So you think your relationship problems couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your relationship with your mom? I hate to break it to you – but you may need to reconsider that position.
A recent article in ScienceDaily.com, Ability to Love Takes Root in Earliest Infancy, examines the importance of the behavior of mothers towards their children, particularly between the ages of 1 – 1/2 years, in laying the foundation of sense of worth, value and inherent deservability of love of the child. The longitudinal study in the piece demonstrated a connection to behavior in adult romantic relationships later. As an individual and couples therapist, I see this play out all the time and know it to be true from experience. However, it’s nice to see more research support.
I often see people struggling in their relationships around feeling safe, opening up and giving/receiving love. Human beings are born wired to connect to others but often time it’s the conditioning or experience in the family of origin that inhibits that connection. If you don’t receive tenderness, attentiveness, mirroring or even physical touch as a young child, you are more likely to go into an adaptive defensive response – as it’s emotional survival at stake! If it wasn’t safe to rely on mom, it may have been wise of you to learn not to need her (as infant attachment research has shown).
But there is great news folded up into this. If you are having an “aha” moment, realizing your unmet emotional needs from mom have been an obstacle in your relationships, all is not lost.
“The good news: ‘If you can figure out what those old models are and verbalize them,” and if you get involved with a committed, trustworthy partner, says Simpson, “you may be able to revise your models and calibrate your behavior differently.” Old patterns can be overcome. A betrayed baby can become loyal. An unloved infant can learn to love.’
If you resonate with a lack of connection with your own mother and can identify with ensuing struggles in your intimate relationships, that’s a start. You are aware that this is an issue. The next step is the process of change and this is where a good psychotherapist can help you identify what negative patterns you might be replaying without even realizing hit, do the work of unresolved grief left from childhood, identify red flags possibly ignored in your life and ways to move towards loving, trusting relationships.
The more you believe you deserve love the more likely you will invite it into your life and be comfortable with it. Thankfully, with all of the recent research in the field of neuroscience, we know the brain can rewire itself across the lifespan. This means positive relational experiences have the capacity to facilitate brain change to assist with belief in self, others and the world around you.
I work with individuals around the issues above and am passionate about this part of my practice, helping people get past family of origin experiences holding them up individually or in their relationships. My practice is in Marin (Larkspur) and you can learn more at www.MarinTherapyandCounseling.com.
Another great place to start would an excellent book on the subject of healing old wounds around getting the love you missed from mom called, The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC.
Regardless of what your experience was with mom – you can experience the joy of relational connection, attachment and emotional health.