Many times, we tend to focus on the father son relationship and usually, the ills of a man are blamed on the relationship with his estranged father. But I think the mother son relationship is also critical and understated. So I’ve decided to express my thoughts on it; more specifically, the effect that a controlling, emotionally dominating mother can have on a son. Its a multi-part series but please enjoy this first entry and feel free to add your own ideas to the conversation. I think its something that many males face and its heartbreaking.
What is this relationship?
Some mother son relationships can be a mix of toxicity and love, control and care, oppression of thought mixed with freedom from responsibility, love at a price. The chains of emotional bondage welded to the mind and the heart from the tender years of childhood growing stronger with time to the point of being accepted as normal and healthy; to the point that even the son’s natural instincts are dull to the toxicity.
An emotionally destroyed son cannot simply break these seeming indestructible chains of bondage. In fact, he craves the security and warmth of the mother’s affection. Why venture out into the outside world when there is safety at hand? Eventually, he has fully accepted the status quo and having become contented in it, the son finds peace. It doesn’t seem wrong at all. He may not even see it as a bad thing because that is all he knows. Emotional slavery doesn’t seem like a large price to pay for a happy mother and family. His moral fortitude is consolidated by the notion that he is doing his duty as a son. Doing nothing wrong by bowing to the wishes of the mother. Oblivious to his unpreparedness for the outside world the son concedes to the state of blissful toxic peace as ordained by the controlling matriarch.
Before peace there was war
This all seems very extreme and even offensive language. Emotional slavery you say? But it’s not as far a stretch as you might think. An important question is how did we come to this? From a tender age, the child has a special bond with the mother; a bond of tenderness, love, care and dependence. This dependence is both physical and emotional. The child is in a state of vulnerability. The mother in turn provides for these needs of the child in every way possible and so the bond develops.
As the child grows, however, the dependence on the mother becomes progressively less. What this means is that firstly the child still remembers things the mother has done for him and secondly all the mother still needs to do for his well being and care. This combination is leveraged by the mother to challenge the emotional independence of the son through guilt. While the son has a dependence on the mother, the mother also seems to develop a dependence on the son. Guilt is but one weapon used to suppress the independence of thought, feelings and opinions of the son.
The emotional need of the mother is given precedence over that of the son. The son now feels guilty in putting forward opposing ideas to the mother. He is afraid of upsetting the mother. His emotions are now suppressed and hidden. He is ashamed of expressing emotions and discontent with any situation. He is ashamed of his independence and personal power. How can he show opposition to the one who has cared for him all his life, who has sacrificed to give him all he needs, who is still willing to give him all he needs if only he would submit to her wishes.
To the child, submission seems far more convenient and less punishing than the burning hollowness of guilt and shame of expressing dis-satisfaction with any situation. If the dominant mother is sufficiently relentless, the demands for submission missiles its way into the psyche of the child destroying any sense of independence and identity.
When the dust has settled, however, what remains is the mentally and emotionally submissive son. Emotionally destroyed, yes, but the war is over, all that remains is toxic peace. He gladly returns to the warmth of the mother. Emotional chains firmly welded to both mind and heart.
Its only a matter of time…
But this state of peace cannot persist and in most cases it does not. The bonds must be broken for the son to either take his place in the world and overcome his past or tragically find himself in the hands of another toxic matriarch (at the expense of the ruling matriarch, of course).
Either way, war is inevitable!!!