Mother Hunger

Mother Hunger

What Happens When Maternal Love Was Interrupted or Missing?

As an adopted person, have you ever felt an insatiable longing for love?  The kind of love that feels, ‘just right’?  Does this kind of love often feel out-of-reach?

This month as we acknowledge the complexity of loving our mothers and mothering, I wanted to share a valuable resource with you that might explain why love relationships for adoptees can feel so complex.  “Mother Hunger” by Kelly McDaniel is a book about understanding and healing from lost nurturance, protection and guidance.  It is not specifically a book written for adoptees, however Kellie was inundated by adoptees after the book was released, all sharing how much her book made sense to them.

McDaniel states, “We need our mothers.  This need is biologically hardwired into our bodies and brains.  If we didn’t have enough mothering, yearning for love stays with us”.  McDaniel’s perspective underscores the deep biological and instinctual bonds between a newborn and their biological mother. She highlights how newborns are naturally drawn to the familiarity and comfort provided by their biological mother’s presence, recognizing her as their primary source of safety and security.  She is home.

McDaniel emphasizes that from the moment of birth, infants are instinctively attuned to their mother’s voice, smell and physical presence, finding solace and reassurance in her familiar embrace. This innate connection is rooted in biology, shaped by millions of years of evolution where survival depended on the close proximity and care of the biological mother.

According to McDaniel, the early months of a baby’s life are crucial for establishing a nurturing and comforting relationship with their biological mother. This bond provides a sense of stability and security that lays the foundation for the baby’s healthy development and well-being.

She states that, “A baby who has experienced an abrupt loss of their biological mother requires extra care and recognition of separation distress.  When this doesn’t happen, the early rupture can cause lifelong heartache”.

The term, Mother Hunger, was created to describe what it feels like to grow up without a quality of mothering that imprints emotional worth and relational security.  McDaniel states, Mother Hunger feels like an emptiness of the soul that is hard to describe because it may set in during infancy or before language forms and become part of how you always feel.  The term Mother Hungercaptures a compelling, insatiable yearning for love – the sort of love we dream about but can’t find.  Many of us mistake Mother Hunger for a craving for romatic love.  But in truth, we are longing for the love we didn’t receive during our formative moments, months and years.

Furthermore, Mother Hunger isn’t a disorder, it’s an injury – a heartbreak that forms from inadequate maternal nurturance, protection or guidance in early development.  Injury aptly describes Mother Hunger because living with it hurts – all the time.  It’s a complicated grief that comes from carrying an unacknowledged, invisible burden all by ourselves.

As a child, if essential elements of maternal nurturance and protection were missing, we didn’t stop loving our mother – we simply didn’t learn to love ourselves.  This is the essence of Mother Hunger.

Mother Hunger is a heartbreak that touches everything in our world, particularly our relationship with others and our own sense of worth.

So How Do We Heal Mother Hunger?

Healing Mother Hunger requires going at your own pace.  You may at times feel you are betraying your mother, or you may decide to wait until your mother is no longer living to embark on your healing path.  That’s okay.

When you’re ready to explore this unique attachment wound, it’s essential to find a therapist who understands attachment theory and who can gently pace your healing process to help guide you on this journey.

Alternatively, you may want to learn about attachment theory yourself within the context of adoption, with a group of other adopted people and start to get clear about what exactly was missing in your mothering experience so you can not only mourn the loss, but also start to find resourceful ways to replace lost maternal nurturance, guidance and protection.  When we find ways to give to ourself that which was missing we start the process of rewiring our attachment system back to its natural state of security.

I will be presenting a low-cost, two-hour webinar as an introduction to the topic of Attachment and Adoption in August.  You can find out more on my Workshops Page.

By |2024-05-13T12:17:45+10:00May 13th, 2024|News|

About the Author:

Monique Pangari founded the School of Somatic Attachment Focused Expressive Therapy® (SAFE-T®) in order to provide creative, playful, somatic and integrative therapeutic Training and Supervision for Counselling & Psychotherapy professionals, in South East Qld, Australia. She values both the personal and professional journey of the therapist and believes that the quality of support given to the interplay between the two is what creates leading therapy providers. Monique welcomes diversity and aims to support inclusivity of those who live within a minority. She is a member of ACA and is a qualified Supervisor.
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