The wounding legacy of mother’s emotional absence

It seems after yesterday’s deep dark descent into my mother wound of childhood (didn’t fully understand this was what it was until today) I have been coming across so much information and insight I wanted to share here.

As a child my mother was physically absent a lot of the time.  I often came home to an empty house.  And when she was there she was often engaged in cleaning.  I don’t actually have any  memories of playing with my mother and spending time with her.

Today I have been reading about the hole left in us by the absent mother.  As babies and children we just lack the psychic substance to be there for ourselves.  When we are left alone for long period we experience abandonment (this was a repeating pattern as it was the pattern of my own mother and her mother too). a sense of emptiness and longing that feels unbearable.  We have no where to go with these feelings and we develop coping strategies that have difficult consequences.

If our mother is dissociated, we follow her into that dissociation.  As energetic beings we “read” the mother’s energy (I believe from our earliest time in the womb).  This is also now evidenced by the scientific discovery of mirror neurons the means by which we feel what is in the environment our neurons are connecting to.  If the mother is not there or has dissociated emotionally we have one of three options.

  1.  We turn away from the mother, avoiding contact so as to not experience being abandoned.
  2. We follow mother into the black hole and become dissociated ourselves,  limiting and shutting down our own emotional needs and expression,  or
  3. We make extraordinary attempts to charm the mother and bring her back to us (development of loss of True Self and a co-dependent or fawn style..

The still face experiment shows that when a mother wipes all expression from her face (fails to connect and provide mirroring) babies respond by trying to elicit a response. When none comes they develop a sombre expression.  They then turn away from the mother.  This takes only 3 minutes.  Babies then collapse into a self protective state and resort to other methods to find comfort.  Here we see how someone who has undergone this kind of trauma begins to turn to food, addictions and other substances in an effort to self soothe and ease distress.

This study shows how children of depressed or emotionally absent mothers fare and the outcome is not good.  Only later in life can we develop an understanding of the pattern which becomes unconscious over years.  The result is repression of our need to connect, the development of major defences against contact and often dissociation and retreat which could take many forms most often including social phobia, withdrawal from connection with others, reading or watching television, DVD’s or video games compulsively.

Also in response to these kind of conditions the young child had no way to make sense of why mother isn’t there.  He or she will conclude it was something they did, that it is hopeless to have needs or wants.  They begin to feel their needs are just too much.  They may feel worthless and as though the mother just does not care.

The child personalises the mother’s absence and withdrawal.  They make it about them.  As a young child we do not have the logical ability to make sense of our mothers’ action.  If it is about us not being good enough then surely there is something we can do to change things, thus the genesis of co-dependency or other ways of striving to get attention.

I most certainly identify, one of the ways I coped with my own mother’s absence was learning not to want and trying to follow her around and meet her needs while she was there in the evenings.  When I got sober I became very concerned with understanding the wounds of her own childhood.

Children in this situation come to believe that their needs are too much that there is something wrong with them.  They do not have the capacity at a young age to realise it is all about the mother’s emotional unavailability.  They become passive and compliant and minimise their needs.  This kind of upbringing is a set up for relationships with the emotionally unavailable later in life where the abandonment wound will replay.

In reading about and understanding the above I now see the entire journey of how my life progressed out of this situation.  I understand the deep hole and loneliness such an upbringing leaves and how during my recent hospitalisation all of those painful feelings were evoked and rose up like a tidal wave.  Luckily I did receive some comfort from the nurses and the Pastoral Care visitor to my room on the Saturday following my operation.

I now have a deep wound in my left breast which is an embodiment of this pain.  (My cancer was in the ducts of my breast which is where the milk flows from in the breast).  I feel I have been hungry for the milk of kindness and empathy all of my life and now I must learn how to give this to myself and how to ask for and reach out for help and connection when I need to, since for so many years my journey has been about denying that need.

I must say my sense of compassion for my mother is growing even though I have experienced such anger.  I do feel so sad that she did not reach for some kind of understanding when all three of her daughters we struggling.  I wish she could have been involved in many of my own therapy attempts, but I also must accept that even though she chose not to go down that path I can stay strong in my own recovery and open my eyes to the truth, accept the truth I cannot change or heal my mother and that longing is an outcome of what I endured and the fact that despite everything I can still love, even though the anger I have felt at times has been huge.

I feel many of my mother’s generation (1920 – 1930, though of course they were not the only ones) were unmothered and unnurtured. They learned to repress and ignore their own deep needs and those of their children.  My mother’s father died following war injuries, perhaps if she had been born in a later generation with greater nurturing and understanding my life and the lives of my sister’s would have been so different.  There is so much sadness.

In contemplating this on an astrological level I have been thinking of both my parents born with Chiron in Aries.  Aries represents pure life energy, essential beingness.  A wound in this place to an entire collective leaves narcissistic issues which are passed down to us for healing.  With Saturn now trining this place perhaps this is where a deeper understanding will inform me of what I and many others have carried so I can birth a deeper understanding and compassion of bot myself and others.

 

 

 

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