
Can you see the pay off for Mum?
This rejecting behaviour keeps you close and compliant, your self-worth is eroded away and you feel unlovable. Relationships become about what you can do for others and not about being loved for who you are which has huge consequences.
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
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.
Lately I have a lot of clients who are experiencing maternal narcissism, or what we colloquially call The Mother Wound. Many of them didn’t even realise that the issues they have in the present, like feeling empty or hollow despite achieving so much, or relationship issues with their spouse, or their fear of turning into their mother or their need to be around authentic, real people stem from their relationship with their mother.
I decided to write about it here to help you identify if this is the kind of relationship you have with your mother and to point you in the right direction if you’d like to explore it further. So let’s dig into The Mother Wound and think about what it is.
Essentially, maternal narcissism is where a mother is so caught up in her own stuff, her parenting lacks empathy or care for the emotional needs of her children. Whilst emotionally neglecting, she may meet your other physical needs. It’s important to be aware that this narcissism and lack of parental care exists on a scale, from the mild to the emotionally and physically abusive. Mothers may act this way due to mental health issues, Mother Wounds of their own, bereavement and lack of support.
So what are the signs you suffering with a Mother Wound?
You try to win your mother’s love and attention, but you are never good enough.
Your mother values what you do above who you are or how you feel.
How good your family looks on the outside doesn’t show how messed up things are on the inside.
However much you achieve is never enough.
It’s always about your mother and you have to tend to her emotional needs or walk on eggshells around her.
You feel constantly criticised.
There are no boundaries with your mother, it’s hard to separate from her.
You want to be around authentic people who don’t pretend.
If you are experiencing any of these, it is likely maternal narcissism affects you. The best course of action is to see a registered therapist who specialises in The Mother Wound like me.
They can help you to untangle the web, stopping it being passed down to your own children or affecting your romantic relationships, and help you to rebuild your self-esteem, manage your relationship with your mother and build and maintain critical boundaries so that you can recover.
If you’d like to get in touch to discuss it further I offer a range of therapeutic solutions that can help you. Just click the Contact Me button below.