We know from neuro-scientific research (particularly from Allan Schore) that the 'gleam in the mother's eye' is vital for a baby's sense of well-being and connection.
When we experience this glow of pride and love, deep inside we feel ...'I'm wanted, I belong here, I'm safe, I can relax, my needs will be met'.
In an ideal scenario. as we grow up we hear more praise from her; she tells others about us and promotes us to them; she shows us patience and offers us guidance. We internalise 'You're OK with me and as a person, your needs are valid, you belong here, I'll help you, I'll take good care of you'.
But what if we don't have that ideal scenario?
There are lots of ways to be a not-good-enough mother, and they're not always obvious.
Our mother may have been too distracted or busy to give us what we needed to feel safe, secure and loved. Perhaps this was due to her own narcissistic needs for attention; or her work or family duties; maybe due to her unhappy marriage and arguments; maybe even substance abuse or mental health problems.
It might have been due to her ignorance of what a child really needs. Or she was overwhelmed by her own triggers and flashbacks from her childhood which she then projected onto her child. - despising and rejecting what she saw as dependency and neediness.
There are also many middle class well-meaning mothers who are emotionally negligent, because they don't know any better. They weren't 'emotionally attuned' to by their own mother, and they pass on this deficit to their children.
Perhaps a mother put her child up for adoption - with or without their siblings. She may have chosen to leave her children behind to make a new life for herself. That level of rejection or abandonment vividly shapes how a child sees themselves as worthy of love.
All of these, and more, leave the mirror dirty, chipped and cracked; and not good enough for a child to properly see and enjoy it's own beautiful reflection.
How do we feel without that praise, promotion and patience?
Not good at all. Instead we have an empty space, a void, an aching hurt that keeps us feeling not OK, not good enough, and not worthy of good things.
No amount of talking fills that void. No amount of gifts and 'stuff' fills that void.
There's only one way to fill it and keep it filled – and that is down to us to do for ourselves – with some help along the way from someone who is not related to us, and can be objective as well as compassionate and empathic (particularly so if they've been there themselves and thrived in spite of their own past).
To fill the void we need:
- To become aware of it – to allow ourselves to really feel it's depth and colour, and to see how it's been shaping our life until now based upon fear of loss, failure, rejection and abandonment.
- To accept that it wasn't put there intentionally – but most likely from the ignorance of a mother's own unresolved emotional wounds and dirty mirror which she had handed down to her.
- Normalise our reactions to things in the past from our new knowledge in the present... we did the best we knew how and that was good enough at that time.
- Commit to self-care, self-compassion and self-healing - in whatever form your little 'inner child' wants that from you.
- Keep checking in with your inner child about how they're feeling, and what they need from you. And promise to deliver that as often as you can.
- Create a new mirror – to use for yourself and to pass on to your children. Make it beautiful to hold, clean and shiny, and able to reflect everything in the best light possible.
In this way we can 'repair the tear' and 're-parent' our inner child, start to heal our emotional wounds and worries, and become free to enjoy a future without the distortions of the past holding us back.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
For information about how you can work with me - please see
www.maxineharley.com WHERE YOU'LL FIND A PAGE OF FREE RESOURCES - to help you with your therapeutic self-development. And for those with a toxic parent you'll find a FREE e-booklet 'The S.H.I.E.L.D' to get you started on the path of healing and recovery. You will also find 5 online self-help courses - to help you to help yourself, your relationship, your children and your business/career
www.maxineharleymentoring.com - helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours... to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better in their lives
www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk - a series of 10 online self-help workshops to help you with different aspects of your life
www.qpp.uk.com - changing the sub-conscious belief system or S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time