26 Sep 2012

A Mother's Gaze


This is the day when I see most of my clients. What struck me today was a recurring theme: their mother's psychological gaze. It is said in our psychology circles that the mother's gaze (real and psychological - i.e how she experiences her child) is a crucial key to a child's personality organization and sense of self. One of the reasons I started the Deconstructing Mummy groups is prevention. Time and again I met my adult clients' "mother ghosts" "parading" in the consulting room. Descriptions of mothers who somehow failed their children.
 I asked myself: what if?
What if those mothers had help as they carried these children in their bellies?
As they soothed them, nursed them, watched them change and develop?
Today all I could hear in the sessions were children begging to be seen, loved, admired, encouraged to individuate.
"See who I am - not who you would like me to be"
"Listen to me and don't get lost in your hurt self-centeredness"
"Allow me to be my own  person, not a part of you"
"Touch me, caress me, smile at me"
"Try and contain your sorrow, anxiety, fear, your well-being is my sense of security"
"Stop fussing over money, your work, your image and really be here with me"
"Don't use me to feel worthy of your life or yourself"
That is what I  heard from my clients, once vulnerable children, now vulnerable and hurt adults .
And that is what I want you to consider.
As mothers we have a bond with our children. Is it unbreakable? A given? Natural and taking care of itself?
NO. A big fat NO.
It is hard work and it puts us to the test. We are asked to put our whole selves on the line. Be all, be the infant's universe. How can a mother not fail?
The truth is that she will fail.
She will fail to be the perfect, fantasied mother, both in her own fantasy and in her child's. She will never be able to satisfy every wish, desire, dream that her child might have.
She will frustrate.
But she can also love, and give, and be. The freer she is of her own childhood ghosts, the better she will cope with this new, budding relationship that is full of fresh potential.
She will then be able to hug, and be, and prioritize differently, and differentiate her self from her child, and keep her own fantasies in check, providing, listening, nurturing her real child by being her authentic self, for "better or for worse".
Motherhood involves stepping out of our own little worlds and taking a leap into the unkown, relating intensely to an unformed yet but very present, other individual. Yes, "motherhood is not for sissies" as I read in a funny postcard. Nor is it for the self-centred who stingily give. There is no perfection involved in the job description. So who is it for then?
Hey, actually I do have an answer. It is for everyone.
Everyone that cares to take a good honest look at themselves.

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