There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. We enter parenthood with wounds and imperfections that will invariably influence our children in some way, The role of parent is not to parent perfectly but to have enough self-awareness and humility to recognize our mistakes, own them as ours, and course correct. Children are resilient and can tolerate a lot of mistakes and pain, but when a parent makes a child responsible for their emotional life, refuses to apologize, and fails to honor the child as a separate being with their own needs, emotions, preferences, and temperament, a deeper level of wound takes hold. This wound can show up both as enmeshment and abandonment, and it’s what we call a mother wound. (It could also be a father wound, but that’s a subject for a different day.)
What has been wounded can be healed, and the first step in healing is naming the wound and being willing to see your mother clearly, both in her fallibility and in her strengths.
If we’re holding our mother up to an unattainable expectation of perfect mother, we not only eclipse authenticity in the relationship with her but we also prevent it in ourselves. For in order for the growth of freedom to occur in a daughter she needs to see her relationship with her mother, which is her first blueprint of relationship, clearly. This is true regardless of the severity of the mother wound, or even if there’s no wound at all.
This is not an easy task. The mother-daughter relationship is braided and re-braided with thick strands of loyalty, many of which have been handed down for generations. While it’s essential for all grown children to examine their relationship with their parents, the task takes on particular importance for the daughter who has suffered from a mother wound, as many of the current challenges she carries – lack of self-trust, difficulty making decisions, perfectionism, fear of enmeshment and engulfment, shame, anger/rage – can be traced directly back to this original relationship.
But in order to heal we have to be willing to process the pain that arises when a mother is unable or unwilling to meet emotional needs, for if this pain remains shunned and hidden, we remain stilted and stuck in old, outdated patterns that are no longer serve us. On the other hand, when we find the courage to see the original relationship clearly – including naming and unpacking unwritten contracts that we unconsciously agreed upon pre-verbally – we can unbind ourselves from the constriction and step into the freedom to be fully ourselves.
For example, you may have learned early in life that it’s your job to take care of your mother’s emotions – that her pain and joy were your responsibility. This contract needs to be named so that it can be rewritten.
You may have learned early in life your mother would only approve of you if you played by her rules, which often meant striving for perfection. If you were beautiful enough or smart enough or had the right friends or clothes, your mother might shine her sunlight of false love upon you. Of course, this isn’t love at all, and the playing rules would have caused you to develop a belief that said, “I’ll only be loved if I’m perfect.” This contract needs to be named so that it can be cleansed and rewritten.
You may have learned early in life that your mother was capable of rejecting you, of going against the most primal contract of motherhood that says, “I will protect and love my child no matter what.” Some mothers, so wounded from their own past and traumas, violate this most basic law of nature and reject their daughters in a variety of ways. This leads to a deep shame wound that says, “I’m not worthy of being loved.” This belief needs to be named so that it can be cleansed and rewritten.
You might come from a mother whose anger, control, punishments, or rage dominated the household to the point where you were scared of her. This may have affected the way you learned to care for your body, for when we fear mother we might also fear “matter”, and our bodies are the manifestation of matter. In Latin the word for mother is mater. Mother and matter share a root, which is why a mother wound often results in wounds around body image, how we nurture or struggle to nurture ourselves with food, and our physical health.
One fascinating aspect of unwritten and unconscious contracts – and there are many more in addition to the ones I’ve listed above – is that they transcend time and space; you can be in your 50s or 80s, or your mother can be deceased, and you still feel bound by these contracts and struggling with the aftereffects of the wounding.
But, again, it’s never too late to heal. It’s never too late to pull those contracts out from the dusty chests of psyche – from the far-off places we shoved them into long ago – and hold them up to the light of day. What we can see, we can name; and what we can name, we can heal. The first step is finding the courage to see.
This is what we’ll be doing in Healing the Mother Wound: A 40-day course for daughters. Gently and thoroughly, together and with guidance, you’ll receive a roadmap on how to clearly define how the mother wound shows up for you, name the contracts. cut/cleanse/re-braid those contracts, and learn about what it means to create a new, healthy relationship with your own mother and/or other sources of mothering.
And as I answer in the FAQs on the main course page, healing the mother wound doesn’t require having a relationship with your mother. While many daughters choose to find ways to have a healthy relationship with their mother by creating both inner and outer boundaries (which we will discuss in the course), other daughters trust that the healthiest path is to sever contact. Both choices require layers of healing so that you can find your peace and freedom regardless of your levels of contact.
Healing the mother wound is a journey like no other. As nobody has your unique configuration of mother-daughter relationship, there are going to be details to your story that are specific to you. But there are also archetypal layers that are common to all daughters struggling with a mother wound: beliefs, stories, contracts, grief, anger, and pain that transcend time, space, and all categories by which we identify ourselves. It’s these layers that we’ll be addressing in the course, for when we plumb into the personal deeply enough, we land in the archetypal, and that’s where true healing occurs.
The inaugural round of this course will start on July 31st, 2021, and I very much look forward to connecting with you there. If you have questions about the course, please ask them on the main course page, which you can find here, and I’ll be happy to respond.