Self-sabotage is when we are excited about a goal but we unconsciously create obstacles that directly prevent that the achievement of that goal.
For some women–being big, visible and powerful may unconsciously feel like a betrayal of their mothers . . . and to relieve this unconscious guilt, they self-sabotage.
The connection between the mother wound and self-sabotage is rather complex. I’ll do my best to eludicate this connection in this blog article. (I suggest grabbing a cup of tea and sitting in a comfy chair. This is a longer article!)
This pattern starts very early in our development and that’s why it can be so insidious. Children are biologically hard-wired to seek mother’s approval at all costs to ensure their survival.
As adult women, this pattern may still be unconsciously operating. We may still feel like our happiness rests on the happiness of our mother. You may observe your mother’s unhappiness and begin to feel guilty for your own success. This is particularly common in women who were parentified daughters as children; (the daughter being used as a surrogate parent to the unhealed child within their mother.)
Self-sabotage may have served as a survival mechanism to prevent abandonment and rejection by mother.
We may unconsciously think: “I can’t possibly be fully happy or successful if my mother is lonely, sad, uncomfortable, bitter, jealous, etc.” This is the viewpoint of the child within us that still thinks her survival rests on the well-being of her mother.
The most common theme I’ve heard from women is “My mother’s happier when I’m experiencing challenges. But when things start going well in my life, she gets increasingly cold, distant and critical.”
Another common thing I’ve heard is “On some level, I can sense that my mother wants to destroy me.”
Usually this is very unconscious and unintentional on the part of the mother. But unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, there are mothers who willingly make their daughters feel responsible for their own happiness. This may be due to the deprivation consciousness that can be found in some women in patriarchal cultures; women feeling owed and entitled due to the level of sacrifice and the inner split they had to make within themselves to be acceptable and loved in this culture. It’s nothing short of tragic.
In patriarchal cultures, the power of the parent is often considered unquestionable and can easily be mis-used; power for power’s sake. If a mother has not acknowledged or refuses to directly address how her child may be triggering a painful emotional wound within her, she may unconsciously bully her daughter in covert and overt ways to relieve herself of the pain she is pushing into shadow within herself.
(The trigger in itself is not a problem; it’s normal to feel triggered in moments by your children. The problem is when it is not directly addressed and the mother begins to project her wounds onto the child.)
For the sake of illustration, here is a more extreme example of a patriarchal mother who has not addressed her own wounds. She may unconsciously convey the following message to her daughter:
“Your smallness makes me feel safe. By staying small you protect me from my pain. Please don’t be your full self–it will remind me of what I had to give up in order to have you. Please don’t leave me with my pain. I’ll be all alone. Be a good daughter and carry my pain for me.”
More examples of unspoken messages of mothers in a patriarchal mindset: (comes from feeling powerless and out of control in her own life.)
- “You’re being ungrateful when you’re being your full, big, authentic self.”
- “You’re honoring me when you’re suffering because look how much suffering I endured to bring you in the world.”
- “I’m your mother and I deserve your respect no matter how much I denigrate or abuse you.”
- “You make me feel inadequate when you reach your goals.”
What happens is there begins to be an association between being small and non-threatening as a way of feeling loved by mother. In this situation, we give our power away to our mothers in exchange for her love. We may sense her fragility, her weakness, her unacknowledged pain, and out of compassion, we commit to staying small so as not to cause her any more pain. The child within us feels it is the cause of her pain, but the cause never had anything to do with us. I’ve talked to hundreds of women all over the world about their mother wounds and it’s incredibly sad to hear about the level of emotional abuse mothers are capable of when they feel threatened by their daughters. This is not about love, but about power and control. Because this is such a taboo subject, most women feel very alone in this predicament.
For many women, one of THE hardest things is allowing your mother to have her own painful lessons and her own healing process. This is about releasing the need to display a false self to please your mother and instead being your authentic self in her presence, even if she expresses disapproval. It involves allowing your mother to express displeasure about your truth without allowing it to dis-orient you and without getting pulled into a battle with her.
You are not a “bad daughter” for allowing your mother to have her own lessons and challenges without rushing to solve them for her.
In the best of situations, letting your mother handle her own painful lessons and problems is what may stimulate the grief that is necessary to bring true healing within her, but only if your mother is open and willing to grow. The unfortunate truth is that some mothers are patently unwilling to do the hard work of healing their own wounds and would rather make their daughters feel responsible for them.
As a daughter, when you express your own separate self-hood, individuality, realness, power, etc. if your mother has a pattern of reacting with hostility, it may be because your authentic expression has stimulated the seeds of those things that never came to blossom in herself. Your mother may experience your true, vital, authentic self as a painful mirror showing her the ways she had to forsake herself in order to survive her own family and patriarchal society. It may trigger deep grief over her of her loss of self. If she’s unable or unwilling to feel the full grief and process it, she may react with anger, manipulation, competition, jealousy or withdrawal.
The deprivation that your mother feels cannot be solved by anything that YOU do.
Her pain cannot be filled by you staying small and unhappy. Walking on eggshells and “not rocking the boat” may accomplish short-term “peace” but in the long-term you are handing your life-force over to the mother wound. It’s a form of giving your power away. You do not owe your mother anything. Your unhappiness and dissatisfaction will never compensate for her unhealed wounds and struggles. She is the only one that can take the necessary actions to change her situation. read more..