By Laura Herndon
Hollywood depicts “mommy issues” as the product of some pretty outlandish circumstances.
Whether watching “Mommy Dearest” caused our subconscious aversion to wire hangers, “Psycho’s” Norman Bates has turned us into our mothers, “mommy issues” in popular culture definitely influence us.
But what happens when we leave the movie theater and come back to reality?
What exactly are “mommy issues” and how do they affect us?
Personally, I had a tumultuous childhood, and my relationship with my mother has affected me in many ways as an adult woman. Over the years, I’ve spoken with therapists and they all agree that “mommy issues” begin with attachment styles.
There are four attachment types: secure, avoidant, anxious, and anxious-avoidant. Essentially, depending upon how your mom met your emotional needs in infancy and early childhood, you’ll either develop loving, trusting relationships in adulthood, or your insecure attachment could present itself as “mommy issues.”
If we all had June Cleaver as a mother, we wouldn’t be reading this, but none of our moms were perfect. Consequently, we carry a few issues into our dating lives in adulthood.
What ‘mommy issues’ look like in our adult lives:
1. Trust issues.
I went through my first heartache at 18 when my cheating boyfriend broke up with me. I felt devastated, but my mom didn’t understand why I was so sad. She broke into my diary, found out I’d had sex, and then proceeded to tell me I was stupid.
In retrospect, the reason I hadn’t told her about my issues with my boyfriend was that I didn’t trust her with my feelings. When we can’t trust the women who gave us life with our most sacred emotions, we’ll have trust issues in our relationships.
2. Difficulty expressing emotions.
My mom didn’t model appropriate emotional expression for me, which has taken a lot of time and therapy for me to even be able to say. I used to go to great lengths to keep her from becoming angry with me and basically turned myself into a “people pleaser.”
Because I walked on those maternal eggshells, I have a great deal of anxiety when I need to express my needs and emotions. When I do, I fear rejection or even abandonment.
3. Acting like our moms.
Over the years, I’ve caught myself acting in ways that are just like my mom.
While the great qualities she instilled in me, like being an avid reader, are traits I’ll treasure forever, people have also told me that my bad habits mirror my mom’s, too.
But besides her killer cheekbones, there are very few things I want to inherit from my mother. As we grow up, we see how our mama reacted to stressors, and we subconsciously mimic her, for better or worse.
4. Hiding our reality from our moms.
As I grew up, my mom’s running joke was that I would enter law school because I loved arguing with her so much. But later on, she refused to accept that I couldn’t actually afford law school on my own?
My mom is always supportive of my dreams, but she rarely supports my reality. As a result, I often hide important details of my life from her.
My mom’s attitude made me scared to have lofty goals because she threw my ability to accomplish them into question.
5. Not knowing what healthy relationships look like.
I don’t blame my mom for not teaching me about healthy relationships. As an adult, though, I don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like.
I am slowly learning to see healthy love in my friendships, family, and relationship with my son. And now I’m determined to break the generational cycle of unhealthy relationships.
Although pop culture often poses “mommy issues” as a joke, they’re very real and affect more people than we might think — myself included.
If you have “mommy issues,” though, have hope. Therapy and forgiveness have taken me a long way towards resolving my “mommy issues,” and with time, you’ll find a solution to your “mommy issues,” too.
Anna Laura Herndon is a writer, advocate, and creator of Rants of a Virgo, an essay site. She writes about love, relationships, LGBTQ+ issues, and current events.
This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.