In chapter 11 of his book on multi-generational trauma, It Didn’t Start With You, Mark Wolynn addresses the core wound and core language we often hear inside if in our generation or in previous generations there was a rupture or severing or damage to the bond we experienced with our mother. Often this kind of trauma occurs and is held at a deeply unconscious level. For example, say our mother lost a baby just before we were born and never spoke of it, we would have absorbed all she felt that was unspoken. If that loss were not resolved it may affect our mother’s ability to be available and emotionally present for us.
There are many ways in which our Mum’s can be physically present while disconnected or emotionally unavailable to us. She may be preoccupied, dealing with an earlier trauma, in an abusive relationship, suffering depression or mental illness, she could just be overwhelme with our other siblings. How our mother bonds or does not bond with us affects our entire approach to life. Wolynn expresses it this way :
On many levels, the images we hold of ‘mother’ and ‘life’ are inter-related. Ideally, a mother nurtures us and makes sure we are safe. She comforts us and gives us what we need to survive when we are too small to give it to ourselves. When we are cared for in this way, we begin to trust the feeling that we are safe, and that life will provide us with what we need. After repeated experiences of getting enough of what we need from our mother, we learn that we can also give ourselves what we need. In essence, we feel that we are ‘enough’ to give ourselves ‘enough.’ LIfe, in collusion, then seems to bring us what we need. When the connection with our mother flows freely, good health, money, success and love can seem to flow our way.
When the early bond with our mother is interrupted, however, a dark cloud of fear, scarcity, and distrust can become our default Whether this break in the bond is permanent, as with an adoption, or whether it’s a temporary break that did not get restored, the gap between mother and child can become a breeding ground for many of life’s struggles. When this bond remains interrupted, we seem to lose our lifeline. It’s as though we break into pieces and need our mother to put us back together.
When the break is only temporary, it is important that our mother stay stable, present and welcoming during our return from separation. The experience of losing her can be so devastating that we can be hesitant or resistant to reconnect with her. If she is unable to tolerate our hesitation, or if she interprets our reticence as rejection, she might react by defending or distancing, thus leaving the bond between us bruised and broken. She might never understand why she feels disconnected from us, and dwell in feelings of self doubt, disappointment, and insecurity in her ability to mother us – or worse, irritability and anger towards us. A rift that doesn’t heal can shake the foundation of our future relationships.
An essential feature of these early experiences is that they aer not retrievable in our memory banks. During gestation and infancy and early childhood, our brain is not equipped to put our experiences into story form so they can be made into memories. Without the memories, our unmet longings can play out unconsciously as urges, cravings, and yearnings that we seek to satisfy through our next job, our next holiday, our next glass of wine, and even our next partner. In a similar vein, the fear and anxiety of an early separation can distort our reality, making our difficult and uncomfortable situations feel catastrophic and life threatening.
Falling in love can unleash intense emotions, as it naturally transports us back to a time of early experiences with our mother. We tend to have similar feelings toward our partner as we felt toward our mother. We meet someone special and tell ourselves “Finally, I’ve found someone who will take good care of me, someone who will understand all my desires and give me everything I need. ” Yet these feelings are only the illusion of a child who longs to re experience the closeness he or she felt or wanted to feel with the mother.
An early separation from our mother can undermine our stability in a romantic relationship.
Wolynn goes on to explain how we then fear we may be erased or fear our closeness and connection will slip away. We may then cling to partners and drive them away. Our partner may feel trapped and run to get away. He explains in addition how, in these circumstances we develop a core language within (conscious or unconscious) that governs us. Such things as :
I’ll be left
I’ll be abandoned
I’ll be rejected
I’ll be all alone
I’ll have nobody
I’ll lose control
I’ll be helpless
They don’t want me.
I am not enough
I am too much
They will leave me
They will hurt me
They will betray me
I will be annihilated
I will be destroyed
I won’t exist
It’s all hopeless.
We may also carry these core sentences from earlier generations.
If we fear such separation then we my reject our mother. We don’t get to understand why. We may blame her. We may keep the distance up.
(To be continued)