The Mother Wound and beyond

Sep 26, 2022

Another Friday and another heart-full conversation from the therapy room. This time about the mother wound and growing beyond it. 

Speaking out about the Mother Wound

For many, talking honestly about their mother is a difficult subject area. So protected and revered is the mother archetype, so much does it hold for us, that speaking out against it can feel like breaking a taboo. When the subject comes up in my therapy room, people often find it hard to own any negative feelings towards their mothers and often quickly follow these up with a positive observation,  to escape guilt.

While truly bad mothers do exist, most are imperfect women doing their best considering their own personal and family histories. Nevertheless, these mothers can create lasting pain and struggles for their daughters and acknowledging this can be an important part of the healing journey, towards greater emotional and psychological freedom. 


Every mother and their wound is shaped by three factors:

The Collective: women have a collective inheritance from the role of women in society which existed before them. This includes deep seated archetypes for what a woman and mother is.

The Familial: every woman is born into a family culture and lineage of women with established norms unique to that particular trans-generational line. It will include deep seated habits, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and somatic patterns.

The Personal: each woman has a unique temperament, which directs how they tread the fine line between complying or transcending norms according to to their inner drives. Genetic inheritance also plays an important part here.


The Mother Wound Legacy


What I hear in the therapy room are stories of mothers who were unconscious in their own psychological patterns and wounds, who could not adequately help their daughters by being present and connected. Making and perpetuating mistakes, they were too busy pleasing others, toxically positive, defensive, enmeshed, playing small, passive, poorly attuned to the inner world of the child or caught up in relationship issues of their own. This mother struggled to find their maturity and  strength and her neglect of her child’s needs often went unnoticed in the outside world.

Whichever the mother’s issues, the absence of reliable connection and support meant that their children were left alone with feelings and dilemmas they could not  handle. If the child was fortunate to have other adults who were there for her, they may have faired well enough, but for those that grew up without a reliable witness to their pain, these daughters may have suffered with an overwhelm of confusion. These daughters have often had to find their own way  into adulthood without a mother figure who could sufficiently guide, prepare or contain them.


The Quest of the Daughter

Who I see are the daughters who are attempting to forge their own path without a helpful role model,  because their mother could not provide this. I hear their struggles with confusion about who they are, their self value, how to be in relationships, how to assert themselves and how to make sense of the many masks they have learnt to wear. Above all, struggles with emotional regulation, anxiety and depression.

The mother in particular shapes a child’s sense of self, relating patterns, emotional regulation and their freedom to reach out for connection, support, stimulation and achievement. A mother’s lack of support and connection can significantly affect a child’s sense of worth, their inner voice and thought processes for the long term. 

It is the quest of the daughter to define her self, her future and her role as a woman as she grows beyond her mother. Holding a space for herself to be free and self expressed, even when mother doesn’t like it because she feels threatened.


Moving Beyond the Mother Wound

At some point every child needs to reconcile the image they once had of their parents against the one they see as they become stronger and more mature. When people allow themselves to see and feel things fully, then strong words often follow.  I hear about ‘disgust’, ‘rage’, ‘disappointment’ towards mothers and about mother’s who were ‘selfish’, ‘chose not to protect’, ‘abusive’, ‘damaging’. I like to hold the space for all of these. What people often don’t realise is that allowing themselves to fully feel what is going on inside of them, they open a doorway to mobilise boundaries and new pathways for themselves. Full ownership of our truth helps with processing the past and moving towards creating a future that works for us.

Coming to terms with the fallibility of parents and separation from them as we forge our own paths is the work of individuation, the process of full separation into our own, whole selves. If we find ourselves to be very different people from our parents, then acceptance, sadness and letting go is the way forward. Each daughter has the right to build her life fully around her own needs, fulfilment and people that ‘see’, support and love her.

Becoming the Internal Mother

I remember my own therapist once referencing a difference between my real mother and my internal image of her and at first I couldn’t see a separation. Further down the line I did. I came to see that the opposition I felt with my own mother had built her up as a powerful opposing force within me, that did not match her external form. I had internalised the fight and even when she was not present, I felt her opposition. As I fully parented myself and allowed myself to flourish and put in place boundaries with my mother, her power diminished. Her role in my life lost power and influence because my attention had switched to full investment in myself and less on perceived friction between us. There is a way to elegantly allow people to be who they are, even if they appear in opposition to us, and simply not engage in battle. The flaws of another are exactly that, not ours to fix or fight. We can flourish even when others perceive us differently to how we perceive ourselves. This is healing by becoming one’s own mother and adopting the maturity and wisdom to parent ourselves and future generations in a new way.

Help along the way

 For those with longer term emotional regulation issues and an overly reactive nervous system, then there needs to be full investment in self care. There are many pursuits that encourage down regulation of the nervous system such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Breathwork, neurofeedback, Feldenkrais, Brainspotting, massage, flotation tanks, meditation. All of these help to ground a person in the present as they do the work of forging their own path.

 I suspect that as we look back on our lives we won’t be focussing on the hand me downs of our caregivers, but on the legacy we have created in living well in fulfilment and love. That where the investment should be.


If any of this resonates with any struggles you are currently having then you can enquire about therapy here: contact