This is what I can tell you about the mother wound.
I can tell you about mother-longing.
I can tell you that we never stop longing for a mother to…
… feed us.
… take care of us.
… nurture us in just the right way: not too much and not too little.
I can tell you that we never stop longing for a mother to bring us soup when we’re sick, not because it bolsters up her own sense of self-worth, not to showcase her own goodness, but for the simple joy of giving to her child.
I can tell you that we never stop longing to be tucked in and kissed goodnight, to be held in arms that make us feel safe, to wrap us up in blankets of warmth and quilts of comfort and arms that are there to give, not take.
I can tell you that we never stop longing to feel affirmed, celebrated, seen in our highest glory and light – a light not taken as a reflection of her own light, the way the moon borrows from the sun, but a light loved and raised up in its own right and radiance and brilliance.
And I can tell you that there are very, very few human mothers who are able to love their daughters in these ways. If you have a mother who loves you close enough to just right, you are blessed, and I hope you receive the gift and hold it tenderly for all your days.
And I can tell you about the aftereffects of a mother wound.
A mother wound can show up as the need to please and taking on the role as “pleaser.” When you’ve been raised to orient around someone else’s needs, when her needs became paramount and you learned early in life that there wasn’t room for your emotional life, if you were punished in any way for expressing dissent or anger (and punishment can be withdrawal, coldness, or outright rejection), you may have learned that pleasing others was the only way to survive.
It can show up as becoming a perfectionist, dancing as fast as you can to receive the approval from others that you never received from her, for as a child it’s too devastating to recognize that your mother, because of her own wounds and deficits, can’t meet your emotional needs, so you assume that the problem is you. If only I were more perfect in some way, I would receive the affirmation I so desperately need.
It can show up in romantic relationships and friendship as having an intense fear of engulfment (my needs won’t be respected or heard) and/or an intense fear of abandonment.
And, as I’ve shared in my last two posts, it can show up as shame: the belief that says, “I’m broken. I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m unworthy.” For if the person who first laid eyes on you doesn’t know how to love you with their entire being, a child can only assume that the deficit lies in her, not in her mother.
Beyond physical and material needs being met, a child needs one thing: to be loved and seen, which means that her emotional needs are honored and her unique gifts are cherished. A daughter doesn’t need perfect mothering, for that doesn’t exist. She needs good enough mothering, which is a mother’s love and healthy attachment that creates a belief in her daughter that engenders an inviolable sense of her own worthiness, purpose and a foundational safety.
Most daughters were not loved in these ways. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to receive to receive this kind of mother-love. It doesn’t mean it’s too late to fill the hunger of longing that aches in your heart.
What we can see, we can attend. And what we can attend, we can heal.
Healing the mother wound doesn’t required changing anything about your relationship with your mother, or even having a relationship with her at all if that’s the most loving choice. Healing this wound requires a willingness to name the wound and a courage to attend to the common emotional experiences that arise as a result of the wound that all daughters share: grief, longing, and shame.
As you know if you follow my work, I’m not in the business of blaming or hating parents for all of our pain and shame, nor do I believe that healing happens from the head. Healing happens when we drop into the core emotions that arise from specific wounds, learn how to hand back the pain and shame that are not ours, then establish new, healthy internal relationships that fill in the gaps left behind by fallible human parents.
This is what we’ll be doing in my new course, Healing the Mother Wound: A 40-day course for daughters. I’ve never had a course fill so quickly, which means that the mother wound is rampant and that you’re not alone. I will be capping the course to make sure that I can attend to you both on the Zoom calls and the forum (there will also be a co-moderator), so if you’re ready to delve into this wound with gentleness, guidance, and community, I encourage you to join. The course will begin on Saturday, July 31st, and I will not be leading it live again until 2022. I look forward to meeting you there.