The Mother Wound
“In a child's eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.” ― N.K. Jemisin
Much is spoken in modern psychotherapy about the significance of the ‘Mother Wound’ and its effect on the Psyche.
We would like to explore this concept.
‘Mother Wound’ is a term which refers to the emotional ‘baggage’ that we are unconsciously given by our mother, as a result of unresolved trauma - during our upbringing.
In her book ‘Belonging – Remembering Ourselves Home’ Toko Pa Turner refers to the concept of the ‘Death Mother.’ This refers to a particular mothering archetype whose characteristics have been identified to have brought about certain identified psychological needs within the child.
She is often described as ‘toxic’ and there are many documented examples of behaviour that are attributed to her. People who identify with having been the child of the ‘Death Mother’ can, during therapy, often recall terrible things that were said to them and how their model of the world was subsequently shaped, affecting core beliefs and ultimately driving negative cycles of thought, emotion, and behaviour.
We need not however, be the child of a ‘Death Mother’ to have sustained a ‘Mother Wound.’
When we explore modern psychotherapeutic teachings, we can see that the ‘Mother Wound’ can be held responsible for much of our need for healing. This is a discussion which warrants further exploration.
Does the presence of a ‘Mother Wound’ suggest that I was mothered in a defective way?
When we hold the behaviour of another person responsible for our ‘baggage,’ we remove responsibility from ourselves. We make ourselves a victim. This is common practice but nevertheless leaves us powerless and prevents us from moving forward. In our experience it is also the reason for a great many rifts in relationships between parents and adult children. As we grow, we see where our inherited our ‘stuff’ came from, and we find it difficult not to apportion blame.
It is very important to understand that we all have unresolved trauma. Depending on our childhood we will have each collected a unique set of traumatic experiences which have shaped us. Of course, there are degrees of trauma when comparing our experiences with those of someone else but understand that it is not what happened to us but how we process it that carries weight within our psyche. There are people who can be described to have had idyllic childhoods who struggle with self-worth, and conversely there are survivors of severe trauma who have achieved incredible balance.
Since we develop our core beliefs through experience, particularly during childhood, they are bound to be affected by the behaviour of our parents. We might assume that they are given to us but in fact, they are formed by our individual responses to what we are given.
Remember also that, throughout childhood we put parts of ourselves away for our own survival. The very process of creating of an accepted version of the Self and forming the Shadow in order to stay alive creates trauma in itself. Read more about Shadow here: Love Your Shadow (resilientpractice.co.uk)
In last week’s article we discussed the daunting prospect of parenting in a world where we are, all too quickly made aware by the media and a huge surge in public awareness about modern psychology, of how profoundly we affect our children by what we say and do. We also outlined how a child’s unique model of the world is formed using information from how they are parented along with life experience and genetic blueprint. To the modern parent this feels like an enormous and terrible responsibility.
As we have said, everyone has unresolved trauma. When we parent, we are bound to unconsciously pass some of our ‘stuff’ in one way or another, to our children. This ‘stuff’ is comprised of learned negative behavioural patterns, belief systems and survival mechanisms that were unconsciously created by fear.
Given that this is true for all of us, our parents were in fact subjected to the same thing, and back it goes, inherited from generation to generation and evolving over time. Addressing this through Shamanic work is known as Ancestral Healing.
It is easy to blame our elders for what they ‘gave to us’ but in truth we are all carrying the burden of countless generations.
The truth is that we all have a ‘Mother Wound.’
What we do with it is entirely up to us.
Having a ‘Mother Wound’ does not necessarily mean that our mothering was defective or toxic.
None of us have resolved all of our trauma and so as mothers we are all bound to unconsciously pass it on to our children in their conditioning. There is no fault – it is unconscious.
With consciousness, however, those negative patterns can stop with us
When we choose to do our own inner work and to heal those patterns and beliefs within the Self, we do it on behalf of all those who have gone before and to the huge benefit of all of the generations to come.
In the words of Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes, what we must do is ‘heal our wounds and cancel all debt.’
When we do this with compassion for ourselves and each other we may start to see a shift in our mother/child relationships. We cannot control whether our mother gives us the approval that we long for or how our children perceive the way that we brought them up, but we can begin with our own self-worth and healing - it is the only way.
Sit in a quiet, safe space
Gently bring to mind your relationship with your mother
Know that everything that you inherited from her either consciously or unconsciously has shaped the lens through which you view the world
Burden or gift
However you choose to see it
That lens is your responsibility
Whatever ‘baggage’ you have been handed down or inherited is yours now to process
Resolve to accept this
Set the intention to do the inner work
With compassion and understanding
Know that any trauma that you suffered
Was never about you personally
Rather it was about the unconscious passing down of unresolved pain
You can resolve that pain
Begin to do this now simply by tending to your wounds
With deep compassion
Gently tend the wounds
Close the gaps
Apply the balm
Sit in the Healing Space
And now let go
Let go of the need to apportion blame
Of the need to analyse
And to judge
Those things are not worthy of your precious time
Let go of all of them
Cut the cords
And cancel all debt
Sit for a few moments now in quiet liberation
Today is a new beginning….
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