Making peace with your mother
Editors note: This is the second of a two-part series.In honor of just passed Mothers Day, here are questions to assist you in making peace with and gaining an adult perspective regarding your mom. If your mom is deceased, answer the questions as you think she might have answered them. If your mother is alive, ask her personally if at all possible. These questions, courtesy of Michael Gurian in the book Mothers, Sons And Lovers are meant to be friendly, inquisitive and non-threatening. This is not the time to blame, ridicule, fault find, judge or criticize. Pick and choose your questions carefully, and be as non-threatening as you can.
How did you feel about yourself as a woman? What were you taught were your duties as a woman? Who taught you? What sense of the divine did you have? When you were hurting, what did you do? What was the most painful time in your life? What was the most pleasurable time in your life? How did you feel about my father? If you could do things over again, what would you have changed in your life? Did you like being a mother?
In your mind, what are the characteristics of a good mother? Do you feel you possessed these characteristics? Why did you …? (Recall incidents from childhood in which you felt she hurt you.) What expectations did you have of me as I was growing up? In what ways did you try to get me to fulfill your own unmet dreams? How did you help me to separate from you? How did you cling to me and not let go? How did your attitude toward my father affect the way you treated me? What did you see other men (women) doing to help me learn how to be a man (or woman)? How did your attitude toward yourself affect the way you treated me? What did it feel like for you when I left home?
What about me most angered you? What about me gave you the most pleasure? What was I like as an adolescent? I remember a time (recall a negative time for you as a child or adolescent). What did you see during this time as you looked at me? I remember a time (recall a positive time for you as a child or adolescent). What did you see during this time as you looked at me? What was a good son or a good daughter in your mind? Was I a good son or daughter?
How did my growing up and away from you free you to do things you couldnt do before? What are some of those things? What permissions do you need from me? What do you feel I withhold from you when we are together? What do you remember as good times we had together during my childhood? What did you really enjoy about raising me? In what ways are you unhappy? Is there anything I can do to help? Here are some of the ways Im most proud of you, both in looking back on my childhood and in looking at you now. How can I better show you how much I love you?Your goal is to see her as a person not just as your mom with adult eyes and adult understanding. Do not make the mistake of getting defensive. In this exercise, you are trying to understand her perspective, not justify yours. Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site, http://www.heartrelationships.com.
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