Part 2: How the Wounding Happens
We come into this life totally dependent, with (I and others believe) an organismic trust that we will be welcomed and loved (with what these days is called healthy attachment). When we are met with less than that, our infant selves begin adapting to preserve what little might be available. (An example from my own life: my body remembers staying quiet, lying miserably cold and wet in my crib because the one who came when I cried would jerk me about roughly with sharp poking fingernails. When I waited quietly for her to come when she felt like it, I would not be treated as roughly.)
We begin, even before we have words or concepts for it, to believe that it is our failure, our lack that is the cause of our deprivation or mistreatment. We start on the road to trying to be better/gooder girls/more of whatever we think might unlock the loving we are not getting from our mothers.
By believing it is we who are lacking, we can keep holding onto the hope that, should we only find the key, the right way to be, our mothers will finally love us as we yearn to be loved. Were we to understand that the absence of that love has to do rather with the damage in our mothers that leaves them unable to love us, we would lose all hope. To feel our helplessness, the futility of our desperate attempts to be lovable in the face of their lack of the capacity to love is too devastating to tolerate. With a convoluted kind of loyalty, we as children, and later as adults, “take the rap,” finding presumed inadequacies in our selves to account for the unloving behavior from these damaged mothers: e.g., we are too needy, too ugly, too clumsy, too fat, too stupid. Our vicious inner critics keep the myth alive and keep us ever striving and always failing to feel worthy just as we are.
Often we go on to choose partners who treat us as our mothers treated us. This affirms the myth of our unworthiness, keeping us loyal to our mother’s image: “see, no one can love me any better than she did, it must be me that’s the problem.”
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