EQI.org Home | Emotionally Needy Mothers


Emotionally Needy Mothers
Role reversal

One day in Bulgaria I was talking to a mother and her 15 year old daughter who I will call Desi. Just then the daughter received a call on her cell phone. After she finished she and her mother got into a bit of an argument. At one point the daughter shouted, "But I miss her!". Then she started to cry.

The mother sat there with a cold, disapproving look on her face. She let the daughter cry alone. Because I knew the mother well I asked if I could tell her how I would feel if someone were talking t me the way the mother had been talking to her daughter. The mother agreed. I told her I would feel invalidated and not understood. I would feel uncared for and alone if I were left there to cry without anyone giving me a hug. At this point the mother got very defensive. She started attacking me verbally. Among other things she said "It is easy for you to be a father for a day!" She also said that she had many problems and was under a lot of stress. She said I didn't understand and that no one understood. Then she put her head down on the desk and started to cry.

I just put my arm on her shoulder and listened while she cried. Then I gave her a small hug. In a minute or two she apologized and I told her that it is true that I don't understand all the details and asked if she wanted to help me understand. It was clear that the mother did not want her daughter to spend time with her friend, Maria. The daughter, meanwhile told me that Maria used to be her best friend, but now they have grown apart and hardly have any time alone together to really talk like they used to.

I asked the mother to explain why she felt so strongly about Maria. I asked her to give me some examples. One example was that one day a few years ago the mother had made plans with her daughter to meet her downtown for 30 minutes. The mother said she really wanted to spend time with her daughter. But as it happens, Maria had called her daughter just before they were supposed to meet. Then she went to meet her mother on the street as planned, but she only said "I can't meet with you now. I am going to go talk to Maria." Then she hurried away. I asked the mother how she felt and she told me she felt unimportant and abandoned.

I felt encouraged the mother could identify these specific feelings. But I told both her and the daughter that it was not the daughter's job to fill the mothers need to feel important or to help her avoid feeling abandoned. I said to the daughter,"These are things your grandparents needed to do, but did not." I told the daughter that for the mother to expect her to fill the mother's unmet childhood emotional needs was role reversal.

The mother agreed with me.

Then she apologized to her daughter and said "I love you", the daughter accepted her apology immediately and they hugged each other and cried.

For me, this was a real breakthrough.

S. Hein
Feb 26, 2008

(Some facts have been slightly changed to protect the mother's identity.)

EQI.org Home Page

Core Components of EQI.org

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

EQI.org Library and Bookstore

Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org