“As a child, we have two fundamental needs. One need with us from infancy – and it‘s absolute and it‘s not negotiable: attachment. The other is authenticity. Authenticity is the connection to ourselves. Without it, without a connection to our gut feelings, just how long do you survive out there in nature? So authenticity is not some new age, pseudo-spiritual concept. It‘s a survival necessity.” ~ Dr. Gabor Maté in The Wisdom of Trauma

Attachment and authenticity are equally important. Both are essential for safety and health, even if we are no longer being cared for by our mothers and even if we no longer live “out there in nature.”

Our bodies know what’s important.

And at the heart of many difficult mother-daughter relationships is tension between the two. I touch on this in Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters:

“What gets passed down is the unconscious pain of being a woman in a culture that does not equally value women. This is the pain of “not good enough” and of harsh self-judgment, criticism, and unworthiness.

They told us “just be yourself” but they taught us (with words and by example) to be someone else. Conform. Standardize. Comply. Obey. And if we didn’t, we were often accused of being selfish, or being a show off.

Centuries ago, women were burnt at the stake, stoned, and drowned for being their true selves, for expressing their true selves. Especially when that self was deemed to be evil, magic, wild, intuitive, inappropriate, too sexual, too thin, too fat, too much, too smart. Fast-forward to the beginning of 20th century and instead of being murdered, women were labeled as “hysterical,” thrown into institutions and locked away, told that it was for their own good. Today? The murdering and locking away still happens, especially to women of color, but mostly it takes the form of being shamed, harassed, and threatened in the media (social and otherwise).

It makes sense, then, that our mothers (and grandmothers and great-grandmothers), may have scolded us (or more) for being anything that might make us unattractive or ineligible for marriage, because for most of history women could not survive on their own.

Thus, generation after generation, women have had two universal (and often unconscious) conflicting needs:

#1 I must be my true self…I must express my true self.

#2 I must protect myself (and my daughters) from being burnt at the stake/rejected so I will squash and mold and contort myself so I “fit in” and am deemed “okay.”

Guess which one usually wins?

Which one do you choose?

Which one do you think your mother chose (whether she knows it or not)?

“Unused creativity [unexpressed authenticity] is not benign and doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.” ~ Brené Brown [bracketed words are mine]

Which leaves you with some tender, painful, human questions: Why can’t my mother seem to love and accept me as I am or want to be? Why do I care?? Can I live with that? Is it possible to live with that and be truly content? Is it worth having a conversation about? How do I say what I need to say in a way that doesn’t hurt/anger her? What if she rejects me? Should I go ‘no contact’ with her?

Why are we born with two seemingly incompatible needs? And how can we meet these needs for ourselves?

I created The Mother Lode to help you answer those questions and to support you in taking better care of yourself in the relationship you have with your mother…so you can meet your own need to be – and express – your authentic self. To reconnect you to the parts of yourself that you may disconnected from. To love and trust yourself more.

Much, much love,

Karen

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