Understanding our mom’s past brings clarity and compassion to our own story
In order for each of us to become our own person we need to leave our mother’s force field. Co-dependence with her is easy and good as a starting point, but it’s not a good ending point.
To help young men and women with this journey to self-hood, many cultures have rituals which are significant both for the mother and her child. For us in the West, often all we get when we turn 21 is a key that doesn’t fit anywhere or open anything. For us it’s an ongoing process of learning to trust our way of seeing instead of always deferring to our mother’s opinion. This isn’t an easy shift as, for many of our growing years, her well-intentioned choices decided how we should behave in ways she felt were socially appropriate. We often conformed without question simply for fear of rejection or being ostracized.
Within our families we learned to play games in order to cope, to manipulate reality in order to survive and get what we wanted. Each family has a particular way of relating to each other; each has developed patterns that remain unchanged if they aren’t challenged.
We can say that we’ve been ‘irradiated’ with our mother’s emotions and they’ve become ours. Sometimes we carry the symptoms of something we didn’t even experience. Without reflection and healing we will pass those emotions to the next generation.
None of us can change history, but we can change its effects on us, and learn from its mistakes. Looking back is not to find blame or to be disloyal to our moms, but is to help us understand our own way of being now, which has been profoundly moulded by her.
As we consider the pressures of the family in which she grew up and what her emotional environment was like, we come to understand her context and something of the basis for her actions. As we become aware of her pattern of relating we can see how similar we are in some ways, and can learn to have compassion on her choices and our own.
We shouldn’t try to change our parents. As adults we now mother ourselves and take responsibility for our life’s patterns and directions. As we see the mould we come out of, we come to understand the assumptions we’ve made about ourselves. When we refuse to play that familiar family game it brings healing to all involved.
Our mothers passed on their own emotional journeys. It’s now up to us to pick up where they left off and to heal our own life and then the lives of those close to us.