A lot of guys I know who struggle with their self-confidence had a controlling or domineering mother. This can be a problem that affects our adult relationships with women even if we only have minimal contact with our mothers now. Your mother's influence over you as a child can continue well into adulthood and even past her death.
If your mother was particularly critical and/or controlling (like mine was), she would have seen your growing independence as a threat to be crushed at all costs. A mother like that is a force to be reckoned with that totally overwhelms a child's sense of self. The only option we have as a child is to learn to submit to this woman's power in order to survive.
But giving up your power like that comes at a massive cost later in life unless you claim it back now that you're a man.
Healthy mothers go through a grieving process when a boy grows into a man and separates from her emotionally and physically. You become released from the emotional ties to her moods, values, beliefs and opinions as you become your own man. This can be painful for her as she loses power over you and is forced to adopt a new relationship style based on adult mutual respect.
Unhealthy mothers, on the other hand, keep their adult sons emotionally enmeshed to remain in control and assuage the mother's anxiety. This is particularly easy for them if you were afraid of your mother as an child. The problem with this is that unless you've dealt with it as an adult, you'll subconsciously project your mother issues onto everyone else around you.
The easiest way to tell if you're still emotionally enmeshed with your mother, is to ask yourself how you feel when you are around her; or when you imagine being around her if she's no longer alive.
Clues that you're still emotionally enmeshed with your mother include:
- Holding back on telling her how you really feel, including your feelings about her.
- Feeling self-conscious around her.
- Trying hard not to upset her.
- Doing things she wants you to do, even though you'd rather not do them.
- Seeking to protect her from unpleasant feelings.
- Taking her criticisms personally
- Avoiding contact with her because she triggers unpleasant feelings for you.
The process of severing the adult/child emotional connection between you and your mother is one of the most important stages in a man's development. Many men live their lives in a perpetual state of boyhood because they avoid dealing with this central issue, and it can severely undermine your sense of who you are as a man.
Severing destructive emotional ties and letting go of your mother issues is all about forgiveness. To learn how to do this with your mother, see Step 8: Forgive Your Mother in The Confident Man Program Guide.