Getting a Motherechtomy


My supervisor suggested to one of my colleagues that his client needed a motherechtomy. A motherechtomy in psychotherapy is an incredibly liberating procedure but the surgery itself? It’s a doozy! Nearly as complicated as a girlfriendechtomy or husbandechtomy!

This somewhat humorous description is meant to draw attention to a real developmental need. I’m not suggesting that we amputate relationships, but rather that we learn to live as individuals within them. The process is called individuation or differentiation. Here is one way of putting it; “differentiation is your ability to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally and/or physically close to others—especially as they become increasingly important to you” (Schnarch, p. 56). Learning this important life task might enable you to stay in relationships in a healthy way rather than either staying in them at great cost to yourself or having to end them.

I often talk to clients about this in terms of being OK with facing certain realities. Are you willing to be OK with disappointing your mother? Can you be the disappointing son without fixing it? Are you willing to face your own tension as your spouse is angry or having a poor reaction to something without needing to fix it or change them? Are you willing to face your own jealousy in your romantic relationship as your own problem rather than it necessarily being a problem for the relationship?

Schnarch says that we confuse love with emotional fusion (p.64). In other words, my lack of ability to be OK when relationships are troubling is not necessarily a sign of love. It very well might be a sign of enmeshment or emotional fusion. We have become dependent on the OK-ness of a relationship or someone’s view of us to feel OK ourselves. Changing this requires courage and intentionality, but it is a process that is worth the effort.

I’m quoting Dr. David Schnarch in his book, Passionate Marriage.  Here’s his website:

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