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Exploring the Mother & Father Wound

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Chelsea Arienne
EmotionalWound Guide

Love 💚 and Light✨ to all !

I just wanted to share this article I read describing What the “Mother Wound” is and the correlations between how those affected (like myself) can sometimes develop certain “traits” .... take some time and have a read , and don’t “break the mirror“ y’all 😂💚


LETS DISCUSS !



Healing the mother wound – Part 1: Understanding the mother wound, good enough mothering and the impact of the mother wound as an adult

Dr Mari

Perhaps the most painful of all feelings is the awareness that your mother was not there for you emotionally as a child, this creates the mother wound. She might have been physically present but emotionally absent. Perhaps she was (is) very critical and she was telling you to put a smile on your face when you were sad and needed a hug and comforting. Perhaps she belittled your feelings and demanded you to be supportive of her when she needed you. She may have told you to worry about what the world thought of you more than what you thought of something and how it impacted you. Perhaps she was absent because she was drinking or too busy with her own life. She may have been even frightening and abusive.

The reason this post focuses on the mother wound even if many of the experiences may be related to your relationship with your father is that your mother is the one that gave birth to you and she was the first experience of Other for you. Therefore, the mother wound is even more painful than the wound caused by an emotionally absent father.

What is “good enough” mothering?

The role of mothers (parents) is to nurture their children both physically and emotionally. It is equally important to teach children to read and understand their own internal worlds (such as labelling feelings, recognising emotional responses, understanding needs, having boundaries and being able to say “no”, which all contribute to having the belief that “I am good enough and lovable”) than it is to feed children nutritious food and offer a roof over their head.

It is a mother’s role to teach children about (self-)soothing. From the early hours after being born skin to skin contact helps to regulate a new-born baby’s underdeveloped nervous system and in fact, in this close proximity, the parent receives a release of oxytocin, a cuddling hormone, too. This way the child and the parent are co-regulating each other.

Self-soothing is an important skill as an adult and you learn it by having been soothed by another person (a good enough parental figure). Instead, if you were left to cry for long periods of time without your mother responding to your attachment call or you were quickly distracted away from your feelings, you may have learnt that your feelings are not accepted and you should not express them or numb them.

Therefore, a mother who gives hugs, listens and talks to their child about their feelings helps the child to understand their emotional responses, and this helps with learning to tolerate different emotions and soothe the pain of emotional experiences. Having had this experience as a child helps to you to use it as a resource as an adult when facing stressful life events.

There is a lot of talk about the “terrible twos” when in fact this a special developmental period that should be celebrated as the time to learn about personal boundaries and learning to say “no” to unwanted things. It is a mother’s (parents’) responsibility to support a toddler during this time to develop a sense of agency and have a right to say “no”, and help to understand the child’s needs and wants. You may have been taught to be “a good girl or boy” and do as you are told, and labeled as being naughty if you expressed or explored your own needs. You may have internalised a message that you have no right to say “no” and often end up pleasing others at your own expense.

All mothers (parents) try to do their best for their children, but for their own difficulties and often due to their own mother wound they end up repeating behaviour patterns that are potentially emotionally damaging. However, it was your mother’s responsibility to offer you emotional safety.

Of course, as a parent, it is challenging to have a toddler who refuses to go in the car seat when you are in a rush to go somewhere or wants to wear something that you feel is inappropriate for the occasion. However, these are golden opportunities for learning (for both the parent and their child) about expressing oneself and remaining calm when being challenged. If you are faced with this situation, remember to breathe. If you are really struggling, it may be helpful to have emotional support for yourself.

If you are a parent and now worrying about having to be a perfect mother in order not to cause a mother wound, please remember that we are aiming for “good enough”, not for perfection at all times. The main thing is that you are aware of your responsibilities and you have a desire not to repeat the behaviour patterns you experienced as having a mother who emotionally neglected you and you wish to offer your children a different experience.

How the mother wound impacts your life as an adult?

The awareness of not having experienced a loving and emotionally attuned mother leads to underlying questions related to the mother wound like “did I do something to deserve this” or “I must be bad because she did not have time for me” or “if I had been a better child, she would have cared more”. You may have internalised self-critical messages that either you were not lovable or you have to earn love by achievements.

The mother wound may contribute to you struggling with, for example, emotional emptiness, permanent sense of sadness, worry and anxiety, depression, and difficulty to know who you are and end up in relationships with partners who are emotionally unresponsive. You may use food or alcohol to soothe you when you experience difficult feelings. You are likely to struggle with self-compassion and being kind to yourself. Perhaps you try to be the perfect mother yourself to others and struggle to give yourself the same.

McBride (2013) wrote an excellent book: “Will I ever be good enough?” and talks about the high-achieving daughter who tries to buy mother’s love by excelling academically and/or in trying to be “perfect” in every other aspect of your life. Of course, it doesn’t matter how much you achieve in life, a toxic, very critical and/or narcissistic parent is unlikely to recognise your achievements. They may ask even more from you. You may have internalised a message that if you work hard and aim for perfection, you will have your mother’s love and you may live in a hope that it will happen one day. Then every time you wish for your mother’s recognition for your achievements, you are disappointed and may even say “What is the point”.

McBride (2013) also talked about a daughter that self-sabotages as a result of a mother wound and for not feeling worthy of good things in life. She listed four typical traits of a person who self-sabotages:

• Giving up

• Numbing the pain of a mother wound by external things and having addictions

• Remaining stuck in self-destructive behaviour patterns and lifestyles

• Underachieving and not going out there use your full potential and skills

When you believe about yourself that you are not deserving of good things in life and you may struggle to grab any opportunities in life that there are in front of you, or perhaps you start but easily give up when facing adversity because you don’t deep down believe that you have the skill or the drive to achieve good things in life.

Finally,

Having mother wound is very painful, but you can heal from it. Even if it has impacted your life in many ways so far, it does not have to determine your future. You can heal and rewrite your destiny.


Part 2

Healing the mother wound – Part 2: 10 Steps to healing from emotional absence

The greatest pain of all – the mother wound, the emotional absence of your mother in your early years. The first part of this 2-part series looked at what the mother wound means and how it can impact your well-being as an adult. The mother wound can be defined as your mother not being emotionally attuned and available to you as a child. She may have been present physically but emotionally absent. There could be a multitude of reasons for it. Often the mother wound is a repetition of your mother’s own mother wound and lack of adequate, good enough mothering and having experienced emotional absence.

The mother wound could have contributed you to having toxic relationships and the way you are in adult relationships, experience anxiety and/or depression and using food, alcohol other things for soothing your emotions.

The aim of this post is to offer you some actionable steps towards healing from the mother wound. This is not an exclusive list and your mother wound may be very different from another person’s, however, there are some commonalities in experiences. Some mothers may be self-absorbed to the point of being narcissistic, very critical or just focused on external factors (education, your appearance etc) whilst other’s are well-meaning but only able to show love in practical terms and lacking the ability to emotionally engage with their child.

For healing it is important you start to separate yourself from your mother, she is a part of you and your make up (genes), but she is not you (McBride, 2013). You may have struggled to form a clear sense of who you are because your mother was unable to offer you mirroring that helps children to develop a sense of themselves.

It is important to start the healing process from the very basics of understanding the relationship you had with your mother and then moving on towards building a clearer sense of who you are as an individual. It is not necessarily a linear process and often facing the pain of mother wound is very difficult, but at the same time, it can help you to free you from the pain you are likely to carry. I hope these steps can help you on your journey of recovery from the mother wound.

10 Steps towards healing your mother wound and recovering from emotional absence

It is possible to heal from the pain of having an emotionally absent and/or self-absorbed mother

1.Acknowledge that the emotional absence was not your fault

  • Your mother was not emotionally available because you did something as a child. It was not because you were not good enough or unlovable. If your mother was emotionally absent and/or critical of you, you are/were not responsible for her behaviour. She was the responsible adult.

  • You deserved love and being cared for as a child and also now as an adult.

2. See your mother as she is, not as the person you would like her to be (McBride, 2013)

  • It is very painful to come to accept and let go of the hope that one day your mother may change and be the loving and cuddly mother you always hoped for. This wish may keep you in a very anxious and depressed place, as your wish is never fulfilled and you continue to hope for a change but continue to experience emotional absence by your mother.

  • When you learn to accept that your mother is only able to give you as much as she can, your healing can start and you can have a relationship with her on that level (if you wish to have a relationship with her)

  • You have to decide what kind of relationship you would like to (if any) have with her – Reflect on the emotional impact of both having a relationship with her and not having her in your life.

3. Allow yourself to grieve the absence of an emotionally engaged mother (McBride, 2013)

  • Let yourself feel the pain of feeling unloved as a child

  • Express the pain by talking, painting, writing or in any way that comes naturally to you

  • It is ok to have mixed feelings about your mother for wanting her attention and love (this is our survival instinct as children) whilst feeling angry towards her and hurt for her not being able to prioritise your (emotional) needs as a child. Acknowledge all your feelings.

4. Get to know yourself – You may struggle to understand what you want or need, and often seek guidance from other people to the extent that it is very confusing for you.

5. Pay attention to your emotional experiences: You may struggle to understand your feelings and they are vital for you to understand who you are and what you want/need.

  • Stop and listen to your body – what is the emotion you experience and how does it feel in your body?

  • Learn to name your feelings but slowing down and taking time to reflect on them

6. Develop self-soothing skills – When our caregivers didn’t provide us with soothing as children and we experienced emotional absence, we can learn these skills as an adult. We have an innate ability within our body to regulate ourselves. For example, spending time in nature and fully immersing yourself in your experience can teach you about self-soothing and regulation. Use all your senses to take in soothing experiences offered by nature.

  • Take a Mindful walk in the nature focusing on your sensory experiences

  • Practice deep breathing focusing on your exhale, aiming to extend it for as long as you can, e.g. counting up to 9 or even 11 when exhaling.

  • Mindfulness and guided visualisation / meditation

  • Surround yourself with pictures, objects, and scents that help you to relax

  • Listen to music that makes you slow down and relaxes you

  • Watch funny things that make you laugh

7. Be kind to yourself – You may be very critical of yourself and blame yourself for things that either go wrong or even for things that are not to do with you.

  • Self-compassion has 3 parts (Neff, 2017) 

    • Be your own best friend – what would you say to a dear friend in a given situation?

    • Acknowledge that suffering is universal – You are not alone with your pain.

    • Be Mindful of your feelings – acknowledge them but do not over-identify and get stuck with them.

      • When you criticise yourself, listen whose voice you hear – if you e.g. recognise that it is your mother’s critical voice, notice where that it is located in your body, place your hand on it and imagine yourself ripping that criticism away from you, it doesn’t belong to you. You can hand it back to her. Reflect on how that feels to hand it back to the original source.

8.  Review your boundaries – You may feel you have to be there for others at all times and you may struggle to set boundaries with people. This can leave you feeling exhausted and angry and/or depressed. If your mother is in your life, it is important for you to start setting boundaries with her. I understand that this may feel very difficult to start with. It is about empowering you to the ownership of your life and the direction, you want it to take from now on. If your mother has been controlling, this is your time to find freedom.

  • Learn to say “no” when you have previously said “yes” and then regretted it

  • Ask yourself as Brene Brown says: “What’s ok with me and what’s now ok with me?”

  • Remember: You are allowed to set boundaries and express your needs – You are as important as everyone else. We are all equal.

9. Spend time with people who help you to relax and appreciate you as beautiful and unique person as you are

  • Review your friendships and only have people around you who are supportive of you and want who you to be the best version of you, and do not hold you back.

  • Who is worthy of your friendship? Are some people there just to get their own needs met?

10. Seek support

  • Therapy with a therapist who understands your attachment trauma and mother wound can help you to heal your mother wound as we both get hurt and heal in a relationship.

Finally,

Healing the mother wound and recovering from the emotional absence is a process and takes time depending on your mother wound and experiences. It is a journey of becoming the person you are meant and want to be and the healing the wound can set you free from self-criticism, self-doubt, reduce anxiety and depression, improve your relationships and benefit you in many other ways.

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Taiylor Springfield
K. Wilson
De'Anna Gilbert

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