More than three-quarters of the case studies shared in Mothers and Daughters, indicate daughters feel like an emotional rescuer in relation to their mothers. Whether it is trying to keep the peace and not upset her, listening to her talk about her worries and fears and trying to find solutions to her problems, many daughters share their mothers seem incapable of dealing with life which has left them with an overwhelming responsibility to parent their mothers. As well as daughter, they take on the role of ‘fixer’.
Perhaps you, too, recognise yourself as a rescuer?
‘‘My mum re-married just three months after meeting my step-father. It wasn’t until after she married him, she realised he had problems with managing his anger and alcohol intake, as well as gambling and sexual perversions. I can remember sitting in a solicitor’s office in 1982, aged 16, asking what I could do to stop him hitting my mum. It seemed like she didn’t have the strength or know how to break away from this relationship. She would tell me what was happening to her; sometimes I would hear it or witness it. One evening I confronted my stepfather telling him to hit me instead of my mum; I knew if he did, I would go to the police. My mum begged me not to speak to him in this way, saying he couldn’t help it.
It took strength on my part to let my mum know legally what she could do, but unless she was going to press charges or take out an injunction against my stepfather, it seemed there was nothing I could do as a child. I felt responsible for my mother’s life and well-being, but I didn’t want to go against her wishes because I feared losing her love and approval. I indirectly fed into this loop of her behaviour and his, by not taking further action. It makes me sad to realise I didn’t have the guts to stop the abuse inflicted on her because I feared losing my mother’s love. It felt like I couldn’t win either way.’’
What does my experience bring up for you? Have you, too, reflected on the past wishing you’d taken different actions? Perhaps you can identify where you have unconsciously behaved in a way to try and keep your mother’s love. Perhaps some of you have experienced or witnessed domestic violence. Whatever this brings up for you, it is a wonderful opportunity to further heal the hurt within.
What do you hunger for in relation to your mother?
What is the driving force behind responding in the way you do towards her?
How does your mother treat you? As an adult, teenager or child?
How do you respond to your mother? (From the child, teenager or adult part of yourself?)
In what situations have you found yourself stepping in to take care of your mother emotionally or physically?
How long have you been acting as mother or emotional rescuer to your mother? (How old were you when this way of behaving began?)
How often do you give into your mother’s wishes for fear of losing her love, acceptance or approval?
What are your greatest fears in relation to stopping your default responses and behaviours in relation to your mother?
For many daughters there is an engulfing fear of being cut off from the main source of love, namely our mothers. This fear goes back to the basic survival instincts where as babies we looked towards our mothers to keep us safe, protected and nurtured. A child is not able to provide these things for themselves and within our adult mind remains the memory of the fearful child, looking to its mother as a means of survival. Beliefs are an important factor to consider as to why mothers and daughters behave the way they do. For more information about beliefs, see Chapter Six Recovery and Beyond and in particular the section on ‘Aiding Your Own Recovery - Limiting Beliefs and How to Change Them’.
I think there’s a tremendous amount of guilt that goes on between mothers and daughters, no matter how good or bad their relationships are - Ellen Page
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