Question from a reader…
I read “How do you know when it’s time to cut ties with your mother?” and I wanted to know more about what it means to “cleanly separate ourselves” from our mothers. I recently had an impulsive, quick, and unpleasant fight with mine and it left me feeling emotionally wrecked. I have been reading loads of stuff about the mother wound, abandonment, issues with toxic parents, narcissistic parents, etc. and I am tired. I’m constantly making plans for better communication with her, for not reacting when she pisses me off, for establishing boundaries, for standing up for my boundaries, and for dealing with feeling hated for having them. I feel like a teenager who is constantly rebelling and I’d rather feel like an adult who is making progress.
How can we, as daughters, be unattached? How do we separate and live freely? My mother has had a huge influence on some of my life decisions even though she’s not around me most of the time. When I think about my future, all I can see is that I will hold myself back from doing what I want because of what she will think/say/do. I want to feel free to make those big decisions. But because I fear that she will destroy my happiness, I either do not include her or I avoid making decisions so she doesn’t need to be involved. I do not feel free.
Of course you’re tired. And you are so not alone.
Here’s a snippet from Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration:
When I (ostensibly) cut ties with my mother at the end of 2010 (because of something she said to me in an email that I deemed “the final straw”), I thought it was forever. That’s what I intended at the time because I was so through with her…dysfunction.
Although I didn’t have the language for it at the time, what I see now is that I was emotionally enmeshed with her (meaning, I unconsciously believed that she caused my feelings, whether I was in her presence or not). I was still “tied” to her even though we didn’t see or talk to one another. I thought about her a lot and I talked about her to anyone who would listen.
A few years later, when I was learning many of the skills and tools I now teach, I was excited to put them into practice, believing they would “fix” the situation and that “fixing” the situation would make it “all better.” I have to (kindly) laugh at myself now when I think about it.
What I didn’t realize is that the only thing that would truly make me feel better was focusing on me: my thoughts, my emotions, my actions. I didn’t want to do that at first because I was living both “in reaction” and “in resistance” to my mother. It’s almost like I wasn’t aware that I even had my own thoughts and emotions!
I didn’t trust myself because I didn’t know who I was, apart from her.
The essence of clean separation is knowing who we are, deeply.
There are two ways I teach boundaries.
The first is the more superficial, “if you do this, then I’ll do that” way.
The second is a deeper dive. It asks us to be clearer about who we are, what we value, what we stand for, what we need, and what we prefer – and then to honor that in ourselves first, before we ask others to.
In other words, the ability to have self-agency requires that you become the authority of yourself by knowing yourself deeply.
This is why I adore the The Matriarch Mare archetype: she knows herself deeply.
This is why, whether I am coaching myself or coaching someone else, I seek that shift in perspective from “them” to “me.”
This is why I am always asking, “How do YOU want to show up? How do YOU want to feel? What do YOU want to believe?”
Because if it were about getting “them” to change? Then we’d be giving responsibility for our happiness and well-being to our mothers and that’s not something I am willing to do anymore.
And I am guessing you don’t want to either.
Become the authority of you by knowing yourself deeply. And if you need help? Take my hand…
Much, much love,
P.S. Mare: A Re-Mothering Community includes is a place where women who have read (or are reading, or who want to read) my book(s) can gather to share their stories, practice the tools, and get support and coaching from me. Your $75/month membership includes:
- a SECRET Facebook group.
- weekly writing prompts.
- access to my Impeccable Boundaries for Your Life & Relationships eCourse
- participation in any workshops I offer
- monthly recorded group coaching calls via Zoom (the third Thursday of every month at 3 p.m. Eastern).