The Angry Mother

Just as the child's phobias emanate from its anger and wishes towards its mother, so do the mother's fears evolve from her anger and wishes towards the child. Parents of young children invariably experience anger toward their children. Children, who can, at times, be whiney, rageful, and demanding, often produce feelings of helplessness, frustration, and exhaustion in parents. This, in turn, will make parents very angry. The question now becomes "What does the parent do with the anger?"

We can illustrate the recommended healthy way of dealing with anger as opposed to the potentially phobia producing denial of the anger. This can be seen in the case of two mothers who have infants who were diagnosed with colic, a milk intolerance digestive disorder, which causes excruciating pain. The colicky child may sleep for twenty minutes and scream for two hours. Needless to say, the mothers will likewise experience sleep deprivation. After many days of disrupted sleep, having been awakened by a screaming infant, both mothers are exhausted, frustrated, and irritable. After being awakened for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night, both mothers might experience the impulse to smash the child against a wall.

Mother number one, who we will call the healthy mother, will say, "Oh, you little stinker. You finally got to me". She will then gently put the baby down, walk into the bedroom and nudge her husband and say, "Hey, buddy, your turn. I need a break. We need to get some help." This mother is able to vent her anger, both at the child, and her husband. She is able to deal with it in the moment and, therefore, it does not build up.

Mother number two, on the other hand, is so frightened and guilt ridden by her impulse to smash the child, that she instantly represses the anger. The next day, she finds she constantly walks into the infant's room to "check the baby." Her mother, her sister, or her friend will ask her why she has to check the baby so often, and she will reply, "You know about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)." This mother is now beginning to manifest the beginnings of a phobia regarding the baby's health and safety. Since she repressed and internalized her anger at the baby, it continued build up. The denial of her wish to smash the child and stop it from crying became the basis for her fear of something happening to the baby. This fear, if unchecked, will become more intense and will generalize as the child becomes older. This mother will tend to hover over the child to protect it from the harm which she unconsciously wished on him as an infant.

I have treated many overprotective mothers who were unable to let their children experience the challenges of the normal developmental stages which children go through in order to become independent adults. These parents actually stunt their child's emotional growth. The child may either become clingy or become a rebellious adolescent, who has to fight the mother in order to gain his own autonomy.

It is obvious that the significant difference between the two mothers was in the ability to recognize and accept the fact that, just as all children become angry with all parents, so do parents become angry with all children. The difference is in how we deal with the anger.

copyright 2007 - Dr. Gerard Bomse - All Rights Reserved - duplication and re-publishing prohibited without consent from Dr. Bomse (