The Mother Wound Part 2

In my last blog I had mentioned that one of the major blocks to receiving the love of God and finding our being in God involves a breakdown in the early mother child relationship. A friend of mine came and shared with our Healing Path group last Monday night and told a story about something she had shared with one of her professors in the past. She told him my mother and I never bonded. She said he about jumped out of his shoes and told her babies are made to bond. It is your mother that didn’t bond with you. KABOOM!

What a powerful insight. This made me think about a friend of mine that is a Pediatrics nurse that works with newborns. Her job late at night is to go in and check on them. She says she walks in and the babies’ arms are stretching out, grasping, clutching for someone to bond with. It’s what babies’ do they bond!

Some of the blocks that bring about a rupture of bonding and being in childhood are mothers who suffered emotional or physical illness, postpartum depression, a refusal or inability to bond with the child, or the infant’s hospitalization. Some young infants who were placed into incubators and separated from their mothers often suffer severe bonding issues.

Depending on the degree of separation, this breakdown in mother-child bonding can render the child underdeveloped in its capacity to receive and contain love.

This was my great struggle for many year; receiving and containing love. I was like a sieve that couldn’t hold the love given to me. This maternal deprivation in me expressed itself in an inordinately powerful hunger for touch, which eventually became sexualized. It also fueled powerful emotional dependencies within me that were characterized by grasping, clutching, and infantile tendencies where I just wanted to be held. Touch was my love language but unfortunately it led to an addiction to sex. The anxiety of separation was overwhelming at times. I truly hated being alone because this would kick up all my deep anxieties. I had deep feelings of abandonment and an inability to emotionally bond in healthy ways. I over bonded to the point that people became idols. If this is you this should be a red flag that you might lack a sense of being brought on by a mother wound.

I believe this was a projection of my unmet childhood (infantile) needs and my present brokenness onto others. In my attempts to bond with others, I didn’t make friends I took prisoners. I was like a vampire attempting to suck the life out of others who would befriend me. I somehow thought my needy possessiveness of another person to be a manifestation of love. Anytime someone would make me feel absolutely wonderful about myself I would blurt out, “I love you!” After the afterglow of sex because it in a way makes you feel one with the other I’d say, “I love you.”

This was a symptom of the breach between my mother and I. This is not a healthy and mature love because I was using the words as a hook to evoke a response. That empty place within me that lived with the dread that you didn’t love me back wanted you to give me some sense of identity and worth through your reply. Do you hear the lack of identity and personhood that I lived with? Did you hear my insecurity about the love others have for me? This also affected my ability to receive and contain love from God. And made the loss of attachment sometimes cause within me “hysterical reactions.”

I was terribly underdeveloped in my capacity to bond with others. There was this two year old boy that lived within me that wanted to be nurtured, loved, touched, and validated. He was always looking for someone to notice him. I’m pretty sure its why I used humor all throughout my school years to get some attention.

More to come in a few days. Hope and pray this helps some of you understand the affects of the mother wound. God’s comfort be with you.

The Mother Wound Part 1

Now the Birth of a Child is an event to celebrate! Your birth was a celebration – if not here on earth, then in heaven… God, the creator, loves His creation! When I say that it makes me wonder if my parents celebrated when I was born. Were they looking at me with great delight and expectation? I’m not sure. I do know that for so some of you through many shared stories I’ve heard over the years that you were not wanted or your father wanted a boy instead of a girl. Not sure there was a lot of celebrating that day. I’m sorry for the pain that this has caused you.

Here are some frightening realities: We are born helpless. The trauma of the birthing experience is violence like no other – creating our emotional need for nurture and embrace most urgently. For those first few moments after we slip from the birth canal into the light, we are in shock, in emotional isolation. We are dependent on attachment for survival… without it we will die. 

As babies we were made to bond. Watch a child and how their little hands are always reaching out to hold, grasp, touch people and objects. This is why a mother’s presence and nurture is key during our first three years of life. But what words come to mind when you think about your “mother?” Was your mother nurturing, caring, loving, compassionate, friend, hero, good homemaker or was she controlling, manipulative, smothering, working all the time, over reliant on you, demanding, conditional with her love, distant, absent, depressed, drug addicted, obsessive, moody, hyper critical, abusive or harsh?

One of the major blocks to receiving the love of God and finding our being in God involves a breakdown in the early mother child relationship. In relation with our mothers our sense of being is called forth and blessed. A loving and nurturing mother has the wonderful capacity to make herself a welcoming home for a child’s life. Upon giving birth, mother grants the baby a home in her arms. Her touch, her cooing and caressing, the steadiness of her gaze gives the baby a sense of being.

From the beginning the child is internalizing his mother’s care. This is called attachment bonding. The child is building a storehouse of loving memories within their heart. Through thousands of moments of connection memory traces must be built up to achieve “emotional object constancy. Basically, object constancy suggests that, at some point in our early development, humans express the capacity to understand that ‘out of sight’ doesn’t mean ‘gone’. This is a very important idea, as it is one of the core elements of interpersonal relationship and informs everything from romantic love to jealousy.

I see this quite often in so many different settings when a mother will get up and leave the room for a minute. The well nurtured child usually is able to play and manage the disappearance of mother. A child that hasn’t bonded usually will start crying and screaming for mother’s presence. God has ordained the mothering process to literally “call the infant to life”. Along each step of our development, good mothers provide love and limits.

A “sense of being” could be described as a core sense of warmth that is connected to the baby’s ability to peacefully exist, without feeling a need to earn his or her acceptability. It is a primary, psychological base of trust; this sense of being assures one that he or she is not in danger of losing love or significance, even though she or he is doing nothing to earn that significance. The sense of being goes far beyond head knowledge, because a pre-verbal child does not think in the same way that we do. As adults, we are able to reason because we have language; our thinking may or may not be full of feeling. A baby cannot be rational. In their primitive state, they experience their environment as synonymous with their internal reality. Thus, as they begin to experience a new environment outside the womb, they begin to learn from it just who they are.

In the first year of life, relationship with mother is the primary experience of the child. Successful bonding causes trust to be formed between mother and baby. She conveys acceptance and love through her eyes, her touch, her breasts, her cooing, talking and singing. The mother, if she has a sense of well-being, is able to intuitively sense the needs of her child, and to discern the meaning of the baby’s various cries.

A sense of being establishes in the child a foundation of security and confidence upon which the growth of their personality develops. When acceptance has been internalized, the child has a sense of self; once they have a sense of themselves, as an “I,” they can enter into relationships with other people as other than themselves. Relationships with others do not revolve around whether or not others accept them. She or he is at peace with who she or he is. One begins life with the immense advantage of objectivity in relationships, of not fearing rejection or abandonment. In other words, one has a basis for trust in relationships. They can therefore bond to others successfully, without anxiety.

Unfortunately for me there was a rupture in the area of bonding and being. I have no memory of that being so in my relationship with my mother. What tells me that there might be a deficit is my bent towards addiction and emotional dependency; these are the red flags within me that tell me there was a breach. Add to that I struggled with a deep internal emptiness, a dread, an abandonment depression and a low-grade anxiety throughout my life. I did not have that objectivity in relationships that the previous paragraph speaks about. I lived with a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. I did not trust so I struggled to bond successfully with others.

In thinking about my mother’s ability to bond with me I realize at my birth my brother was two and a half, and my sister was fourteen months. My father was a drug addict and he wasn’t able or present to help her care for us.

My mother loved me deeply, but, having to care for other children, dealing with a husband who had pretty much abandoned her, and with the financial difficulties of the family which forced her to work outside of the home during those critical stages of development it left her weary and withdrawn. So the three of us received little to no nurture and love. My sibling’s history is similar to mine. They’ve struggled with addiction, severe attachment issues, and a high need for validation, attention and affection.

Consider the question I posed: What comes to mind when you hear the word mother? Then write out what was good and what you wanted but never received. This is a good way of processing the deep longings of your hearts.

Please note that much of the content shared is from Changes that Heal, Henry Cloud, Zondervan. The Mom Factor, John Townsend & Henry Cloud, Zondervan. The Healing Presence, Leanne Payne, Baker Books. Attachments, Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy, Integrity. And, the lovely Myrna Hill, my friend and co-laborer in Christ.

Developing Our Knowledge of God

Over the last three months I’ve been wrestling with how our knowledge of God affects how deeply we relate to Him. Now some of us have a head full of information but lack the revelation that the apostle Paul prays about in Ephesians 1:17, “… may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,so that you may know him better.” 

This was my battle for many years as a Christ follower. I knew Him in my head but never had that Spirit of Adoption moment. Well that eventually came and changed how I related to God the Father. Before hand I related to God as a son who had to perform, work, and be perfect in every way. Obviously this was just a projection of my relationship with my earthly father. He was, as I’ve stated in previous post, hard to please. Because I had never experienced grace as a child growing up and had learned that everything had to be earned I struggled for a long time to get my arms around the whole idea of God’s grace.

If you read Matthew 16:13-20 you’ll see Jesus respond to Peter’s answer to his question “But who do you say I am?” with these words. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

The accurate knowledge of Jesus and the Father revealed by the Spirit releases us to live as a people that can receive grace. When this revelation comes all striving to please because we believe we have to deserve or earn our way into God’s Heart lose power to disable us. We begin to live as free men and women. Men and women that know with deep assurance that Our Father delights in us even when we prostitute ourselves to the things of this world (Read the Book of Hosea if you want to understand what I mean).

But dear ones it saddens me to tell you that this is where the church in America is most deficient. So many of us lack depth in our understanding to the personality of God. A leader in the midwest writes that “this is the most prized possession of the Kingdom but it is also the most neglected.” My experience in almost thirty years of ministry has shown these words to be true. I see it in so many people that I minister to, pray with and counsel.

You ask people how they view God and they will share words like absent, disappointed, distant, harsh, critical, etc. No wonder so many of us lack intimacy with the Father. Our view of him is broken and this makes it difficult to approach Him. If we cannot approach him it makes it difficult to receive His grace. This disables us in so many ways in all areas of our faith to live out of that Vine, branch union that the Gospel of John writes about.

Without that knowledge of God as a Father that loves us, we will take our pain to lesser gods to find comfort for our pain. This was key in my healing in the area of my addictions. Learning to go “the way of the cross” with my pain, grief and loss. Realizing I had a place to take my pain from my past and present freed me to no longer bow the knee to the idol gods I had worshipped for many years. My friend Andy calls it “death unto resurrection.” Admitting weakness and then allowing God to bring His power to raise me up to stand cleansed from my shame, sin and pain. Its like taking a “spiritual shower.” Weakness, repentance, and confession can do a body good!

Previous to the revelation of the Father’s heart to me I’d confess my sin and beat myself up, condemning myself to the grave. Or my pain was temporarily comforted by acting out with porn.

But what a treasure it was to discover the Father’s heart toward me is one of love, grace and mercy. When the Spirit reveals that to us we “hasten to His throne” to receive His loving and healing words.

If you realize you have an inadequate understanding or wrong fear of God the Father I pray that God the Holy Spirit would come and remove the scales from your eyes so you might behold Him in all His beauty and majesty. My hope is that awe and wonder would come and that the capacity of your heart would be increased to not only behold but to hear the whispers of His voice speak to the depths of your heart.

“This will change the way you pursue pleasure in your life, the way you define success, the way you face temptation, and the way you handle sin and failure.” Thanks to Pastor Mike Bickle for the quote and much of the truths learned in this blog post.