Three Ways to Break the Mother-Blaming Cycle
A daughter’s relationship with her mother can be one of the most important and complex connections in her life. Mothers are often the primary caretakers for their daughters, and as a result, play a crucial role in shaping daughters’ perceptions of themselves and the world around them. As a mother-daughter relationship therapist, I have noticed an emotional blockage that often arises during counselling: many daughters do not seem to know how to express their frustration and anger toward their mothers, get caught up in perpetually blaming their mothers, and then fall back into self-blame and guilt for that very behaviour. This vicious cycle negatively impacts daughters because they cannot get what they want from their relationships with their mothers. In this article, I will explore why it is crucial to move beyond mother-blaming and provide three tips for moving through the anger and resentment stage.
Why It is Important to Break the Anger and Mother-Blaming Cycle
- Blaming Your Mother does not Help You Get the Love You Want
The most obvious but often overlooked fact is that most daughters do not get what they want and need by blaming their mothers. Few people will change themselves simply due to others’ blame. This includes your mother, and most of the time, they will self-justify and become defensive. This can lead to an escalation of your anger and even more conflict, which can trigger further deterioration in the relationship.
- Blaming Your Mother can often Lead to Self-Blame and Guilt
When we get stuck in mother blaming, we may feel a sense of relief, power and control in the moment, but it is often short-lived. As you dwell on what feels unjust, your self-doubt might creep in quietly and unknowingly, and you start questioning your own role in the situation. At this time, your blame towards your mother may turn towards yourself, and you might feel guilty for speaking badly about her. This guilt also comes from the societal taboo that forbids questioning a mother’s love.
- Blaming Your Mother Does Not Make You a Better Woman and Mother
When our mothers do not know how to love us, we often wish we could do better for future generations. We may dislike certain traits and behaviours in our mothers because they have hurt us, so we resist, reject and deny these traits. However, our mothers serve as the most influential female role models in our lives; they set an example of what it means to be a woman and mother. Daughters often unconsciously learn some of their mothers’ emotional expressions and follow their trajectories when forging their own lives. So, by not accepting and integrating these traits, you do not necessarily become a better mother because you may also have those traits lurking in your unconscious personality. As German-Swiss poet Hermann Hesse once said, “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves does not disturb us”.
Three Tips for Moving Through the Anger and Mother-Blaming Stage
- Work on Your Anger
If you struggle with mother-blaming and cannot move past your anger and resentment towards her, finding a safe and supportive environment to understand and express your anger can be very helpful. Angry feelings are a natural, healthy part of being human, and it only creates problems when you bottle them up inside or are hijacked by unresolved past anger.
A good therapist can help you “feel the feelings and drop the story”. We can teach you how to express them constructively and decide whether you want to work it out with your mother or resolve it within yourself.
- Work Through the Emotions of Grief
A large part of the reason daughters cannot move on from past hurts is that they cannot experience mourning. If you get stuck at the stage of mother-blaming, it is likely that, for some reason, you are not allowing yourself to experience the vulnerable feelings of your inner child. Anger and blame become your self-protection. Buddhist teacher Tara Brach used this quote in her teaching about anger: “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief”. It means you can get your life back on track and restore your sense of self and purpose when you let yourself release the underlying grief and sense of loss. Otherwise, you might engage in something less than your true potential.
- Raise Awareness of Internalized Sexism, Misogyny & Gender Stereotypes
If you want to free yourself from mother blaming, you cannot ignore the larger systemic picture behind your personal ordeal. Mother-daughter relationship expert Rosjke Hasseldine wrote in her book, “Mother-daughter conflict is a reflection of how women are treated in their generational family, culture and society.” Generally speaking, the treatment of women might have improved, but many still continue to face systematic inequality and social and gender role expectations in many areas of society. Society seems more tolerant towards men and harsher towards women, including mothers. Mothers are judged more harshly than fathers when they fall short of parenting. Sometimes, this attitude is also internalised by daughters.
There is nothing wrong with feeling and expressing anger when you are not nurtured and supported by your mother. But holding onto anger and perpetually blaming your mother will prevent you from developing healthy relationships with others, taking a toll on you both emotionally and physically. I believe that by working on your anger, grieving the relationship that you did not get with your mother, and raising your awareness about internalised sexism, misogyny and gender stereotypes, you can move past the mother-blaming stage and build relationships in which you feel heard, understood, emotionally supported and loved.