I'll be honest with you. I don't have a close relationship with my mother. Ever since I was a little girl, I had learned not to rock the boat and be a "good girl" because my mother had trouble regulating her emotions. As a result, I was constantly walking on eggshells, afraid of how her erratic mood will change at any second. So I lived on the edge of anxiety for a long time, in flight or freeze mode.
I used to be envious of my cousins and other female friends who have happy mother/daughter relationships. I wished I had an emotionally available mother who could nurture, guide and protect me. But, unfortunately, or fortunately, I would say I did not experience that.
So what is the Mother Wound?
The mother wound is the pain and trauma carried by a mother and inherited by her children facing the brunt of this wound. Even if a mother was physically present, having a mother who was not emotionally available when you were a child would likely cause pain. Sadly, many mothers do not have the resources or support needed for their traumas, which affects how they interact with and raise their children.
Recall for a second:
How did your mother talk to herself?
How did she treat herself and her body?
How did she relate to other women? i.e. "Women are competition."
How did she relate to men?
What did your mother teach you to value or view negatively?
Because our mothers are often the most influential person in our lives, and we are very dependent on them during our formative years, we tend to internalize many of their beliefs and take on unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, addictions like smoking, alcohol, sex, drugs, food, shopping, gambling, the internet, relationships and overworking. The dysfunctional coping mechanisms our mothers became dependent on in reaction to those traumas all impact us as children. Essentially, we are numbing emotional neglect in our childhood.
Patriarchy and the Mother Wound
In patriarchal societies or families, it may be easier for mothers to pass on their mother wounds to their daughters, who have internalized stereotypical beliefs that relegate women to second-class citizens. As a result, they are more likely to consciously or unconsciously transmit these beliefs to their daughters. In these conservative societies, daughters may find themselves caught in a double-edged dilemma: "Accept what Mother believes in so that we are on the same page and she will keep loving me, or fight for my own beliefs and aim for my self-empowerment."
Signs of the Mother Wound
Daughters dealing with a mother wound often look back on their childhood. Do any of the feelings in the list below seem familiar to you? Then you may have a mother wound.
Your mother just wasn't there for you emotionally.
You were unwilling to go to your mother for comfort or security.
You were always trying to be perfect.
You felt anxious and scared around your mother.
Your mother expected you to take care of her physically or emotionally.
These types of feelings throughout childhood reduce self-esteem, feelings of low self-worth, and feelings of worthiness to have a relationship. As a result, daughters with mother wound always feel incomplete. They also have deeply rooted feelings about the need for perfection and being in control. These are similar childhood factors to those linked to codependency. The presence of the mother wound, if not healed, can contribute to codependency patterns in relationships, such as narcissistic partners.
I have all of the signs above. I don't remember going to my mother for comfort or confiding in her. Instead, I would write in my journal and speak to my friends rather than confide in my mother. I always played the "good girl" role and listened or pretended to listen to her to appease my mother. And I was always uncomfortable and anxious around her because I never knew when she would burst out in anger.
I also often had to listen to her complain about my father, and she would always ask me, "If mummy and daddy were to get a divorce, who would you choose?" So time and time again, I would lie straight to her face and say I would choose her. Not because I wanted to, but because I was afraid she might be pissed off and physically hurt me.
I want to be clear that I'm not blaming my mother. I have done a lot of healing and made peace with my past. I'm just sharing how it was for me during my childhood to give you an idea of what it must have been like to live with a wounded mother. My mother also suffered from mother wound from my grandmother. She was a daughter before she became a mother. Trauma begets trauma.
So what can you do to heal?
Inner child work- Exploring your inner child's feelings and allowing those emotions of being unloved, ignored, unwanted, shunned, ridiculed or even victimized to be expressed in a safe, therapeutic environment. Journaling can also help with this process; write how you felt as a child.
Love yourself- Learning to validate and love ourselves creates a positive emotional and mental picture of our lives in the present time, letting go of the past concept of self-developed by our interactions with our mother or grandmother. You can say loving-kindness affirmations to yourself in the mornings while looking in the mirror. You can give yourself a big hug. You can start looking after your needs first and filling your cup through self-care practices like yoga, meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature.
Develop self-awareness- Without our mother's emotional attention, we didn't have the feedback needed to develop self-awareness. As a result, we must relearn how to get back in touch with our feelings. Take the time to stop and feel what you're feeling. Naming the emotion is the first step to coping with the feeling.
Mother yourself- If we feel we didn't get enough love, support, celebration, and encouragement, we can learn to mother ourselves and give ourselves all the things we never received. We can bring in an inner mother who helps that inner child to release all those needs for reassurance and find a way to give that validation to ourselves.
Setting boundaries—Creating a relationship with your mother by setting limits based on your needs and the ability of your mother to change and contribute to your emotional needs in a healthy, positive, and fulfilling way. If not, it might be best to reduce contact until you feel comfortable extending the olive branch and picking up the relationship again. Then, of course, the last resort would be to completely cut off ties with your mother for your mental health.
Forgiveness- Acknowledge our feelings and grieve over what we never got as a child creates the emotional space we need to move towards forgiveness. Being a mother is challenging. If you're a mother, you know how hard it is. Everyone makes mistakes, and mothers get things wrong too. If you can accept and recognize your mother for who she is and not dwell on who you would like her to be, perhaps you can move toward understanding and accepting her.
Find a mentor or a coach- Sometimes, the best thing to do is to ask for help. While it is possible to self-heal, most of the time, we need support and someone to hold space for us while we are healing. When you work with a mentor or coach, you can get faster and better results because they guide you and give you the accountability needed to move forward- bringing you from victim mode to feeling empowered.
I want to end by saying that my mother did teach me good things in life, like the importance of education, health, nutrition, and cooking healthy food for my family. I acknowledge that my mother did her best, given her circumstances and resources during the 80s. I'm very grateful for the valuable life knowledge she passed to me, which I will carry on to pass down to my children.
Because my mother was not emotionally available to me, I had to learn the hard way to trust my inner mother/ compass throughout my life. I'm fortunate to have at least one parent, my father, who is loving and compassionate towards my brothers and me. Though I imagine having motherly love is a different feeling. But having said that, I'm getting to relive my childhood and nurture and love myself through being a mother to my children, particularly my daughter, which has been a profoundly deep healing experience.
The lack of motherly support and love shaped me into who I am now. I was a people pleaser for a long time, afraid to speak my mind and worrying about what people thought of me. I've been on the path that led me to use alcohol, drugs, and sex to numb the pain and void. Finally, after more than ten years of gruelling inner work, I can break the chains that hold me back to be the person who is not afraid to take up space, love wholeheartedly, and be this crazy, wild woman I am.
So I'm very aware of the journey I want to take, which is to be a generation cycle breaker in my own lineage. To help inspire other women that they can heal from their Mother Wound, that they can rise and step up to the role of the empowered woman. Because through healing comes personal transformation, and the ripple effects from that will change our culture, society and the world at large.
It is time to break the cycle and the trauma and be aware that we are responsible for changing things for future generations, especially our daughters, so they no longer have to be the victims of the mother wound.
Do you have any of the signs of Mother Wound? How have you healed? I would love to hear about your experience.
If you are interested in discovering the radical and alternative therapies I have experienced, which led me to my healing journey, book a discovery call with me.