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Can I Learn to be a More Nurturing Person?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Since I can remember, I have had an awful relationship with my mother. I have never really felt love from her, only resentment. I think it May have something to do with the fact that she hates my father for no reason. Anyway in all my adult relationships I have not been able to connect to the other person emotionally. I’ve never seen my mom be a nurturing or caring person and I fear that I have not been able to establish lasting relationships because honestly I don’t know HOW to care for another person. I don’t know HOW to nurture and make people feel like they matter to me. I also have two beautiful children who I don’t want to feel like I don’t care about them because I truly love them with all my heart. so my question to you is am I always going to be disconnected in relationships because of the relationship I have with my mom? or is there someway I can learn to be a more nurturing person?

I’m so glad you wrote. You deserve better. Your children deserve to have the mother you didn’t. You know the expression “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”? Well, it’s true. We are not doomed by our upbringing. We are not programmed to repeat our own negative experiences. One of the most important messages of the positive psychology movement is that we can change how we think and we can learn new ways to inject positivity into our lives.

You need a “nurturance transplant.” You need to replace that part of you that feels like a motherless and neglected child with the core of self-worth we are all born with. This article might help you understand your situation a bit better.

Therapy can help you learn how to nurture yourself and others. Your therapist can help you identify and take in other sources of nurturance and love that are available right now. The more you take in, the more you will be able to give out. The more you give out, the more will come to you. But you need a jumpstart. That’s what therapy is for.

Meanwhile, start treating yourself the way you wish your mother had treated you. Take good care of yourself. Treat yourself with warmth and understanding. Take care of your body and take time every day to think hard about all the positive things in your life. You might find inspiration in Kristin Neff’s book, “Self Compassion.”

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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