Regardless of whether your Mother-Daughter relationship is wonderful or terrible, I have seen some common themes among women in my practice that I’d like to share with you.
I have seen 2 types of relationships most frequently in practice:
1. The relationship is seen as “good” with a very caring Mother figure who is brought to worry and/or sleepless nights over any problem going on in the Daughter’s life.
2. The relationship is “okay” with the Mother showing some care/concern over the Daughter’s concerns but always with the Mother’s concerns/problems being more difficult relative to the Daughter’s (from Mother’s perspective and/or reactions to Daughter’s concerns, or sincerely felt by both since Mother has had a difficult life or is currently going through a difficulty).
In both cases, the experience is very real for both the Mother and the Daughter. It’s the feeling that is left with the Daughter that I believe is of importance here. Both cases leave the Daughter feeling guilty over her expressed concerns. This guilt does not put value to the Daughter’s individual experience. And I believe that this inner-turmoil contributes strongly to some of the chronic diseases that I see in practice. Both scenarios leave a sense of frustration for the Daughter; the first case is due to a feeling of guilt over sharing a difficult experience with a Mother and then creating challenges in the Mother’s own well-being, and the second case a sense of frustration over the Mother’s minimization of the Daughter’s experience.
Frustration over anything is a strong contributor to stress in the body. When the body experiences frustration (from work or personal matters), it becomes worn-down and the body’s natural defenses become weaker. Often, immune concerns will follow — frequent colds, allergies, and over a long-term, even cancer can result from such stress.
So how can we modify such relationships? I believe that one very important step is for Mothers and their adult Daughters to see each other as equals. Mutual respect and compassion should ideally be the foundation for these relationships. Every age group sees different challenges, and a loving relationship can support the challenges that arise.
My advice to Daughters: recognize that your Mother will choose to handle your stresses in her own unique manner; it is not to put unnecessary pressure on you personally. Equally important – do not try to handle your own stresses in the way your Mother would have, or currently does handle hers (if it’s not what your core feels comfortable with). Every person has the choice to view their stresses from a “glass half-empty or half-full” perspective. In overcoming challenges, we can all benefit from moving forward optimistically — if your Mother is optimistic and supportive, then by all means carry forth this wonderful tradition, knowing you do have the strength to get through whatever challenges life may send you. If she models worry, impatience or frustration, please know that you do not have to repeat these emotions. Your health will thank you for a movement towards optimistic healing.
My advice to Mothers: Daughters need their Mother’s support. No matter how old they become, there is a special “lift” received from the nurturing energy that I believe only a Mother can provide. If your daughter is going through a challenge (health or otherwise) just listen. Much of your own energy and wisdom is already within your adult Daughter, and she needs only positive support from you as an adult to get through a tough time. Your challenges/problems matter too — but when your Daughter is sharing her own challenges with you, try to listen, support, and find a later time to share your own challenges. I believe that Daughters want to be of great support to their Mothers, but they need support too. Oh, and a concern I’ve heard from many daughters… their Mothers never ask them how they are (or ask in a superficial manner only) — it’s ok to hear your Daughter’s concerns and recognize that she has her own journey in this life — and you can make a difference for her even as an adult by just showing you care. And you too will get through whatever life brings your Daughter’s way — you can choose how you handle her challenges — hopefully with a positive spirit and belief that she will do (and can do) whatever she really needs to get through her challenge.
We are all Daughters of Mothers. We have had experiences with our Mothers that shape us. Sometimes however, the emotional reactions that we have (frustration, worry and/or anxiety) are not our own personal styles of handling things. They are the subconscious energies of our Mothers that we have learned and have taken on as our own. If you notice that your coping strategies for stress cause you distress, I believe it’s important for you to re-think your reactions and see if they follow your Mother’s energies/styles of coping. If they do, it might be time to spend some time thinking of how you would like to best handle stresses before they arise. I believe that if all women (Mothers and Daughters alike) are able to take charge of their reactions to stressful situations, we will have a much healthier generation of women rather than one that is re-living past patterns of behaviour and/or illness.
More to come soon about my thoughts on this interesting relationship.