My Mother, My Mirror

Spirituality & Health Magazine

Recognizing and Making the Most of Inherited Self-Images
By Laura Arens Fuerstein, Ph.D.
New Harbinger Publications, 2009, $17.95

The mother is the most powerful figure in the life of an infant or young child — our very survival depends on our ability to please her, and any sense that we are less than pleasing can create insecurities that may last a lifetime, dampening our spirit and making us feel inadequate to meet the demands of work, relationships, and parenthood. 

Dr. Arens Fuerstein uses the image of a “carnival mirror” to illustrate how we may see ourselves, not as we truly are but as flawed and misshapen because of distorted images of the self, passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. Through compassionate guidance and exercises, the author helps daughters, mothers, and grandmothers recognize inherited patterns of viewing the self that may be the cause of eating disorders, body image problems, depression, substance abuse, marital and sexual problems, and a host of other difficulties. Explaining that it is possible to avoid passing these negative patterns on to the next generation of women, she teaches us to identify, understand, and neutralize the toxic messages we may have received and to change the behaviors and attitudes that no longer serve us. 

Her work offers hope that, through understanding the distorted self-images our mothers inherited from their mothers, we can reclaim our ability to see and lovingly accept ourselves without blaming those who raised us.

Laura Arens Fuerstein has been an analytic therapist for more than 30 years. She has written articles and has been a conference speaker on the topics of women’s issues, sexuality, and love and is a senior faculty member at the New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training and the Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of New Jersey.

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