What Is Remothering, and Why Is it Important?
Part 1: It's never too late to begin re-mothering yourself.
Posted March 7, 2022 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
We don’t arrive in the world pre-programmed like a piece of software. We form our patterns, beliefs, and ways of being in the world in response to the environment and the relationships around us.
Sometimes this may mean being wounded because of our early environment and relationships, including those with our father and/or mother.
Specifically, wounds from our relationship with our mother can often arise when we have/had a mother in our childhood and adolescence who couldn’t meet most (or any) of our mental, emotional, or physical needs.
Perhaps she was neglectful, avoidant, or dealing with mental health challenges and emotional limitations of her own. Perhaps she passed away when we were young and still growing up into adulthood. Perhaps she was abusive in some way. Whatever the case, many of us carry within us places that may need to be re-mothered or, in other words, healed through reparative experiences of relationship that we simply couldn’t get from our family-of-origin mother.
The good news is that, with awareness and a different kind of relational experience, whether with yourself or with others, there's an opportunity to heal and strengthen any of the gaps or wounds you may have unconsciously or consciously developed in response to your childhood experience.
I don't mean to denigrate or lambaste mothers with this post. Far from it. We simply need to acknowledge our mothers' humanity — in other words, their limitations — and the reality that many of us could benefit from more conscious, active psychological re-mothering work in our lives. It’s our responsibility as adults to do this work for ourselves in order to grow, heal, and show up for our lives as fully as we can.
The way that mothering wounds manifest for each person is going to be unique and complex. Growing up, we each may develop myriad, usually unconscious coping skills to process and tolerate the pain that can come from having a neglectful, absent, or unequipped mother. For some, the impacts manifest in the following ways:
- Unrealistic expectations in relationships.
- An inability to practice foundational self-care.
- Emotionally caretaking for others to the point of your own exhaustion and resentment.
- Unconscious self-sabotage in work and in love.
- An inability to ask for and receive support.
- Disordered eating – binge, bulimia, or restriction – or substance addictions or numbing coping mechanisms.
- Allowing and accepting poor or abusive treatment from others.
- Living out the unlived lives of our mothers and not being true to ourselves and our own dreams.
- Shame — believing that something is fundamentally wrong with you or that you’re not worthy of love.
- Keeping yourself small – physically, emotionally, or mentally – for fear of stepping fully into your being.
- Feeling relentlessly needy in your relationships.
- Feeling resentful and bitter at your own children or what it means to be a woman in the world.
- Never feeling good enough no matter what you seem to do.
No matter how and what your impacts are, the reality is that there is much to gain from conscious remothering work. The point is to have different experiences with yourself and others to help fill in any developmental gaps or unmet needs from childhood that are getting in your way as an adult and sabotaging your ability to engage with and enjoy life.
While the benefits may look different from person to person, at the core of conscious, active remothering work is the possibility of a more cohesive, integrated and grounded sense of self which can immeasurably contribute to one's ability to show up for and more consciously engage with their own lives.
In the next post, I’ll detail how we can do this work, and provide creative examples you could weave into your own life.