Ahhhhhh, the Irish Mammy. Sure you couldn’t say a bad word about her. Could you? All the light-hearted stereotyping about the nagging and minding and coddling. Yes, she can be wonderful. And sure how can you complain, she’s your Mammy! Well…. Do any of these words ring a bell; Manipulative, controlling, passive-aggressive, guilt-tripping? While she may have your best interests at heart, the dynamics that drive this stereotype can be really problematic and cause deep distress in adult life.
No, of COURSE I’m not saying Irish Mammies aren’t amazing! And of course I’m not saying being Irish, and a Mammy, means you’re a guilt-tripping control freak. I am saying, however, that the jokey trope of the Irish Mother can sometimes lead those of us who DO have parents like this to write it off as “The Irish Way”, and “sure that’s what all mothers are like”. Because when it comes to family, we often put up with behaviour that is unacceptable. Just like we do with friends, partners, co-workers. We have a cultural issue around secrecy. We don’t air our dirty laundry in public. Family first. And we also have a Roman Catholic run, colonial hangover that has created a complex cultural psychology of repression, guilt and shame.
Clients often find it incredibly difficult to criticise or acknowledge flaws with family members, as there is a fear that they are “being disloyal”. But we know that nobody is perfect, and it’s ACTUALLY OK to say this about our parents.
So if you have difficulty with Mammy, or if Daddy played a similar role, and find the relationship stressful, have a look at the links below and see if you can identify where the problems may possibly lie. We’re never too old to be hurt by our parents, and unfortunately, some of the damage from dysfunctional family dynamics can leave serious and lasting distress. If any of these sound familiar and are causing you pain, maybe it’s time to talk this through with a professional.
The Difficult Mother:
The Guilt-Tripping Mother:
And as an added bonus – here’s some links for the sons and daughters-in-law dealing with the Mammy-in-law!
If you wish to book a psychotherapy session with Bébhinn please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org