I knew that if I ever wanted to have a relationship with her, I had to put it all out on the table.
I became a relationship coach to help understand and accept my own relationship hang-ups, most of which can be traced back to my relationship with my mother. Infants need lots of touch and holding in order to develop what psychologists call "secure attachment." I was one of those children who was deprived of that. While it is true that Mom (now deceased) was one of the sweetest, most supportive mothers I know, she was also shy about her body and uncomfortable with physical touch.
Since I didn't get that nurturing touch from Mom, I grew up feeling like I always wanted "more" in my relationships with men. I think a lot of us feel something like this—a deep inner sense that something is missing, that either you're somehow lacking or your partner is.
By the time I was 35, I had pretty much come to terms with my insecure attachment—except for one thing. I realized that something was still missing in my adult relationship with my mother. There was a vague sort of awkwardness and distance between us—like there were things left unsaid.
Many personal development paths—such as Landmark, Gestalt, Getting Real and Radical Honesty—recommend that in order to become free of your past unfinished emotional business, you must "complete" your relationship with your parents. When I first learned that many people feel more empowered and confident after doing a "completion process" with a parent, I knew I had to try this—first with Mom and maybe later with Dad.
So I called Mom, who was already quite elderly and frail, saying I wanted to come for a visit (a five-hour airplane ride) to discuss some feelings and insights I wanted to share about our relationship.
"I think if we can talk together about the things in our early relationship that were painful or frustrating, we will probably wind up feeling closer," I said.
She agreed that this would be a good thing. Then, she added with a touch of humor, "Are you going to tell me off?" I reassured her that it wasn't my intention, but that I expected we'd both feel some discomfort, because we were used to always being nice.
When the day came for our meeting, I started by re-stating that I wanted to clear the air so we could feel more relaxed and close, to share some feelings I was carrying so I could get over them. She seemed to be listening, but she looked skeptical ... maybe even afraid. I couldn't tell which. I reassured her, saying that I appreciated her for being so open. "I'd like to just talk uninterrupted for a little bit," I said. "And then when I'm done, I'd like to hear anything you want to say." Keep reading ...
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