August 10, 2012

The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori

Ten Basic Good Mother Messages by Jasmin Lee Cori

1. I'm glad that you're here

2. I see you

3. You are special to me

4. I respect you

5. I love you

6. You needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help

7. I am here for you. I'll make time for you

8. I'll keep you safe

9. You can rest in me

10. I enjoy you. You brighten my heart

The Emotionally Absent Mother: 
A Guide to Self-Healing and Getting the Love You Missed

by Jasmin Lee Cori

Few experiences in life are as deep as the feelings we carry about our mothers. The roots of some of these feelings are lost in the dark recesses of preverbal experience. The branches go every which way, some holding glorious, sun-drenched moments, while others are broken off, leaving sharp and jagged edges that we get caught on. Mother is not a simple subject.

On both a cultural and a psychological level, our feelings about mothers are often inconsistent and tangled up. Mom and apple pie are potent symbols, venerated in our national psyche but neglected in national policy, as reflected, for example, in our meager family leave policies in comparison with many other developed countries. If we were really serious about mothering, we would provide more financial and in-home help as well as education for mothers. As it currently stands, mothers are held up on a pedestal with little support beneath them.

As adults we are aware of this. No one escapes the feeling that mothers are to be honored, or the awareness that mothers are too often taken for granted, their sacrifices unappreciated. Yet many of us are secretly (or not so secretly) unsatisfied with what we got from our mothers, resentful that—whether their fault or not—they failed to provide important aspects of what we needed. And we’re paying the price.

These are sensitive issues. Sensitive for mothers and sensitive for all of us. Some, in a need to make mothers off-limits from criticism, become critical of those who are unsatisfied, blaming us for blaming our mothers, as if we are unfairly passing off the responsibility for our suffering. While I don’t deny that some may use blame as a distraction and fail to take responsibility for the arduous task of healing, I am more aware of the other side of it: the resistance and guilt people go through to get to the point where they stop protecting their mothers. It is as if even within the privacy of our own minds, we are afraid to criticize her. We are protecting the image of mother inside, protecting our actual relationship with her by denying anything that might unsettle it, and protecting ourselves from the disappointment, anger, and pain that we’ve kept out of consciousness. As I will explain in the chapters that follow, many don’t dare to uncover the painful truth of what was missing in their mothers because they’re not ready to deal with it.....

Mothering is also a sensitive topic for those who are mothers. When I was first working on this book, I noticed some guilt and defensiveness when I would share with women who were mothers what I was writing about. They wanted to say, “Don’t give me so much power. There are many other influences in a child’s life. It’s not all my fault how they turned out.” All very true. We come in with individual differences that are often stunning. And there are other childhood influences as well, including birth order, bonding with and availability of father and his adequacy as a parent, environmental and genetic influences on a child’s basic physiology, family dynamics and important events in the family such as a major illness, and the stresses in the larger culture.

Despite these many factors, the impact of mother is unparalleled. The attentive, capable, caring mother can help make up for many other handicaps, and the absence of this is perhaps the greatest handicap of all, because when mother is not doing her larger-than-life job as it needs to be done, children have significant deficits in their foundation.

My focus on the mother is not because mothers need more guilt or responsibility heaped on, but because the quality of the mothering we receive so powerfully shapes our development. My hope is that understanding these influences will lead us to better understand ourselves and, most importantly, to complete the developmental tasks and heal the injuries that resulted from insufficient mothering.

For those readers who are mothers or who are becoming mothers, it is my hope that my breaking down the roles of mothering as I do here and highlighting the central importance of nurturing will train your focus on some of these elements. Although there are aspects of mothering that are instinctive and are passed through the generations by women who were well mothered themselves, much of it must be consciously learned. If you were undermothered, your task will be twofold: to heal your own wounds and to open up another way of being with your children.....

My three goals in this book are:

1. To help you assess in what ways and to what extent you were undermothered.

2. To help you see the connection between the mothering you experienced and the difficulties in your life. What have been thought of as personal defects can then be linked to mothering deficits, relieving self-blame.

3. To provide suggestions for how these missing elements can be made up for now—whether in therapy, through close relationships, or by providing them for yourself.

The good news is that the deficits of inadequate mothering can be made up for later—maybe not completely, but more significantly than we usually dare to hope. We can heal the unloved child and become empowered, loving adults. This is a journey worth taking.

Copyright © Jasmin Cori. All rights reserved.

Jasmin's Website

*     *     *
Authors Audio Podcast discussing Healing from Trauma: A survivor's guide
Approximately thirty minutes

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"The parts of spiritual life we tend to like best are the moments of grace and illumination, the times when we see the love behind creation and realize that everything is happening as it should, and that the good of all is, in the long run, assured. We thrill at the taste our essential nature with its infinite richness and possibility. We like feeling close to God and our fellow creatures. 

But these are the high points; they are not the whole journey. The path is also strewn with obstacles and difficulties. There are times when we are hostage to doubt or lost in despair, extended periods when we cannot feel the ground beneath us and don’t trust God’s safety net. Any description of spiritual life that neglects these aspects does not serve us in the larger task of transformation." ~excerpted from Darkness Into Light by Jasmin Lee Cori


  1. Apparently Ms. Cori has a definite Religious POV as evidenced by the quote contained in the last two paragraphs. Which is fine, IMO.
    However, I have a definite POV which separates the Sacred from the Secular, the Religious from the Spiritual. Perhaps "Continuum" is a better description than "Separate." ;) I am NOT saying one has more validity or usefulness than another. However, I'd look very critically at a publication and the Credentials of the author before I'd purchase or 'buy into' another "Self-Help" Book. The market IMO is saturated with self-promoting "experts" in a variety of fields including Traumatology. Where were these people in 1967/68 when all references to PTSD were removed from the DSM? Does it really matter? Yes and No; there IS significant history here as well as evolution regarding the huge explosion of "Survivor Groups." However, everyone is entitled to their view on the effects of less-than-great parenting which is about as polite as I can render the reality of growing up with Cluster B Parents. Respectfully, we need to look very critically at those who promote themselves as "healers." Remember "The Secret" and all the others? Yeah, CZ, that's what I'm saying.
    There's "room" for all of our voices. And more importantly I appreciate your efforts to reach all of us regardless of our background. This "Inclusiveness" keeps me coming back. And thanks for the excerpt and more importantly, for the last 2 paragraphs. There is NO single path, no single "cure," no way to ensure those of us who lived this are not left to feel irrevocably "broken" without "Professional" or quasi-professional "Help" nor allow ourselves to feel somehow excluded.
    And it this effort on your behalf that is an absolute shout out to you, CZ for your willingness to walk that fine line: IMO, you do this masterfully.
    Thank you.
    Tundra Woman

    1. Well, you surely don't let anything get by you, do you TW?!! Yea, I added the last excerpt so people would know Jasmin had a God-centered approach.

      I had an additional agenda when cherry-picking the quote on the bottom of my post. Jasmin Cori suggests that the healing path is strewn with negativity and pain and if our spiritual life NEGLECTS these aspects, it will not transform anything.

      This sums up my experience AND my frustration with people who want to skip the hard part and go for the ‘high’. That is not healing---that’s just more of the same ol’ same ol’ denial we grew up with. I cannot see any way to bring peace into our lives without embracing suffering.

      Soooo...I can see by your post, that you've also been watching the unfolding of quantum hubris. ha!

      What I really liked though was Jasmin's list of "Ten Good Mother Messages." We talk about the continuum of good-enough to pathological mothers but what IS a good mother anyway? I noticed that she wrote "You are special TO ME" instead of the narcissistic affirmation: "You are special." I thought that was MOST excellent and something that would benefit young children in our narcissistic society.

      Thanks for the validation on my attempts to respect and validate all people on the God Continuum: from atheists to fundamentalists. <3


    2. I like the way you screen these pieces before deciding to post them, CZ. And yeah, TW, nothing gets by you! I think "healing" moves like tectonic plates. Incredibly slowly, with ruptures and lava flows and tsunamis along the way. It's a long long incremental process. And just when you think you've scarred over a wound, it pulls open again. Like you, I share TW's wariness about anyone trying to sell books that "help you heal," and doubly so when God is brought into the equation. But then there's Luke Ministries, and Ruth's "We Are One,"; and other great sites, so we really can't generalize. Since my mother is one of the poseurs who "publishes" "self-help books," I have a very gimlet-eyed view of the "traumatology industry." But Jasmin's list is a great one, and I also think you put it up here out of respect for our conversations of the last few weeks about less visible abuse, such as emotional abandonment. So thank you CZ. I always feel how responsive you are to those of us who weigh in here. Hugs to you.

  2. All I can say is that I answered 'No' to all of the 10 Mother messages....just another proof that mine was, and always will be, emotionally absent. Thanks for posting as this validation is exactly what I need to hear! :-)

    1. Dear Paulette,

      How sad that you don't feel seen, heard and beloved by your mother. What is there that hurts more deeply than the loss of a mother's love? Even having certain deficiencies hurts our being married to a narcissistic man and constantly caught between the children's welfare and a selfish spouse's demands. The kids will have some resentment, I'll testify to that. (holding up my hand now)

      However, what struck me as profound about the list,(which Jasmin must have carefully composed), is that these behaviors would be hard to fake. If you compose a list of Ten Things the Good Mother Must Do, narcissistic mothers will check each one off the list as "accomplished" and rate herself from zero to ten (herself being eleven).

      But a list like this defies measure. You can't count the number of times you tell your child that she is loved. YOU are not the determinate. The child is the judge. Ask any adult if she feels safe resting in her mother's arms...there's the answer.

      The other great thing about Jasmin's list is that these ten things come naturally to most mothers. We don't have to know anything about attachment theories, the stages of child development, etc. although I wish I HAD known some of these things. I think her list sums up my thoughts about children being the 'apple of their mother's eye.' You either see your children that way or you don't and the kids sense the difference.

      Hugs to you,

    2. "You can't count the number of times you tell your child that she is loved. YOU are not the determinate. The child is the judge." How right you are. The child is the judge of whether or not they were loved well-enough. A well-loved child feels it. Narc mothers always judge themselves and find themselves acquitted. The problem is always with their child's excessive needs and "expectations." UGH.

  3. "I can not see any way to bring peace into our lives without embracing suffering." Yes. That's it. The harder we try to hide from it in any way, the more effort we exhaust spinning our wheels. No one wants to feel crappy, but sometimes, that's just how it is. There's a middle of the road between wallowing in it and waddling away from it as fast as my Yetti foot will take me.
    I think that's one of the nice things about aging: You really know nothing lasts forever, neither the good, peaceful times or the hard, horrible times. After you've survived "war, famine and pestilence" what else could come down the pike that you couldn't possibly survive? There's something comforting about really knowing that reality.

    1. I'm having a difficult time coming to grips with the current idea that any suffering is too much suffering. That we don't need to tell our stories fifty times ten. That we can focus on more positive thoughts and change our emotional state, even our neural pathways. That people get stuck in ruts going over and over a traumatic loss and this means they are somehow 'pathological.'

      I have a hard time looking at grief as a pathological state of being. I am concerned that with our current predilection for narcissistic denial (and criticism of, and alienation from, those who ARE suffering), that we will shortcut an essential grieving process.

      BUT, I'm also concerned for people who get 'stuck' in well-worn ruts, ending up in total despair and hopelessness. They need help getting out and that means acceptance--not MORE criticism (or pathologizing).

      The reason why this is pertinent to a message about narcissistic mothers is because very often, the ability to grieve the narcissistic mother only occurs after a failed relationship as an adult. So what may appear to be a person who is suffering too long over a divorce, is a person who is grieving even deeper losses in his or her life. To be subjected to criticism from outsiders to WHOM WE ARE NOT OBLIGED TO EXPLAIN, is a valid concern. What appears to be a woman stuck-in-a-rut, just might be a woman who has fallen down a rabbit hole, ya know?



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