Healing the Mother Wound
Did you grow up in a household where your mother was neglectful, abusive, or absent?
If so, it’s likely that as an adult you are subconsciously carrying what is referred to as a “mother wound.” This is a deep, emotional pain that can result from having a neglectful or abusive mother during childhood. It can manifest in a number of ways (see below) and can have a profound impact on your relationships, sense of self-worth, and overall well-being.
The mother wound can take many forms in adulthood. And if left unhealed these feelings can be particularly difficult to overcome, and wreak havoc on our relationships, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
It is important to note that healing a mother wound is a process, and it may take time and effort. However, with self-compassion and a willingness to explore and understand your experiences, you can begin to heal and move towards a greater sense of inner peace and well-being.
Let’s look deeper into how to identify this wound.
Identifying the Mother Wound
While this wound can display differently in men and women, there are several common factors related to both that I will go over first.
Feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth: If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth, it may be a sign that you have a mother wound. This can manifest in thoughts such as “I am not good enough” or “I am not worthy of love or respect.”
Difficulty in forming and maintaining healthy relationships: If you find it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships, it may be a sign that you have a mother wound. This can be due to issues with trust, intimacy, or communication that stem from negative experiences with your mother.
A lack of a strong sense of identity: Feeling like you don’t have a clear sense of who you are or what you want in life. This can be due to a lack of emotional support or guidance from your mother during your formative years.
Struggles with self-care: Struggling with taking care of yourself, whether it be through poor self-care habits or a lack of self-compassion. This can be due to a lack of nurturing or self-care modeled by your mother.
Anger or resentment towards your mother: Feeling a deep sense of anger or resentment towards your mother. This can be due to feelings of hurt or abandonment stemming from your relationship with your mother.
Difficulty in expressing emotions: Struggling with expressing your emotions, especially negative emotions such as sadness or anger. This can be due to a lack of emotional validation or support from your mother during your childhood.
The Mother Wound in Men
In my own life I have seen these distortions play out with the men I chose as partners, who had a deep seated hatred towards their mother that spilled over into how they viewed women. Let’s look at the unique ways this childhood wound affects men as adults.
Playing the Victim
Living like a victim is one way that the mother wound can manifest in adult men. This may entail complaining nonstop or expressing feelings of helplessness or powerlessness in an effort to gain attention and validation. This behavior can be a result of their mother not providing enough encouragement or approval when they were young.
Using emotional manipulation over someone else is another way the mother wound can manifest. This can involve manipulating others’ emotions or guilt in order to get what they want and/or avoid having to cope with uncomfortable emotions. This conduct stems from the absence of healthy emotional boundaries in the mother-child connection.
Distortion of the Feminine
Another very common way that the mother wound displays itself in adult men is through a distorted view of femininity. This can involve viewing women as inferior, which often leads to aggressive behavior towards them. This distorted view of femininity also manifests with the objectification of women, viewing them as objects for sexual pleasure or domination rather than as equals. This objectification can lead to harmful behaviors such as sexual assault or harassment, as well as a lack of respect and equality in relationships with women.
A superiority complex can involve a belief that men are inherently superior to women, leading to a lack of respect and equality in relationships. This behavior may be a result of a lack of healthy boundaries and respect in the relationship with their mother. Without healthy boundaries and respect, a man may develop a distorted sense of self and their place in the world, leading to harmful behaviors such as a lack of respect for others, particularly women.
Lack of consideration for women’s liberty and well-being can result in harmful actions including abuse, coercion, and manipulation. This conduct might be a result of their mother-child relationship lacking empathy and understanding. Without strong emotional bonds and empathy, a person may find it difficult to comprehend and respect the needs and boundaries of others, especially women.
The Mother Wound in Women
Not having a caring and loving Mother as a child can have a unique set of behaviors in women as they move into adulthood. Let’s explore the different ways this can present itself.
Playing the Victim
Similar to men, the mother wound can display as playing the perpetual victim often in an unconscious way. In women this can involve constantly seeking attention and validation from others through complaining or expressing a sense of helplessness or powerlessness in the hopes that someone will ‘save or rescue them’. This behavior is often a manifestation from the lack of support and genuine validation from their mother during childhood.
Another way that the mother wound displays itself is through the use of emotional blackmail on loved ones. This involves manipulating and coercing others through guilt or emotional manipulation to get their way or to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. In women, this behavior often takes the form of passive aggressive remarks and snarky behavior instead of having the emotional regulation skills to openly discuss whatever is wrong.
Jealousy and gossip towards other women is another typical manifestation of the mother wound. This involves a lack of confidence in oneself at its core and a desire to tear others down in order to feel superior. This behavior may be a result of genuine concern and care from their mother, leading to a lack of self-worth and a desire to hurt others.
Overbearing in Relationships
The mother wound can also lead to being overbearing in relationships. This involves a lack of trust in others and a desire to control or micromanage aspects of the relationship. If left unchecked, this manifestation will often lead to aggressive and narcissistic behavior towards others.
Healing the Mother Wound
To heal the mother wound, you must create a new relationship with yourself that is not influenced by societal expectations or the expectations of your mother. This process, known as re-parenting yourself, involves meeting your own adult emotional, physical, and practical needs in a way that a loving mother might have done for you when you were younger. This means addressing the parts of yourself that are hurt or stuck and showing yourself the love and compassion that you may not have received when you were younger.
It is also important to validate your needs and allow yourself to grieve the pain of your younger self not having their needs met. This can help regulate your adult nervous system and build the capacity to handle all of your feelings without shame. However, it is important to take this process slowly as it may not be a linear journey to heal these neglected parts of yourself.
Seek therapy or counseling: Working with a trained therapist can be an effective way to explore and heal your mother wound. A therapist, coach, or other trained professional can provide a safe and supportive space to process your emotions and work through any unresolved issues.
Learning to forgive: Understanding that your mother, like all human beings, was struggling with her own wounds and trauma can be a difficult but important step in the healing process. Recognizing that your mother’s actions were influenced by her own pain can help you to cultivate feelings of compassion. However, this process of forgiveness and releasing anger and blame from your heart can take time and will require inner work and self-reflection.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. This practice can help you to become more aware of your emotions and to develop a greater sense of self-compassion and understanding. There are several mindfulness prompts at the end of the article that can assist in exploring your deeper feelings.
Engage in creative expression: Creative activities such as writing, painting, poetry, or music can be a helpful way to process and express your emotions related to your mother wound.
Explore your relationship with the divine feminine: In Jungian psychology, the divine feminine represents the qualities of empathy, kindness, and creativity. Reflecting on your relationship with these qualities can help you to heal your mother wound and to develop a more positive and healthy connection with the feminine. By learning about what healthy femininity looks like, we can recognize distortions and release them as we heal those wounds.
Find a supportive community: Sharing your experiences and feelings with others who have also experienced a mother wound can be a powerful way to feel less alone and to find support and encouragement on your healing journey. Consider joining a support group or seeking out like-minded individuals with whom you can connect with.
Self-Reflection Journal Prompts
Exploring your Mother wound through journaling can be a powerful tool to help you through this part of your healing journey. Take time to really dig deep into each one as there is no rush to do these prompts all at once.
Reflect on your relationship with your mother. What are the positive aspects of this relationship? What are the challenges or difficulties you have experienced?
Explore any negative beliefs or emotions that you have about yourself as a result of your relationship with your mother. How have these beliefs and emotions affected your life?
Reflect on any patterns or behaviors that you have noticed in your relationships with others that may be linked to your relationship with your mother.
Consider any unresolved issues or past events that may be contributing to your mother wound. How can you work towards healing and resolution of these issues?
Practice self-compassion. Write down affirmations or phrases of self-kindness and remind yourself that you are deserving of love and care, regardless of any past experiences or challenges.