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Moms and Daughters: Recollecting the Past


Daughters, did you ever consider the disadvantage your mother may play in your relationship? Most likely she has to deal with, interpret, please, and maintain harmony with more than one child—you and your siblings. That can be wearing. On the other hand, daughters only have one mother to combat.

Daughters, how you feel about your mothers is based on memories that may or may not be reliable, claims Alyce Faye Cleese, psychotherapist and author of How to Manage Your Mother (Regan Books, 1999). Here are some thoughts to keep in mind the next time you adamantly defend your version of an event recalled from the past.

Memories are jumbled mixtures of emotions and individual perceptions that cloud the facts. This is why siblings express completely different recollections of the same shared past. There are some events from the past that we don't wish to recall, so we repress them instead. Leaving out these repressed memories affects the accurate accounting of other past events.

Memories are constantly changing and being updated by the new person we are continually becoming. Cleese makes a good point when she says that memories "fit the person we are today." Events that occurred in the past, which evoked strong negative feelings at the time, assume a more prominent place in our memories. When it comes to our moms, Cleese says for daughters, these negative memories have greater impact on how we view or treat our mothers than do the positive memories.

Building Blocks

Repressed memories are those events from the past that an individual buries or hides in her unconscious mind in order not to have to deal with them.

How Your Mom Remembers It

Chances are that you and your mother have different perceptions of the past, stated a study reported in a 1997 summer issue of Current Psychology. When it comes to your childhood memories…

  • Your mother remembers the facts of your mutual conflicts rather clearly. What she seems to be tainted by her biases are the memories of her attitudes associated with these conflicts.
  • Your mother remembers that if your childhood relationship with her was full of problems, so, too, were your teenage years.
  • Your mother over-rates the positive and undervalues the negative aspects of your relationships.

According to detailed studies among those daughters who describe their current relationship with their moms as being relatively conflicted, their mothers tended to rate their past relationship more conflicted.

Mothers and Daughters Remember the Past Differently

Take a look at ways in which your mother's recollections of the past differ from yours. Your mother is likely overall to evaluate all periods of your growing up with less degree of conflict than will you.

According to the current research of Karen J. Fingerman, professor of human development and family studies, when asked to define which periods of their relationships with their daughters were more conflicted, moms said that time period before age 25. However, daughters rate the period after age 25 with more conflict than do their moms.

There seems to be a general consensus among moms and daughters that most past conflict dealt with daily matters. However, daughters, more than their mothers, believed many conflicts dealt with questions of their need for independence. Mothers tended to report more conflicts that had to do with their daughter's sexuality. Moms who viewed their past relationships with their daughters as very positive failed to agree with their daughters on the times in the past that were most problematic.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters © 2001 by Rosanne Rosen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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