Read the first blogs in this series here:
An Introduction to the Emotionally Absent Mother Class Blog Post Series
A Journey Through the Emotionally Absent Mother Class, #1 Pre-EAM
Upon reading the opening chapters for the class, I’m immediately triggered. “You can feel Mother as an inner layer of support, a layer of love that is always with you, or you can feel as if there is something dead or toxic in you. This toxic substance is what you absorbed from your interactions with her and perhaps from what was toxic inside her (pg.11),” Cori writes. Cori then talks about bonding behaviors like breastfeeding. I wonder how I felt as an infant taking my mother’s milk? I wonder if she hastened feeding me, if she acted put out like she did when she made dinner for us growing up, like how dare us get hungry and depend on her to feed us. But she really was proud that she made all those sit-down dinners because “not all families do that”. She threw those dinners in our face when we were bad. Did her emotional absence go back as far as breastfeeding me? As far back as when I was in her womb?
Cori writes, “Of course the developing fetus has already been forming a relationship with the mother in the womb, responding to her heartbeat, her voice, her touch through the abdominal wall, and her energetic presence.” (pg. 12). What energetic presence was I getting from her while I was in her womb? What kind of woman, girl really, was she when I was growing inside of her? How did she feel about me? Was she unsure if she should keep me, just like I have moments when I’m unsure if I should even be alive? My mother’s toxicity wounded me as a child. Did her toxicity wound me before I even took my first breath?
I have so many questions for my mother, which I know I will never get the truth from her even if I asked. She is in denial about the effects on her from her own childhood. She told me when I was very young that her mother gave her up to her grandmother to be raised. Her grandmother was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive according to my mother. While I wasn’t physically abused, I do feel I was abused mentally and emotionally by my mother. I once shared that feeling with one of my sisters when I was in my early 20’s. It got back to my mother, who then called and left me a long voicemail, which I stopped listening to and deleted halfway through. Her message was filled with filthy language, yelling and blaming me for her actions. You know, all the usual stuff someone verbally abusive would say.
When I get to the Good Mother messages on pg. 15, my mother would say she told me all of the Good Mother messages, and acted on them, too. I don’t remember her eyes ever lighting up when she saw me. I was met with burdensome behavior throughout my life, shrugs and “ugh” and “I guess” when I needed something. I don’t identify with any of the Good Mother messages. Here are a few messages and memories I had while reading them.
I’m glad you’re here. I remember being suicidal as a child. I didn’t know specifics of how to take one’s life, nor did I explore it, but I had the feeling of not wanting to be alive, wishing I were dead, wanting to run away from home.
I respect you. Yeah right. My mother respected nothing of me, my space, my privacy, my needs, my wants. She always demanded respect between curse words and spitting in my face from yelling so profusely. She didn’t respect me, leading me to never learn how to respect myself.
Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help. My needs were treated as wants, as desires, as simple wishes that didn’t have to come true. Burden is the word I would use to describe my childhood. Once while I was journaling in a deep depression, I pressed the pen hard on the page and wrote, “Hang yourself burden.” I’ve always felt like a burden, even to myself.
Three messages in and emotions started coming up. I noticed them—this is progress. I noticed them and I asked myself, “What is this I’m feeling?” The answer is I feel guilt and shame for reading these words and relating to them. My mother would say I was a bad kid. That she yelled because I did things wrong. She punished me because I deserved it. “You aren’t a good role model to your younger sisters,” she would say repeatedly. I didn’t want to be a “good role model.” I wanted to be a kid who was loved.
The more I read of The Emotionally Absent Mother the more I believe my mother just didn’t have it in her to nurture me. Without receiving the nurturing she needed as a child, where would she have learned it from? Not only do I not remember, but I can’t even imagine my mother nurturing me in any of the ways described in Cori’s book. I feel guilty because I wasn’t nurtured. I should have been a better kid, a better sister. I should have realized what my mother needed from me. Then I wouldn’t be here, taking the EAM class. Things would have been different. The logical part of my brain tells me this just isn’t so. But sometimes the pain becomes more manageable when I just accept the blame.