A book by a leading psychologist reveals how victims of mothers who were domineering, angry or just plain cold can turn the pain they suffered to their advantage
Like it or not, our relationship with our mother will have a lifelong influence on our personality, behaviour and self-esteem. If we’re lucky, that legacy will be an overwhelmingly positive one.
But what happens when you are raised by a ‘difficult’ mother? It’s the subject tackled by a new book written by psychologist Dr Terri Apter.
In Difficult Mothers, the Cambridge academic examines the different types of problem mother — controlling, angry, hyper-critical, emotionally unavailable — and explains what can be done to turn her negative influence into a positive one.
As a psychologist, and mother, I am aware that all parents get angry — usually when we’re tired or stressed, or when we need to warn children of danger or teach them an important life lesson.
Although no child likes it when a parent is angry, a single outburst does not produce a difficult relationship. It is only when a parent repeatedly uses anger to close conversations and control family members that it becomes a problem.
When anger overshadows everything at home, children live in a constant state of high alert, waiting for emotional explosions. As well as being psychologically damaging, this type of long-term stress is also toxic to the young brain.
THIS type of mother will try to take charge of every aspect of their child’s life — to the extent that she even tells the child what to see, feel and want.
In a healthy relationship, control is used to shape general values and set down specific rules; but it is always informed by listening, and it respects a growing child’s ability to take sensible decisions of its own.
Instead, day-by-day, a controlling mother implies: ‘I know who you are, and you don’t’, or ‘I need you to be this, and that is more important than what you want.’ She sees herself as custodian and controller of her child’s mind.
The definition of a ‘narcissist’ is a person who is totally self-involved.
A mother with narcissistic tendencies will be largely unable to show the empathy that is so important to a healthy parent-child relationship, because she sees every request for attention by her child as competition.
ETC, ETC, ETC…