“I always thought if someone knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I was selfish. I didn’t do enough. And I just didn’t care.
At least, that’s what my mother routinely told me. And our mothers are always right, aren’t they?
For most of my life I felt that I wasn’t good enough and that deep down, I wasn’t a good person because of all of my unbecoming characteristics my mother would tell me about.
I just couldn’t make her happy, which in turn, led to me to live with so much guilt and shame that it turned into physical suﬀerings.
I had lived with this way of thinking for almost 40 years, until one day, years after she had passed away, it was time to deal with it all and face the reality of it all.
With the help of Dr. Graves, I was enlightened to the concepts of guilt and shame and I broke down the moment he started talking about it. It was me. It was how I felt. I wasn’t alone in feeling this. And after a few acupuncture sessions with Dr. Graves, it became clear to me…I wasn’t a bad person after all.
I was just suﬀering from…daughter guilt.”
This experience from one of our clients is not an anomaly. We find many women in mid-life carry around feelings of guilt and shame from the relationship with their mothers, and if not processed, can lead to both mental and physical illness.
However, who do women talk to about this? How do you go about dealing with it?
Many of our clients have spent years in counseling sessions. Some of them have found great success in talking with a professional psychologist.
Others have found themselves talking in circles without clear direction on how to move forward peacefully. And if this is the situation you find yourself in (or don’t know who to turn to in the first place), then this blog’s for you.
The Diﬀerence Between Guilt & Shame
There can tend to be a big misconception of guilt. It is one of the easiest ways for us to describe feeling not good enough, but we forget (or feel guilty about!) the word “shame”, even though it can play a crucial role in a mother/daughter relationship.
Guilt is a normal response to doing something you know you shouldn’t have done. You can say you are sorry, ask how to repair the situation, and understand it was a mistake to learn from.
Shame, on the other hand, is an unhealthy feeling of making a mistake and thinking that something is wrong with you because of it. You can feel unlovable, as though you are a failure, and it creates negative thought patterns about you as a person.
The first step is determining whether you are feeling guilt, shame, or a combination of both.
The Mother Wound
If you have ever felt alone in dealing with these feelings regarding the relationship with your mother, know that you are not.
In fact, this issue is so prominent that Dr. Oscar Serrallach, gave it the name The Mother Wound.
This concept refers to the thousands of years that women have been repressed and the unhealthy coping mechanisms passed on through each generation of mothers in how to deal with it.
The Mother Wound can lead to:
– feelings that you are not good enough
– feeling ashamed of who you really are
– feeling it is your job to make your mother and others happy
– persistent shame over not being able to heal your mother’s own wounds
Without even knowing it, our mothers may be passing along thoughts and feelings they have dealt with their entire lives and find it normal to do the same to their daughters.
How to Learn to Let it Go
If you find yourself feeling chronic guilt and/or shame, it’s important to acknowledge that it exists and that it is a healthy decision to deal with it rather than ignore it.
We recommend the following 5 steps to processing these feelings:
- Realize it is there. Reading this blog is the first step to understanding that the struggle is real!
- Stop minimizing your emotions. Your feelings are real, important, and deserve to be dealt with. Do not ignore them.
- Understand that you are not responsible for your mother’s happiness. Let’s repeat that…you are not responsible for your mother’s happiness.
- Let go of needing to know why. You may never know why your mother has said certain things to you or acted in a certain way. Stop blaming her. Just focus on your healing.
- Grieve. Grieve the mother you never had and the one you always wanted. It’s time to stop looking to her to fill a void in your life and learn to mother yourself.
So does processing daughter guilt/shame mean that you can’t have a loving relationship with your mother? Not at all!
You can be loving and kind, but you do not need to be enmeshed. You can privately or publicly put boundaries on your relationship, providing yourself some much needed self-care when it comes to stopping a bad cycle.
If you struggle with this or find yourself needing extra support, we recommend:
– acupuncture for a mind/body clarity and calming of the situation
– herbal supplements to cool the nerves, provide support for fluctuating emotions
For those that live in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs or the Greater Denver Metro area, please contact our oﬃce at (303) 688-6698 or click here to schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Graves to talk further about your feelings.
If you do not live in these areas or are outside of Colorado, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a phone or Skype call with Dr. Graves. There are many eﬀective recommendations we can provide for those far from our oﬃce.
You are worthy. And so are your feelings.