The mother wound is the unconscious pain and shame that is passed from mother to child. Our mothers have the greatest impact on our coping mechanisms, core beliefs and on our self worth. Their unresolved trauma becomes our own.
The mother wound impacts us in different ways:
- Critical Self talk (the internalized voice of the wounded mother)
- Body shaming (the way our mother spoke about her body, we feel the same about our own)
- Chronic Comparison (seeing how you measure up to others often leads to self-shaming)
- Inability to trust or feel close to other women
- Mistrust of romantic partners, feel fear of abandonment that causes us to push people away or avoid certain connections completely
- A belief that we are only worthy or valid if we are playing a role of a caretaker, achiever and the peacemaker
- Procrastination and self sabotage , as means to stay small or acceptable to the role we feel we must play
Daughter and sons both can experience the mother wound, but most commonly daughters carry forward their mother’s wounds. In patriarchal societies, it may be easier for mothers to pass on their own mother wound to their daughters. Women who have internalised stereotypical beliefs that relegate women to second class citizens are more likely to consciously or unconsciously transmit these beliefs to their daughters.
The mother wound is not a specific diagnosis.
We know that the trust that a mother instilled in childhood positively affects not only the child’s present but also their future relationships. On the other hand, a child who acquires the mother wound is most likely to perpetuate this type of relationship with their own child. These negative feelings can lead to-
- Low self esteem
- Lack of emotional awareness
- Inability to self sooth
- The feeling that warm and nurturing relationships aren’t in your reach
It would be convenient and easy if we could blame all of our faults and failures on our mothers . But it wouldn’t be truthful. And that’s because we all have the gift of choice . We can choose to take steps to heal our own mother wound and to make sure that we don’t pass on this hurt to our children. It's a challenging journey , but it’s the beginning of empowerment. How to begin healing the mother wound
- Become conscious to how often you seek your mother’s approval and validation
- Allow yourself to see your mother as a human being and not a super mom. A human with her own wounds and unresolved pain.
- Practice healthy boundaries
- Practice and prioritise self care: Many of our mothers didn’t know how to meet their own needs, which means we need to begin to learn how to meet our own
- Begin to speak to yourself as a wise and loving mother you wish you has(especially important when you feel afraid, triggered or defensive)
- Write a list of qualities and characteristics that make you unique or that you love about yourself
- Put it up on the mirror in your room or bathroom and read it to yourself every morning
- Write a letter to your inner child, acknowledging how you wish you were loved , heard and seen by her
- Connect with people who make you feel like your authentic, true self
- Know that you can love your mother and also have conflicted feelings, private thoughts about her sadness around past experiences due to her. This is not betrayal.
Author: Sana Rubiyana, Counselling Psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru