The infant’s/child’s need for his/her mother’s dependable and unconditional love is an absolutely fundamental one.
The child that receives it grows up with the core belief that s/he is loveable. However, the child who does not receive it is at high risk of growing up with the core belief that s/he is intrinsically unloveable.
These core beliefs become very deeply rooted, and, if one has become an adult who believes s/he is unloveable because of his/her dysfunctional relationship with his/her mother, this belief is very hard to change and, without effective therapy, tends to remain stable over time. This is because, when the one person, who is most expected to love one unconditionally, does not, the effect upon one’s psychological make-up is profound.
The effects on our adult personality of not having been raised by a dependably loving mother:
1) Hypersensitivity to criticism – this is due to the fact that (usually on an unconscious level) criticisms of us trigger the pain we felt due to our mother’s negative and critical view of us when we were young and extremely vulnerable.
2) A view of ourselves as fundamentally inferior to others and unworthy of love – this is due to having internalised (ie come to believe on a very deep level) our mother’s negative feelings about us when we were growing up
3) Lack of confidence – being unloved by one’s mother can lead one feeling deeply inadequate and unworthy. For example, if we achieve success we are likely to feel undeserving of it or that the success was so easy to achieve anyone could have done it. If anyone admires us for our success, it is likely to make us feel uncomfortable and to believe that those admiring us will very soon realize that we do not deserve their admiration after all.
4) We may become ‘clingy’ and dependent – this is caused by believing (usually on an unconscious level) that we must desperately ‘cling’ to our relationships or we will be rejected like we were rejected by our mother. Unfortunately, this very ‘clinginess’ is counter-productive and increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood that we actually will be rejected.
5) Excessive desire to please others – this can result from only ever receiving conditional love from our mother
6) Distorted view of self – due to internalisation of our mother’s negative view of us (see above) we are likely to come to the false belief that we are profoundly and irrevocably flawed as human beings
7) ‘Repetition Compulsion’ – Sigmund Freud, for example, observed that, often, individuals who have had dysfunctional relationships with their mothers as children are, as adults, unconsciously compelled to form relationships with others which mirror this original dysfunctional one.
8) Problems with trust in relationships – if the mother’s love was inconsistent and unreliable the infant develops what is known as an ambivalent attachment to the mother; this carries over to the adult child’s way of relating to others, causing him/her to desperately want intimacy with others but to also be fearful of it (as it makes him/her vulnerable to the rejection s/he experienced from his/her mother).
And if the mother was consistently unloving, critical and rejecting the infant will develop what is known as an avoidant style of interacting with his/her mother; this, too, is likely to carry over to the adult child’s way of relating to others (ie. consistently avoiding intimacy).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).