The "Mother Wound"
A mother wound is the internalization of many dysfunctional coping mechanisms learned and passed down through generations. It’s the pain that grows inside a child as they try to explore and understand who they are amidst a relationship that doesn’t foster that exploration. It is unhealed wounds that creep into your adult life and manifest through a loud inner critic, codependency, inability to set boundaries, people pleasing, passive aggressiveness, and clinging to unhealthy relationships because of fear of abandonment or rejection.
Below I share with you a graph that I created and shared on my Instagram page. Perhaps you will notice your mother on the left column, and identify with a few of the survival traits you picked up on the right. It is important to acknowledge the mother wound, and bring it to the light to heal. The only way a wound can cause continued suffering, is if it remains invisible. When you are curious and open, you will start to see these traits below for what they really are (survival tools), and you will begin to understand that they are no longer needed. Through your own healing, you will learn to believe that you are enough, and are worthy of love and acceptance— just as you are.
Be reminded that you can not fix or save your mother. But through your own healing, you will learn to love your mother the way she couldn’t love herself. After all, she was someone else’s daughter, and most likely carries her own mother wound. This doesn’t excuse behavior or point the blame; but it will empower you to break the cycle.
Here are a few steps to begin the work to heal your mother wound:
It is common to run from this part. You may try to emotionally numb through similar coping mechanisms your mother numbed with. Maybe romantic partners, shopping, drugs, maybe control tendencies or staying busy. Perhaps you find temporary comfort in denying the pain or justifying that “it wasn’t so bad.” Grieving brings to the surface the wound so you can examine it, hold it, and feel it fully. It is only then that you can start to heal and break free from its grip. Write down what you feel when you think of the younger version of yourself. Write down what you feel when you call or see your mother and don’t get the things you need when you are together (validation, approval, affection etc). Write down things you wish you could have said to defend or speak up for yourself. If tears or pain bubble up, let them. Don’t fight back the need to feel anger and sadness when you think of your childhood. Sit with the discomfort.
Here your wound slowly becomes a scar. You no longer run from the thoughts of your childhood. You embrace the past as a teacher. You learn to acknowledge your unmet needs, and provide them for yourself. You no longer search outwardly for validation, acceptance or approval. You take responsibility for your healing and are intentional about the work. You don’t expect others to give you what you can give to yourself. You slowly begin to feel free.
This may take months or years to feel. But over time, you will begin to realize that your mother was a young child who felt the effects of her mother’s unhealed wounds. You begin to feel empathy, and now see her as a human. You start to lean into the maternal relationships that God/Universe/Higher Power has provided and no longer expect your mother to give you what she isn’t able to. You focus less on her willingness to change, and more on your own growth and change.
As you do this work, you may feel ties of guilt. This chatter can sound like, “I wish my mother would do this work, I wish she would look at the relationship with her mother, I want her to learn how to process these wounds.” However I encourage you to focus on your own healing. This work is about attraction, and not promotion. She may never be ready to face the pains of her past, but that isn’t your burden to carry. Continue on, and remind yourself the only one you are responsible to heal is YOU.
You can stay loyal to your mother, without remaining loyal to her wounds. The greatest gift you can give your own parent, and your children/relationships, is your own healing.
This weekend, give yourself some love. Maybe run a hot bath, do a face mask, go for a walk in the sun. Brew yourself a delicious tea and sit in the quiet. When you feel a twinge of pain, hold it. Not too tight, but enough to allow it space to breathe. Honor it. Tell yourself it is okay to grieve. Tell yourself it is okay to feel whatever it is you need to this weekend. And remember, you are enough, and this will pass.
Yours in healing,