By Shelly Sharon, providing a workshop Feeling Seen in Realtionships
When we’ve come to a point in life where we have some substantial understanding about our relationship with our mother and how it affected us in life, it can be quite frustrating to find ourselves repeating similar patterns and getting caught repeatedly in unfulfilling relationships.
Surely, we tell ourselves, if we’ve learned so much about ourselves we can avoid the people and connections that make us feel unseen, misunderstood or rejected, right?!
To some extent, understanding at a rational level a relationship as important as the one with our mother can equip us with useful ways of avoiding intimate relationships or close friendships that are unsatisfying.
But the reason that mental understanding proves insufficient is that this primal relationship with our mother is not so much a mental one but an emotional one. This relationship leads us to develop a sense of emotional safety which we store in our body in a visceral and emotional way, and which we then refer to later on in life as our compass in relationships.
Screening for emotional safety happens throughout our lives as it is a fundamental survival skill. But what gets to be classified as safe or not hinges on our early childhood understanding of emotional safety and how to go about achieving it.
The mother wound is a compromised sense of emotional safety
Since we can’t live without a sense of emotional safety, when our relationship with our mother is troubling or dysfunctional we adopt strategies to ensure we get hurt as little as possible.
In the absence of satisfying emotional safety we’ll aim for the next best thing in any possible way.
These strategies are stored in non-verbal ways in our system because this whole chain of events happens mostly in non-verbal ways, at a time in life where our language faculties were not sufficiently developed.
We can analyse the myriads of ways we learned how to create a false sense of emotional safety but this analysis is limited when it comes to the origin of our emotional safety in emotions and body-memory.
When we want to go deeper than rational understanding we need to relearn how to feel safe in relationships. Our renewed sense of safety will steer us towards fulfilling relationships—either in existing or new ones.
Three common strategies to cope with false emotional safety
Women who’ve had a challenging relationship with their mother often grow one of these three defence strategies that lead to unfulfilling relationships in life, especially intimate relationships and close friendships:
Relying heavily on our thinking process and mental understanding is a way of avoiding the pain of feelings. In this defence mechanism we tend to minimise or even dismiss our emotional wounds by giving more weight to understanding the reasons for which the other person hurts.
You can absolutely have an understanding, for example, of how your mother failed to provide for your needs because of childhood or other traumas. You can embrace an understanding of the spiritual perspective that explains why you’re in a relationship with a particular person. When this understanding is a bypass to avoid your unmet needs it’s a debilitating strategy.
I call this a crippling understanding. As a child, you learned to understand your mother’s relationship to you as a way of creating emotional safety in an unfulfilling relationship. It comes at the expense of understanding the importance and validity of your own needs in a relationship.
When you process emotionally this inner child’s strategy you learn how to be more inclusive of your own needs as well as those of the other and in that way you reach satisfaction in a relationship.
- Avoiding rejection
We’ll do a lot in order to avoid the shame, humiliation or confusion that comes with the rejection of our personality or our emotional, physical and psychological needs.
Rejection feels unsafe. It’s the threat of losing a belonging.
That are many ways in which we can try to avoid a rejection such as pleasing the other and making sure they’re never unsatisfied with us; hiding our wishes or parts of ourselves so they’re not denied attention or appreciation; minimising the importance of our needs by considering them as too much to ask for or not important enough.
Rejection is part of life. Women who’ve repeatedly experienced rejection in childhood will go through the process of asserting their presence while feeling safe to do so as part of their healing. Then the strategy of avoiding rejection is not dominant anymore and other ways of managing a relationship come into play.
- Becoming independent
The mother wound stipulates the necessity of becoming a strong, independent woman. It leads to a false sense of safety where you basically don’t need much or perhaps anything from the other.
Many women who’ve had a difficult time with their mother end up being quite strong women. They know how to take care of their needs, their capacity to identify what others need or what would create harmony in relationship is highly developed.
The price we pay for being that kind of strong results in feeling unsafe to be vulnerable, to need or ask for help, to relax and let go. It’s where many women yearn to have a partner or a friend they can lean on in times of need but find themselves caught in unfulfilling relationships.
When we learn to make space for all of ourselves—our strengths as well as our vulnerabilities—we can have fulfilling relationships.
These common mother wound strategies to creating a false sense of safety are three reasons why we get caught in unfulfilling relationships. And they can be shifted at any age. We can relearn at any point in life, whatever the circumstances, satisfying and beneficial ways to reaching an emotional safety without compromising on who we are and what we need from a relationship. When these childhood mother wounds strategies are dismantled we have the space to move towards fulfilling relationships.
If you’d like to sign up for the workshop on Saturday February 3rd, you can do so via this link: To Feel Seen in Realtionships. Or you can contact Shelly directly via website below:
Healing the Mother Wound