ERP 304: How to Get More Support through Self-Mothering — An Interview with Dr. Gertrude Lyons

By Posted in - Podcast January 25th, 2022 0 Comments

When we talk about mothers, qualities like nurturing, caring, and compassion always come to mind. Mothers are also known for putting everybody else’s needs first and theirs last. And for many years, there’s been a notion that mothering is a woman’s natural role but as it turns out, we all mother regardless of gender and whether or not we have kids.

In this episode, we discuss mothering with emphasis on the concept of self-mothering and how this can support us internally, which can essentially result in having better relationships with our partners.

Dr. Gertrude Lyons is a professional life coach who is focused on exploring, demystifying, and democratizing the maternal power that lies within all women. She believes that motherhood is a transformational journey that all women can take with or without children and together, we can start a new conversation around modern motherhood.

Dr. Lyons is the Lead Faculty member, Senior Life Coach, and Director of Family Programs for The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential. 

Through her work, she inspires people to take control of their own personal transformations. She has made it her mission to challenge traditional notions of mothering by facilitating raw, open conversations around mothering, womanhood, and parenthood that no one else is having. She has spent the last 19 years empowering individuals, couples, parents, and families to bring out their best selves through helping them realize meaningful, successful lives, with the aim of bringing new perspectives on personal transformation to as many people as possible.

In this Episode 

6:25 What is self-mothering?

11:31 How she rediscovered herself which ultimately got her interested in diving deeper into self-mothering.

16:27 The purpose of self-mothering.

23:59 How self-mothering looks like in men.

33:19 The deeper inner work: self-validated intimacy.

41:51 Some ways to start self-mothering.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Support your children but don’t leave yourself behind.
  • Allow your emotions to be present and available and recognize what barriers are there.
  • Visualize a mother holding you and redo that for yourself internally by just giving yourself permission to have those emotions and experiences.
  • Bring yourself fully to the relationship but do not expect your partner to respond in the same way.
  • Do not abandon your own share of need even when your partner is not validating it.
  • Find avenues to support yourself through coaching, books, workshops, or anywhere that’s going to open up a new space to rediscover yourself.

Mentioned

Society of Femininity in Action

Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships (book)

Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward Tronick (YouTube video)

Dr. Jessica Higgins, Psychologist, Relationship & Transformational Coach (Google Review)

Connect with Dr. Gertrude Lyons

Website drgertrudelyons.com 

Facebook facebook.com/gertrude.lyons.3 

Instagram instagram.com/drgertrudelyon

LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/gertrudelyons/ 

Podcast mot(HER) with Dr. Gertrude Lyons

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Gertrude, thank you for joining us today.

I’m so thrilled to be here, Jessica. Thanks so much for having me. 

And this seems like such a special important topic that we’re going to be diving into that I wonder if it’s just so much more prevalent than we know, and we just don’t have language for. And that is just the self-mothering in equal relationships. So, before we get into you, and what got you into this, can we talk a little bit about just what that means just to have a starting place?

Sure. Yeah. I’m starting to hear that, which is great. “Oh, I need to mother myself or self mother.” But that can mean a lot of different things to different people. Right? So, it’s pretty all-inclusive, I would say. 

I come from it from the standpoint of how do I really tend to, kind of my innermost being, right. I want to make some assumptions that we’re doing some of the things that are still hard to do and have good habits for around our just external self-care, right? Exercise, eating well. Some of those things that really helped keep us in good shape. That’s self mothering. 

I think the self-mothering that really has an impact across the board, and I know we’re going to be talking about relationships in particular, but having this really close relationship with ourselves. So, that can look like sometimes giving ourselves the mothering that maybe we didn’t get, and that can be self-soothing, or appreciation, or acknowledgment, and awareness of what’s our wounds and helping us deal with them and kind of being the mother to ourselves that we either didn’t get it all or if we got, we can always use more of. 

Woman Doing Hand Heart Sign

“Self-mothering is having this really close relationship with ourselves. That can be self-soothing, or appreciation, or acknowledgment, and awareness of what’s our wounds and helping us deal with them and kind of being the mother to ourselves that we either didn’t get it all, or if we got, we can always use more of.”

That mother isn’t around anymore, and we need to provide that space. It can be a protective aspect of self-mothering. Taking boundaries and protection and things like that. We really get to know ourselves well enough to know what we need and go on that journey together with ourselves. And then, we can extend that out to others.

And it sounds like this is in the ballpark or in the neighborhood of self-parenting or re-parenting. Is that right?

I think so. In re-parenting, when we look at it, then we bring in, you know, self fathering because we need that too, right? We need that. We don’t just mean with self mothering. A lot of it is the caring compassion aspect but the whole range of what the mother archetype is for us. That comes in lots of forms. It’s sometimes destroying what no longer should be there and the destructive force as well as the creative force within us. So, you know, bringing all those aspects to bear in our internal landscape and have it accessible to ourselves, but yes, it does.

And it sounds like the maternal is there’s an emphasis there on some of those qualities that are extremely nurturing and really support the development that when we think of mothering, it’s this unique role to really assure and really support the human development. And not that a father doesn’t also do that. It’s just slightly different sometimes.

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Okay. And just to be inclusive, I also want to say, regardless of how someone identifies in their gender, that we have the masculine and the feminine. I believe that any gender, however one identifies, has masculine qualities and also has feminine qualities. Every individual does. And so, we’re talking about quality here. Is that right?

100%. Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up too. I always like to make that clarification, disclaimer, so to speak, that it isn’t man-woman, but it is just kind of looking at those aspects. We name them often masculine values/attributes and more feminine values/attributes. And what I like about highlighting them is kind of separating them out so that we see how they synergistically work together when they’re in balance. Both are valued equally. Never that one is better than the other, or there’s that distinction or more valuable, but it’s so powerful when we can name that and then have them in harmony, balance, synergistically working together.

And just a little self-disclosure and an example of this. I remember my own therapy. I remember remarking that, “Oh, the really strong, more masculine part of me has been really oppressive to that warm, nurturing maternal part of myself and just recognizing the internal experience of this very strong, almost feminist, independent part of myself and how it’s been in a relationship with that more nurturing, loving part. It was really helpful and healing for me to recognize that, so just an example here around how it exists, both exist internally.

Totally. Yeah, 100%. 

Okay. So, before we get into this topic a little bit more, what got you interested in supporting people with this self-mothering?

It definitely has been a journey, right. I think because I quite so much of like, self mothering with just in general, kind of started on the journey of my own personal growth and development. And that started when my husband and I got engaged 32 years ago. We were given unsolicited advice but so grateful to do premarital counseling. That ended up opening up this whole space and arena of what it means to do the work of self-discovery and self-awareness. That included getting clear and current with my own mother and really working that relationship so deeply. And because we started as a couple, in support of us trying to put the best foot forward for our relationship, and finding out that doing that really requires doing our own work. 

So, you know, I really dove into that pretty deeply. But six years into our marriage, we decided to have children. That brings a whole nother flavor of disequilibrium and chaos to the picture of what’s possible in growth and development. There are ways I really took on my journey. And then, ways in the midst of mothering my children, I lost myself. And really, even though I was coaching and in an arena by then and in the landscape and surrounded by people and work doing that, I was still able to manage to turn the spotlight outside of me, and now it was about how do I support my children. Our relationship was doing okay, so I didn’t really want to rock the boat there. That seemed really scary. So, I realized that after doing that for a number of years and my children were about to leave the nest that well, I’d really miss an opportunity, and that’s when I decided I really wanted to dig into this topic deeper. And see, like, wow, how could someone who was so already in the work, seemingly like it should have been a no-brainer that I’d keep diving in and using this mothering opportunity to mother myself, while I mother my children and I didn’t. Right? So, wow. This might be harder than we thought. 

So, that’s what I ended up studying doing my master’s and a doctorate in raising women’s awareness and the transformational opportunity in mothering which, such a big aspect of it is mothering ourselves. And that mothering of self to me, again, going back to the beginning, is so much founded on staying present to myself, continuing to use that opportunity to allow my stuff to come up so I could work on it rather than avoid it. 

I was coaching even and saw the women really doing and diving in. So, I studied them. I supported women through a seminar in my doctoral studies to just bring this more to the forefront. I think when I see what’s possible when we add that to this huge job of mothering children and just trying to get through it and do the best job we can supporting them but not leaving ourselves behind. This is generational. This is like thousands of years of us being wired to put our needs last. It’s all about everybody else being okay. Everybody is actually going to end up doing so much better if we turn that around when we include ourselves and actually prioritize ourselves and mother ourselves first and foremost. So, that’s what I’m finding.

Oh, my gosh, Gertrude. I’m having so many different thoughts as you’re talking. I know we have many places we want to go in this conversation. One of the things that I reference heavily in my work with couples is the attachment system. And when you’re talking about parenting, and these deeper dives into what we’ve known in our early years and really a relational imprint, that that is so much a part of the caregiving we’ve received—and so, being able to look at that and do the deeper dive. And then, when I’m hearing you speak about the importance of presencing. It also really hits home for me around so much of a relationship. And also, this responsiveness. This attunement, right? When we look at a mother and a child and that famous even video of the still face, right?

Oh, gosh, that gets me every time. 

I know! And you’re saying there’s something qualitative. My sense of it is that when we have this parenting or this mothering that we have this external experience, then we get to internalize that we then get to carry that with us. And so, that there’s this inner, like you’re saying, self-parenting that continues. It’s almost never-ending, right? It’s something that hopefully will have a part of us. And I would love to hear your thoughts on that. 

And then the third thing just to overwhelm the question here, reflection, is there feels as though when you’re speaking about mothering and even being witnessed to other mothers, there even could be the sense of how, as women, we can support or even the feminine, let’s just say feminine, can support the mothering as collective, right? Whether or not it’s tribal or even communal or family lineage, there could be support there that we maybe don’t have as much access to now. I’m curious what you would have to say about that. I just threw a lot at you.

That’s many things. Well, you’ll have to remind me. I get some of them but just picking up on this last one because you’re touching on such a big something that I just added in to my study when I did it that ended up having so much grab for the women in this workshop and seminar of my doctoral study was the concept that we all mother, right? And that all women mother. We may choose to mother children, but we also mother our relationships, our dreams, our careers, ideas, pets, whatever we choose to focus our mothering or our attention to. But the most important person we need to mother is ourselves. 

Man and Woman Sitting on Hanging Chair by a Tree

“We may choose to mother children, but we also mother our relationships, our dreams, our careers, ideas, pets, whatever we choose to focus our mothering or our attention to, but the most important person we need to mother is ourselves.”

But where that took us is that’s a pathway to me of us coming together as women, right? Rather than divided by our roles and our choices and that mothering journey to have children/not have children and all the myriad of choices that end up separating or causing us to judge each other or anything that we can actually come together as one team, one tribe, one aspect when we see that commonality, that way of being that we have, that we all share, is something that connects us and bridges us doesn’t divide us in that choice. So, I did definitely want to name that because you were saying such an important piece. 

Boy in Gray and Red Sweater

“Rather than divided by our roles and our choices and that mothering journey to have children, not have children and all the myriad of choices that end up separating or causing us to judge each other (…) when we see that commonality that we all share, it’s something that connects us and bridges us and doesn’t divide us in that choice.”

Because all the women I did my study with did not have children yet, when I was first doing my study, it was more focused on women preparing if they wanted to make that choice. How do they do that? That discernment. So, that just opened up such a big space. Like, oh. And then, so much of the ways they have been judging themselves if they chose not to have children and that how that wouldn’t be okay. Or they already knew maybe they couldn’t have children or they had hugely successful careers, but they didn’t have a relationship with a child yet, so none of that success really amounted to anything. You know, just what’s wired in us in believing some of those things? I did want to underline that particular point because it’s huge. I’m so glad you picked up on that one.

Well, even as you’re talking, I can feel myself feeling emotional, just how healing this can be, for how much division and so many people, so many women feel really alone and trying to do it all. And there’s almost this like, network, that if we’re in this space of connectivity, and this feminine maternal support that we can access as a resource, and I wonder if that’s true.

I think so. I mean, I think we’d all be supporting each other versus kind of judging. We’ve chosen to do this. It’s also kind of been in our culture, a patriarchal culture for us to be competitive, but not in an overt, you know. I mean, I think there are very positives about competitive but women, it’s like, not okay for us to be overt about it. So, sneaky. But also, we’re feeling so insecure about this job we’re supposed to do that we unconsciously are making judgments and putting each other down versus lifting each other up around our choices. I think that energy could shift so much for all of us feeling overwhelmed in our lives of wherever we’re feeling bothered, or wherever we’re mothering that we know that we’re all in it together in a much more unified, supportive way.

Is there anything that’s helped people start to shift towards that that you’ve seen? Or is it just even in naming that?

Naming that makes a big difference. And so, I’ve been part of an organization called Sofia, a society of femininity and action. It’s led by Dr. Judith Wright. I’ve been very grateful to have this curriculum of honor. The whole point of the curriculum is to learn to practice honoring feminine values because we so don’t. It’s so new for us to do that. So, I’ve been really grateful. And when you said, how can we do that? Like, we will do amongst us overt assignments to share ill will with each other. 

It sounds like that would be really negative. Like, I’m going to share what I’m jealous of you about. But it ends up being hugely complimentary because they’re jealous of your success. But we call it ill will because it’s not meanly jealous, right? But still, it’s like, “Oh, you have this. You have that.” And practicing doing things being more overt, clear, and current and just telling the truth. Like, “I’m so happy for you. I’m so jealous.” Versus “Oh, I’m just so happy for you.” but then. 

Snarky behind the scenes. 

Snarky behind the scenes, or internalizing like, “Oh, there’s something wrong with me.” Any of that stuff that happens when we can be in a space and put it out more directly and openly. So much more is possible. We operate at a different level.

For sure. And I’m feeling the opportunity, actually, for that connectivity and that relationship when we can show that underbelly or that transparency of the thing that we’re not proud of, and the humanity around that, and what can come from that. So I just imagine that that helps foster more of this bonding. That is so helpful. Yeah. 

Okay. When you’re talking a lot about women, or people who identify as women, and you’re also saying that the self mothering can apply to men or other people who and how they identify, can we weave that in at all? How this also fits for people that maybe a man’s listening and like, “Yeah, I didn’t get the mothering, or I recognize.” How might this look for them.

It’s very much the same. We just can so much more easily identify with mothers because we’re the same gender that women give birth. Right? And if you identify as a woman, then that is, so it makes that like, “Oh, that’s a quality I have.” And so, it’s just innately in me. Well, it still needs to be developed, whether a woman or a man. We will just kind of speak of it generally in those genders. Because just as I needed, I need to develop my masculine, not overvalue it. You know, men learning that it’s okay. 

Particularly I think for men and self-mothering, it’s a lot around an okayness with their emotions. I mean, it’s true for women too, but for men particularly to have access to their fear and their pain, two that I think are the most common that are kind of on the no-no list, right? Real men don’t cry. John Wayne, just don’t show your fear. It’s kind of old model of the manhood of how it’s supposed to be. But self mothering is allowing all of our emotions to be present and available to us and going on that journey and the work to look at what blocks and barriers are there, you know, where, again, in our wiring, right, in our upbringing, wasn’t okay. And where did it happen that I got shut down for having, showing, my sadness or pain or being afraid and reawaken those, because that’s how we tend to ourselves is allowing the free flow of our emotions. It’s kind of the biggest bomb that we have. 

So, I think one of the big aspects of the mother developing in them is a mother that holds them. You can create, visualize that within yourself and kind of have a redo on that for yourself internally, just by giving yourself permission to have those emotions and experiences with them.

Gertrude, as I listened to you talk, in the examples that you’re providing, it feels as though there are so many ways that this could perhaps look. And you’re giving examples that help us understand what you’re referring to and what it could look like. And the sense that I’m getting is that could be so individualized as far as what that mothering, or that caring, or that presencing could look like. Because when you talk about presencing, and as you relate to the spectrum of emotion, right, and I have heard people reference, men experience a certain level of gender abuse, that angers. Okay, there are certain very narrow windows of human emotion experiences acceptable. So, therefore, the rest of it isn’t what you’re really saying. Part of going back and really holding space and being present is maybe allowing for this fuller range. That is so real and so human that there hasn’t maybe even that space for.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, finding environments. Well, as you’re saying that, because I was picturing, you know, we often picture a woman kind of holding that space for their children, you know, for a man, but, you know, as adults, I’m thinking about my husband, when you said like examples, right, and as he’s gone on this journey, you know, sometimes it’s been, you know, with women who are coaches or men in spaces, and training, retreats, that kind of thing to hold that space, but so can men for each other. Right? 

I just have some memories of beautiful moments of him opening up, but it was in the arms of another man to provide that space because it’s about creating that safe. I think it is still feminine to provide a safe space and a space for openness for flow and expression, but it doesn’t have to be given by a woman. It goes back to how it’s universal in some ways. But I think the feminine tends to have a little more, at least initially, easier access or openness to it. Sometimes in relationships and if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, and it looks very gender that way, the woman, you know, it might be more her job in the leadership of the couple to lead in the emotional sense, because of her access to. It doesn’t mean we don’t have our own work. I had to work on my own openness and access to my emotions because I had several of them pretty shut down as well. But once I did, I felt like then that was kind of my job in the relationship to keep that space open and to keep creating that space for the two of us and for him.

Anonymous man with baby on shoulders walking away

“I think it is still feminine to provide a safe space and a space for openness for flow and expression, but it doesn’t have to be given by a woman.”

Yes, yeah. So it’s like holding ground for that and not that people, like your husband or your children, aren’t able to participate or access their own feminine qualities, but the real leading of that. Okay, thank you for just acknowledging there are many ways that this can look. And as you talk about equal or even unequal relationships, help us with what you’re referring to around that.

When I speak to that, I’m referring more where, you know, that what we’ve been talking about, right? The masculine-feminine values aren’t honored equally, right. I could say, had my husband and I not done work on ourselves and each other to start bringing some of that into balance, we were at the outset, what looks like a very old school traditional, right? 

Like, patriarchy, the masculine was more valuable, even though I could appear very feminine and look like I’m honoring and holding the feminine was more at a superficial level, whereas it’s still the masculine aspects of logic, intelligence, completion, those kinds of things were the more important things. The emotions the quality of the experience were nice but undervalued. And he being the breadwinner, me having a job but less important and raising the kids. You know, important but not as important. 

We were definitely set up to run that scenario. It’s been the journey of our relationship to move away from that and have it be where we each value. Like, I’ve had to develop more of my masculine, so I’m not just looking to him to carry it all to carry the, you know, that, like, “I’m the man of the house. I got to hold the anxiety of all of that.” I can just pretend that that’s all getting handled, and I don’t have to have a part of it. But to me, being more of an equal partner and him not carry that full burden himself, and then he honors more of the feminine and values the aspects of kind of the, how have we been referring it to, well just call it the unpaid work. The care work. Care workers, right. I’ve had to value it enough myself and then call him to value it as equally so that we’re bringing equal value to these different ways of being components of our relationship. 

It’s taken me having to speak up and take a stand around some of them sometimes and honor and more fully myself before I can call him out on not honoring them. And, you know, just being overly masculine or not caring or not seeing me. I have to see myself before I can expect him to see me in the same way. But then I can demand that, so to speak, or call him to us to meet on that more equal ground.

Thank you for acknowledging that this is a process because even as you’re talking, I recognize even the air that we breathe in more Western cultures as you are talking about the patriarchal kind of systems and just understandings and values, that there might be aspects to living and life that we’re not even aware of, that we’re giving more value to what might be more masculine and less to the feminine. 

Can you talk a little bit about how what that journey looks like? I mean, you’re talking about this deeper inner work. You’re talking about not leading with an attack, or maybe even criticism. You’re coming from a very internal secure to the best of your ability place of this has value, and then I can engage you from that place.

I love how you’re underlining and making sense of it for yourself, but 100 that is. There’s something that, just as you said, that last thing. I don’t know if in your relationship coaching have come across David Snart. I don’t know if I’ve said it right. I had a feeling, right? Because when you’re talking about attunement and those things. But self-validated intimacy is what I felt like you were speaking to that journey to get there, right. 

I mean, he presents this possibility of well-being in a relationship where I can be so my own individual and bring myself fully to the relationship but not with the expectation that my partner has to give back in the same way or even respond. Just in doing it, I’m validating myself and giving myself so much. 

My husband will respond in whatever way he’s going to respond. That’ll take us somewhere, but to not go into that journey, but that takes me, knowing myself and having been on a journey of self mothering to know what my triggers and charges are about how he might respond in those instances to just be able to stay present to myself. 

Maybe I share something, and I’m so excited and just my full feelings with it, and he rolls his eyes, or something like that, or doesn’t tune in with me. That doesn’t have to take away from my experience. But in the past, before, I’ve kind of worked on being able to notice, like at first like, “Oh, that hurt. That hurt my feelings that he rolled his eyes.” And then, what do I need to say? How can I self-mother myself at that moment? I might need to say like, oh, well, that’s his reaction. And, wow, that really reminds me of when I never got heard from my father. I mean, you know, you’re doing this very quickly. But sometimes you’re not doing it at the moment, but we’re pretending at the highest level of skill, right? We can just kind of be aware that oh, yeah, it triggers that dad wound for me and then be like, “Oh, but no, I’m still really excited about this.” I really hope he joins me on the journey. I’m going to keep staying with him, present with myself, and ask him like, what’s going on with you? 

That’s kind of an ideal picture of, I think, you know, around self-validated intimacy. But oftentimes, I think when we’re so present with ourselves, if the other person’s done any amount of work, they’re going to meet you, and you’re providing an opportunity for them to attune to you. And that’s when the magic happens, right? When they do go on that with you. And then, the whole feeling felt. This is such a deeper connection. And to know that, you know, having those experiences isn’t going to happen all the time, but it’s worth going on this journey and navigating the waters to have them when you have them. It’s beautiful.

Yes. So the holding on to oneself even when it looks like our partner’s not validating or is even reacting, that that still matters and we still want to turn towards that. And that we don’t abandon our own share, our own need, or whatever it is in that moment. 

Exactly. Yeah. 

Okay. And when you talk about the feminine and masculine and the value, are you open to sharing any example of what that sounded like when you would call to your husband around this topic?

I’ll just name one of the examples that first came to mind when our children were young. Some things that really mattered to me were how we ate around the table. If we ordered out food, I would make everybody put it on plates and not eat out of containers, right. I know, that’s like, what’s the big deal there, but that’s a very day-to-day example of valuing the feminine versus the masculine convenient. I mean, I’m not saying masculine is a convenience, but it’s kind of quicker, more linear. 

The most efficient route. 

The most efficient route, right? It’s a fine container, right? But I want to bring more of the experience of the meal and really highlight it and heat it up or understand that there’s more to the food and the meal than just the efficiency of getting that food as quickly into my stomach as I can. Right? 

I know it’s not the biggest example of what seems profound, but a lot of little examples like that happen. And, you know, I’d get pushback on it. Like, “Oh, man.” At first, I would relinquish. “Well, yeah. I guess it’s easier.” I had to keep reinforcing for myself that, “No, this really does matter.” And even my kids would sometimes side with my husband just for the efficiency sake, but, you know, would then, after doing that, and beholding that ground would acknowledge that it made a difference. Sometimes, we may choose to be really efficient, but we’re not going to pretend that there isn’t a cost to it, right? Or that’s the best way or the only way. 

One other quick example was trying to bring kind of more ritual and play even into our family. I had set something up like in another room upstairs. I can’t remember if it was like honoring spring or a season or something, but I said to my husband, “I set this thing up. We’re going to go up there.” He kind of like hemmed and hawed about it. I had to watch myself. I was like, “Oh, he doesn’t want to do it. Yeah, maybe it’s kind of silly.” I remember these thoughts going through my head. In the past, I might have either tried to talk him into it or just kind of given up totally on this idea I had. But instead, I was like, “You know, I’m going to take the girls, and we’re going to go up and do it. If you’d like to join us, you can.” 

It was just the best thing I ever did because it validated me and my experience, and I really wanted to do it. So, why would I, because he’s not valuing it at that moment, relinquish that pleasure to myself, right? And something that I thought could be sweet and beneficial even for all of us, but if he didn’t want to play, he didn’t have to. Right? We went up. We kind of got started, and he did end up joining us. I didn’t punish him. That’s the other thing, right? Because sometimes it’s like, “Oh, well.” If I’m not doing that fully from the place of tending to myself, we might react or respond in a way that is less than friendly and inviting, but it’s like, “Great! Glad you’re here. Come join us.”

Right. Love it. So good. Rather than “Ah, now you’re coming.”

Right. “Oh, sorry, you lost your chance. You missed it.

Right. You’re no longer welcome. It’s so important that you can really have that welcoming and just hold that value, and really stay with the purpose of that pleasure and that thing that you’re really drawn towards and can create space for that. 

We’re winding down our time together. As we come back to the idea of self mothering, is there anything else you want to say about how people can do that? Any strategies? I know you’ve named many examples, but is there any starting place that you would invite?

This might sound simpler than it really is. I think I was talking particularly around the self mother, and I brought it in with more the example with men, but it’s, I don’t mean at all to sound like it’s not something we all can continuously work on, which is being able to access and be able to utilize the power of our emotions, and a way that I like to share to support whether it’s yourself individually, whether it’s in relationship with a couple or with a family, if you have children, because we’ve done it in all these stages, which is at some point in the day, and we would do this, and my husband, I still do it actually at meals, as we call it, the feelings game. 

We check in on our day, but through the lens of five primary emotions: fear, hurt, anger, sadness, and joy. And so, we recount, and we look at our day from somewhere where we felt each one of those emotions. It’s just such a beautiful way to kind of technically raise our emotional intelligence, right. And kind of practical from that sense, but it ends up being a much richer sharing of our day, and also validating that, of course, we’ve had lots of emotions, and we’ve probably sidestepped or avoided or kind of went unconscious to a lot of them, so it gives some validity to them. 

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It’s a good way to start bringing those to the forefront. So, that’s kind of an exercise or assignment I like to share with people wherever they’re at on their personal journey. Practicing this one is always going to bring some insightfulness and some connection and closeness.

I am thrilled about that example. I’m absolutely going to try that and maybe incorporate it in more of a routine practice because I agree that there are so many things that we might be experiencing on any given day. And if we have a propensity to either ignore, suppress, or even are just not conscious of certain emotions, this can really give space for it as well as be in a relationship around it. Make it more human and just be in that place of relating and that responsiveness. And again, it doesn’t have to go super like processy, but just that there’s a recognition.

Exactly. Exactly.

Was there anything else you would like to share with us today about self mothering and as it relates to being in a balanced relationship?

Yeah. I think we’ve been great opening up so many spaces to cover just a great range of territory with all of this. I think the one other thing I would say is I think it’s just the best gift we can give ourselves to find avenues to support getting in touch with ourselves in this way and being able to give ourselves the self mothering we need/deserve. 

Photo of Couple Smiling While Looking at Each Other

“The best gift we can give ourselves is to find avenues to support getting in touch with ourselves in this way and being able to give ourselves the self mothering we need/deserve.”

That can be through coaching, workshops, books, anywhere that’s going to open up a new space for ourselves to know ourselves more, right. The more we know ourselves, the more we kind of know what we need and know what kind of mothering we need. 

Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt and Blue Denim Jeans Hugging Woman in Yellow Long Sleeve

“The more we know ourselves, the more we know what kind of mothering we need.”

I think sometimes it sounds like it doesn’t really come up for people unless they have a big issue or problem or something that we wait till we have extreme cases of needing to really take care of ourselves, that it’s something that, you know, if we can just see like, well, I have a nice, good decent life but it could be so much more. And so much more is possible. I think that’s where the self-mothering journey with ourselves individuals, and then bringing it into a relationship, can, you mentioned this, I think somewhere like, we just haven’t even known what’s possible. I think we’re all like scratching the surface. I know, I’ve come miles for what I saw modeled in my parents’ relationship with my husband, and I can see plenty more space where we could grow deeper and closer and be even way more intimate. Like, the journey never ends, right? It’s nothing that was ever done. I think that’s a good thing. I hold that as a good thing.

Yes, I love it. I just want to spend more time with this material because I feel the more that we’re talking, the more I just feel like it’s such a priority, and we don’t have as much language for it or as probably as much support for it as much as we might need. 

The other thing that we haven’t really done a lot with and I feel a little sad about it just have not had given it as much space, but the relationship part, is there anything you want to say about what this looks like, when we are in a relationship and both individuals have some practice with self mothering or some connection with it?

Yeah. I mean, it’s something that maybe we haven’t maybe touched on in what we’ve shared so far in the couple or relationship is the going back and looking at the wiring, the way we had in relationship with our own mothers, and how much that plays out in your current relationship unless we bring it to consciousness and overtly work on it. 

I’m a huge proponent of us going in and exploring that territory. I think Bethany Webster is named it the mother wound, I guess. But the more we can heal from our own upbringings and be aware of the triggers and the aspects from our upbringings, even in the best of cases, is going to play out in our relationships unless we address it. If we really don’t put a magnifying glass on it and kind of dig into it and do our own reflection, healing, and even direct, clear, current in relationship with those people. I think the possibility for closeness is hindered significantly, right? I’m going to use the terms projection and transference here. 

I do believe we actually find the person that we’ll end up being in a relationship with is going to very much reflect in ways that we don’t even realize at the beginning aspects of our parents so we can heal them. It’s not like that’s a bad thing, or we should try and find somebody that isn’t going to trigger us. No, it’s impossible. We will. That’s inevitable. But am I willing to explore and do the work so that I can differentiate and be individuated from those relationships and truly be in a relationship with my partner?

Thank you for spelling that out. And that this is just really important work for us to recognize and work with. And that our relationships will be a mirror. Our partner perhaps will be a mirror to activate that and bring it to light for that process of healing and then what that allows that capacity to be in a more full relationship with your significant other and all parts of you rather than these hindrances you’re referring to. 

Yeah. 

Wonderful. Well, for people that are interested in getting to know more about what you’re teaching and what you’re offering, what would you suggest people do?

Oh, well, I would love that. I love hearing from people in any and all forms. Well, I’ll name three ways. So first, I’m on Instagram at @DrGertrudeLyons. I have a website, DrGertrudeLyons.com. And I have a podcast also. That’s Mot(Her) Rewriting The Mother Code with Dr. Gertrude Lyons. Yes, my name is and all of them, so search my name in that way in any of those mediums. I’m also on LinkedIn and other places, but those are probably the best ways to get in touch with me. 

Fabulous. And then, for the content that they might be able to get on Instagram or even your website and the podcast, it sounds like you offer a whole heck of a lot to help people just get familiar with this terrain. And then, if they want to go deeper, what do you offer for people who want to do a deeper dive?

Either through individual coaching. I coach individuals, couples, families. I also do workshops and training. I’m also connected with an organization, The Wright Foundation. And we have access to, when we work together, to everything from couples work to individual work through really assignment-based applied learning and development through our courses. 

If you really want to take it somewhere and really dive in deep and get a graduate and get a master’s, you can also come to our graduate university, The Wright Graduate University for the Realisation of Human Potential. So, lots of options once we connect, depending on how deep you want to go.

Wonderful. I’ll make sure to have all of those links on today’s show notes. Gertrude, thank you for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.

Oh my gosh, it’s been so beautiful. And thank you so much for being such a wonderful host and guiding our conversation. It’s been amazing.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching