Episode 203 | January 14, 2020

Healing Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationship with Karen C.L. Anderson

A Personal Note From Orion

Today, we’re going to talk about a topic that is usually unspoken. It’s almost a taboo. People don’t talk about it a lot, but we all have issues with our parents. If you don’t, you’re amazing. You just won the lottery. But most of us have some issues- some more than others with our parents. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the troubled relationship between mothers and daughters. Mostly awesome, but there are some things that are always in the way. Some triggers from childhood, some unhealthy attachment. It happens. Your parents love you no matter what, you love them no matter what, and there is still some friction sometimes.

To discuss this topic and to shed some light on this topic, I invited Karen C.L. Anderson. She helps women take a compassionate look at the troubled relationships they have with their mothers and/or daughters and guide them to reveal patterns, heal shame, and transform legacies. She’s the author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide for Separation, Liberation & Inspiration and The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal: A Guide For Revealing & Healing Toxic Generational Patterns.

I hope this episode will help you clear your relationship with your mom or at least make it better. It doesn’t happen in a day, sometimes it takes a while, but eventually, when you take a compassionate look and you see beyond the childhood triggers, you can find a place in your heart to love them unconditionally and have a better relationship because they’re your family, they’re your blood and you need them. Everybody needs their parents. I hope this helps.


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About Today’s Show

Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters by Karen C.L. Anderson

Hey Karen, and welcome to Stellar Life podcast. It’s a pleasure having you here.

Great! Thank you!

Before we start, can you share a little bit about yourself?

I’m Karen. I am a writer, an author, an explorer, and I live in Connecticut, I’m 57, I have cats that you might hear meowing, I’m married, I have three step-children and four grandchildren now.

Wow, that’s awesome. I just wanted to know on the topic of this interview and your passion, how did you get to that?

I have a mother. Over the years, our relationship had its ups and downs. I witnessed my mother and her mother’s relationship and the pain and the dysfunction that they experienced. In 2009, I started a blog. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve been a writer my whole career, but up until that point, I had not really written for myself, I hadn’t really explored my own stuff.

At the time, I was struggling with body image, weight, and self-acceptance. I started a blog around that. What was fascinating is that, first of all, it was so helpful just personally. I was doing it for me. Usually, the case with things like that, when we share and do for ourselves, we generally help others if we’re doing it in public, kind of like podcasting.

The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal by Karen C.L. Anderson

The more I explored myself and got to know myself, the strained relationship that I had with my mother became more strained. It was a real struggle. I didn’t really understand why she was so angry. A breaking point occurred where I decided that I didn’t want her in my life anymore. That was at the end of 2010. What has followed since then, I couldn’t have predicted—that’s for sure. But I had gone to therapy, I had done all those things, and I had actually written a book based on my blog that I self-published in 2011.

From there, I started to meet lots of interesting people. I was meeting a lot of other bloggers and life coaches. At the time, I was also doing a lot of freelance trading. I went to an event, I don’t even remember what it was about specifically. I think it was about having an online business or something like that. I remember going to that event and saying, “Just don’t make me become a life coach.”

I came home from the event and what did I do? I went to a life coach school. While I was training to be a life coach (and then subsequent master coach certification), I did so much work on my relationship with my mother. What came out of that, I couldn’t keep it to myself, because a lot of the women that I was meeting and working with had similar stories and similar issues. So, I decided I need to write a book about that. That was the genesis of the work that I do now.

Do you think that the mother-daughter relationship and the challenges of it, is it some kind of unspoken problems that you just brought to the surface and people said, “Oh, my God. Yes, you read my mind,” and, “Yes, I want to share. Yes, I want to learn about it.”

Yes, it’s unspoken. It is a taboo subject, but there are folks out there, especially some of the older ones tend to be written in a more clinical way. They’re written by therapists or psychologists and they’re very helpful, but what I found is that I want to approach it from a less clinical and a more real way and to tell my stories.

The other thing that has been really fascinating to me as I continue to do this work and to write more and learn more, is that when I first started out, I saw this in a micro way, where it’s one daughter and one mother and they’re struggling for whatever reason. A lot of times the daughters are like, “Well, she’s a narcissist or she’s an addict.” All the things that we can say about our mothers.

On a more macro level, what I started to realize is that a lot of the patterns, the dysfunction, the toxicity that occurs between mothers and daughters is really symptomatic of a greater, more cultural thing. That is the fact that women are not valued equally in our culture. That is a pain that women have internalized and they pass that pain down in a lot of different ways. It is a macro thing. It’s not just this mother is a bad mother. It’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s the result of misogyny and weight supremacy, all those that we have.

Do you think that in the past, we didn’t have that problem between mothers and daughters? Or is it like a new awareness and all of a sudden because of the way women are awakening to their own power? In this generation, they have more resentment and it’s harder?

Yes. Again, this is a theory. I’m not a scientist or a researcher, but my gut tells me that if you think about how women were treated, hundreds, thousands of years ago in a variety of different cultures. If a woman fell outside what was considered okay and the norm, what was proper for a woman, if she wasn’t in that narrow definition, she was killed, she was stoned, she was drowned, she was hung. All the things.

Those things still happen, maybe not in the United States and maybe not physically. But women are always being torn down when women step outside of what is considered okay. What I think happens is in the woman’s DNA, we have this fear that when we have a daughter, if we have a daughter, and if she is not okay according to the current standards of what women are supposed to be, she might die.

Again, this is just the conscious thing but in the back of our minds is this fear. And then as you pointed out, as each new generation comes along and we push that envelope, we stand up for ourselves and liberate ourselves, there can be resentment or jealousy for our mother who says, “I didn’t get to have that and I don’t want you to have it either.”

I always say that I wish I was born in the 60s and I wish I went to Woodstock. It seems such a great time in history where this whole excess freedom, revelation, and being a rebel was so much fun.

Healing is taking something that used to be a source of suffering and transforming it into a source of wisdom. Share on X

I was born in the 60s. I did not go to Woodstock, though. I was too young to go to Woodstock.

Maybe I needed to be born in the 50s so I can go. With your mother, what was the trauma there?

My parents got divorced when I was quite young. As I tell stories like this, I’m telling them from the perspective of having healed them, not from the perspective of “Oh, I’m still seeing myself as a victim of this.” We can tell the truth about our experience. That’s what I’m endeavoring to do here. In the first five years of my life, I was very lonely, isolated, and neglected.

Yes, I had shelter, clothing, and food. I wasn’t not cared for but I was very lonely and neglected emotionally. I think that’s my number one wound, I guess you want to call it core wound. Over the course of my life that has shown up in all different kinds of ways with shame at times, being shy, feeling awkward, and thoughts like, “I’m a pathetic loser.”

Your mom was emotionally unavailable? What happened at the age of five? Because the first five years of your life and then something changed?

Yeah. She and my dad got divorced when I was two. She had to go to work. I didn’t have siblings or other families around. It was hard on her, I’m sure. When I was five, she got remarried to a man who was addicted and violent. She also has a violent streak as well. It wasn’t safe.

The general sense now that I am older and removed from it, and have created a very different life for myself, I see that I lived in a lot of chaos and not knowing when I’m safe or not. It’s not like I’m pointing my finger at my mother and saying she did all these horrible things. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I was in my 20s and 30s that our relationship became more obvious to me and that’s when we started to butt heads because, up until that point, I just wanted to be a good girl and wanted mommy to be happy.

What developed out of that childhood? What were the core beliefs? How did you see yourself?

I think one of the thoughts that I was unconscious to but that I was living from is that—I say this jokingly, but it sounds terrible—I am a pathetic loser. I didn’t have much confidence. I was shy and hesitant. I didn’t do great in school. I didn’t fail but I didn’t thrive. I wasn’t excited and curious to learn, careful, always getting by.

Check your relationship with your mother and find out if you are struggling with unhealthy codependency.

Then, the 20s and 30s you confronted your mom and you butt heads. What did you discover? What type of conversations did you have that made you say, “Okay, this is it”?

That didn’t really happen. The real butting of heads didn’t start until I was in my 40s. We had some butting of heads but part of the unhealthiness of our relationship when I was in the 20s and 30s was that she wanted me to be her best friend. At that point, she was single and in my 20s, this would’ve been in the early 80s. She and I would go out to bars together, go dancing, and meet men.

In hindsight, I can see that it was unhealthy. It was like we were unhealthily attached. I think she believed that I was responsible for how she felt, and I believed that she was responsible for how I felt, and vice versa. In psychological terms, they call that enmeshment and it’s also related to codependence.

You asked what was the result of growing up the way I did. Another thing I think about myself is that I was a late bloomer. It took me longer to grow up and individually go out on my own. As I started to flex those muscles a little bit, that’s when she would get angry. She didn’t like it when I wanted to do my own thing.

You were fulfilling more roles than a daughter.


You were a friend, you were in some way, shape, or form a partner, somebody to fill the gap.


That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one daughter.

It happens, though. The more I learn, the more I understand just how widespread the trauma is. When I say trauma, I don’t necessarily mean car accidents and wars, but that low level, small tee emotional trauma. I think we have on some level, in a variety of different continuum, traumatized people raising traumatized people.

What do you do to break this cycle? Because it seems like everybody is traumatized. Everybody has something that freaked them out, something that created this terrible self-image. It’s like a dysfunctional family through generations now. What do we do to break that cycle? I guess the first step is to recognize it. How do you recognize that you have enmeshment or codependency with your parent and how do you recognize it? How do you see it? It seems like you lived for decades without even noticing it because it was such a second nature or this was the reality?

Your emotions, whether it’s anger, joy, shame or happiness, are your body’s messengers and they’re all valid. Share on X

I love the analogy of seeing that it’s a fish living in the water. The fish doesn’t know it’s in water. You have to take yourself out of the water and then you’re like, “Oh.” For me, it was being out in the world and being away from my mother, meeting other people, noticing that something is different, I don’t feel like I am as happy as I could be, or as content or as peaceful.

You asked what is the sign of that codependence is a lot of times reactivity. Your mother says something and you blow up or you cry. Everything she does you see yourself as causing the problem or being part of the problem. You’re not taking responsibility for your emotions and she’s not taking responsibility for hers. It’s like, “She made me feel that way,” or, “She’s pissing me off,” or “She’s making me upset,” or, “If she didn’t do that, then I wouldn’t feel this way.” To me, that was my personal experience of starting to notice. I’ve given up on my power to my mother. 

And I bet that when you gained your power, your mother didn’t like it.

No! She did not. When you change the dance, when you change the steps or the music to the dance, it can cause them awkwardness.

Talking about awkwardness, what does she think about this work that you do in the world?

Let me back up, at the end of 2010, something happened, I told her that I didn’t want to ever talk to her again. Interestingly, it was about a year after that, her mother was still alive at the time and in her 90s. She’s getting older and frailer and had dementia, my grandmother’s three children, all lived far away. I lived close. I was asked to be her legal guardian. I became my grandmother’s guardian in all ways, financial, health care, etc.

Because of that, I was required by law to be in contact with her children, her heirs, and to report to them. At that point, I was having contact with my mother, but only in regards to her mother. At times, my mother would ask me, “What are you going to do to fix our relationship?” At that time, 2011–2013, in that time frame I was doing the life coach training. I was learning all kinds of tools to manage my mind and to manage my life.

If you know some of those tools, you know that when you learn these things and they’re new to you, you want to try them out on everybody. Sometimes you do that not very elegantly. My mother didn’t appreciate it. What was interesting is that I didn’t really know if she knew what I was doing. I knew that she used to read my blog and that she didn’t like it.

Of course, she didn’t.

It wasn’t about her, at that point. Before it was about her. I’m careful about what I write. That was part of my own healing. I guess, it was to learn how to tell the truth without making people suffer.

I guarantee that she doesn’t love it, but over the years, we’ve been able to have conversations, with excellent boundaries, and that has made a lot of difference. We’re not super close, but I think that there’s mutual respect. I feel a lot more love and compassion for her than I used to. It’s interesting.

Keep going on your journey to self-discovery.

One of the chapters in my book is entitled, Living in Either-Or Land. I know a lot of women feel this way. We want to love our mothers but what our experience of “love” isn’t positive. It’s having not nice conversations and her being critical, or if I love her then she’s going to take advantage of me, and I’m going to have to roll over and let her do what she wants. It feels like either I have to love her and be in that not comfortable role, or I have to hate her.

You cannot love her and still have boundaries.

But you can.

You can but the illusion is that you can’t. That it’s either-or. It’s either I’m her servant and I lose my own identity to what she wants or I’m just going to turn my back to my mother and just be my own person. It’s either-or, but actually, you found that there is another way which is a safer way to live where you respect your boundaries and still have respect for your mother without blaming, shaming, and pointing finger.

I think the most empowering thing that we can do is take responsibility for our lives. The moment we put all our pain and suffering on somebody else, whether it’s a mother, a father, or a partner, and we say, “They caused me to feel this way,” we are losing our power. We don’t have the freedom, we don’t have the self-esteem to say, “I took a part of it.”

You took a part of going out to the bars with your mother, you took a part in those arguments, you were a willing participant in that dance. The moment you own that fact that you were a willing participant in that dance and you take responsibility, then there is no either-or, there is a new path.

There is always another solution beyond what we can see, if we just expand our horizon. Like you said, sometimes you cannot do it alone. You have to go out there in the world, you have to learn tools because we are not taught those self-help tools, we are not taught how to take care of ourselves. They have more awareness in this day and age. Especially in our circles but still, we got a lot of work to do.

I think that a lot of times when people talk to me, they have questions about the work I do. Sometimes, they think it’s like, “Oh, your mother,” not my specific mother, but one’s mother must have done horrible things. Like she did this or she did that, or things she may have said to you. Yes, those can be things to work on, but oftentimes, it’s what they modeled for us that was unhealthy.

As you said, we weren’t taught how to have healthy boundaries. Our mothers didn’t know how to have healthy boundaries. Of course, we didn’t know how.

When you took care of your grandmother, what did you learn about their relationship that gave you this ‘aha’ moment, of like, “Oh, I see this pattern in my life now as well.”

So much. It was such an amazing experience. Earlier in our conversation, I mentioned to my stepmother, I never wanted children. It’s just I never had the desire. The more that I have gotten to know my grandmother and my mother, I suspect that may have been the case for them, too. That maybe they didn’t want children or didn’t want them as quickly as they had them, because back then that’s what she did, you didn’t know you had a choice or if you thought you had a choice, it wasn’t an option.

A lot of the history women had to deal with affects the pain they are going through today. Years of inequality, abuse, and oppression have shaped today’s generation, but there is still hope in changing all of that. Share on X

The most fascinating thing that I learned was after my grandmother, I had to move her out of her home and into a skilled nursing facility because she couldn’t live there anymore. I had to clean out her house and sell it. I discovered a treasure trove of letters between her and my mother. Going back to when my mom was in the late 50s and when she went to college.

Those letters just opened up my eyes in ways that hadn’t been opened before. There were some things I knew. Even as I’ve gotten older, I’ll never forget the day, I was probably in my early 20s and I remember my mom standing outside at the mailbox and she had a letter in her hand that she was going to put in the mailbox, and she’s like, “I’m divorcing grandma!” It’s funny, because then when I saw the letters that my grandmother had saved, I found that letter. There’s so much pain.

What are some specific things that you saw in those letters that were a mirror image of what was happening in your relationship with your mother?

A lot of finger-pointing, a lot of criticism, a lot of, “You did this. You did that. Don’t tell me what to do. Do as I say and not as I do.” Just a lot of criticism, hypocrisy, blame, judgment, being very harshly judgmental of each other. But underneath it, there’s so much pain. I think not being able to live the life that they wanted to live. And maybe not even knowing what life is that they wanted to live, but having to live it anyway.

With mother-daughter attachment, it can show in many ways. It can be that distant, narcissistic mother, but it can also look like an overbearing mother. The one that never lets you go, the one that does everything for you. What are the types of attachments that you’ve noticed working with so many people?

I don’t know if I would use that language. I know that attachment theory is a thing and I could pull out a book and read about it.

Let’s call it codependency.

No, but what you said, it’s interesting, I actually have worked with mothers. At one point, it was funny. I had a client who was young enough to be my daughter, I had a client who was my age, and then I had a client who was old enough to be my mother.

And she was working on her relationship with her daughter. That gave me so much hope because here is this older woman who is choosing to wake up and be aware. We often think of older people as too late for them.

Accept that there is no perfect relationship. The best thing you can do for each other is to keep trying and give each other space to grow.

No, it’s never too late.


It’s an illusion.

What you just described, her daughter’s boundary with her was that she didn’t want her mother to contact her unless the daughter initiated it. The daughter would send a text just on Mondays. The mother was like, “But I want more.” Through our work together, I discovered that the mother was sort of like over giver, and that was a burden on the daughter. The daughter didn’t want all of that. I got lots and lots of mixed messages. It was impacting the daughter’s romantic relationship.

Almost choking her with love.

Yes. Another thing I see often is the helpless needy mom, who can’t really take care of herself, maybe her husband has died, or they’re divorced, or he’s sick and the mother is just constantly manipulating in order to have her needs met. She doesn’t know how to ask directly. It’s this needy, so the daughter often feels guilty because she doesn’t want to have to take care of her mom in that way. Then there’s the overbearing hypocritical, can’t-do-anything-right mother. Not to mention personality disorders like narcissism and borderline, and then addicted mothers.

What are the steps for healing?

Number one, awareness. Number two, asking how do I want to feel? What do I want to believe? How do I want to take care of myself? It’s a lot of self-reflection. It’s about always bringing it back to you and the choices that you can make. It’s learning how to tell the truth and stand on your story.

I was telling my story earlier and saying some things happened when I was a kid that wasn’t ideal. Things that hurt. I still choose to grieve some of those things today, I need to do that. I can do that without keeping myself in a position like, “Oh poor me, I’m a victim. I’ll be a victim forever. My life is doomed because my parents got divorced and I was a lonely child.”

It’s extraordinary how this little five-year-old kid is running our lives even in our 40s, 50s, 60s. The trauma was what? 40 years ago and it’s still running our lives. We need to nip it in the bud, we need to heal it, we need to take care of ourselves because nothing will change. When you change, the world around you changes. When you change your perspective, when you change your attitude, when you change your intention, the people around you will change whether you want it or not because it’s a ripple effect. When you have the dominant mindset, you will affect the people around you. The key is you take responsibility for your own suffering and you create this awareness of—I love those questions—how do I want to feel? How do I want to take care of myself?

And taking care of yourself doesn’t mean that you’re selfish. If it is, then be selfish because being selfish in that way is a beautiful thing. When you go on an airplane, they say, put on your own oxygen mask first because if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your mother, daughter, or anybody else around you. You have to take the time to think to take care of yourself.

One of the things I like to talk about is the word heal and what that means. My definition of healing is that you take something that used to be a source of suffering and you transform it into something that is now a source of wisdom. Before, I said I have a thought and it runs through my head from time to time, which is, “I’m a pathetic loser.” I used to think I have to get rid of that. I can’t ever think that again. It’s impossible to turn your brain off.

It’s like saying don’t think about the pink elephant that is dancing.

Yeah. What we can do, I think part of the healing—this is another step—is we change our relationship to our thoughts. Curiosity and fascination with ourselves is another step. Compassion for ourselves, instead of beating ourselves up like, “Oh gosh, I can’t get rid of this thought. I’m doomed if I can’t get rid of this.” It requires a level of curiosity and being willing to go, “Aha, there I go again. There is my head. There is my silly brain thinking that I’m a pathetic loser. Gosh, isn’t it fascinating how my brain works?”

I think another so important step—this is again something that we were taught for a variety of reasons and I think it’s a cultural problem, I think it’s the cause of trauma—is the fact that we’ve disconnected ourselves from our bodies. We don’t understand that our emotions, whether it’s anger or joy or shame or happiness, all of the emotions, they have messages for us and they’re all valid, but we’ve been disconnected, we don’t have time for you to be sad right now.

Being able to tap into how it feels when we have one of those chronic pernicious thoughts about ourselves, like, “I’m a pathetic loser.” You want to be able to dive into how painful that is and feel that pain and then, this is what I often call remothering. It’s the holding space for the child in us that still feels shame. You can have the compassion, you can take yourself on to your own lap, and have that curiosity and compassion for that part of yourself that still goes there. Just as I’m describing it to you, I am feeling literally in my body. I’m feeling this wonderful feeling of expansion. That’s like learning that we can literally create an emotion in our bodies. That’s where our power lies.

And experience all our emotions because if somebody comes and tells you, “You’re too emotional.” Just say, “Thank you.” Because my emotions are my canvass. They’re my guide to what I want and what I don’t want. If I have an emotion, then I need to express it because if we don’t express your emotions, then they get locked in your body, you get issues in your issues, you can get the disease later on in life. That’s because all the emotions were concealed and not dealt with.

I’m a believer in feeling all our emotions and then releasing our emotions through dance, through movement, through bodywork, through healing, through going out in nature, through spending time in the water, either if it’s a day spa or the ocean. I just think that we really need through our body because we are physical like Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We are physical. Our physicality and our spirituality are so connected. We need to take care of our bodies in order to release those emotions as well as do the brainy work.

Mothers are humans who commit mistakes too. Nobody is perfect and everyone has their own share of trauma. Share on X

Something that just thrills me is knowing that science and spirituality are becoming one and understanding the wisdom of the body and the emotions. The feminine are equal to and can work so well with the brain. But right now, we’re in this masculine energy dominated. It’s all about intellect and thought, and we have been disconnected from that wisdom that our emotions have for us.

When it comes to the brainy side, we need to question our beliefs. As you said, you don’t get rid of, “I feel abandoned, or I feel like a loser, or I feel like I’m not good enough.” It will come back at times, even when you’re mega-successful, even when you think you arrived. It will come back because with every expansion, those limiting self-beliefs pop again.

One thing that I really like is the work from Byron Katie, where you actually question your thoughts and you use four questions. Say, “I am a loser.” You ask is that true? How do you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react when you believe that thought? And who would you be without that thought? I feel like those four questions are so liberating. Sometimes I don’t like asking myself those questions because I like to connect to my drama and being my sorrow. I want to feel bad right now.

Don’t we all?

When you take the time to ask yourself those questions, you see that those limiting beliefs are not true. Who would you be without those thoughts is the most liberating question because, without those thoughts, you have infinite possibilities. You are not locked in your own cage that you put yourself into. You are free.

The thing that I’m happy about is that I see this movement happening where we’re not focused on just always being happy but about embracing all of our emotions and recognizing that as human beings, we are designed and built to feel all the feelings. It’s just that we haven’t been taught how to handle them and how to extract the wisdom from them, and respond instead of reacting. I don’t think it’s about never feeling anger or shame again. It’s noticing, “Oh gosh. I’m feeling the shame in my body. What’s going on here? What happened? What am I making it mean? How can I take care of myself now?”

It’s almost like a gift that you’re not using, your emotions. If you feel anger or shame or blame and you don’t do that process of sitting with yourself and really listening to the emotion, what’s the reason for it, where is it in your body and allowing yourself to feel it not for a long time, not to get all depressed for weeks, just feel it for an hour, two hours, 24 hours, and let it guide you because the only way to the other side is through those emotions. Those emotions are your guides and you want to use them. If you shove your emotions all the time, you’ll never learn anything from your emotions.

Absolutely, I 100% agree. Part of what I write about is that this isn’t about never feeling anger again. Yes, you’re going to feel frustrated, you’re going to feel irritated, you’re going to have those moments where—

You just need to cry.

You just need to cry. Life is 50/50. That to me is living wholly, as a whole human being, not just as a shell of a human being who just smiles all the time. One of my favorite quotes by Carl Jung is, “I would rather be whole than good.”

Nice. I love that.

There is so much richness in all of our experiences.

I have a personal question for you. I’m a new mom to a three-month old adorable baby boy. I don’t want to mess him up. I want to be a good mother. I do my best. I have been through my own journey of self-development and try to be better every day. But what are some key things that I can do to give him a wholesome childhood?

Harness the ability to take what happened to you in the past, and transform it into greater wisdom, depth and authentic love. Share on X

Let him feel his feelings. It’s so funny you say that, I just actually saw something on social media somewhere. Attached to it was a video of a little two-year-old. I don’t know if it was a girl or a boy, I couldn’t tell, sitting, the father was there. The two-year-old little child was not having a good time. Crying, upset, angry, flailing a little bit, just having a meltdown. The father sat there with the child on the floor, didn’t try to stop the child, didn’t try to make it better, didn’t try to convince the child that he/she should stop crying, didn’t leave the child alone. He just sat with the child as the child was having this experience.

You could watch the child as he/she worked through the emotions. At times would come back to the father and fling himself at the father and the father would hold on and hug him and then the child would pull away again. There was no judgment, and no taking it personally. It was like this child is going through a process of feeling his feelings and I’m going to let him. Within minutes, the child calms down and snuffling, taking some deep breaths, hugging the dad. And then it was over.

I had that experience last night when my baby was crying. I just felt like he was just frustrated. He wanted to cry, he wanted to release some tension. We had the babysitter come over and we didn’t have her for a long time, I just feel like he felt the separation anxiety. I knew it. I felt like his cry is him trying to just release his emotions. I just sat with him and I tell him, “Yes, yes.” I used the same tone of voice, “Yes, I know, I know. I know you feel bad and that’s okay. That’s okay. You can cry, you can cry.” He cried and he cried, then I hugged him, and then finally he was okay and he went to bed.

I feel like sometimes we have so many methods of shushing our children, swaddling them, and make them feel better, but sometimes, even the tiniest babies, they just need to cry because of birth drama, because it’s hard to be a baby, because they have gas pain. You have to let them just cry and that’s okay.

The other thing that I think is so important is understanding that today, mothers are doing such important work and they’re doing it relatively isolated. It didn’t use to be that mothers lived in a house by themselves with children.

It used to be the village, like the mother, the sisters. I come from a culture where the family lives nearby and it is like a community. Here in the US, especially we moved to another location, I do feel like this isolation on, “Oh, I have to do it on my own.” That’s pretty hard.

It’s very hard. There’s so much pressure to be the perfect mom. I think that’s one way to not mess up your kids is to constantly be willing to forgive yourself for not doing it right. And also, continuing to do your own healing work and to be aware of your…


I don’t even want to call them shortcomings. The places where you’re not as comfortable. To expect that no kid grows up unscathed.

Right. You do your best and something will happen and they will have to do their own work. There is a concept in Kabbalah called Tikkun where every soul comes to this earth to have this correction, to work on something. Whatever will be, the soul chose the parent. Your soul chose your mother because you had something to work on. You had this journey to bring this light to the world and helping heal others. If you didn’t experience what you experience, you didn’t have that gift of struggling for years, you couldn’t be here now on the podcast and help somebody who’s listening right now to heal their own relationship with their mother.

Yeah. I think when we do our own work, whether we have children or not, we are a role model. You taking care of yourself in this way, is a way to help him learn how to do the same thing. It’s like you’re modeling healthy behavior as healthy as you can.

Karen, thank you so much. Before we say goodbye (and this was an extraordinary conversation), my first question is, where can people find you and get your book?

The easiest way to do that is to go to my website, which is kclanderson.com. From there, there are links to all my books and you can sign up to get my weekly newsletter. Today, I actually wrote about boundaries, I send out my newsletter on Thursdays and I love sending out my newsletter. It’s my favorite way to communicate with my people.

Nice. What are your three top tips for living a stellar life?

Notice, feel compassion, and laugh. My answer might be different on another day, but that’s what came to me today.

Nice. I love that. Thank you so much. Notice what?

Everything. Everything you can notice.

Just be aware.

Yeah, be aware. Open your eyes, wake up.

Nice. Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

I appreciate you too, Orion. Thank you so much.

Thank you. And thank you, listeners. Remember to notice, feel compassion, and laugh. And have a stellar life. This is Orion, until next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓} Check your relationship with your mother and find out if you are struggling with unhealthy codependency. Sometimes people fail to notice there’s something wrong when a situation is the only thing they know. 
{✓} Continue your journey to self-discovery. You and your mother are two unique human beings with different views and opinions. 
{✓} Accept that there is no perfect relationship. The best thing you can do for each other is to keep trying and give each other space to grow.  
{✓} Work on mending trauma together by keeping your communication open and respectful. Seek counseling if necessary. 
{✓} Don’t hold back emotions until it’s too much to handle for you. It’s okay to be sad, angry, or ashamed. What matters is that you deal with your emotions appropriately and not dwell in them for too long.  
{✓} Create healthy boundaries between you and your mother. It’s okay to say “no” sometimes, especially when you feel like you’re giving too much.
{✓} See your mom as a person and not just a mother as well. Huge expectations are usually put upon them that it’s easily forgotten they’re humans too who make mistakes.  
{✓} Avoid delimiting beliefs that can taint how you see yourself and the world. Always remind yourself that you are enough and that you are doing your best, especially during difficult times.
{✓} Invest in spending time and nurturing good relationships with your loved ones. This is the best investment you can ever have. 
{✓} Grab a copy of Karen C.L. Anderson’s book, Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration.

Links and Resources

About Karen C.L. Anderson

Karen C.L. Anderson helps women take a compassionate look at the troubled relationships they have with their mothers and/or daughters and guides them to reveal patterns, heal shame, and transform legacies. She is the author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters, A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration and The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal: A Guide For Revealing & Healing Toxic Generational Patterns.

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