The Negative Effects of Cold Mother Syndrome

The Negative Effects of Cold Mother Syndrome

cold mother syndrome

A child raised by an emotionally distant or dismissive mother may face multiple issues in childhood itself. Even after growing up, the effects of non-nurturing mother and the neglect suffered may continue to haunt her.

We associate family and home with love, warmth, affection, and care. The picture that comes to our mind when we think of a family is that of a happy one. The children feel cared for and safe and secure with their parents. 

Unfortunately, only a few get to enjoy the family in the image painted above. Though statistics vary vastly, we can safely assume that a considerable percentage of children do not receive the kind of love, care, and attention they need to grow up as well-adjusted adults. 

Among all the troubles faced by a child while growing up, one of the most impactful is the neglect they face from an emotionally unavailable mother. “My mother never loved me”. This sad statement from a daughter reflects poorly on the mother as well.

Though such unloving mothers fulfill the physical demands of their children, they are not always there to meet their emotional needs. Mothers who don’t protect their daughters and are emotionally absent are considered to suffer from cold mother syndrome or mother wound. 

How can you identify an emotionally distant and unloving mother? What are the consequences of being raised by one? How to deal with a mother suffering from refrigerator mother syndrome?

Read on to learn more about cold mother syndrome and its consequences. Here you will find signs to identify such mothers and tactics you can adopt to minimize its effect.

What is cold mother syndrome?

The cold mother syndrome or mother wound refers to various mental health issues faced by a mother, due to which she will neglect the emotional needs of her child. She may be incapable of feeling love and other emotions, or she may be narcissistic. She may be controlling, critical, or busy with her own preoccupations. 

Maybe she suffered emotional or physical abuse as a child and continues to suffer from it. Or she may have an untreated mental health condition or she may be a victim of alcoholism or drug addiction.

The reason why a mother is emotionally distant from her child may vary but the consequences for the child are the same. 

Among the children, daughters seem to bear the brunt of an emotionally unavailable parents more than sons, probably because of how their minds are wired and how they function emotionally. And, they seem to retain the maternal abandonment effects on daughters and pass it on to their children when they become mothers.

Signs and effects of cold mother syndrome

In a mother-child relationship, you can look for the signs in either of them or both. Here are the common indications of the absent mother syndrome in a mother.

  • She is self-centered and narcissistic
  • She fulfills the physical needs of her child but neglects to offer love, affection, care, and security
  • She is not involved in the emotional development of her child
  • She doesn’t display empathy
  • She forbids the child to display negative emotions
  • She is highly critical of the child and expects perfection
  • She expects the child to meet her emotional needs by herself
  • She is busy with her life (she may be compelled to work for financial reasons)
  • She may be a victim of abuse and still suffering from its ill-effects
  • She may be suffering from mental health issues
  • She is an alcoholic or a drug addict

While these are the indications of an emotionally distant mother, you can search for signs in the child as well. As a child, you may have noticed some of these experiences.

  • Your mother was never present in your life. Specifically, she wasn’t available on an emotional level.
  • You did not feel the urge to approach your mother to meet your needs or solve your problems.
  • You always felt that your mother disapproved of everything you did. This made you a perfectionist.
  • You never felt comfortable around your mother. You either felt nervous or were scared of her.
  • You were expected to take care of your mother, both physically and emotionally.

How a child perceives and experiences the refrigerator mother syndrome in her mother varies vastly depending on the personalities of the mother and the child. What she experiences in her childhood can have a long-lasting effect and may show up in her adulthood as well.

Here are some signs of the long-term negative effects of refrigerator mother syndrome.

  • Low confidence levels and self-esteem
  • Lack of emotional intelligence
  • Inability to find comfort or manage own feelings
  • Failure to calm down by oneself
  • Relationship issues, arising out of the conviction that they are incapable of building and maintaining healthy relationships

How to heal from refrigerator mother syndrome?

As a child, you may not be in a position to do much about it, other than recognize the mental health issue in your mother and not take it to heart. You can choose to ignore the way your mother treats you or seek help in dealing with it. This will help in minimizing the aftereffects of your mother’s neglectful behavior, though you cannot eliminate them completely.

You should take care not to allow your feelings towards your mother to develop into anger and resentment. If it does, it can cause serious damage to your own mental health and your future relationships. You may even carry forward the same behavior to your own children.

When you are suffering at the hands of your unloving mother, you may feel that hate or resentment toward her is like tit for tat. You are merely giving back in equal measure. What you fail to realize is that you will also be suffering from your actions. 

Your negative feelings towards your unloving mother may seem right in the short run but ultimately, they will catch up with you and you will end up the loser. This means the only way out is to forgive and forget. 

Here are some suggestions you may consider to heal yourself from the negative effects of cold mother syndrome.

1. Show your feelings

You may feel the need to hide the effects of your absent mother’s neglect as you are ashamed of it all. You may even refuse to admit it to yourself. The first step toward recovery is to acknowledge the problem – first to yourself and then to others.

Confide your troubles to someone trustworthy and take their help to heal the wounds. If this isn’t working, you can go for therapy. You need not wait to grow up to deal with these issues. You may also try journaling to get clarity of thought and purpose so that you know exactly where you stand.

2. Practice self-love

Easy to say, but hard to practice when you are suffering from the aftereffects of neglect. A child usually learns the concept of love from her mother. When this never materializes, the child needs to turn to others to understand the meaning of love. 

A mother, being the primary caregiver should have helped you build your self-image and develop self-esteem. As it did not happen this way, you should find other means to create self-esteem and self-image.

Once you have sorted out the basics, you should take steps to embrace yourself for who you are.

3. Create and expand your self-awareness

Self-awareness is your ability to turn inward and understand and accept who you are and recognize your feelings and emotions. This is something usually a mother will help develop in her child. As you didn’t get that help from her, you need to figure it out for yourself. 

Find some time when you will be undisturbed and take the opportunity to analyze how you are feeling. You need to develop the ability to identify the feelings you are experiencing as well as gain control over them.

4. Be your own parent

When you are learning to fill the void of your absent mother, try to indulge yourself just like a parent would. This doesn’t mean saying yes to everything you want or trying to make all your wishes come true. Just like a good parent would do, use your judgment to decide what is right and can be allowed.

Because of your dismissive mother’s neglect and apathy, most of your wishes must have remained unfulfilled. Now that you are capable of meeting your desires, you should indulge yourself with some self-care. Self-care need not be exorbitant gifts or over-the-top extravagances. 

Something as simple as taking some time off to meet an old friend or getting yourself a spa treatment will do. The idea is to pamper and feel good about yourself and not to spoil yourself.

5. Teach yourself to forgive

This is hard to practice when you have suffered a lot. If you are a mother, you will know that it is hard work and difficult to get it right always. Try to see your mother for who she is and not what you want her to be. This will help you understand and accept her.

You can even try to build a relationship with your mother. Now that you are no longer a child that she can manipulate, set the ground rules and create boundaries. Even if it is far from perfect, you can manage a meaningful relationship with your mother.

If you find this too traumatic, at least try to get rid of those hard feelings you have always harbored for her. You can get help from a support group or therapist for this.

Bottom line

Your mother may have had her faults and mental health issues but blaming all your failures on her would be unfair. Though this would be easy and convenient for you, it would not be honest, as all of us, you included, enjoy the gift of choice. 

You can choose to heal yourself and forgive your mother for what she did to you. You can choose to stop the vicious cycle from continuing any further. You can choose not to pass on the same wounds to your children.

The journey to recovery and healing is indeed challenging. Summon the courage and take the bold step by acknowledging your feelings and grieving about what would have been. This will help you progress towards forgiveness.

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