A mother’s love is supposedly unconditional, but some women are incapable of showing affection and support to their children due to factors such as unprocessed trauma, a lack of empathy or an unaddressed mental health or substance use disorder. This Mother’s Day, here are some tips for giving yourself the love and respect you didn’t receive in your childhood.
Do You Need Reparenting?
Does thinking about your mother trigger anxiety, guilt, resentment or anger? The answer may be yes if your mother did any of these things:
- Demeaned, blamed or criticized you
- Ignored or dismissed your feelings
- Physically or emotionally abused you
- Tried to live vicariously through you
- Implied that she needs you to fulfill her needs
A lack of parental presence in childhood can make it much harder to maintain healthy relationships later in your life. For example, you might push people away because you feel like you are unworthy of love. Or, you could have the opposite reaction and commit to relationships much too quickly because you are so starved for affection.
What Is the Inner Child?
Psychologist Carl Jung was the first to define the concept of the inner child, referring to the subconscious part of each person shaped during childhood. As an adult, many of your emotions, reactions, behaviors and attitudes stem from the experiences you had when you were a child – some of which you might not even remember. Many of us try to shield ourselves from mental anguish by burying unresolved feelings deep within our unconscious mind.
Women overcompensate for childhood neglect in many ways, including perfectionism and people-pleasing behavior. When you feel like you are never enough, you keep trying harder. Eventually, your inner child will manifest in issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, outbursts, difficulty functioning and withdrawal from others.
Tips for Mothering Yourself
Reparenting your inner child focuses on giving yourself the love and protection you missed when growing up. Because this essential part of yourself has so much influence over your thoughts, decisions and relationships, healing can be a lengthy process. Here are some things you can try.
- Write your inner child a letter: Some people find it helps to address their inner child as a friend. For example, you might write about childhood memories from your adult perspective, offering explanations for upsetting things you didn’t understand back then.
- Meditate: Meditation boosts self-awareness and can help you process complex emotions. One way to get in touch with your inner child is through loving-kindness meditation, which brings self-compassion into the equation.
- Be playful: If your childhood lacked positive experiences, making time for fun can help heal the pain of missing out on what you needed as a child. Swing on a swing set, treat yourself to ice cream or take time to fingerpaint or color in a coloring book.
Recovering in Our Women’s-Only Community
Often, women who grow up in dysfunctional families respond by developing unhealthy coping mechanisms like eating disorders, self-harm or substance abuse. In many cases, this self-destruction may be following a pattern you learned from the adults around you, but there is also a genetic component to mental health and addiction that may have made you more susceptible to these issues from birth.
Canyon Crossing is a place where women can heal themselves. For more information about what we treat and the benefits of women’s-only care, please contact us.