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Mother's Day heartache, when your mom couldn't give love.

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by MWsunin12, May 10, 2020.

  1. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi everyone,

    I'm not sure if this is a common factor among many of us, but Dr. Mario Martinez and Dr. Gabor Mate, both say that non-attachment with a mother is a cause for pain later in life.

    Here we are on Mother's Day, here in the U.S.

    My mother is a narcissist. My father is a passive enabler. I didn't have a name for it, or even identify it until I was well into my 40's. I just knew, as a child, that I only wanted to be around other kid's parents and felt more for them and their warmth to their children.

    I was a 3rd daughter when they really wanted a boy. And, I think my mother suffered Postpartum depression with me. My aunt told me of it, years later.

    Anyway, I just wanted to send love to all of those on the forum who felt "not enough" or not loved unconditionally by your moms. I hope...if you're young...to spare you the longer pain. You are worthy. You are worthy of a mother's love. I don't know why some of us are born to mentally ill or addicted parents. But, the sooner you can accept that it's not about you and love yourself all the way, the better.

    It took me decades. I still struggle.

    Just wanted to contribute my thoughts and hopes to the broken hearted TMS friends on Mother's Day.

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  2. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle


    I am so sorry for your pain and thank you for your strength, courage and kindness!

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  3. KayLah

    KayLah New Member

    Hi Marcia,

    I felt the same way about Mother's Day, but didn't acknowledge/realize it until a couple days later. I read FB posts of daughters who left loving posts honoring their "beautiful" moms. I thought way in the back of my head, "I wish I had feelings like that."

    I am 70 years old this year, and the suffering continues. I always felt very alone. But I'm more ready to accept and am learning a lot. Like, right now, to learn to love myself, to have compassion for my self. Unconditional love and compassion.

    Thank you for posting this. Sending you love as well.

    BYW I love Dr Gabor Mate.

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  4. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Kaylah, There is plenty of time left in our lives. We can do this.

    peace and love,
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  5. Marla

    Marla Peer Supporter

    Thank you for sharing this. Its nice to know I am not alone. I am 63 and my mom 92 and she still is passive/agressive with me and does little negative digs to me all my life. It had been better this past year so I was really surprised when she shamed me in front of my adult kids on mothers day on a video chat. I had long talk with my counselor about it today and feel better but he is right my mom will never change I just have to set up boundaries which is hard for me because I grew up in a very chaotic household. I am currently having a bad flare up of sciatica with neck pain at same time, was getting better until Sunday.
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  6. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Regarding mother-child nonattachment, check out this short "still face" video:

    Bowlby's attachment theory is the cornerstone of ISTDP (Intensive Short Term-Dynamic Psychotherapy). Dr. Sarno's chief psychologist was trained in ISTDP. In 2015, prominent ISTDP psychiatrist Dr. Allan Abbass wrote a book on ISTDP for mental health clinicians, and Sarno endorsed it, saying in part: "The book provides substantial support to the clinician engaged in treating the ever-increasing population of persons with psychosomatic symptoms.” Perhaps Sarno's endorsement evidences that he appreciated the role of poor parent-child attachment in causing TMS in adulthood.

    What I especially like about Dr. Gabor Maté's book is that he discusses a form or variation of nonattachment he calls nonattunement:

    Attunement, a process in which the parent is "tuned in" to the child's emotional needs, is a subtle process. It is deeply instinctive but easily subverted when the parent is stressed or distracted emotionally, financially or for any other reason. Attunement may also be absent if the parent never received it in his or her childhood. Strong attachment and love exist in many parent-child relationships but without attunement. Children in non-attuned relationships may feel loved but on a deeper level do not experience themselves as appreciated for who they really are. They learn to present only their "acceptable" side to the parent, repressing emotional responses the parent rejects . . . .
    I think maternal nonattunement explains why I became a represser par excellence of anger at attachment figures in my life. Fortunately I have managed to overcome that aspect of my upbringing. Becoming aware of when I was repressing anger at my wife was the key to getting rid of more than two decades of chronic back pain.

    I bolded one sentence in the quotation above because I think it explains why my mother, though she loved me, was not tuned into my emotional needs. Her father was an alcoholic who had trouble supporting his family, and her mother was psychotic. For the entire time I was aware of my maternal grandmother's existence until she died, she was confined in a state mental institution--what we in the old days when I was a kid called an insane asylum. My mother would never say a word about her childhood or why her mother was in a mental institution, so I can only imagine how horrible her childhood must have been. But it seems beyond doubt that my mother rarely if ever experienced attunement from her mother. No wonder she was not attuned to my emotional needs. What I feel now regarding my mother is not anger but compassion. I would urge the same for anyone who carries anger at a parent who was lousy at attachment/attunement. It is entirely possible that your parent's parent was no better at parenting than your parent was to you. I have read that this sort of thing tends to be intergenerational, not because it is genetic (at least not much, anyway) but because the child never experiences and learns anything different. I might add that Steve Ozanich in chapter 26 of The Great Pain Deception advocates transforming anger into forgiveness and compassion as the only truly effective way to deal with anger.
    Last edited: May 13, 2020
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  7. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks everyone for this thread. Maybe I should post this anew but somehow it feels right here. I truly will appreciate any insights and thoughts.

    My narcissistic mother-in-law is being an epic cnut once again (even in lockdown she has found a way) and I’ve had a really bad time these past 24 hours with migraine and TN. I’m having a hard time dealing with this. So long as I (and my husband) have no contact I can do the transformation of anger into compassion and even feel benevolent towards her but then she pulls some sh*t and I’m way behind even square one.

    I lay in bed this morning and gave free rein to my rage during a conversation with my hubby. I felt murderous. She knows full well how damaging her behaviour is to my husband and she’s even been shown a letter from his consultant explaining how dangerous these conflict-laden situations and confrontations are to his well-being but she still does it. Hence my incandescent rage.

    @Duggit recommended a book on a different thread and I had a look on Amazon. I’ve extracted a quote from a review (full review posted below) which mentions the idea of releasing the emotional charge by imagining hurting this person (a similar thing has been discussed somewhere in the original Alan Gordon program).

    Any thoughts on this? I sure as hell don’t feel better for the vivid exploration and it’s not the first time I’ve tried it.

    Here’s the extract:

    It contains a fairly radical process of imagining hurting the people who hurt you. Kristian explains well WHY you need to do it - and indeed Ti Caine in America does a Future Visioning coaching session that is very similar - but the reality of imagining hurting people you love is very hard to face. I suspect many people will give up at this point. Kristian explains that your impulses were 'thinking' it anyway and it is necessary to flush them out of your system.

    I think that spiritual forgiveness can also do the same process but without the mental axe to the face.... just a thought.

    I’m at a loss to know how to deal with this woman and whether I like it or not she just is going to be in my life (no matter how marginally) until she shuffles off this mortal coil.

    I am vexed.
    I have been so peaceful and happy during lockdown. My husband even commented on how beneath the happy woman he knows so well and loves so dearly there is yet another layer more serene and more beautiful. I feel it too. It is sublime.

    And then this happens.
    Am I going to be endlessly processing the stress and trauma of this woman? I feel that once she is gone, so too will the problem.

    plum :(

    *** Full Review***

    Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 March 2017:

    Incredibly powerful energy clearing but frankly, might be too dangerous for beginners
    First, I'm blown away that such an essential book only has two reviews plus I had never heard of it. I've been reading books on processing emotions for over twenty years and I think this is superb. However, I do have some caveats with that:

    First, the good: this book provides a model of how we use defence mechanisms and anxiety to stop ourselves feeling feelings. It's very well explained and compelling reading. The author is extremely honest about how few people will have courage to process their emotions because of how doing so can feel at first. I can attest to this - you really have to be strong to sit out waves of unrealised mental and emotional pain.

    I have been using his process for a couple of weeks and the changes in me are significant. I feel inner calm and twenty plus years of anxiety are diminishing rapidly.

    However, and there are some big howevers.... first, I do not agree with his model that starts with denied feelings then moves onto anxiety and then defence mechanisms and then thoughts about these things. He makes it seem like feelings just arise from no-where although he does mention triggers. Yet the idea that feelings just 'come' without thoughts proceeding them I think is incorrect and a little bit irresponsible. After 17 years of working with cognitive therapy modalities I can attest that most feelings come FROM thoughts and when you change the thoughts the feelings change as well. It's not that I think this particular model is bad but it is incomplete.

    It contains a fairly radical process of imagining hurting the people who hurt you. Kristian explains well WHY you need to do it - and indeed Ti Caine in America does a Future Visioning coaching session that is very similar - but the reality of imagining hurting people you love is very hard to face. I suspect many people will give up at this point. Kristian explains that your impulses were 'thinking' it anyway and it is necessary to flush them out of your system.

    I think that spiritual forgiveness can also do the same process but without the mental axe to the face.... just a thought.

    I worked for years learning how to control and process my emotions: as I alluded to above I think the process may be too overwhelming for many people and frankly, for beginners, emotionally and mentally dangerous. Kristian basically says this although he does not try to stop people from doing it on their own.

    I did a session in which I released some emotions and the wave of sorrow and grief that came up and hit me literally drove me to my knees with the shock of it. Having said that, an anxiety that had stalked me practically every day for the last 28 years has .... 100% gone. So was it worth it? Yes, and yes.
    Lan likes this.
  8. KayLah

    KayLah New Member

    Duggit, thank you for posting this. The video was extremely effective. I get this and I believe it. I like what you said about how you changed your feelings about your mother from anger to compassion. I have been trying a long time to forgive her, but didn't know how to do that. I think Im better equipped to manage this now. Much gratitude to you.
  9. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dear Plum,

    Your MIL is raising the stakes as a narcissist because you two have been out of her grasp with this lockdown.

    She knows that you're the loved "well of wisdom" type that people appreciate and want in their lives....and she is the opposite. It's an energy. She'll never be like you or have the respect you have, so she has to destroy it.

    I haven't read any of the "imagine yourself hurting them," theory, but I wanted to pass along what works best for me.
    Don't let yourself be thrown into a prison cell of her making. She is the one trapped in her desperate attempts at attention. You are free. Be free of it.
    She will raise the stakes, again. But, here's the thing I had to realize: A true relationship isn't in my mother's capacity. I can't fix that.
    So, I do the "surrender and bless" approach. I surrender the relationship to spirit/God/universe. I give it up. Then, in my mind, I bless her as a human being.

    The other thing I've had to look at, for myself, but just a thought for you, is....who are the passive people around the narcissist that let her continue in abusive ways. My father was and is still passive and will nod along with anything she says...at any expense. So, is my brother.
    They are both "sweet" men, but I had to realize that I was carrying internal rage at their willingness to accept whatever at a steep cost for other family members.

    I know you are a caretaker for your husband. I'm sure that runs deep considering the way he was probably raised. He was probably in a very passive role, right?

    What would happen if you and your husband actually decided to do no contact at all with her?

    It's complicated. But...from this forum...I can tell what a stellar person you are. You don't need to be subjected to her emotional cruelty.
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  10. Marla

    Marla Peer Supporter

    Wow, this has all really helped me. I was thinking about my counselor telling me I was letting my mom take my power away from me. So many many years of conditioning its hard to stand back in the middle of a situation and see it clearly to respond correctly. I wish I could have no contact like my brother has done but I fear I would lose my relationship with my adult kids that are very close to her. They already don’t understand and judge me about her.
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  11. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Plum, I am saddened to learn about the depth of your mother-in-law problems. I have a few thoughts about that, but first I want to say something about ISTDP and your experience with Kristian Nibe.

    Dr. Abbass is at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. A couple years ago a Canadian newspaper ran an article mischaracterizing ISTDP as being all about anger. He responded: “In reality the cause of these problems is complex feelings including sadness about broken attachments, rage, guilt about rage. Love and interrupted attachments are the heart of these problems as opposed to just anger.” Nibe's book does not ignore this. In describing ISTDP, he says the first task of therapy is to overcome defense mechanisms that cause a person to repress feelings, i.e., habits like intellectualization, rationalization, denial, displacement, splitting, projection, acting out, and on and on. After the patient can accomplish that, Nibe says the task is then for the patient "to feel through feelings of grief [about a broken attachment], anger, and guilt [about the anger], until one finally reaches the attachment core and feelings of love."

    The behavioral impulse of anger is aggression. ISTDP uses the term "portrayal" to describe imagining how one would carry out that aggressive impulse if one were unconstrained by morality, religion, social norms and so on. ISTDP psychiatrist Nat Kuhn has written: "There is nothing intrinsically therapeutic about portrayal. . . . When therapists encourage portrayals without helping the patient to experience the full range of complex feelings (that is, grief, guilt, and love in addition to rage), the results can include dropout, symptom exacerbation, and serious acting out."

    I think the genius of ISTDP is its focus on a person becoming aware of and overcoming defense mechanisms so that he or she can do what Sarno preached, namely, become aware of repressed anger. I am not a fan of portrayal because I never found that necessary in order to overcome my decades of TMS and TMS equivalents. Further, I am skeptical about the value, let alone the necessity, of portrayal for reasons based on my understanding of neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux's work regarding how the brain responds to threats--something too complicated to go into here. I think portrayal, properly done in the therapy setting, can have value but not for the reasons ascribed to it by ISTDP theory. (To avoid any misimpression, I have no formal training in ISTDP. ISTDP and the neuroimmunology of persistent pain are only hobbies that fill my abundant free time since I retired ten years ago and that provide a refreshing break from from a long professional career having nothing to do to my hobbies.)

    Now to my thoughts regarding your mother-in-law situation. I like what Gabor Maté says about anger. He relies significantly on what he learned about anger from ISTDP therapist (and fellow Canadian) Allen Kalpin but stops short of calling for portrayal. If you have access to Maté's book titled When the Body Says No, I suggest reading pages 269-74. If not, here is what I consider the most important paragraph:

    Anger does not require hostile acting out. First and foremost, it is a physiological process to be experienced [a surge of energy and aggressive impulse]. Second, it has cognitive value—it provides essential information. Since anger does not exist in a vacuum, if I feel anger it must be in response to some perception on my part. It may be a response to a loss or the threat of it in a personal relationship, or it may signal a real or threatened invasion of my boundaries. I am greatly empowered without harming anyone if I permit myself to experience the anger [the surge of energy and aggressive impulse] and to contemplate what may have triggered it. Depending on circumstances, I may choose to manifest the anger in some [regulated] way or to let go of it. The key is that I have not repressed the experience of it. I may choose to display my anger as necessary in words or deeds, but I do not need to act out in a driven fashion as uncontrolled rage. Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge.”
    You cannot control whether your mother-in-law is driven to hurt you and/or your husband, and your anger is a perfectly natural reaction when she does that. The aggressive impulse of anger is automatically triggered when another person threatens the relationship we have with that person or threatens our boundaries. It is a gift of evolution: If our long ago ancestors did not have that behavioral impulse when threatened in a relationship or regarding personal boundaries, they would have been less able to survive than they were. But you can control what you do with your gift of anger. Of course, you don't want to act out in unbridled aggressive fashion. But as you know from Sarno, you also don't want to repress it either. Maté goes further and makes the point that repressing anger can harm your health in all sorts of ways in besides TMS. (Guilt is also a gift of evolution because it helped our long ago ancestors survive, but I won't detour into that.)

    So what can you do with your anger? I think Steve Ozanich has it right in The Great Pain Deception. He says there are three choices in dealing with anger. First, burn the anger with physical activity that leaves you too exhausted for aggression. The trouble with this, he says, is that "the root of the problem remains and the seeds of discontent grow back." State differently, after you are over the exhaustion, your memory of your mother-in-law's threatening behavior will remain and have the power to trigger your fight-flight response. Second, face the anger in therapy. Ozanich says: "To feel and talk away anger may be two of the best ways to purge unexpressed energy, but it bypasses forgiveness. Understanding why someone did what they did to us does not necessarily mean we forgive them." Every time you think about what your mother-in-law has done, your fight-flight response is likely to be riled up again. Third, transform the anger by forgiveness and compassion. Ozanich regards that as the only effective solution. I know that can be difficult to do, but as a place to start, I'll mention two points that psychologist Fred Luskin has made about forgiveness. First, forgiveness does not mean that you condone what your mother-in-law did to you or your husband. Second, forgiveness is not for your mother-in-law but rather is for YOU because the result of forgiveness is that your memory of what your mother-in-law did will longer rile you up. Going beyond Luskin, Plum, I know you are familiar with Dr. Hanscom. If you have not seen two recent posts by him on this website's subform titled Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner), I urge you to check them out. One is titled Forgiveness is a Learned Skill - and a Power Move, and is dated March 2, 2020. The other is titled Beyond Forgiveness - Compassion for Those Who Hurt You, and is dated February 23, 2020.

    I wish you success in moving forward.
    Last edited: May 13, 2020
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  12. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Marcia, I’m so grateful you took the time to reply. You really nailed the point perfectly and after reading your words yesterday I took some time to reflect.

    My husband was ‘the golden child’ while his older siblings assumed the other burdens (such as scapegoats). His eldest sister is ‘the never good enough’ daughter and she has had breast cancer twice. Gabor Maté devotes an entire chapter to this exact thing.

    I know from speaking with this sister that their dad put their mum on a pedestal and gave in to her, so he definitely enabled her. Their dad was jealous of the “love” their mum showed my husband and subsequently his childhood was littered with casual brutalities as his dad repeatedly assured him that he was not special.

    My hubby wasn’t passive with his mum when he was younger, in fact they had an incredibly volatile relationship but his condition has led him to become more mellow and latterly, definitely more passive with her. He just can’t bear the energetic/emotional sinkhole of dealing with her anymore which has inevitably proved corrosive to boundaries. He’s been doing his best to act as peacemaker but clearly his family don’t want peace. I love that he has tried to turn a toxic family dynamic into something healthier but I think you are right in your observation that the capacity for relationship is simply not there.

    As for me, I’m menstrual and hormonal and I just got really, really upset yesterday. My husband encouraged me to phone my dad for a chat and it was exactly the right thing to do. He echoed your advice and in particular the necessity of No Contact. He also noted, as you did, the attention-seeking aspect of it all. Before the lockdown these dramas would occur on a 3-6 week cycle.

    The one that surfaced a couple of days ago was a rehash of the bs she pulled on Mother’s Day here in the UK (the day before the lockdown started in March). We’d gone to see her with a gift and card but as he was leaving the house she said something so distressing that he was almost sick in the car on the way to visit my parents. Consequently the Mothers Day interaction between me and my mum was tarnished because I was angry and he was green to the gills. I’ve not seen my mum since. She’s a gentle introvert who totally understands the situation but even so it was still a disappointing experience and I feel sad about it.

    I’ve been essentially estranged from the MIL for a couple of years now but she still phones my hubby. He’s been trying to shield me from it but it is still damaging. Even the sound of her voice provokes me. But amazingly my lovely man has agreed to essentially breaking contact with her. I’ve blocked her number and he’s musing on how best to proceed. Fingers crossed for complete no contact or as my dad suggested my husband calls infrequently just to touch base and to put the phone down the second the crazy-making starts.

    It’s complicated isn’t it and I am rambling :)

    I very much like ‘surrender and bless’ approach. This I can do. I also recognise that I am carrying a huge amount of internal rage because of the way everyone gives in to her, especially when my husband does. I knew it made me angry but I hadn’t really let myself acknowledge how much. Thank you for flagging that.

    I’m truly grateful for your support and kindness. Thank you for listening and being a gentle shoulder upon which I could rest awhile. I feel much better already.

    I’m especially taking this to heart.

    Bless you ❤️

    plum xxx
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  13. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you so much for this sweetheart. There’s an abundance of wisdom in your reply and I’d like to take some time to read and assimilate all you say so I’ll reply properly soon. Meantime I want you to know how much I appreciate the generosity of your words and the time you have taken in your response.

    plum x
  14. nowa

    nowa Peer Supporter

    I found this yesterday when researching forgiveness: 'repeat the following five times a day: “My parents treated me the way they had been treated. I forgive them and their parents too.”' which I find helps me to forgive anybody... (apart from myself! lol)
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