Controlling Mother Effect On Daughter
- The Basics Explained

By far and away the best way to understand the controlling mother effect on daughter is to think about it in terms of the manipulation of the personality. The controlling mother does not allow the daughter to develop as a person. Rather she molds the daughter's personality to be the way she thinks it should be.

The daughter is prevented from growing into an independent, free-thinking, confident individual. She is brought up to be dependent, making only the decisions that the mother approves of and with the self-esteem fluctuating with the mood of the mother.

Personality is basically the collection of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that make each person distinct from others. The personality also includes values, attitudes, interests, motivations and a sense of self.

Thinking globally like this about the effects at the level of personality allows you to grasp the profundity of the effects of a controlling mother, as well as the wide range of these effects and it also goes a long way to explain the internal conflicts that daughters of such people frequently have.

Let's dig a little deeper...


Controlling mother effect on daughter - day 1

From the start, a controlling mother will exert enormous pressure on the behavior, thoughts, emotions and decision making of the daughter.

I am not talking here about a mother who is simply strict, or whose role model had a lot of rules that are simply being imitated. And every mother is going to have a huge influence on their children one way or the other. This article is about mothers who control and dominate for the sake of it. Their lives are organized around controlling others, including, and especially, their own children.

They are typically very opinionated, highly critical, bossy and full of their own importance. They terrorize their kids, using fear and guilt to manipulate them. They don't allow the children to explore and learn about the world on their own, forever interfering and telling them how they should think and behave. They are often not very affectionate, with little or no hugs or kisses and frequently get irritated with the kids because they are basically interfering with the mother's life and comfort.

This is what they are like behind closed doors at home. Outside the home, they can appear to be the perfect parents. They are social, friendly, bringing their kids to after school activities, talking about how well their kids are doing. And you, her daughter, watching her in public, can't believe that people think she is a nice person. You often think, "If only they knew what she is like at home..."

These mothers control the thinking, ideas, beliefs, perceptions, decisions, emotions and behaviors of their children. When you think about it like that, they are basically controlling the personality, the identity, of the child. In effect, they are molding the personality of their children. Said another way, they are not allowing the child's personality to develop. They are imposing a false personality on the child. This false personality is called a pseudopersonality and it's the same thing you get in destructive cults.

Everyone has heard stories about someone who was recruited into a cult and they began to believe different things, act in unusual ways, they spoke in jargon and they believed in and even adored the leader. They defended the group, even aggressively. Family members and friends felt that they no longer knew this person. What the outsiders were seeing was the cult personality that the manipulative leader had imposed on them. This pseudopersonality is programmed in various ways, for example, it is programmed to take care of the manipulator, to trust and believe the leader, to be dependent on the leader and to make the leader the center of it's universe.

The same process occurs with pathologically manipulative mothers with 2 important distinctions. Firstly, while the time and attention of a cult leader may be spread over 50, 500 or 5,000 members, the time and attention of a mother may be completely devoted to one person, maybe two or three. A cult member may attend some sessions for a few hours a week, a mother has her children around her all day. This means that the controlling mother effect on daughter is often much more intense than any cult.

Secondly, someone who has been recruited into a cult at the age of, say, 28, has had 28 years of personality development before having the pseudopersonality imposed on them. When they leave, they are able to compare the before and after personalities to notice how they were influenced and manipulated. A child who has had a pseudopersonality imposed from day 1 has no 'before' to do such a comparison, so that while they are undoing the pseudopersonality, they also have to find out what their real personality is all about, because it has never been allowed to blossom and flourish. Adult children of controlling parents often have a deep sense of not knowing who they really are. Their identity has always been very enmeshed with that of their controlling mother.

This idea of the pseudopersonality is a very nice description of what happens and helps to make sense of the difficulties that many children, who have suffered abuse at the hands of their parents, end up with.


Controlling mother effect on daughter - 2 personalities

Think of having 2 personalities, one of which is dominant. It never destroys the other personality but rather represses and overrules it.

This idea helps explain many of the internal conflicts that occur in the minds of people who are controlled and manipulated. For example, the child loves their mother because she is the mother, but at times hates this person who treats them badly. One part of the child wants to play and be happy with the mother and another part is terrified of that person. One part of the child wants to do things to get praise and approval from the mother and another part wants to get their own back on that same person.

Many such internal clashes or battles are basically unresolvable while the pseudopersonality is in place. There is no way for the person to be comfortable. For this reason many children think that they must be the problem. As they grow older, they see that other people their age do not have these internal struggles and they automatically assume that there is something inherently wrong with themselves. Many feel at times that they may be going mad. There is literally no way for a child, with so little life experience, to make sense of what is going on without thinking that they are defective in some way. This belief can persist for decades!

So how is this pseudopersonality put in place? You could think of it as part of a survival mechanism. For example, the child gets into trouble for speaking up in front of others. That happens 2 or 3 times. The child realizes that speaking up at such times makes life unpleasant so the child learns not to speak much when there are other people around. The child modifies their behavior in order to make life easier for themselves. The child does not have the option of leaving, they are dependent for many years on their caregivers. So in order to survive as best as they can in the situation, the child learns not to upset those caregivers. Based on how they are treated, the child learns what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. They learn what they can say and what they cannot. They learn what beliefs are acceptable and which are not.

Sometimes the child is told straight out what is acceptable and what is not. Other times the rule may not be explicitly stated but because of how the child is made to feel, they learn what the rules are. A good example of this is where it may never be said out loud that you don't tell people outside the family what happens in the home, but children 'just know' that talking to teachers or friends will get them into trouble and are very often reluctant to tell outsiders what exactly goes on at home.

In this way, the child learns various things. The controlling mother is always right, the child is wrong. The child will never be as good as their mother. In fact, the child often learns that they will never amount to anything, they can't have what they want but have to settle for second best. Some children develop the idea that they were put on this planet not to be happy.

In order to cope with this situation, children typically develop some safe place in their head that they can retreat to when things get really bad. This defence mechanism helps them not to go stark raving mad. However, as an adult, it may not be the most useful strategy because when the person does this, they may miss the external signals of danger and end up in precarious situations.

Many children find a way to explain to themselves why their parents treat them so badly. "These are not really my parents. My alien parents left me here and one day they will come back and get me" or "I must have been adopted." Others create fantasies in their heads and spend as much time as possible away from the abusers playing out their hopes and dreams in their minds. Many end up believing that they are bad people in some way and deserve the horrible treatment.

Obviously, these ideas in the child's head, while wrong, have a huge influence on their lives. "I am not as good as them so I will step back and hope I get a turn later on..." or "If I do something pleasing for this person, then they will like me and I can relax and feel good then..." or "I can't ask for what I want because they might get upset and then I will feel horrible."

You will find much more details about these ideas in the
articles about abusive mothers and controlling mothers


Controlling mother effect on daughter - bonding

In normal families, the child grows up knowing that the mother is a source of comfort. The baby cries because of some discomfort, the mother comes and fixes that discomfort. The toddler wonders away exploring and falls, cries, the mother comes to reassure. The child is upset about something, Mom kisses it better. The child then moves away again to continue to explore the world safe and secure in the knowledge that Mom is always there as a safe haven.

If this process is disrupted for any reason, children often respond in one of two ways. One is to become demanding, wanting a lot of attention, or becoming 'self sufficient', so to speak, gives up relying on Mom so much and stops asking for help. Both of these are functional in that the first pattern does get the help and attention needed sometimes, and the second works to prevent the child from being disappointed and upset by their parents.

However, they do have their problems. The preoccupied attachment style, the clingy type, suffers from anxiety and hypervigilance and is susceptible to being bullied later. The second one, dismissing attachment, ends up in the individual staying detached from people and often results in anger and aggressive behaviors.

These three types of behaviors, the normal one and the two adaptations, are considered to be organized responses. The adaptations may not be optimal but they are predictable and allow the child to develop a coherent, organized way of responding to their environment.

Children of pathologically controlling parents often show a fourth type of response. I mentioned above that the mother is a source of terror. But this woman is supposed to be the safe haven. So the child finds itself in a situation of fright without solution. The safe haven is, at one and the same time, the source of fear. The child is trying to get away from it's mother and is drawn to her at the same time. The child is caught in an impossible situation.

For this reason the child's attachment strategy collapses. There may be confusion, fear, freezing and strange movements. This is a disorganized attachment style. On top of this, the child may switch rapidly between the preoccupied and dismissive style as well, cycling helplessly through all 3 styles.

In the end, the need for closeness usually wins out and the child stays close to the mother. Internally, though, both the approach systems and withdrawal systems are functioning and in conflict. It's no wonder the child is confused and heads to a safe place in it's head, which is basically dissociating. It's not difficult to see that this learned behavior in childhood has far reaching consequences, psychopathology in adolescence, fearful relationships with peers and intimacy problems in adult relationships.

The dissociation means that people can no longer think well. The cognitive system shuts down but the more basic functioning, the sensory aspect, continues. Therefore, the individual cannot think about what they are feeling. The thought, "This is a dangerous situation, get out!" does not occur. The individual, frightened and confused, tends to stay close to the supposed safe haven. There is no solution. There is no way to control things. The child gives up and surrenders. They give up individual thinking and emotional independence. The child is anxiously dependent on it's mother. (The same process occurs in destructive cults, by the way. A child, with it's lack of life experience, is obviously so much more susceptible to such manipulation.) This is one of the factors that explain why cult members and children of abusers have such difficulty in recognizing what has been done to them.

There is good news!! As I said, the behaviors are 'learned', and people can learn to do things differently so that they can develop normal, healthy relationships as adults.

Learn more details in this article about controlling mothers and their daughters.


Controlling mother effect on daughter - double binds

Another serious and underestimated occurrence with controlling mothers is the double bind. This is where the child is given two rules but if the child sticks to one rule, they are breaking the other. For example, the child is told in no uncertain terms that criticism of the mother is not allowed. If one day the child is upset by something that the mother has done and the mother asks what is wrong, the child is unable to answer for fear of breaking the first rule. By not answering, however, the child gets into trouble for not speaking up when spoken to. This is a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation. Whatever the child does, they get into trouble.

Another common example occurs in the domain of decision making. The child is criticized when they express an opinion or desire. Later, when the child is asked what they want, the child hesitates to answer. The impatient mother then criticizes the child for not being able to make a decision.

There are usually many, many examples of such double binds in families where one of the parents is a manipulator. A big issue here is that children in such families are surrounded by so many of them that they don't notice them. These things are a normal part of the child's reality, that's just the way the world is for them. Oftentimes it's not until someone explains the pattern to them that they realize, firstly, that they are a problem, and secondly, how many of them were in their family growing up.

One of the conditions for double binds is that the victim is unable to leave the situation. Nowhere is this more true than the case of a young child, who is totally dependent on the caregivers to survive.

Dealing with many of these things leads to anxiety, learned patterns of confusion in thinking and communication as well as relationship problems. Again, these can be unlearned and doing so becomes part of a good recovery from psychological abuse.


Controlling mother effect on daughter - what to do about it

If you recognize that you have been in a controlling situation as I have described above, and you experience

  • low self esteem
  • difficulty making decisions
  • identity issues
  • eating problems
  • difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
  • repeated abusive relationships
  • difficulty saying no
  • excessive people pleasing
  • problems asking for what you want
  • anxiety and hypervigilance
  • feelings of dependency
  • difficulty finding or keeping a job
  • difficulty finding or keeping a relationship
  • problems trusting or accepting people
  • fear
  • guilt
  • shame
  • sexual difficulties / problems with sexuality
  • depression
  • “floating” or dissociation states

then you need to learn about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists as well as mind control

There are no short cuts here. You have to get rid of the pseudopersonality and the sooner the better. As long as the pseudopersonality is in place, your parent or parents are still controlling your life. Having a pseudopersonality also makes you vulnerable to the next manipulator you meet. They will quickly spot that you have been abused in the past and they will have a go at you, too. This is why people who were abused as children often end up in abusive relationships as adults. It is not because they chose someone like their parents.

Get professional help. It will save you in terms of time, effort, money and suffering.


Controlling mother effect on daughter - more reading

You can read more here about what makes someone a psychopath, abusive mothers, narcissistic parents, dealing with a toxic family and recovering from a psychopathic relationship.

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