Daughters of Damaging Mothers

May 09, 2023

Seems an odd topic to talk about in May, the month we celebrate motherhood and the crucial role of mothers in our lives.

But the cold hard truth is, not all mothers are created equal.

Motherhood, this holy bastion of unparalleled power to develop the hearts and minds of the next generation, and in fact, generations beyond, is no small potato.

Many mothers feel this deep impact and take the job seriously. They put thoughtful effort into their impact on the precious lives of their children.

They purposefully work on their child’s development.

They plan and work toward their child’s sense of security.

They sacrifice their own feelings and urges in order that their children know to the core of their being they are loved.

Their aim isn’t a happy-in-the-moment child, but a functioning, well adjusted adult.

That’s the type of motherhood we celebrate during the month of May.

But many people are left to wonder what they get to celebrate.




Those who didn’t have a mother.

Those who had neglectful, narcissistic, addict, abusive, psychotic, and even treacherous mothers.

Those mothers are out there too.

I know.

I talk to their sons and daughters every day.

We don’t talk about this type of mother often enough, but we should.

These mothers also have an effect. Their children are no less precious.

But celebrate….?

I, and many of my clients aren’t feeling it.

These are the mothers who create the damage, the dysfunction, and yes, even the ill health of generations to come.

I see this generational damage every day in my work.

I see everything from mental and emotional anguish and even cancer as a result of this type of mother. Fathers aren’t off the hook either, but maybe that’s a conversation for next month.

The effect of motherhood, both functional and otherwise, has a chemical significance on the health of their children.

All you have to do is look at the research behind the ACE (Adverse Childhood Events) score to determine that truth.

Children who grow up in abusive, neglectful, addict homes, have a higher incidence of future health problems than those who don’t.

Dr. Candace Pert outlined the chemistry of this truth in her work.

It’s been a given in Traditional Chinese Medicine for 5,000 years.

Should these mothers be doing a better job?


But does should’ve, would’ve, could’ve help those who have already experienced the effects of a damaging mother?


Nor does it mean that if you’ve experienced the tragedy and trauma of this type of mother, that your life is doomed.




So, what does help?

The following is what I tell my clients in one form or another.

What you feel can seem very real. It can feel permanent. It can feel like who you are.

It can feel very physical to the extent that you may experience physical symptoms.

All the I can’ts.

The I’m not good enoughs.

That wealth, happiness, contribution, travel, excelling, accolades, and achievement are for others, not for you.

All the who do you think you ares

As real as it feels, it’s not you.

It’s the damage that was done to you.

It’s a program that continues to run in your subconscious mind and as such has become real to your body.

It feels real because the body responds to the words and images you give it. Or, more accurately, that your subconscious mind gives it.

But as real as it feels, even your body is not you.

It’s the recorded evidence of the program that continues to run you and your life.

The program is just a program.

And the program is subject to reprogramming.

So, the million dollar question becomes….




How do we reprogram ourselves out of a damaging past?

How do we turn around all the I can’ts, I’m not enoughs, and that’s not available to me?

How do we make available the achievements and access to abundance we know somehow exist in the depths of our soul?

Here’s how I’ve done it (and still do it!) after growing up in an environment that gave me the top 4 percentile ACE Score.

  1. Evaluate Expectations
  2. Distance
  3. Habit Tracking




When we’re coming up in the world our little hearts and minds have certain fulfillments that must be met in order to develop into functional, confident, contributing human adults.

Some of those fulfillments are:

  1. A sense of security – we feel secure knowing there is an adult who has our best interests at heart and will protect us from danger. This also includes learning new things in an age appropriate manner and being given age appropriate responsibilities and boundaries. It also includes food security and other necessities of life, and personal dignity.
  2. Love – a sense that our caregivers truly care for our thoughts, feelings, and are happy to have us in their lives.
  3. Opportunity – the ability to test our mettle, explore new worlds, and our own abilities.

There are others of course, but those are the biggies.

When these fulfillments (and others) aren’t met in our coming up years, especially those years between the ages of about 0-7, the mind can continue to seek those fulfillments even into our adult years. It’s almost as if the mind remains in an unsatisfied or expectant state unless and until certain fulfillment pieces are met.

Even if we don’t need them in our adult years.

We don’t need the security of a caregiver into our adult years, but a sense of insecurity may dog us for a lifetime if we don’t evaluate those subconscious expectations.

We don’t need the love of a caregiver or parent in our adult years because we have the ability to love and care for ourselves.

We don’t need an authority figure to provide opportunities for us into our adult years because we have the ability to create our own opportunities.

These truths appear obvious at first, but the drivers of the subconscious mind are rarely obvious unless we proactively chase them down.

I’ll give you an example from my own life because it’s something I’ve seen in many of my clients.

I lived life with disappointment after disappointment whenever I interacted with my mother. I thought my disappointment was a result of her behavior.

She was mean spirited. She was an addict. She was violent. And she blatantly disfavored me and favored my siblings, especially my brother.

One day, after my father died, I was helping her get the house ready to sell. Years of collected items were laid out to decide what to go through, what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw away.

Some of my paternal grandmother’s items were in the mix as she had passed only a few years earlier. Among her things was a modest collection of tea sets. Coming from Russian heritage, tea is a big thing.

My mother said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with all those tea sets.”

I said, “I’ll take one.” My grandmother was a cherished figure in my life as I was coming up in the world.

My mother responded, “No, I better keep them.”

I thought, OK. Whatever.

A little later we came across some photos. There were four copies of a professional headshot of my father in his younger years.

I asked if I could have one.

She said, “No. I better keep them.”

I didn’t say anything. They were her pictures, and she could decide whatever she wanted.

About five minutes after that my sister, who lived nearby, came into the house.

My sister said, “Wow! Look at all those tea sets!”

My mother said, “Do you want one?”

My sister said, “Sure!” She couldn't know what had just transpired just moments prior to her arrival.

I was standing right there. Even though I knew my mother exceedingly well, and knew this wasn't at all out of character for her, I was incredulous that she could be so blatant about it.

Then, my mother said, “Look what I found,” and moved over to the stack of photos and picked up the four copies of the headshot of my father. She showed them to my sister and said, “Look, one for each of us.”

Again, I was standing right there. And I knew by, “one for each of us,” she meant one for her, one for each of my two sisters, and one for my brother.

I knew this because this had been a consistent pattern for the four plus decades of my life.

It had been a consistent pattern, yet it still stung.

It stung every time it happened.


Because my mind was still seeking the thing that hadn’t been fulfilled in my younger years. Consciously, I expected nothing less from this woman who was my mother.

Subconsciously, my mind worked according to a different program.

Even though I no longer needed it, my mind was still seeking satisfaction and it was still seeking it from her – the one who never provided it.

It’s not logical of course. I was a grown woman. I owned my own business. I was completely independent. I needed nothing from my mother. But the programming of the subconscious mind doesn’t rely on logic.

It wasn’t until I began to evaluate my expectations that I gained the freedom I needed.

The truth is, no matter what my mother did, didn’t do, said, didn’t say, her behavior wasn’t what was repeatedly hurting me.

What was repeatedly hurting me was my continual expectation that she should be any different than what she was.

Because she was my mother, I expected her to be motherly, kind, loving, accepting, caring. I expected her to love me.

I expected of her everything she wasn’t, never was, and never had any interest of being, and maybe never could be.

Were my expectations reasonable?

They were reasonable based on the fact that she was my mother. My expectations were reasonable based on our relationship roles.

But my expectations were unreasonable based on who we both were as individuals.

I, as an adult, no longer needed from my mother the same things I needed in my coming up years. Yet I was still habitually yearning for them.

My mother, as an individual human, was neither equipped nor interested in fulfilling the role and responsibilities of motherhood beyond giving birth.

Not all women who give birth are cut out for or act to fulfill their role of motherhood with serious consideration. My mother happened to be one of those types of mothers.

She didn't care.

It was just a fact.

To expect otherwise was the cause of my own suffering.

She was my mother, yes.

But she was also an addict. A narcissist. She was a violent individual who was not in control of her emotions and perhaps had undiagnosed psychoses influencing her state of being, mood, and decision making.

That is who my mother really was. She was not interested in me. She was interested in her immediate comforts and addictions.

Once I adjusted my expectations to reality, I felt free.

The drivers of her behavior and treatment of me really had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her character, her mental, and emotional state.

Everything I translated from her behavior to mean something about me in my younger years, I now knew could only mean something about her.

It meant nothing about me. And it wasn’t a predictor of my future.

Unless I allowed it to be.

For those of you who have experienced the effects of a Damaging Mother, can you adjust your expectations? Can you see who she is as a person? Can you let her character, rather than her role, guide your expectations of her?

And most importantly, can you release yourself from the needs that weren't met in your coming up years?




Next, I evaluated whether I would spend time with a person with my mother’s traits and tendencies if she was any other person.

The answer was a loud and clear NO.

I'd spent a great deal of time raising the standards of my relationships since leaving the horror show of my original home.

Even though I’d established loud and clear boundaries with my mother, she enjoyed testing them every so often as a way of trying to re-establish control.

It was exhausting.

There was no benefit to either of us to pretend to strive for a closeness that would never be.

So, I began to limit my exposure and time spent with her.

It wasn’t a clear cut in communication, even though I owed her nothing.

But I reasoned at the time, I wanted to be a better daughter to her than she was a mother to me.

I don’t know I would make the same decision today.

However, the distance along with the change in expectations, provided me with a long awaited sense of freedom I hadn’t allowed myself in all the years I’d been alive.

It was breathtaking.

For those of you experienced with the force of a Damaging Mother, see if you can minimize your contact. Give yourself a holiday if you haven't already.





Here is a MUST DO.

Many of the daughters of damaging mothers (sons too!) come out of it with some similar traits. We have these similar traits for one reason and one reason only:

We were groomed and programmed to prioritize the management of the damaging mother’s emotions and behaviors over our own care and development.

It can lead to a lack of care for yourself including the routines that uphold appearance and physical fitness.

This is the beginning of a fracture that occurs between us and the intimacy with our own bodies. That is we lose the sense of beauty with our own body resulting in the ability for disease and dysfunction to seemingly appear out of nowhere.

To get that necessary intimacy back, you have to get back to yourself.

Here is a quick assessment for you to do to determine your level of intimacy with your body….

On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is least applicable and 10 is most applicable, answer the following:

It’s easy for me to prioritize self-care (daily bathing/showering, brushing teeth 2X/day, adequate sleep, purposeful rest time, regular maintenance grooming including apparel)

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I love eating clean, fresh foods

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I find it easy to declare and stick to healthy relationship boundaries

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I don’t blame others when things go wrong

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I only spend time with those who are supportive (including using language that’s supportive)

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I strive to do new things and challenge myself to achieve new things on a regular basis

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10 

I enjoy keeping myself physically fit

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I easily manage conflict

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

I excel in difficult situations

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10 

I’m aging better than my peers

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

My life feels purposeful and I know I contribute to others in a decisively positive manner

 1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10


Many people who are a product of a damaging mother can feel the limits imposed on them by the authority force of their mother much easier than they can feel the limitlessness of their potential.

If you scored anything less than a 7 on any of the above areas, I encourage you to make a declaration from this moment forward that you will treat yourself as you would have loved to be treated all those years ago.

Treat yourself as if you adore yourself and are in charge of your care. As if it’s you looking after that little girl (or little boy).

If a regular bathing routine has become too casual, or if you feel like it doesn’t matter, declare you will look after yourself better than your mother did and present your beautiful self in the best possible manner, even if you’re not leaving the house. Do it because you matter. Be clean. Smell amazing. Dress like you count in your life. Brush your teeth. Put these things on your calendar if you have to and don’t do anything else until you spend some time with your amazing self.

Can your food choices be cleaned up? Sometimes small changes over time are enough to make your body begin to generate a new energy.

What about your relationships? Upleveling relationships sometimes means offering different relationship rules. Sometimes it means moving on from relationships. It doesn’t mean the love stops. It means the love for yourself grows. You’re worth it.

Declare today that you will stop gossiping and blaming. Once you accept full responsibility for your life, you begin to create massive freedom.

Watch your language. Your body listens to all the words you say, all the words you allow to be said in your presence, and mostly what is said in the world behind your eyes. Don’t use derogatory language even in jest.

What scares you? Do it.

Move your body. Then move it again the next day. And the next. Fall in love with the vessel that takes you from one place to another.

Don’t shrink from difficult conversations. Declare that you will manage yourself beautifully, even during the worst of times.

The more you see your own beauty and purpose on the inside, the more it shines on the outside. Fall in love with that part of yourself.

And this year, and every year, celebrate yourself. Use Mother's Day as a day to mark your progress in overcoming your past.

Because the daughters (and sons) of Damaging Mothers have been given one of the greatest gifts life can give and that is the opportunity to overcome one of life’s most challenging hurdles.

One of life’s most challenging obstacles to overcome is the betrayal of a parent.

The reason it’s such an amazing gift is that once you overcome that hurdle, you can overcome anything. And when you know you can overcome anything, you enter the world of your limitless self.

If you want to find out more and begin building the skills to overcome the effects of a Damaging Mother or any life or health hurdle, your next step is to sign up for the Stage Done! Workshop below.

The Stage Done! Workshop will forever change the way you look at disease and can change the way you look at your life. I look forward to seeing you there!

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