Conscious Flow

Learning from the Systemic Field – Mothers and Daughters

Why is the relationship with mother and daughter either complete loving and whole or estranged and dysfunctional?

What makes a mother-daughter bond so unique?

What is so hurtful that it becomes a non-functional and often abusive relationship?

As a daughter, mother and grandmother, I have various ideas and questions around this.  

Is it that the mother sees herself reflected within her daughter? If so, what is the reflection she sees?  

Is it the same for the daughter?  

Children, by nature, claim everything they can get from their parents. The more a parent can give, the more the child is willing to take and more.  

Are children asking too much?

Are parents giving too much or too little?

There is a multitude of dynamics at play here.

The most common theme is that a parent can only give as much as they have received from their parents, including new wisdom and learning. Even with the addition of contemporary understanding and education, there is ambiguity. A mother intends to hand to the next generation the positive experiences and learnings from her parents and give more than she received from her parents with other positive life experiences, philosophies and beliefs.  

A mother intends to hand forward wholeness as best as she can.

Where does it then go wrong?

In Family Constellations, we can view this dynamic individually and include the entanglement with previous family systems. If there is trauma, abuse or other hurtful experiences, the mother may be entangled in those experiences.  

What I have observed from the systemic field is that patterns in family systems repeat. Why is that so? It appears that a pattern is repeated until healing or a sense of wholeness is introduced when the dysfunctional family exhibits specific repeat patterns.

An example of one of those patterns may be that great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and now daughter all fell pregnant during their teens. Handling the pregnancy for these women would be different and in line with the Zeitgeist standard options. The great-grandmother and grandmother would have probably kept the pregnancy as a family secret and either opted for an illegal abortion or secret adoption. While the mother’s choice of a possible legal abortion and possible legal adoption are still optional, the secrecy veil may not have been as prominent, which opens new possibilities; now, pregnant teenage daughter. Recently, I have worked with teenagers that had an abortion that needed to be kept secret, mostly through the mother’s intervention.  

Secrets create entanglements which in turn show up as repeat patterns.  

I find this phenomenon fascinating.

Today we are more inclined to open up to abuse experienced in our families. My concern with this exposure is that it is not necessarily brought forward as a healing format but arises from revealing the hurt and pain as a form of revenge and then creates a new cycle of pain.

In Family Constellations, we look at the pattern and bring in compassion with questions like “How did this trauma, abuse or pattern impact the mother?” This question leads to the understanding that the mother was, mostly subconsciously, busy with the pain and loyal in the family system and thus not fully available to her daughter. Entanglements with pain in a family system also create specific behaviour patterns which the mother is unaware of as a negative pattern. She will say to herself and her daughter, “I am protecting you from my pain”. In good conscience and love for her child, the mother wants to give her best from her experience. She may not have felt protected by her mother and now wants to protect her daughter. The daughter rebels against this protection as she experiences this protection as her mother’s dysfunction.

My observations and learning from the systemic field is that healing occurs when we recognise the mother’s predicament, which is the grandmother’s predicament which possibly also was the great-grandmother’s and mothers before that with similar struggles. When a client becomes aware of the pattern and struggles, she can hand back the painfully experienced pattern to and through the mothers before her. This healing movement frees the client from her entanglement, and she feels a sense of compassion and freedom within herself.  

The mother-daughter relationship now has a chance of becoming whole.

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