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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Healing from an Emotionally Abusive Mother

Being subjected to emotional abuse is hard to make sense of, yet when it’s perpetuated by your mother, its damage can be lifelong and cause you a deep sense of pervasive sadness that is hard to shake.

This article is written to offer hope and encouragement to those who have suffered at the hands of their most significant care-givers with this covert abuse.

If you were raised by an emotionally abusive (detached, dismissive, uninterested, disengaged, cold, unaffectionate, or otherwise invalidating) mother, then you probably struggle internally with a hidden ache in your heart; a sense of lost identity; a silent struggle that others may not even be aware of.

While it is not your fault that your mother was emotionally abusive, it is still, nonetheless, your responsibility to heal from the damaged caused. The good news is that it is possible and you can find freedom. You can take your life back and be the author of your own choices. You don’t have to spend your entire life feeling guilty and inadequate. You can “re-raise yourself.” You do this with loving-kindness and surround yourself with the comfort and safety you so deeply need.

It is important to realize that in order to recover from the damage caused by an abusive mother, you must repair your reality, which has been skewed and damaged by your experience of parenting.  The repair process has nothing to do with:

(a) Self-improvement 

(b) Fixing your mother 

(c) Working on the relationship with your mother 

 

To speed up the process of recovery, there are two mantras you need to tell yourself every day, all day; these are:

It’s not my fault.

I am enough.

Why do you need to repeat these statements every day? Because, when your mother is not available to you in an attuning and nurturing manner, you internally conclude that your mother’s unhappiness is your fault, and that somehow you are a “bad” child. In addition, when your mother is emotionally abusive, she most likely also fed you these messages through blatant statements to that effect, or through implications (guilt trips, silent treatments, pouting, etc.)

After a lifetime of feeding yourself negative messages, they are well-entrenched in your mind. To heal, you must begin by undoing the damage with positive affirmations. The two I offer above are good ones, but if you have some that you prefer and are more meaningful to you, then by all means, use those ones! The point is to have a healthy internal voice that helps cheer you on towards healing.

Tools for Recovery

There are many ingredients needed to recover from emotional abuse.  The main ones involve people.  The primary damage caused by an abusive mother is attachment trauma.  The only way to heal from attachment trauma is to attach.  You cannot attach alone.

Here is a basic list of the “tools” you may want to put in your recovery tool kit in order to recover from this serious emotional trauma:

  1. A good therapist
  2. A Support Group
  3. An Inner Compassionate Companion; an Inner Nurturer  (remember those positive mantras I mentioned earlier?)
  4. A journal
  5. Exercise
  6. God
  7. Great Recovery Resources – books, websites, music, etc.
  8. Repetition
    Your brain needs to be rewired. Your brain has to have constant and consistent input that is interpersonally “corrective.”  This needs to happen over and over and over again, so that your brain can be trained to think differently.

 

Find Your Voice

In addition to the above suggestions, I also recommend that in order to begin healing it is important that you “find your voice.”

When you grow up around a toxic mother you are conditioned to believe that only the voice of your mother matters.  Along with this you learn that only your mother is allowed to have and express feelings (and opinions.)  You watch your other  parent abide by these rules, so without thinking you follow suit.  This is not a conscious process; it is subconscious – “under the radar.”

An important step in healing is learning to tell your story.  Realize that when in a relationship with an emotionally toxic mother, you take on the role of the co-dependent.  In this role you exchange your voice in order to meet your  mother’s needs.

Here are some suggestions for how to “find your voice:”

  • Be aware of how you care-take your mother’s needs and what you get out of it.
  • Examine your role in the relationship.
  • Let go of your mother’s life and get a life of your own.
  • Discover your own wants, needs, and desires.
  • Stop trying to change your mother.
  • Be willing to take major risks in order to recover.

There is much more to healing from an abusive mother. This is just the beginning of your journey; but, it’s a good start. If you can continue to build your “recovery tool box,” practice new ways of relating with your mother, find your voice and use it regardless of fear, then you can set yourself free from the tangled web of the damage caused by being raised by an emotionally abusive mother.

 

If you would like a copy of my free monthly newsletter on the psychology of abuse, please email me at: [email protected]

Healing from an Emotionally Abusive Mother


APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). Healing from an Emotionally Abusive Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2019/05/healing-from-an-emotionally-abusive-mother/