A daughter’s healthy striving for independence is a long and winding road. Let’s face it, mothers and daughters have a history.Is it any wonder they have issues?No other relationship is tasked with wrestling the competing urges of dependence and independence right from the get-go.
From labor’s first contractions, mothers are both holding on to and letting go of their daughters. Considering one of the duos started off in the other’s body, it is no wonder the path from dependence to independence is a journey. First conceived of, then conceived, carried and finally labored over, a mother and daughter travel many an emotional and developmental mile. One that is reiterated many times over during the time mothers and daughters relate to each other.
How it all begins- Once baby arrives, mom takes care of baby… yes the helpless baby who can’t feed diaper or even hold up her head. They bond or let’s be real here. They fall in love.
If all goes well, they look into one another’s eyes and find that they only have eyes for each other. This bonding is neurologically programmed into our DNA to ensure survival! The early babyhood stage starts at dependence and vulnerability. For mom – life as she knew it, is over. Her body is broken open, sore nipples and sleepless nights set the stage for a tremendous level of sacrifice.
Depending on whether mom is psychologically sound and has support will influence to a great degree how well she adapts to this very difficult role.
For baby- well the baby is just being a baby, laying down the psychological hard drive she will operate from the rest of her days.Psychologists say it is the time you can never remember yet you never forget. It is that basic, that fundamental. But this story has a trajectory. Baby’s job is to grow from complete dependence to mastery and independence.
At about year one and a half just when mom says to herself,” I’ve got this! ”the game changes. Her job goes from being everything to the young fledgling, to learning how to let go. She must increasingly relinquish control as baby gains independence. Talk about a job description rewrite! So it all begins. At best, baby and mom ally enough and delight at babies progress. At best, mom knows instinctively that babies progress is a result of her good enough mothering. Then both mom and baby can feel good about babies burgeoning independent functioning.” Look I did it myself!” Mom keeps track of the developmental milestones- perhaps proudly reporting to the playgroup moms or perhaps to her own mom the progress being made. Baby, well baby, just feels good or protests in more or less effective ways to let mom know when she doesn’t. The hard drive of her experience of life is laid down.
If all goes well or good enough, baby learns that life feels good and doing for self-feels even better. And when it doesn’t all go swimmingly, mom’s arms or lap is the go-to place where she mommy makes it all better. Refuel and reset in mom’s lap. When in resonance this all feels good. There are enough good feelings to go around. But in music, like life, there is the dark note playing in the background, the counterpoint.
Every step taken is a step away from mommy. If all goes well, mom is working herself out of a job. How mom copes with this reality and loss tells the tale of whether or not separation will go well. For many mothers and daughters, this dance can get complicated and convoluted. Particularly if mom has a narcissistic, borderline or histrionic personality disorder or if mom is depressed or addicted the dance will involve lots of painful stepping on toes. If this is the case, mom’s mothering can be woefully impaired and daughters can have a lifetime of suffering because of her mother’s limitations.
This already difficult dance from dependence to independence becomes nearly impossible. Mother/Daughter relationship issues start very early on, are complex, and involve the psychological core of both mother and daughter. Understanding and navigating a daughter’s recovery from being mothered by a difficult/impaired mother takes understanding the developmental tasks for both mothers and daughters. So much is at stake. A daughter needs to heal her wounds before she can effectively parent her own daughter. Any approach to healing must include a compassionate understanding of the difficult psychological tasks at hand.
To find out if you are caught in the Good Daughter role- go here.
This article first appeared on my sister site https://raleighcounselingandtherapy.com/
TWEET IT OUT –From labor's first contractions, mothers are both holding on to and letting go of their daughters. Click To Tweet First conceived of, then conceived, carried and finally labored over, a mother and daughter travel many an emotional and developmental mile. Click To TweetEvery step taken is a step away from mommy. Click To Tweet Let’s face it, mothers and daughters have a history. Is it any wonder they have issues? Click To Tweet If all goes well or well enough, baby learns that life feels good and doing for self-feels even better. Click To Tweet A daughter needs to heal her wounds before she can effectively parent her own daughter. Click To Tweet If mom has a narcissistic, borderline or histrionic personality disorder the dance of dependence to independence will involve lots of painful stepping on toes. Click To Tweet Understanding and navigating a daughter's recovery from being mothered by a difficult/impaired mother takes understanding the developmental tasks for both mothers and daughters. Click To Tweet
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