The need of the infant for his/her mother’s love is one which is profound and fundamental. If this love is withheld, or is inconsistent and unreliable, the emotional consequences for the child can be devastating, adversely impacting on the rest of his/her life, particularly with regard to his/her ability to form healthy and satisfying relationships (unless effective therapy is undertaken).
Attachment Theory :
According to attachment theory, infants who grow up feeling consistently and reliably loved by their mothers develop into psychologically secure individuals; the child learns, and internalises, his/her mother’s attitude and behaviour towards him/her and learns that s/he is worthy of love and attention and has intrinsic value.
However, some infants are not so fortunate and grow up without receiving sufficient maternal love. This may be due to a variety of reasons, for instance, the mother may be:
– emotionally distant
– frequently angry and aggressive
– excessively critical
– deliberately unkind, cruel and abusive
Infants treated in such ways are likely to develop into individuals who are psychologically insecure and, as they grow up, develop either:
1) An ambivalent attachment style : this occurs because as a child, whenever there was contact with his/her mother, s/he could not be certain if the mother was going to behave well or badly towards him/her. This results in the child developing into a person who mistrusts relationships and sees them as essentially unstable, insecure and unreliable, creating difficulties with both friendships and romantic relationships.
2) An avoidant attachment style : as a child, the individual desperately needed his/her mother’s love but was afraid of trying to secure it in case it resulted in failure and rejection. Such individuals are likely to become adults who have a fear of intimacy with others on all levels.
If those with insecure attachment styles (caused by problems relating to early interaction with the mother as described above) do manage to form nascent relationships with others as adults they may be needy, dependent, clingy and overly intense (due to a powerful fear of being rejected) thus, sadly, frequently driving any potential friend/partner away. It is ironic and tragic that the very intensity of their need not to be rejected (like they were by their mother) will frequently result in the very rejection of which they are terrified. As such, these individuals are exceptionally vulnerable to being yet further psychologically hurt and damaged.
Other Effects Of The Unloving Mother On Her Offspring:
Caused by internalisation of mother’s attitude towards us. If people seem to like us, we find it difficult to believe, understand and accept.
Lack of confidence :
If we have been constantly criticised and ignored we may have come to view ourselves of unworthy of people’s attention, let alone affection. If we achieve successes in life, we are liable to minimise them or dismiss them altogether. If others see us as successful, we may assume they are mistaken.
We see relationships as essentially unreliable and may expect betrayal as our default position. We therefore have difficulties both forming and maintaining relationships. If we do form relationships, we may behave in an obsessive manner which, in all probability, will doom the relationship to failure.
Over- sensitivity to criticism :
This is because, on an unconscious level, when we are criticized, memories are trggered of our mother’s attitude towards us which we found so psychologically painful during our early development.
Over- thinking :
ie we may have a propensity to obsessively, negatively ruminate.
we may experience uncontrollable, intense emotions, especially in response to stress (frequently, stress tolerance is very low).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).