Early Maternal Deprivation and Mother Hunger

Early Maternal deprivation creates a lifelong hunger for her love. In my book Ready to Heal, I name this unique grief Mother Hunger™. Mother Hunger™ complicates bonding for women, making romantic relationships and friendships very difficult.

Here’s a unique study that reinforces the grief of Mother Hunger™ from sciencedaily.com

Even brief maternal deprivation early in life alters adult brain function and cognition: Rat study

Date: May 3, 2018
Source: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
Summary: When a baby is taken from its mother for even a brief period early in life, this traumatic event significantly alters the future, adult function of the brain, according to a new animal model study. These changes in the brain are similar to disturbances in brain structure and function that are found in people at risk for neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Visit ScienceDaily to read “Even brief maternal deprivation early in life alters adult brain function and cognition: Rat study”

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science. (2018, May 3). Even brief maternal deprivation early in life alters adult brain function and cognition: Rat study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 12, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180503142724.htm

Heart Break

Dear broken hearted,

It is said that time heals all wounds. Time may dull the pain of a broken heart, but it cannot fully heal the wound. Unlike a broken bone, heartbreak has no cast. Most of us recognize that healing a broken bone requires a “time-out” from routine, but life rarely permits anyone the necessary space to tend a broken heart.

This leaves us each with the monumental task of finding and taking time to heal.  Usually, we’re drowning before we find a refuge.

How do you allow yourself room to cry? To rage? To grieve? Do you retreat into food, exercise, work, or sex? Or do you find a trusted friend who will hold you while you mourn?

When we face the death of a loved one, a community mourns with us.  We have a service, a funeral, a meal, a memorial of some nature.  But when a lover betrays us, or we betray ourselves in love, where do we turn?

Perhaps you haven’t felt the comfort of an unbiased witness, someone who sees the best in you without a personal agenda. You haven’t known safety in a relationship.  You’ve been used, shamed, or forgotten.  Perhaps you’ve misused another for your own gain, hiding from the insecurity deep within your soul.

Living in isolation is like treading water without a raft.  You may stay afloat, but daily, it takes such energy and effort that giving up sounds like a relief.

When you no longer want to tread water, it’s time to reach out for help.

 

With love

Kelly

This is Water — Excerpt by Anjali Dayal

Read this article in PDF form by clicking here.


Sharing an excerpt with you from On Being—and if you haven’t checked this site out yet, you may want to!  (onbeing.org)

This is a well-articulated discussion by Anjali Dayal, who is an assistant professor of International Politics at Fordham University and a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Women, Peace and Security.

So it is for me as a woman today. The mass reckoning with sexual harassment, violent misogyny, and its inextricably from power structures is no surprise. And yet — as it’s exposed for what it is in a process that I welcome and have worked to precipitate whenever possible — I’ve found myself struggling to recover a sense I had of being a woman that wasn’t forged by inequity, by white supremacy, by misogyny, by patriarchy. Over the last year, I have thought, again and again, of David Foster Wallace’s famous speech “This Is Water.” Wallace tells the story of two young fish swimming along when they meet an older fish “who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”

“‘The immediate point of the fish story,” Wallace writes, “is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” “What is so real and essential,” he writes, “so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: ‘This is water, this is water.’ It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.”

And indeed, over the last sixteen months, the stories that nearly every woman has heard repeatedly since she was too young to understand them, the stories that lay bare the strange, sublimated daily nightmare of our lives, have for me taken on the simultaneously surreal and hyper-real quality that the ocean must have for the reflective fish. Because a second serpent’s entwined and submerged with the first: The Leviathan state swims with the violence of daily life for women in a misogynist society. Wrestling it from the water has long been the work of feminist activists; today, seeing it heaved onto the shore, some people are shocked to learn it was ever there. Through certain lenses, it’s remarkably hard to see. Some of us are appalled because it’s hard to look at it again and again, when you know full well its reach and its terrible power.

The structure of everyday violence against women is reflected in the battlements we build to protect ourselves: the little accommodations, the things you do reflexively to keep yourself from being hurt while you walk around, all the subtle ways you protect yourself from being alone with some men in offices and other men in cars and all unknown men in large empty buildings; some of the men you know; the strange men you don’t know; every single dark stairwell; the lurking danger of being cornered in a bar or followed on the street or spat at or having a lit cigarette thrown at you while you walk your dog at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night in the middle of Manhattan; the raised eyebrow when someone hears you were out alone at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night in the middle of Manhattan; the voice shouting at you in a meeting, because how dare you speak; the constant knowledge that your time is weighed cheaply and your work will always be discounted, so you will have to do twice as much of it; every taxi you’ve ever taken instead of walking through the park; every time you’ve ignored the lewd comment from a man on the street or at a bar or at a party, because who knows what he’ll do if you lash out; the strange gift of a week in which a stranger doesn’t call you a bitch for not smiling at him on the street; the quick scan of a subway car when the train pulls into the station to ensure that there are enough people so you won’t be alone if someone threatens you, but not so many people that you’ll get groped without being able to place the hands — a thousand transgressions so small and so regular that you never name them to anyone, even while you decry structural inequality, even when you work to advance a feminist agenda, because that’s just the way life is.

Toxic patriarchy poisons every well: This is water.

 

Download this article at a PDF by clicking here.

The Legacy of Maternal Cruelty: “I, Tonya”

I, Tonya” is a brilliant movie with a bold, much needed look at maternal cruelty, and the lifelong legacy for a wounded daughter. Margot Robbie, like Natalie Portman in Aronofsky’s “Black Swann”, adeptly wears the agony of a broken heart as she maneuvers skating with fierce determination. Channeling anger, hurt, passion and pain into her skill, she manages physical and artful achievements like no woman before her.   Yet, alongside her victorious moments lives another story: the damaging, shameless cruelty in her home. Learning that love means pain, Tonya finds toxic love again with Jeff, her first significant relationship and future husband.  Her need for Jeff’s love, and the love of her fans, are a desperate attempt to heal Mother Hunger™.  (McDaniel, 2008)

As with Portman’s character in “Black Swann”, Tonya/Robbie can never perform enough, or “be” enough to achieve their mother’s love.  There is none to be had.  Yet we see the tenacious, constant yearning/need for (the mother’s ) love in both movies.  (see photo below…exquisite image of desperation).

Poignantly, director Craig Gillespie gives us this scene: adult Tonya, frightened, confused and utterly alone, receives a visit from her mother.  Tonya knows better than to hope…yet she tentatively lets her mother inside.  Shockingly, Tonya comes face to face with her mother’s perfect words, “I’m proud of you, you’ve done it, I’m with you”…and we see the vulnerable Tonya cry and move toward a hug. Robbie expertly delivers the moment, a hopeful guarded movement toward a mother’s love.  Yet in the embrace, she realizes her mother’s betrayal.

In Ready to Heal (2012), I explain that discussing mothers who are mean to their children makes one unpopular.  People don’t want to believe that mothers can be mean.  Yet, the cultural denial of maternal cruelty adds to the suffering for women who have lived this life.  Denial facilitates shame.  The constant question “What’s wrong with me? Why can no one love me?” lives in the molecules of a wounded woman’s body.  A daughter never stops wanting her mother’s love.  She may learn to live without it… heal the wound and find solace in other relationships, but the lingering shame remains, making life very difficult.

The desperate search for love that plagues the life of an unloved daughter poisons everything she attempts to create for herself. Her relationships (or absence of them), her talents, her dreams, and her self-concept.  “I, Tonya” bravely uncovers this truth.  Not only is the movie a tribute to Tonya’s athleticism; it highlights the incredible courage of a survivor. Her determination in the face of isolation tastes of brave desperation, a soldier walking into battle. Tonya is a warrior for other unwanted daughters…proof that they are not alone.

In my work, I find that the most damaging legacy of Mother Hunger™ is the devastation to the human bonding system.  A young girl experiences her first and most powerful broken heart with her mother.  This wound becomes the root of addiction, particularly love/sex/romance addiction.  Tonya’s relationship with Jeff adeptly takes the audience into the  addictive “love” dance that darkly progresses and intensifies.  Periodic moments of pleasureful “intensity” feel like love, and masquerade as “intimacy”.  Yet homicidal/suicidal gestures ensue, with repeated, ineffectual interventions from authorities.  Tonya’s capacity to practice and perform falters.  The cycle of love addiction unravels her strength.

This is the daughter’s legacy of an unloving mother: the fusion of pain, fear and love are hardwired into her nervous system, leaving scar tissue around her heart, and twisting “bonding” into a tragic battle ground. My heart is full and warm toward the heroine who is Tonya. Her generous spirit has allowed her story to be told.  A gift to other suffering women.  Bravo to the team who labored and delivered this movie with integrity and respect.

A good marriage is no guarantee against infidelity

“Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, yet this extremely common act remains poorly understood. Infidelity may be ubiquitous, but the way we make meaning of it—how we define it, experience it, and talk about it—is ultimately linked to the particular time and place where the drama unfolds.”

Read the whole article by Esther Perel here:  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/why-happy-people-cheat/537882/

Mother Wound Q&A with Dr. Oscar Serrallach via Goop

There was a great article published by Goop called “Healing the Mother Wound” where Dr. Oscar Serrallach explains what Mother Wound is and answers questions like “What’s one way we can empower girls?” Here is an excerpt from the article you may find interesting.


Healing the Mother Wound

 

Does the mother wound have roots outside of modern Western society?

The mother wound has been around for thousands of years—we see it in ancient stories through the trials of figures like Persephone and Inanna—but it has changed greatly over time. The four fundamental functions of mothering are: to nurture, to protect, to empower, and to initiate. In the ancient legends, archetypal stories show daughters that have been nurtured, protected, and empowered, but denied their initiation or final transformation into womanhood—by their mother or a person representing the mother figure. Think the stepmother in Cinderella, or the queen in Snow White.In these archetypal stories, the mother wound more so manifests as a mother figure thwarting the attempts of a daughter to become a full majestic woman. In modern society, the daughter’s attempts are thwarted by everyone and every aspect of society—daughters are not given the avenue to become full majestic women. We have had generations of unprotected, disempowered, uninitiated woman.
 
“In modern society, the daughter’s attempts are thwarted by everyone and every aspect of society—daughters are not given the avenue to become full majestic women.”
 
Within this lies the challenge of facing issues around the mother wound, which is really a re-wounding—a multigenerational issue of “wounded mothers” subconsciously wounding their daughters, entrapped by the patriarchy.

Can you think of a woman who has not been given the fundamentals to be a full majestic woman? Many of us can either relate or know of someone who fits this description. Help is available for women who struggle with the Mother Wound or feel the painful issues born out of “Mother Hunger™“, the title of Kelly’s new book (coming in 2018), that addresses the unique plight of abandoned, abused, enmeshed, and orphaned daughters as they struggle to love themselves, their friends, their partners, and their born or unborn children. Watch for the new book on amazon, and remember to visit the services section of this website while you’re here.

Mother’s Day – A day of conflicting emotions

Despite what Hallmark would like us to believe, Mother’s Day is a day filled with conflicting, difficult emotions for many adults.  The day is a reminder of the love we didn’t receive or didn’t give enough of.  Adults who seek treatment for their addictive relationship pattern suffer from early attachment injuries that are painful to feel, and Mother’s day stirs them up into a simmering pot of guilt, shame, and pain.

As we approach Mother’s Day, statements like these come up in session with my patients:

“Do I have to call my mother this year?”…

”We are going to Mom’s house and both my wife and I are dreading it…she wears me out” 

“My mother is no longer alive, and I wish I missed her.  Mother’s day makes me sad, but not because she is gone…but because I never really felt like I had a mother”

 

Mother’s Day is complicated regardless of gender.  Whether you are a man or a woman feeling bound by duty to a greedy mother, or perhaps an adult child of a mean, abusive mother, this day looms over you like an unwelcome visitor.  Here are some strategies for surviving Mother’s Day:

1.    Remember that you’re a good person whether you want to acknowledge your mother or not.

2.    If you don’t feel like celebrating your mother on this day, most likely that’s not your fault.  Honor the reason you feel dread, even if you aren’t sure why.

3.    Be gentle with yourself…our culture does not like people who harbor negative feelings about their mothers.  Don’t allow this cultural shame to penetrate your heart.

4.    If you’re heavy with guilt or shame, treat yourself like a kind mother would treat her small child.  Take a walk, read a book, or get a therapeutic massage.  Take a nap curled up with a pet or favorite blanket.  Play your favorite golf course or take a hike! Lastly, immerse yourself in water…the body will feel “held” in the womblike atmosphere of warm water and this allows a new sense of love and safety into your heart.

Mother’s Day can be a chance for renewal…a new relationship with yourself.  Be the mother that you wish you had on this day, and see how it feels.

With deep compassion,

Kelly

Navigating the need for love

When clinicians talk of Love addiction or Relationship addiction, we are referring to individuals who are struggling with relationships much as someone can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, or food. For love addicts, the need to acquire approval, affection, and sometimes sex (as a sign of love) is insatiable. Phones, computers, and calendars revolve around the time and attention from/for a lover. To friends and family, a person struggling with love addiction may seem unavailable and preoccupied. Careers suffer as the addiction grows stronger. Physical health is often compromised.

If you have ever felt the overwhelming need for love from a person who just can’t seem to give it to you, you know the feeling of hunger that I’m illustrating. No matter what you try, you can’t seem to get enough from the person who matters the most to you.

You may find yourself feeling rage, or fear. Sometimes shame. How can this be happening? You never imagined the depth of ache you could feel.

Love addiction is a very painful issue born from developmentally unmet needs. The void left by early childhood lack of attachment distorts your ability to navigate intimacy. This makes finding a partner risky. For many, the search becomes addictive. As addiction takes hold, attempts to fill the void can become alarming to yourself and others. Deep inside you may feel hopeless and small, yet on the outside your behavior grows manipulative, controlling, even aggressive giving others the idea that you are strong. As you navigate your way to getting the love you so desperately crave, the true you is hiding deep within your soul.

Beneath the need for love (which is a healthy human need) is an empty void that turns your search into a frustrating, defeating path of pain. As you grow increasingly lonely, deprivation turns into frustration and rage. To the outside world, you seem greedy and demanding. But inside your soul, you know the truth. You’re a good person, in a lot of pain. You have a broken heart.

When does need become greed? Only you can decide when this distortion takes place. Listen to the people you trust. Search for help. You don’t have to be alone anymore.