Darden Bynum is a guest blogger and is a colleague of mine. Please enjoy his insights.
An integrated parent is a terrible thing to waste. A rejected one can cause real destruction.
Not that your mother was, or is, wholly worthy of your integration. There might be much of her you rightly reject.
We all tell ourselves: this is what I am; this is what I am not. We often reject in order to create.
Aspects of your mother are likely worthy of your integration. In knowing ourselves and remaking ourselves, what of our mother aspects might we discard and what might we keep?
Much of who we are comes from our mothers, like it or not. DNA, modeling, nature and nurture all come from our parents. Not that a narcissistic mother was ever much of a paragon of selfless service in the first place. Hardly.
But integration of even a critical parent can be essential to health and wellbeing. Reconciling our own inner functional parent can be a lifelong task. Importantly, it can mean your very survival during the time of COVID, by keeping you healthy and safe.
Discovering the functional mother within
How do I mother myself? Especially during the time of COVID? Not only do I not want to throw out my internal baby with the bathwater of my narcissist mother, but what about what I DID get? What do I keep, and ultimately integrate, of myself and my mother that might help me now?
During this time of personal and family stress, I keep wondering: okay, how is this inner maternal nature revealed to me? Am I too focused on myself? I know self-protection and physical distancing are forms of social solidarity and collective nurturance. I know I need to look within. So why in looking within and facing all this uncertainty do I keep asking myself: will I ever finally be good enough? Will I ever be able to survive and thrive?
In her groundbreaking book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, Karyl McBride writes, “Rely on your own internal mother. Learn to re-parent and freshly parent the wounded child by allowing yourself to feel the self-respect that your internal mother provides.”
Dr. McBride goes on in her book section, The Internal Mother as Your Guide, by suggesting, “Clean out the trauma so that positive new messages stay within you and so that you can rely on the internal mother.”
In her view, the internal mother is best revealed as your own maternal instinct. It comes from a quiet voice within. The internal mother gently suggests you nurture, love and mother yourself.
For many of us, both women and men, we ignore this voice when we give up on our external mothers ever giving us what we needed to be complete. McBride offers a new possibility: you can have an internal mother readily available to you. She’s yours for personal discovery. You can have your own integration of the unconditional love of the mother.
Parent yourself in the time of COVID
Growing the internal mother, according to McBride, involves allowing yourself to give her permission to be there. Yes, it’s okay. For some men and many women, this is abhorrent. What? Become part mom? Yes. The good part(s).
Guys mistakenly reject this as giving in to weakness or fear of emasculation. Men and women may not be sure of what they are, but they are sure of what they are not. I’m not my mother!
We may be sad and angry that we need to reparent ourselves. Proper parenting just wasn’t given to us, but we can properly parent ourselves now. Out of this self-nurturing something else can become available; something freeing. By realizing and accepting feelings as part of what we experience, we work through them to find an inner sense of strength and power to overcome.
How do we find our inner mother strength? How do we allow the kind voice of mother to resonate?
Allowing it to be heard. Giving this innate instinct permission to come into being.
Loving in the time of COVID means loving yourself. It’s a process of uncovering the love of the mother within.
A power bigger than you
We think of Mother Nature as some force outside of us; storms, earthquakes, fires and volcanos. Mother Nature does create and destroy. We may view Mother Nature as out there, out of me, out in the world.
Yet the same force is within us. Part of Mother Nature is made into me. The same spark that fuels comets and stars also spark nurturance, unconditional positive regard and knowing support of ourselves. It resides in many forms within all of us, just waiting to be recognized and released.
Throughout nature we see many examples of the objective value of mothering. Mother bears are fierce protectors. Yet she-bears are gentle, considerate and loving toward their cubs. It’s less about unleashing the fierce protection of the mother-bear instincts within and more about discovering your own personal powers of self-care, positive experience and mindful acceptance. They are the personal powers you need to be whole.
Learn to trust and express your own Mother Nature. That’s the healing and healthy power of the internal mother.
Psychotherapist Darden Bynum, M.A., M.S.W. is a licensed clinical social worker in Vancouver, Washington. His telehealth work with survivors of narcissistic abuse and domestic violence spans many years in public and private practice settings. He can be reached at [email protected].