My early family life was a cornucopia of antagonism, guilt and soul-deadening criticism. My mother, in particular, was an eternal source of pain in childhood.
A critical issue for me as a child was the extent to which I was drawn into the service of my mother's neurotic needs. Neurotic mothers commonly present themselves as the self-sacrificial victims who bear the loving burden of having and raising the children. The willingness to suffer and sacrifice and suffer pain and sorrow thus becomes the hallmark of her mother's love. However this puts a terrible burden of guilt on the child who is the object of such loving sacrifice.
Neurotic mothers are notorious for their martyred agonies, their self-pitying dramatic displays, their exploitation of the theme of sacrifice. In actuality, however, martyred mothers make no sacrifice. If anything, they do precisely the opposite. They exploit their children. They exact an emotional sacrifice. They press upon the children with their imagined wounds, with constant reminders of all they have done for them. Neurotic children take this maternal display seriously; they are mowed down by guilt and seek penance in propitiatory behavior. They attempt in a futile way to make up to their mothers for the presumed sacrifice. Such patterns of neurotic interaction bind the child to mother, deform the quality of togetherness, and sharply restrict the range of development toward a mature autonomy.