Issue 100 –
Where Has Love Gone: Part 5
The Disapproving Mother
Hal & Sidra Stone
Few subpersonalities can strike terror in the heart of a man as well as the disapproving mother when she appears in her most virulent form. One look from her cold, disapproving eyes and the strongest, most self-assured man will crumble. He may well reconstitute quickly and bring forth some power side, but, underneath, his child has been struck down quite effectively.
When the disapproving mother makes her appearance, there is a withdrawal of love energy, and in its place is a pitiless judge. This disapproving mother, however, is often present in a much milder form. Basically, in primary relationships, the disapproving mother is to the man what the withdrawn father is to the woman. The withdrawn father can usually turn a woman into a needy daughter while the disapproving mother can usually turn a man into an awkward, bumbling son.
Let us see how Laura’s disapproving mother, who is of the milder variety, affects Sam.
Laura is a bit of a perfectionist, as were her parents. She likes things done “the right way” and believes in appropriate behavior and good manners. She has raised her children to be ladies and gentlemen, and she is basically disapproving of anyone who is thoughtless, unmannerly or, as she would see it, vulgar.
However, Laura is not a total prig. She has begun her own consciousness process and is not fully identified with her perfectionist any longer. She has even developed a sense of humor about her perfectionistic tendencies and her demands for others to also be beyond reproach. But Laura’s disapproving mother, although much modified, is not totally out of the picture.
A great deal of Laura’s change in consciousness has come about as a result of her marriage to Sam. Sam is more relaxed about these matters. He realizes that nobody is perfect and so he does not have perfectionistic demands upon himself. He appreciates people for who they are and is not particularly impressed with how they behave. He has helped Laura move beyond her concern with the superficial and into a deeperappreciation of the whole person.
Now, we must be quite clear about this – Sam is no slob! He, too, has been raised in a family where he was taught manners. In fact, his mother was a bit more like Laura than it might first appear. His mother, too, had a need for Sam to be a gentleman and a credit to her. So, although Sam is not as preoccupied with appearance or manners as Laura, he is usually appropriate in his behavior. Also, since he has been with Laura, he has begun to pay a bit more attention in these areas and his behavior at the table, in particular, is generally quite fine and does not create any problems for anyone.
One day Laura is particularly tired and feeling a bit overwhelmed. She comes home from work, and Sam is not there to greet her and help her prepare dinner as he usually does. He has had to stay late at work to finish off with a client. Laura is feeling particularly vulnerable because of her exhaustion and, as we have seen so often in our bonding patterns, she ignores her vulnerability and pushes herself forward. She fixes dinner and has it ready for Sam when he arrives home. But, by the time Sam arrives home, it is not Laura but a disapproving mother who greets him at the door.
Laura is not aware that her disapproving mother has taken over; she just notices that Sam needs a haircut and that his shoes need shining. (His hair and shoes had looked fine that morning.) As she looks further, she thinks that his trousers could use a pressing and that the shirt is not quite to her taste. She does not say anything, but by now Sam is feeling uncomfortable and he does not know why. He just feels wrong. By the time they sit down at the table, they are in a full energetic bonding pattern.
At the dinner table, a strange thing starts tohappen. Sam, who has been feeling a bit uncomfortable, becomes more and more awkward. He seems to have trouble keeping his food on his fork, he spills the sauce on his shirt, he slurps his soup, and he seems to get crumbs on his face with each mouthful. He gets more and more uncomfortable as Laura and her daughter (who, by now, has also become a disapproving mother) watch incredulously.
Not a word is spoken. Sam becomes more and more awkward and bumbling and Laura and her daughter become more and more disapproving. The meal continues in silence and discomfort for everyone until Laura finally says, “Could you please stop slurping your soup? I can’t stand it.” Sam, switching from awkwrd son to rebellious son, says, “Will you please stop telling me what to do! You two are a real pain at the table. I don’t like eating with you” and he leaves the table.
Later that evening, when the intensity of the bonding pattern has lessened, Sam and Laura try to figure out what had happened. They have learned that these patterns can be teachers. They realize, not without amusement, that when Laura’s disapproving mother takes over, Sam has no place to move energetically but into the awkward, bumbling son. Although he is perfectly adequate most of the time, when this son takes over, it’s good-bye to any semblance of self confidence, grace, or adequacy. In retrospect, the picture of him at the table dropping food on himself as Laura and her daughter get more and more disapproving is very funny, and they have a good laugh. When this all was actually happening and the bonding pattern was in full force, it was not quite so funny.