Excerpt from Always Say Hello to Life

A book about how to let go of mother is tough to write, mostly because I don't want to let go of my own mother. Nobody seems to.

When I would teach seminars on "psychological separation," it would take months for the participants, psychotherapists all, to relax this tension about their own mothers, to be open to understand what is in this little book. It is scary stuff. It is scary because as humans we have had a very long time in our relationship with mother to get convinced, at the deepest of levels, that we couldn't live without her. And as smart and sophisticated and accomplished as we may have become, this profound belief still lives in most of us, unhappily, to our detriment.

It is not because there is anything wrong with mothers. They run the full range from outstanding to terrible, as is true of any other human agency. Those of us who have more troubled persons as mothers perhaps have more trouble as a result. But even with the best there is trouble because it is the human condition. Our relationships with our mothers are the most beautiful and engaging of all human relationships; at the same time they are the most perilous to our spirit. They can be the greatest obstacle to our becoming the unique, once-in-all-creation persons that each of us is.

She is not to blame. Mother is just a fellow human being trying to extricate her spirit from her own mother. When we realize and accept that reality, we will be free.

I am going to try to accomplish much in a small space. I will try to persuade you that you are enmeshed in your mother to a much greater extent than perhaps you are aware. I will point out indications of this and suggest remedies. I will encourage you to be willing to experience all the emotions that will come up for you as you think about these things. I am going to emphasize self-centeredness, and shame, not in a blaming sense but to increase awareness. I am convinced that these inner emotional states are unavoidable; they are part of the human condition with all its limitations. You needn't blame yourself for any of these things. They are your lot in life. Denying their presence is the problem. I hope to help you be aware of them and to accept yourself as having them, as well as pointing out certain strategies for managing them.

I will speak of two major relationships that can help you grow out into the person you truly are. Notice I didn't say change. I don't think you need changing. None of us does. We need, rather, to jettison some ways we have learned to be, some attitudes and beliefs we thought to be essential to survival. When we do this we naturally return to our true selves, which are perfect. Committed long-term relationships as well as other friendships are major opportunities to do just this. We will look at intimacy and relatedness and see that they are not only fun and wonderful in themselves, but also marvelous chances to drop the baggage of the past and return to ourselves, to finish the unfinished aspects of our personalities.

I'm convinced that the only thing powerful enough to help us surrender the final self-destructive connections with our earliest caretakers is a relationship with a transcendent, a power greater than ourselves. Many people know this power as God, although that name carries such negative connotations for so many that I hesitate to use it. The crucial thing to realize is that we are not that transcendent, that there is a power in the universe beyond us. However you negotiate this issue is up to you. But don't dismiss it. Such a dismissal may be symptomatic of the very fusion with mother that this book is about.

I also want to say something about gender. Letting go of mother is a problem for all of us, females and males. Unfortunately our language doesn't permit me to employ both pronouns simultaneously. Sometimes I use the plural, but there are moments when the personal nature of what I have to say makes the singular more suitable. When I use the male pronoun, I am fully aware that what I speak of goes beyond gender. In fact, women have a particular struggle in becoming separate from mother because they have to become themselves at the same time as they must learn to be like their mothers in essential ways. The details of our separation unto ourselves differ somewhat because of our gender. But overall, the problems and challenges are more alike than different. We are all in this together. The same is true when I speak of the power greater than ourselves. The limitation of language forces me to assign a gender. The Spirit of which all of our spirits partake is, of course, beyond gender.