The Importance of Relating to our Mothers

Family Constellation Healing & Meditation

Svagito explains how our relationship with our mother influences our life and the relationship with other women

An Interview with Svagito Liebermeister, Part 2

Read Part 1: Family Constellation: An Introduction

These are the questions in the second part of this interview:

How does our relationship with our mother influence our life?

Our first relationship in life is with our mother. She is our foundation and the relationship to her is the most important one for all children. We learn about relating from the intimate interaction and bond (or lack thereof) that we have with our mother. Many of our subsequent patterns have their roots in that first relationship and keep repeating.

To have a healthy relationship with our mother and be at peace with her has a profound effect on our lives and our other relationships. In fact, I have observed that people who hate their mothers, or do not have a good relationship with them, will have difficulties in all other relationships. Often we complain about our mothers. We have the feeling that we should have received something from them, that we have missed something, and we feel angry.

In a way we are right, because there are many things that we could not get from our parents, just because parents have their own traumas and limitations. The problem is that feeling lack and being angry keeps us on the evolutionary level of a small child; we are stuck in demands and unable to move forward in life. Most importantly, we separate ourselves from life and say ‘No’ to existence, blaming and saying, “My mother should have been different.” But parents are not perfect and life doesn’t always give us what we want. That is reality. We have to learn to let go of unrealistic demands and be more in tune with life as it is—and that means to be more accepting of our parents just the way they are.

child with mother

How do these feelings of lack, anger, blame and demand that things should have been different affect our relationships?

Many people move into relationships carrying these attitudes towards their parents, especially their mothers, without even being aware of them. They start being demanding of their partners in the same way that a child is demanding of a parent. In fact, now they want to get from their partner what they have missed from their mother. What happens when people fall in love is that they think they have found their ideal mother.

A healthier attitude is to acknowledge that one has received the most fundamental things in life from their mother. Gratitude for one’s very being, a relaxation and a feeling of being at ease follows. Then, when moving into relationship, one is not needy or dependent, like a child who misses his mother, but rather one has the needs of an adult person, who is aware of his/her incompleteness and interdependence with others.

It is essential in relationship to show one’s needs to the other, because in this way you show that the other is important to you, that you are not above human needs, and you can make yourself vulnerable. But these needs should be the needs of an adult person, and not the needs of a child, who cannot survive without the other. This distinction is essential and that is where most people get confused. They get confused between feeling needy like a child and feeling the need of an adult who is aware of a certain amount of incompleteness.

Could you give an example?

What is the incompleteness of a man? He needs a woman; in fact, he misses female energy. And what is the incompleteness of a woman? She needs a man, she misses male energy. But that does not mean that if you have no partner, you will feel like committing suicide. You can still be happy and creative, because you feel that your basic needs, your survival needs, are fulfilled. But with a partner, or when receiving the missing male or female energy, you feel a little happier; your sense of fulfillment is deeper. In other words, we should be able to remain in touch with an inner centering or happiness, whether we are with or without another person in our lives. Then we may find that when we are with a partner, our inner sense of wholeness may be a little deeper.

For example, when people in relationship say to each other, “I can’t live without you,” it is terrible. It means that you are saying your survival depends on the other person; it actually means that you are not in love with the other, but you are in desperate need of the other. It is then that you treat the other as if he or she is your parent, which is a burden for the other person. It is often the case that when people say, “I love you,” they actually mean, “I want to get love from you.” They operate from the level of a small child who wants to be loved.

Love is always available. It is available inside of each of us. The truth is that whatever we needed to survive we have received; we have received love, otherwise we would not be here. And love is available on the outside too, however, maybe not in the way we want it or from whom we want it. In fact, everyone knows that the more we demand love from a certain person, the less likely it is that we will get it. On the other hand, the moment we start becoming loving towards the other, the greater the chance that the other will love us in return.

How do I know if my need is childish or adult?

The adult does not demand unconditional love. An adult is very practical and can say exactly what he/she needs in practical terms. The child, on the other hand, does not even know his/her needs very well, but still expects the mother to know and fulfill them. I sometimes ask people: ”When you say you want compassion from the other, exactly what do you mean by that and especially when would you say this need is satisfied?” People often either do not know in practical terms what they mean or they start laughing, because they become aware of how huge their demand is and that no one will ever be able to satisfy it.

So to know whether your need is ‘childish’ or ‘adult’, you need to see how practical it is. Do you want your partner to be with you 24 hours every day or would you like to have half an hour during the day for a quiet cup of tea together?

And one more thing: Whatever you want from the other, are you ready to give it too? You should be open to discovering the other’s needs and be willing to fulfill or respond to them, as well as to have your own needs met. It is strange that people often focus on their own needs without even considering those of the other. Osho used to say, whatever you want from the other, you have to give it first.

But all this confusion is unavoidable, when one has not been able to heal the relationship to one’s parents.

What about relationships between women? Do they stem from the relations of each woman with her own mother? If I am at peace with my mother, does it also affect my relationship with other women?

Yes, then you have good relations with other women. But women often don’t have good relationships with each other, because they don’t have a good relationship with their mother or they carry their mother’s feelings.

You have to understand that you come from a society (the interviewer is a Turkish woman at this point) where men were allowed to have many women and women were not allowed to have any independence of their own. Financially and in every way they were kept dependent and often treated like slaves. In such a situation there is bound to be competition between women, because several were all focused on one man. Not only that, a man, biologically speaking, cannot even satisfy one woman, to say nothing of many. So women in the past, and sometimes also today, lived in a very frustrating situation.

That is why women often carry anger and frustration from the past and are jealous of other women. And your mother is, of course closer to that past than you, so she is bound to carry more of it. Making peace with your mother means to acknowledge this cultural past and the inhumaneness of it and to respect all those who had to go through such experiences and who did that without giving up. This not only involves your mother, but so many other women of the past. You let yourself see them without feeling sorry, but with great respect. When one can feel such a deep respect, one gains a certain freedom and is more able to leave the past behind rather than unconsciously continuing to behave in similar ways in the present. Nowadays there is no need for competition between women, they are not all competing for a few men, they have more independence and they should, in fact, support each other.

Women who are in competition with other women really are in competition with their mothers and the competition is, of course, for the man. In the unconscious this means wanting to be close to the father. One would like the mother to be out of the way or feels that one knows much better than the mother what the father needs. This also leads to women falling in love with men who already have another partner. It is a similar dynamic. (Read more about this in Part 3.)

So respecting your mother, giving her the first place in the family and accepting your position as a child, which also means not interfering in her relation to your father, will help a woman to have good, easy and close relations with other women.

Can you say more about how we can find peace with our mothers? Is it enough to feel deeply that we accept her? What is enough?

Of course, it is about love and gratitude. But love is a tricky word, because love has so many meanings. The love of a mother for her child is different from the love of a child for the mother. And that sort of love is different from the love between men and women. We need to be aware of which context of love we are talking about. The love of a child for the mother is, “I am thankful that you give to me and I am ready to receive from you.” So you love your mother if you are ready to receive from her. That shows your love and that makes your mother feel important. But if you want to give to your mother in a psychological sense, then you make her feel small.

For example, if people feel sorry for their mothers, for what their mothers went through in their lives, they sometimes want to relieve them of a certain psychological burden. Then, without noticing it, they put themselves above their mothers and start ‘mothering’ them, just as if they were children. This is a kind of arrogance, but arrogance that we are usually not aware of. In fact, we may feel that we love our mother a lot, when in reality we behave arrogantly towards her. It is a similar situation with many of our ancestors. Often people feel sorry for or angry at the people of the past. We carry judgments or attitudes about others who lived before us, whose life circumstances we do not really know about, and we start forming opinions. This is a kind of arrogance and it often leads to a situation where the past is being repeated, without us even being aware of that. The past has to be left behind, but this can happen only with a sense of respect, a respect towards those who have lived before us, and a respect that is free from both anger and pity.

What if the mother actually didn’t give what you needed, didn’t give you enough?

She did! Every mother gives. You are here because of your mother. She gave your life to you. You often forget that. We are sitting here because our mothers gave birth to us. We forget that and it is the most important thing. That is the biggest gift. It is so much greater than all the other things we didn’t get; they are nothing compared to that.

On a practical level, if you accept this does that mean you will find peace with your mother?

It is not really a question of accepting. Acceptance in this context sounds a little arrogant too. It gives one the impression that one could also not accept, that one has a choice. But this is not so. We do not have the choice to accept or not accept our mother or our father. They are given factors. Your mother is your mother and she will be the only one. Your father is the only one; you will never have a different mother or a different father in your life.

So it is not a question of acceptance. Your mother is your mother. You need to take her in; you have to receive your mother in your heart. We have only one mother and she will be the only one for our whole life. There is no question of ‘not accepting’. We have to take our mothers more into our hearts and that gives us the feeling of wholeness.

People often come to a session and they complain about their mothers. But that is a strange start. Nothing can change. Neither you nor the therapist can change your mother. Even if the mother decided today, “Okay, now I will give my child what she wants,” she cannot do anything. The time has simply passed. The mother did what she could and now time has moved on. What is the point of continuing to complain?

People who continuously complain don’t really want to change; they remain stuck within the past. That is the reason why we all complain so much, we do not want to let go of the past. The psychological effect of complaining is that it ties us to the past. We have to look at something else, we have to look at the future and get over the complaints.

The moment we feel gratitude, we also feel that something has ended. When you feel grateful to your mother, in that very moment you are separated from her, you are on your own. Unfortunately, that is what we don’t want. We don’t want to be alone. So when you complain about somebody, you are always connected to that person in a futile effort to get more from someone in the past, without being able to fully receive in the present. But when you feel grateful, immediately you feel that something has ended, something is completed. Then you are a little more alone. Often people don’t want this. That may be one reason why people work on their relationship with their mothers for years. They always want to talk about their mothers. But it is so simple; therapy can be really short. It should take a really short time.

One has to go through the disappointment, maybe the pain, and then move on and let go. Otherwise there can be no evolution and development.

Read Part 3: The Importance of Relating to our Fathers

SvagitoSvagito has studied a wide range of therapeutic approaches. In 1995, he began to include Family Constellation in his work, studying with its founder, Bert Hellinger, and since 2000 he leads his own training programs which he takes to Europe, Asia, Central America and other parts of the world. He is the author of Roots of Love which describes this fascinating approach to therapy.

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