“Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story. Because hers is where yours begin.” ― Mitch Albom
Happy Mother’s Day to Everyone: to all those who are forming an adult relationship with their mothers; to all of those who are about to become parents; to all of those who are caring for their aging mothers; and to all of those who have their mothers with them in spirit. What a wonderful day to reflect, rejoice and repair relationships!
Let me assure you that it is indeed possible to make the most of the comforting bonds with our mothers and to lessen the uncomfortable parts of those bonds. It is indeed possible to maintain a perfect distance between you and your mom so that neither of you feel smothered or neglected. It is indeed possible to have a relationship that is filled with empathy and awareness. It is indeed possible for both of you to be free from giving up or giving in or controlling the other. It is indeed possible to transform and enrich the best and the worst of child-mother relationships …whether you are the child or the mother.
All of us look to our mothers for approval, comfort, and reassurance. We require our moms to supply these things on a daily basis while we are growing up. Depending on our mom’s ability to provide these things and our level of needing them, we came away from every interaction with our moms feeling either full and satisfied or empty and wanting. We all know that good feeling when we have made mom proud and won her praise. We also know that desolation when we haven’t. The drive to win her approval is so much a part of our instincts that advertisers push products that say “Mother will be proud of you if you buy this”.
Why do we crave this approval so badly? In part it is because we have always wanted – and still want- our mothers to be happy and comfortable. As small children we learned what made our mothers happy. We had to. When things went well for Mom, life was more pleasant for us. “When Momma’s happy, everyone’s happy!”.
We also needed Mom’s approval to develop a positive sense of self. If we meet with disapproval, either as children or adults, our sense of being capable is tarnished. Of course, these ingrained habits of constantly seeking her approval causes problems. Behavioral psychologists see repetitive behavior as learned responses to conditioning. These experiences remain imprinted in our biological and psychological selves. Like mice in a maze who are trained by reward (cheese) or aversive treatment (electric shocks), we perform the same maneuvers over and over again to get to the prize at the center.
But what if there is no prize? Why repeat behaviors if there is no reward? Sigmund Freud said that we have a need to repeat certain frustrating experiences no matter how painful they are. He believed that we unconsciously recreate in the present those same problems that we have had in the past so that we can resolve them for good. The answers come in adopting new ways of thinking, understanding, and accepting the mother who is, not the ideal fantasy mother that we want.
Let’s say you call Mom with the good news that you will probably be getting a promotion. The cheese or ideal prize is that she will say that she is happy that the company realizes how wonderful and capable you are – and that she has always known it! She may add encouragement that even if it doesn’t come through this time, there will certainly be a next time. You will walk away from this conversation feeling supported and nurtured. She acknowledged your good qualities and offered you a sense of hope even if the promotion does not happen. You can’t lose!
But what if she says “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” or reminds you of past disappointments or tells you that this may be beyond your abilities? You will probably react by defending yourself, abruptly ending the conversation and feeling upset. A moment ago, you were on top of the world and now you are angry and pessimistic. This sudden turn of emotion is not new to you, for you have walked down this road with her before. And in this repetition, you find the gift!
Think about it. Because you recognize the pattern, you can avoid the pitfalls. The truth is that your mother always responds with anxiety and dread when anything new is about to happen to you. She responds with anxiety and dread every time anything new happens to her! Her anxiety causes her to be doubtful and suspicious. It feels to you like she is withholding acceptance and approval, but, in truth, her reaction is not unloving or uncaring. It is simply a reflection of the way she is. You received from her what she could give – her concern, her advice, her wish for your safety and well-being. She does not want you to be hurt or overwhelmed.
So now what are your options? You can wallow in disappointment and blame her for not living up to your fantasy ideal. This choice will keep you miserable until it’s time to repeat the past and hope in vain for a different outcome. Some people have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result! Another option is to accept what your mom can give and open the door for the best possible realistic relationship you can have. And you can make it a relationship of deep and genuine concern for each other that will tolerate human failings and imperfections.
For all of us there will come a day when Mom is no longer around. Yet she will be with you in spirit in the moments of your life when you hear her maternal voice echo in your heart and mind. That internal voice will determine how you in turn nurture others with approval, comfort and reassurance. Everyone’s mother is also someone’s daughter. You may think your mother’s behavior is frustrating, just as she might think her mother’s behavior was unsupportive to her. And she may see your behavior ungrateful and incomprehensible. Yet all of these behaviors are connected.
Every generation builds on the previous one. This pattern creates a patchwork family quilt that has been in the making for countless lifetimes. The piece of the quilt that you will add has not yet been completely woven. Here is your opportunity to make your relationship more of what you want it to be, not just a replica of all pieces that came before.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO EVERYONE !!
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