Friday, September 28, 2012

Feeling Nothing

YOU KNOW THE PRINCIPLE OF "Nature vs. Nurture" as it relates to human behavior? 

Nature is the idea that much of how we act is determined by our human nature, our DNA, our genetics. 

Nurture, on the other hand means that human behavior is dictated more by our surroundings. 

We can have an affinity for airplanes, for instance, because of some innate, undefinable molecular propensity or because our father liked airplanes and we lived next to an airport. 

Sometimes it's easy to identify where our personality traits come from. Sometimes it's not. 

Recently my mother has taken ill. My older sister, bless her heart, has been with her. I have not. My sister asked me how I feel about our mother. I thought for a moment then replied, "I don't feel anything." My sister smiled and nodded. She understands. 

My sister emailed me this morning to tell me about a little clip she saw on GMA about women who don't have the maternal instinct. Unfortunately, she said, the piece only dealt with women who have chosen to remain childless. It didn't get into the conflict that arises when women who lack maternal instinct become mothers.

For years, my sister and I have believed that our mother is devoid of maternal sensibilities. Perhaps when we were babies, our mother cared for us, making sure we were fed and warm. We are alive after all. But beyond meeting those most basic human needs, our mother was and still is unavailable, unattainable. She's always been somewhere else, either figuratively or literally. 

We know our mother had issues with her mother (and that her mother was abused as a child). Home life for our mother wasn't ideal by any stretch. The question (that likely will never be answered) is, what made our mother the way she is? Nature? Nurture? A combination of both? 

And does the fact that I, in return, feel nothing for my mother mean that it's a Nature thing? Is there a non-feeling gene in me? Or is my apathy a result of Nurture, of having an apathetic mother? I feel a great deal of love for my own children, but I'm dead to my mother. 

How much of who we are is determined by our genes? How much is the result of our surroundings? Do you have any thoughts on the matter?     

And thank you for all your comments. You're a fabulous bunch of followers. If I haven't been to visit your blog recently, I will. Promise. 


  1. As a teacher I have seen nurture have a great impact especially if there is nothing else to intervene with family...and then there is some truth to nature.

    I think we are wired a certain way but that circumstances really direct how things will mom lost her mom when she was 3...her 13 yr old sister raised her with her loving father...she turned out to be a great mom although somewhat stressed at times to be so perfect but she did a great job...her mother was amazing and that nature thing helped wire her...her family solidified it with nurture.

    I also think nurture is more than just is school, friends, other families, other relatives that help shape prove that :)

  2. Nature vs. nurture is an intriguing discussion, and your situation with your mom makes it very relevant for you. Both play roles; identical twin studies are fascinating to me.
    Have a good weekend, blog friend.

  3. An intriguing topic for sure Gracie. I believe circumstances and the way we "choose" to handle/react to them plays a huge role, sometimes it trumps nature or nurture. The defense mechanisms that our brains can set up to protect us is an intriguing topic as well and I believe it can shut us down in particular areas of our emotional lives. Traumatic experiences also change things. After my husband was killed in a car accident I could no longer remember significant dates, still can't. It makes my friends and loved ones angry and they believe I am uncaring about birthday's and such. That could not be further from than the truth. So many dates throughout my life are connected to very painful memories,so now just about all dates are blocked. Oh I know the month and about but not the exact date. I actually made a calendar with all birthday's and anniversaries on it...I have forgotten my own wedding anniversary several times. Now not to change the topic, but to change it...something happened today that I should have definite feelings about, and I do to a degree but for the most part I am numb. Could be I have not completed the digesting part of the news....and I am in no way siding with anyone here or there. There are so many variables to consider, only problem is we don't often know what they are. How's that for a babbling comment...I do hate to hear your mom has fallen ill. I'll say a prayer that some closure can be reached for all concerned to receive some peace. Love you.

  4. I think both nature and nurture shape us. I don't think it's a 50/50 divide--I think that depends on the person.

    My mother's mother was neglectful, and my mother has told me that she tried to be a different kind of mother. To some extent she was, but in a large part she's a lot like her mother. There was neglect and abuse, and sometimes I feel nothing for my mother, too.It's a hard road for me to be on, because I tend to think I "should" be close to my mother.

  5. What a topic, Grace.....
    I am afraid I have nothing to say because I can't understand... My Mom was and is my Angel, and she was gone too early...
    You love your children, and for me, it proves that it is not in genes.

  6. Great topic Grace. Having talked via email, you and I have mothers that are very similar. My mother is NOT a nuturer, never has been. In fact, she does her best to discourage and make one feel like nothing. In her eyes she makes no mistakes, everyone else does, nothing is ever her fault, it is the fault of someone or something else.

    I can relate to Tina's comment, about nature and nurture both shaping us. I don't feel much for my mother either, and as Tina, tend to think I 'should' be close to my mother. Like it's my responsibility, and that's because I was the firstborn, and my mother laid a lot of responsibility on me.

    For my own health and peace of mind I have quit communicating with my negative and abusive mother. I feel more at peace.

    My heart aches when I read of those who have wonderful mother/daughter relationships. It is something I never had and never will. I have tried, but what I do is never enough.

    Darla ~ My heart goes out to you with your losses. You are such a trooper and have a positive spirit.

    Thanks Grace for these thought provoking posts.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  7. A very thought provoking post Grace. Maya Angelou said something that hit me smack in the forehead when I heard it the first time. "We do what we know, when we know better, we do better." Obviously, not everyone does that, but the quote touched me because my mother was either totally absent or quite the opposite and immersed with me with no boundaries what so ever. I think that may have been what she grew up with and was doing what she knew. I don't know how the heck it happened, perhaps the Grace of God, that I knew her mothering skills were not something I wanted to replicate so I did not follow in her footsteps. But I did go through a few years of severe depression and OCD where I was not the mom I wanted to be. I did communicate with my children about the depression and all and I think that
    they knew I was doing the best I could. As adults I have talked to them about that period of time and I see how it has given them so much compassion and sensitivity to the needs of their families and friends.
    I believe in both nurture and nature but I think we can experience growth and change.

  8. Boy - this blog touched a tender spot. I admit I carry a lot of guilt for not having "warm and mushy" feelings for my mom. I think it is tied into respect - or the lack thereof. Choices made had terrible outcomes - of which I paid and continue to pay the price. I went through a tender time where I realized that my mom was just a woman, like me, with problems, unmet goals, unfulfilled dreams - who had her own tough childhood behind her. Yet - when she continues to choose behaviours - the scabs on the wound come off - and I am left raw once again. I feel I should love my mother dearly - for there are things she did right and for my care - but I find I tend to move from discernment of the situation into judgement all too quickly. Thanks for the thought provoking blog - and a chance to hear the thoughts of others.

  9. Life is complicated. Kids respond to love. You've done beautifully with your family. xo L

  10. I have visited your blog only once before but I have to say, this post is very brave! I would never have the courage to blog about the distance that I feel from my mother. I am one of 5 children, the youngest, and I have nearly no contact with any of my family. I have no sense of familial obligation and I have never wanted children. My husband, I adore. I have a sister that I haven't seen in 30 years that checks my blog twice a day everyday and I feel very censored. I'm sure both nature and nurture play a part but I always think that we are so malleable as children that nurture has a stronger hand - at least for a short time. I don't know. It's a question that can't really be answered, I suppose.

  11. Interesting discussion. It seems to be both nature and nurture unfortunately in many cases.

  12. Interesting post. For me it's a mixture of the two, probably that way for most people. Your mother sounds a lot like mine. Too bad having children, or not, didn't seem like an option to most women in that generation. Who knows what that spark is that propels someone badly raised to raise above.


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