Many men have mother issues that undermine our self-confidence by stopping us from really growing up and fulfilling our true potential. Unresolved mother issues cause us to remain emotionally and developmentally immature; a boy in a man's body. If we had a critical or controlling mother we're particularly prone to having mother issues. Add in a passive father and a lack of tribal structure with initiation rituals in modern society to force us from the cozy comfort of our mother's breast, and it's easy to slip from childhood into adulthood without ever actually growing up.
This leaves us forever unconsciously seeking comfort and reassurance from our mother, and our neediness ends up projected onto any woman we come across; which is a disaster for our relationships with women.
In normal human development, we individuate from our mothers during adolescence as we grow into being our own man with our own set of values different from hers. This is a time of rapid brain rewiring and emotional upheaval as we alternate between feeling emotionally connected with our mother, and separating from her to explore the world and our place in it.
If our mother wasn't emotionally available to connect to, or tried to control our excursions into the world in order to prevent her feeling upset in case we got hurt, then everything can go horribly wrong. Nice Guy Syndrome and the associated approval seeking are classic symptoms of mother issues. Insecurity resulting from unresolved mother issues ends up being unconsciously projected onto everyone and everything around us, having a serious negative impact on our whole life.
Here's how to heal your mother issues:
Learn To Handle Anxiety
The core problem behind mother issues essentially comes down to one thing: Separation Anxiety. We're too frightened to really break away and become our own man, so we remain like an infant who is emotionally either enmeshed or unattached. If we never really bonded with our mother in the first place, the anxiety can be even greater because our brains never learned to really feel safe.
Learning to handle anxiety involves allowing yourself to progressively be exposed to situations that you find mildly threatening, in a safe environment where you can calm your nervous system so that your brain learns that you're safe. Each excursion into the unknown that goes well leaves you feeling more capable and less anxious next time around. This is called systematic desensitization and it is one of the most powerful tools in the therapy arsenal.
Learn To Tolerate Your Mother's Distress
When we have mother issues, it is particularly important to learn to handle the anxiety that we feel when our mother is distressed. This anxiety is what keeps us stuck in the infantile comfort zone and prevents us growing up. If you are in the habit of avoiding doing things that you want because your mother would not approve, or of racing to rescue her from even the most trivial of problems, it's time to learn to tolerate your mother's distress.
Allow your mother to feel whatever she feels and stop taking responsibility for her feelings. Focus on taking responsibility for yourself and your life instead of using your mother as an excuse. This is a balancing act because a healthy relationship naturally involves some exchange of emotions and responsibility; but that's different to being so enmeshed that you can't tolerate her ever being upset or being independent from you. Life is upsetting sometimes, and it's not your job to rescue your mother from that reality.
Learn To Say No
If the love we got from our mother as a child felt conditional on our agreeable behavior, we end up unself-consciously conditioned to agree to things that we don't like in order to gain other people's love and approval. It may cause tremendous anxiety to say “No”. Working through that anxiety also causes our brain to rewire from child mode into adult mode.
Stop accepting whatever comes your way in life and start being more discerning about what you really want. Say “No” when people ask you for things that you don't want to do, especially women. This will force you to face your fear of missing out or being rejected, which is a step towards developing an abundance mentality that your mother may not have ever had.
Express Your Emotional Pain
If your mother wasn't a good role model for you emotionally, there's a good chance that you've bottled up a whole lot of feelings that are still stuck in your nervous system waiting to be expressed. Alternatively if she is your only confidant you are probably emotionally enmeshed and need to establish more emotional independence. Start forming emotionally meaningful relationships with other adults, especially men, who are willing to listen to the unfiltered version of how you feel.
Emotional pain can feel overwhelming at times, and I've certainly had my share in dealing with my own mother issues. Don't fall into the trap of using some form of addictive distraction like drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, porn, sex, sport, or television to avoid the pain. Get yourself a therapist and start really facing and healing your emotional pain so it no longer controls you.
Channel Your Anger
Expressing anger towards our mother can be particularly frightening even as an adult, especially if they habitually shut down our anger when we were young. Anger gets a very bad rap in our society because so few people handle it constructively. When we have mother issues we often have a backlog of infantile rage towards our mother that ends up unconsciously directed inwards as anxiety and depression, or projected outwards onto other people as cynicism, resentment, jealousy and misogyny.
Learn to express anger in a healthy way towards anyone from whom you generally withhold it, especially your mother. Don't use excuses like “not wanting to upset them” to avoid facing your fear of conflict. Find ways to channel your residual anger constructively, such as through a creative passion. Stop being passive in the face of people treating you in ways that you don't like; especially your mother.
Connect With Other Men
Many men with mother issues kid ourselves with ideas like “I just relate better to women than men.” It's a fantasy because the relationships with women are generally infantile and the real reason we don't relate to men because we haven't grown into one ourselves yet. Beware of using sex to avoid emotional intimacy. Being able to seduce a woman doesn't make us a man, and it's too easy to fall into sexual relationships with women that lack any depth. That's why we need a meaningful connection with other men. Join a men's group, get a male therapist, life coach or counsellor, and start relating to other men on a meaningful level.
Take Responsibility For Yourself
Another classic sign that we have mother issues is failing to take responsibility for our lives. This shows up as blaming other people or circumstances for our misfortunes, being overly angry when things don't go our way, allowing other people to dictate our beliefs, values, morals and actions, or remaining passive instead of going after what we want in life. The time when our mother was responsible for our well-being is now long past. It's up to us now.
To a mature man, this is tremendously exciting because we can do anything we want with our life. To a man with mother issues though, this responsibility can feel terrifying. A lot of people attempt to fill the responsibility void with religion, but that can just mean substituting a God or guru for your mother, and then expecting them to do all the hard work for you. Become the master of your own destiny by learning to take full responsibility for yourself and your life.
Face Your Fear Of Conflict
If our experience of conflict with our mother as a child felt frightening or disempowering, we're likely to have grown up feeling that conflict is unsafe. This can set up a pattern of avoidance where we never really face conflict. Instead we often become passive or submissive; especially around our mothers and other women like them. Living our own life as a man is going to inevitably bring us into conflict with other people; especially other people with their own mother issues who will project their jealousy onto us and try to block our attempts to live our own lives.
When we start taking responsibility for our own lives, other men who are avoiding their own responsibilities aren't always going to like it. Letting go of seeking other people's approval means facing our fear of the resulting conflict and learning to work towards win-win situations where we don't unconsciously trade our power for other people's love and approval; especially our mother's.
Develop Your Masculine Qualities
When we have mother issues we often end up lacking key masculine qualities such as decisiveness, courage, self-determination and the ability to tolerate risk. Instead, we constantly look to other people for approval, avoid taking reasonable risks in life and never learn to handle failure or disappointment. Becoming a man is an experiment in self-discovery using different careers, hobbies, ideas and activities to find out what really appeals to us; instead of just doing what pleased our mother.
Not all these experiments will succeed, but we always learn something when we take a risk of trying something new. Sometimes the biggest learning is how to handle failure gracefully. Not knowing where to start or the perfectionist trait of needing to know the outcome ahead of time can become an excuse for failing to take action. Don't fall for these excuses. We cannot grow into a confident man by living our entire lives within the comfort zone originally dictated by our mother. Get yourself a copy of The Confident Man Program and start developing your masculine qualities today.
Get Professional Help and Support
Overcoming our mother issues is be one of the most challenging tasks we can face in growing into an emotionally mature man because the anxiety we need to face can go deep into our nervous systems. Often other members of the family also have mother issues but may be too afraid to face the truth; which is why your siblings and father are not likely to be much help your recovery, despite the negative consequences they still suffer.
In some cases it may be necessary to cut contact with your mother for a period of time, which is likely to incur the wrath of siblings who are in denial of the impact their mother has had on them, and too afraid to take such action themselves. As a result, the first person in a family to really deal with their mother issues tends to feel very isolated.
I highly recommend getting professional help and support on this journey. Since I've personally been there myself, I now specialize in helping men overcome their mother issues. I can offer emotional healing sessions via Skype wherever you are in the world so if you're still suffering and want to set yourself free, contact me about coaching.