About Bethany Webster

Writer, facilitator and what you could call a midwife of the heart.

3 Reasons Why It’s Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound

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Because the relationship with our mothers is primary and foundational, unresolved pain related to her can have a profound affect on several areas of our lives, including our core sense of who we are. Our mothers were imperfect human beings with flaws who inevitably left us with some degree of wounding. The level of wounding depends on many factors including how severely our mother was wounded herself.

Due to how we develop, the only way a child can interpret moments of maternal abandonment or rejection is to form the belief: “There’s something wrong with me.” If we do not heal the mother wound we risk living our lives indefinitely with this belief operating at our core, affecting everything that we do.

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Reason #1:

The belief at the core of the mother wound is “There’s something wrong with me.”  This unconscious belief can limit you in so many ways:

  • Blocks your ability to have true intimacy.
  • Causes you to live under the painful mask of the false self: arranging your life around not rocking the boat, staying small in order to be non-threatening to others, needing external approval to feel OK
  • Living frozen with fear of failure while still deeply longing to live as your authentic self and bring your gifts to the world.
  • Cause you to unconsciously fear that making more money, being more visible, powerful and successful will cause rejection from or conflict with your mother. (To the un-healed child within, this is just too scary.)
  • Will hold you back from new opportunities and creating your dreams due to guilt or a sense that you don’t deserve it.
  • Overriding guilt that you don’t deserve to be happy, successful and fulfilled if your mother is unhappy, lonely or unwell.

When this belief is released, every area of your life is transformed because on a deep level you know that you are good, valuable, safe, and that life is inherently trustworthy. It’s difficult to put into words just how profound a shift this is. It happens not all at once, but in incremental stages. Slowly and steadily, with each level of grief, of insight and transformation, more and more of your life force is returned to you and available for what calls to you from your soul. Life takes on a new dimension. Because you can see your purity, goodness and innocence, your sight becomes liberated at a deep level, allowing you to perceive truth and goodness in ways that were previously impossible.

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Reason #2:

At the deepest level, the mother wound is a wound with Life itself.

The mother wound serves as a veil between you and life. In the earliest days of our lives, our experience of our mothers was synonymous with life itself. To an infant, mother is food, mother is air, mother is world, mother is self. Our very experience of ourselves and of the world was filtered through the body and psyche of this person that was our mother. As you heal the mother wound, the veil between you and life slowly dissolves. This allows you to feel your very core as goodness; to know in your bones that you belong, to feel your unity with life, with all beings. Ultimately, it allows you to feel an unshakeable love in your heart that becomes a stable background of your life.

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Reason #3: 

No matter how much other personal growth or spiritual work you do, none of it will be long-lasting or truly effective until you address the mother wound.

Until you get to the root of the causes of your inner suffering, which are the foundational patterns that were put in place in the earliest days in your life, and mourn the situations that caused you to internalize them, the personal growth work you do can only go so deep, at a superficial level at best. As a “spiritual bypass-er” in my early twenties, I spent many years avoiding the mother wound because it just seemed too big, too painful and too overwhelming. But over time it became clear that the surface issues in my life all pointed back to a common core, which was the pain related to my mother and the beliefs about myself that originated from that relationship. All signs pointed there to that existential, primordial wound. Surprisingly, I came to realize that everything I was looking for through other things was found there, in the last place I wanted to look. The mother wound was not the dark abyss I thought it would be. Eventually, the darkness gave way to light, to a realization that no other experience could give me. It is now a fountain of wisdom that nourishes my soul and propels my evolution. This is possible for all of us.

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All pain is an opportunity to enter into the heart of life and discover the truth of your divine nature. The mother wound is a particularly potent access point to the deeper truth that will liberate you to live as an awakened being.

 It is your birthright to know your oneness with all life and the goodness at your core.

Healing the mother wound opens up the potential for this to be your experiential reality, not just an abstract concept or idea.

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I invite you to attend my upcoming FREE Teleseminar TOMORROW, Tuesday, August 26th at 1 pm EST called “The Importance of Healing the Mother Wound.”

Click here to register for this free call! 

When you sign up you receive a free copy of my new e-Book entitled “Turning Mother Blame Upside Down: How Healing the Mother Wound Can Transform Your Life and Liberate Women Collectively.” 

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Thank you for reading! I look forward to connecting with you tomorrow on the call!

 

Work with Bethany on healing the mother wound: 

Private Coaching: http://www.b-webster.com/coaching/

Online Course: http://www.b-webster.com/online-course

Live Workshops: http://womboflight.com/events

Sign up here for a free “Healing the Mother Wound Coaching Session” with Bethany

(Art credits: All images in this post are by Georgia O’Keefe)

© Bethany Webster 2014

The Most Insidious Forms of Patriarchy Pass Through the Mother

Patriarchy is the social organization of a culture in which men hold more power than women. There is a common misconception that men are the only problem of patriarchy. Many continue to believe that only men perpetuate patriarchal thinking. However, women also perpetuate patriarchal attitudes.

Maria Pace-Wynters

Most of us learn patriarchal thinking in our families and it is usually taught unconsciously by mothers. This can be particularly damaging for daughters and their ability to flourish as empowered women because a mother’s treatment of her daughter gets internalized as her own sense of self. The patriarchal messages daughters receive from their mothers are more insidious and damaging than any of the cultural messages combined. Why? Because they come from the one person the daughter must bond with in order to survive.

The mother wound is a product of patriarchy. On a personal level, it is the mother’s projection of her own unhealed wounds on the daughter. And on the collective level, it’s the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that have resulted from generations of female oppression. Patriarchy distorts dynamics between mothers and daughters that leave both disempowered. 

The patriarchal thread that runs through all dysfunctional dynamics between mothers and daughters is the demand for obedience in exchange for love.

Julie Massy

The dynamics between mothers and daughters that cause pain all have one similarity. It doesn’t matter whether a mother is neglectful on one end of the spectrum or invasive on the other end; the same patriarchal message is conveyed, which is that compliance is required in order to be accepted. One could say that that is the core message of patriarchy to both men AND women: You will not be loved unless you obey. This message permeates us from all facets of society: education, religions, governments and media.

We have to highlight the ways women perpetuate and sustain patriarchal culture.”

~Bell Hooks

In order to be fully empowered, actualized and fulfilled, we as women must be disloyal to the patriarch in our mothers and consequently, the patriarch within ourselves.

The impacts of a mother’s patriarchal beliefs are especially devastating to a daughter’s personal development and individuation process. Daughters are more likely than sons to see their mothers as victims of their own un-lived dreams, of lack of opportunity or having been devalued by men. Because of the daughter’s sympathy for mother’s plight, she is more likely to absorb her mother’s pain as her own, creating a toxic enmeshment that directly prevents her ability to flourish in her own life. The more unconscious and severe the mother’s own unhealed wounds are, the more threatened she will feel by her daughter’s separateness and individuality. Thus, the mother/daughter bond may be forged in an environment of pain that keeps both stuck.

Elizabeth Peyton

The more spacious and loving a woman is towards herself, the more she can offer that to her daughter. A mother cannot give her daughter the support, love, guidance, and empowerment that she herself does not have. If a woman does not have that healthy model of self-love in her mother, she has to seek those models elsewhere. 

The patriarchal bind is that women are told that they should be successful but not too successful; sexy but not too sexy; strong but not too strong, etc. Mothers may unintentionally perpetuate this out of an unconscious need to avoid getting triggered by her daughter. If her daughter remains disempowered, small, and always a bit doubtful of herself, then the mother eliminates the possibility that her daughter will trigger the unacknowledged pain within herself that she’d rather ignore.

Swim or Swim, original painting on wood. by Lauren Gray

For an unconscious, deeply wounded mother, a disempowered daughter is the perfect antidote to her misery because she allows the mother to maintain an illusion of personal power without having to do the hard work of self-growth and healing. If the daughter is empowered, flourishing, happy and fulfilled, the wounded mother would more likely be faced with the task of confronting her unhealed pain.

A mother may outwardly display a façade of calm and pleasantness but underneath there may lurk a sense of emotional impoverishment that expresses itself primarily in relation to her daughter who may carry the projection of her disowned wounds. Some common dynamics are the “Queen” mother whose rigid, dominating message is “Don’t displease me!” or the “Waif” mother whose helpless, victim message is “Don’t abandon me!”

Lucien Freud

The unspoken message to the daughter is: “Your empowerment is unacceptable.”  The daughter’s empowerment is unacceptable because it reminds the mother of her un-grieved losses or unexpressed rage that the mother was told not to feel from the patriarchy in her family and culture.

A mother may experience her daughter’s empowerment as a betrayal, a personal rejection or a slight. Her unconscious message to the daughter may be “I obeyed the patriarchal mandate to stay small and non-threatening. You have to obey as well! Get back in line!”

An empowered daughter is a stimulus for the unhealed parts of the mother to come forward and be healed within herself. A wounded mother may confuse the pain she feels in her daughter’s presence to be her daughter’s fault and responsibility, not seeing that the pain was there all along and belongs solely to her–the mother. In this way, the daughter is actually giving her mother a gift. Her own light reveals her mother’s shadow and the next step in her healing. If the mother is healthy and open, she can see the gift. But if the mother is unconscious, deeply wounded and stuck, she will probably see it as a reason to lash out at the daughter (covertly or overtly).

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Examples of patriarchal power plays from mothers:

  • Daughter is used as her emotional dumping ground
  • Mother is neglectful but uses daughter as narcissistic tool to bring her attention
  • Mother has no use for you if you don’t conform to her views. “Her way or the highway.”
  • Manipulative tactics: cold withdrawal, overt hostility or bullying, unpredictable, competition, jealousy, triangulating daughter against other family members (Note: All these dynamics could be played out with a son as well. And they could also be features of mental illness in the mother.)

You’ll notice that all of the above dynamics have to do with one thing: gaining power and control. The mother who has given her power away will seek it out in other ways. This is true of all of us. When we give our power away, it creates a vacuum and we are compelled to fill it somehow, usually through processing it or projecting it. For a mother, the easiest target of projection is her daughter. It creates a vampiric quality to the relationship: the daughter stays weak and the mother feels strong. However, it benefits neither mother nor daughter.

The Keyhole Erwin Olaf

The only thing this dynamic serves is the mother’s “pain body.” The female pain body gets preserved and passed to the next generation in the form of the mother wound.

Patriarchy prevents a major human function from happening, which is to feel the truth of all of our feelings. To some degree, both men and women (boys and girls) are shamed away from our feelings, whether through violence, abuse or neglect, whether in our families or in the culture at large. The shame is due to the patriarchal belief that feelings are inherently weak and must be suppressed.

The task is for each of us to metabolize and process our own pain fully. As we do this, owning our wounds, feeling our pain and grieving to completion, the energy of the wound transforms into wisdom, love and power. For mothers and daughters, this means there needs to be a healthy, emotional distance in which both can engage fully with their healing process. Mothers and daughters need healthy emotional distance where each can experience her own personal power and freedom. Both need support and resources to successfully navigate their journey.

Brian Kershisnik

Patriarchy is about power at all costs. One way that power has been gathered is through rigid ideas of what is right and what is wrong. But in truth, there is no absolute right or wrong, just a multitude of preferences and consequences. By increasingly dissolving the charge of polarizing concepts such as right/ wrong and good/bad, infinite possibilities begin to open up and individuals can make choices that are truly authentic and right for them, without fear and shame.

All around us we are seeing patriarchal institutions fail and crumble from within: religions, governments, media, etc. The family is also a patriarchal institution and families will increasingly feel the pressure to shift and accommodate a new consciousness that is emerging. In the dominator mode of patriarchy, a dysfunctional family is threatened by the individuality of its members. In this way, patriarchal mothers may be threatened by their daughter’s individuality and may unconsciously sabotage it. As a new form of the family emerges, I sense that families will be more flexible, inclusive and welcoming of individuality. Perhaps the very definition of “family” will change and expand. People who call themselves family may not do so by blood but by soulful connections that mutually nourish their journey to discover and live their authentic truth. This cultural shift starts at the level of individuals who choose to do the work of healing and recovery.

Ana Grigolia

In older generations, there was a belief in escape; a belief that we can pretend something painful doesn’t exist and it will simply go away. There was a belief that there would be a payoff for pretending. Many are discovering that payoff never comes. Subsequent generations of parents would say “I don’t want to screw up my kids the way I was screwed up by my parents” and think that was enough to prevent that from happening. Just knowing that you don’t want to pass along generational pain is not enough. It takes many, many years of focused inner work to stop cycles of inter-generational pain. And yet nothing is more important or fulfilling than this journey. We can support each other to have the courage, support and the tools to make it to the other side.

For women, the journey of healing the mother wound is precisely what frees their daughters from this painful legacy. 

Meghan Howland

To be whole, empowered women, we have to be disloyal to the patriarch in our mothers. We have to say no. We have to hand back the pain our mothers have asked us to carry for them so that they can uphold their own journey of healing. We must refuse to give up our power to feed the pain body of our mothers, which ultimately, is a great gift to them and to the world. It’s time for us to honor ourselves. It’s time for women to heal the mother wound.  We have to do the hard and holy thing which is to focus on our own healing so that we can finally experience ourselves as whole and model this new level of wholeness for our daughters and the women of the future.

 

Bethany Webster 2014

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Questions for Moms to reflect on to honor themselves AND clear the way for their daughters:

  • What did I need from my own mother that I did not get? In what ways may I be unconsciously projecting these needs onto my daughter or other people?
  • Am I getting the mothering and nurturing I need in my daily life? If not, how can I get those needs met? (friends, experiences, tools, professional support)
  • Am I neglecting my daughter’s emotional needs? Do her emotional needs make me uncomfortable? If so, which ones? What do they bring up for me?
  • Am I asking my daughter to mother me in any way? If so, what are some ways I can get the support I need so that I don’t put this burden on my daughter?
  • Do I feel any rage or resentment about being a mom? If so, what are some safe and healthy ways I can process and work through that?
  • Do I feel at all jealous or threatened by my daughter? If so, why? How does this manifest in my daily interactions with my daughter? How can I find a safe, healthy way to process that?
  • What limitations did I have to accept about myself as a young girl my daughter’s age? How did that impact my life? How can I support my daughter in not accepting those same limitations.
  • How can I demonstrate to my daughter that I value myself?
  • What comes up for me when I reflect on my daughter having more opportunities than I did?
  • In what ways might I be passing along that belief in limitations? How might I turn that around?

 

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Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment below: How have patriarchal views impacted you and your relationship with the women in your family? 

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I invite you to explore my work with women on healing the mother wound: 

 

 

Sign up here for my newsletter and receive a FREE copy of my e-book “Transforming the Inner Mother.” 

 

(Art credits in order of appearance in this blog post: Maria Pace-Wynters, Julie Massey, Elizabeth Peyton, Lucien Freud, Laura Gray, unknown/source: Varietas, Erwin Olaf, Brian Kershisnik, Ana Grigolia, Meghan Howland) 

Guilt, Gratitude and the Emerging from the Mother Wound

Guilt is an obstacle for many women and it can be particularly limiting when it comes to healing the mother wound. It’s common for women to begin getting clarity on how dynamics with their mother have impacted their lives…but then stop when challenging feelings arise, saying things like “I shouldn’t feel this way, she’s my mother. She’s hurt me so much but I know how much she is hurting. It’s wrong for me to feel angry at her.” The problem here is that this guilt prevents the necessary grieving and healing that needs to take place. Guilt shuts the whole process down.

Eduardo Kingman

Guilt may be used a way of hiding from our true feelings. 

The healthy function of guilt is to help us recognize when we have done something wrong; it indicates a functioning conscience. It allows us to identify when a transgression has occurred so that we can feel remorse and take any necessary action to rectify it. However, toxic guilt is unhealthy and greatly limits our ability to realize ourselves as empowered, adult women in control of our lives. Because women are conditioned to view themselves as “less-than”  and powerful women are seen as threatening in this culture, toxic guilt is a very common trap and keeps us disempowered.

Guilt and the “good girl” role

Sometimes guilt is easier to feel than other feelings. We may use guilt to bypass difficult feelings like disappointment, rage, or grief. If we’re still identified with the “good girl” role we may put the feelings of others above our own, willingly diminishing ourselves for external approval and validation. This voluntary diminishment may look altruistic on the surface but it is a form of self-betrayal. As one of my clients recently put it, “I betray myself when I put the feelings of others before my own.” When this self-betrayal is seen as no longer an option we begin to re-gain our personal power.

Unprocessed pain is what keeps the mother wound in place. 

Pablo Picasso

Genuine acceptance and honoring of your mother do not come about through forcing and feeling you “should” forgive. For most, it’s impossible to fully heal the mother wound unless we first get in touch with our anger. Anger and grief are important allies in healing the mother wound. Once fully seen, anger can transform into a deeper connection with our truth, passion, creativity, originality and sheer vitality. And grief is what allows us to move forward into acceptance, gratitude, peace and clarity.

What frees us from toxic guilt is giving ourselves full permission to feel the truth of our feelings. 

A mother has enormous power over a child and a child is biologically pre-disposed to idealize her for the sake of its healthy development. A child needs to idealize its mother in order to form a healthy sense of self. But as adults, this idealization can keep us stuck in guilt for wanting to be powerful in our own lives.

A natural shift must take place where mother and daughter each become responsible for their own experience.

Richard Morin

On a collective level, the mother wound is a manifestation of patriarchal mandate that demands that women remain small. And on a personal level (broadly speaking) it’s the pain of feeling threatened by the very person who gave you life.

One of the most important steps in healing the mother wound is creating an “inner mother” that replaces the deficits that were present in the mother/ daughter relationship. It’s a form of taking personal responsibility and owning your power.

fletcher sibthorp

It’s important for a woman to see that her inner mother is better than her outer mother in terms of filling the “mother gap;” being able to fill her own emotional needs. If we don’t see the inner mother as better at mothering us than the necessary emotional separation will not take place….the separation that clears the way for us to take our power back from the mother wound.

I see the inner mother and outer mother as working together horizontally, not hierarchically. The more we cultivate the inner mother as a way to love and nurture ourselves (not as a judgment on the outer mother), the more we can approach our outer mother with honor, gratitude and spaciousness.

Kevin Ledo 3

If we cut off our healing process too early with guilt and are too afraid to temporarily feel anger towards our mother (which, for some women, is essential in the process of healing) then we are still being complicit with the patriarchal mandate that to honor mother we must diminish ourselves.

There is a place for honoring and gratitude for our mothers–absolutely–but it comes as a byproduct of having first experienced and acknowledged the mother gap and our own responsibility to fill it as the inner mother. If we rush into gratitude and honoring of outer mother too quickly we risk not doing the de-tox necessary for authentic gratitude to emerge.

I hesitate to emphasize gratitude and compassion for mothers too early in the process of healing the mother wound. Why? Because all around us the culture is telling us to honor our mothers by silencing ourselves. We are restoring a balance here. And in restoring the balance we have to give voice to that which has been voice-less, we have to make space for the pain to be legitimized and empathized with. That is a radical and essential piece of this work. 

Gratitude and honoring our mothers are natural byproducts of going all the way into our pain FIRST.

Safwan Dahoul

The inner mother actually supports the outer mother–in terms of our ability to see our outer mothers accurately, loving her with flaws and all, not taking her flaws personally and meeting her from the heart without fear. When we have the inner mother intact within us; strong, steady and emotionally safe and secure, we can really honor our outer mothers wholeheartedly and compassionately.

When we unflinchingly acknowledge the reality of the deficit that is present in the mother/daughter relationship, the space is created for the fullness of what is there to be fully seen and appreciated.  

Pietro Annigoni

As we face the deficit and process that pain, the fullness that can be finally seen and appreciated is not just limited to the mother. Life itself begins to be visible in all its fullness and glory. Because of the connection between how we experience our mothers and how we experience life due to the early conflation of the two in our early development, our sight becomes liberated at a deep level. As we heal the mother wound, a new level of compassion and heart-seeing is possible.

We must be willing to temporarily suspend our need to honor mother at all costs (let go of guilt) in order to actually be able to authentically honor mother. 

There may be a deep unconscious fear of being seen as a perpetrator towards our mothers and guilt keeps this fear at bay. This is the fear of the infant who needs mother for survival. This fear of being seen as a perpetrator is part of hiding from our power. A potential perpetrator lives in all of us. The more we turn away from our pain (through guilt or avoidance), the more we hide from our potential for perpetration and the more this is in shadow, the more likely it will emerge projected outward towards other people. By hiding from the truth of our pain we actually empower our inner perpetrator.

Kelli Pennington

Taking responsibility for our suffering is not the same as remaining a victim. 

Getting stuck in victimhood happens when there is an over-emphasis on weakness and powerlessness.  Victimhood may actually be a defense against fully facing our grief.

Acting out as a perpetrator is the result of feeling like a victim and not honoring our suffering.  It is our responsibility to honor our suffering by feeling the emotions that are incredibly painful and allowing them to transform. (Our challenging feelings cannot transform if we don’t acknowledge them.)

Mario Sánchez Nevado

If we do not have the courage or support to feel these painful emotions, we may feel compelled to repeat the suffering in the role of perpetrator. We have a choice: relief from the pain in the form of emotional processing or relief from the pain in the form of projection (perpetrating against others). The energy must go somewhere.

When we honor the inner perpetrator (by validating our anger) and honor the inner victim (by validating our pain), then the energy of the mother wound can be integrated and transformed into wisdom and love.

The energy potential for perpetration is also the energy potential for creative power. 

KEVIN LEDO

In my own experience, there is a sense of power that is drawn from the integration process that enriches every area of my life. It’s a source of energy unlike anything I have ever imagined. It is the integrated energy that originated from the wound and has transformed— not into the form of perpetration, but into the form of creativity, will, and fierce love. Somehow this awareness that this energy has had potential-for-perpetration but is actualized-as-creativity makes it incredibly sacred and powerful. This energy is uncompromising, with impeccable integrity. It is confident, bold, and yet it is completely willing to be extinguished, to lay down, to become nothing for the Beloved to be central in my Being.

It’s a self-generating source of energy, enthusiasm, knowing and connection with all life.The black hole of the wound becomes a radiant sun that touches every area of your life with power and presence.

Seen in this way, our emotional wounds, especially the mother wound, are opportunities to step into our mastery and use our energy in service to the whole. We have to explore the ways we’ve felt destroyed in order to find the indestructible… in order to feel the phoenix rising within. 

Kevin Ledo 2

 

© Bethany Webster 2014

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Announcements: 

The Online Course on healing the mother wound is now available! All women who purchase the course before July 14th are invited to a special Q & A call with me! Click here to learn more!  

I offer Private Coaching Programs on healing the mother wound. 

The next workshop on healing the mother wound is on Saturday, July 19th in Huntington, NY (Long Island). Click here to learn more and register.

Sign up for my newsletter and receive my FREE e-book on “Transforming the Inner Mother”

(Art credits in order of appearance: Eduardo Kingman, Pablo Picasso, Richard Morin, Fletcher Sibthorp, Kevin Ledo, Safwan Dahoul, Pietro Annigoni, Kelli Pennington, Mario Sanchez Nevado, Kevin Ledo, Kevin Ledo)

Thank you for reading! I invite you to leave a comment below: What is your experience with guilt and gratitude in terms of the mother wound?

The Connection Between Self-Sabotage and the Mother Wound

Self-sabotage is when we are excited about a goal but we unconsciously create obstacles that directly prevent that the achievement of that goal.

Alet Pilon

For some women–being big, visible and powerful may unconsciously feel like a betrayal of their mothers . . . and to relieve this unconscious guilt, they self-sabotage. 

The connection between the mother wound and self-sabotage is rather complex. I’ll do my best to eludicate this connection in this blog article. (I suggest grabbing a cup of tea and sitting in a comfy chair. This is a longer article!)

This pattern starts very early in our development and that’s why it can be so insidious.  Children are biologically hard-wired to seek mother’s approval at all costs to ensure their survival.

Frederic Leighton

As adult women, this pattern may still be unconsciously operating. We may still feel like our happiness rests on the happiness of our mother. You may observe your mother’s unhappiness and begin to feel guilty for your own success. This is particularly common in women who were parentified daughters as children; (the daughter being used as a surrogate parent to the unhealed child within their mother.)

Self-sabotage may have served as a survival mechanism to prevent abandonment and rejection by mother.

We may unconsciously think: “I can’t possibly be fully happy or successful if my mother is lonely, sad, uncomfortable, bitter, jealous, etc.” This is the viewpoint of the child within us that still thinks her survival rests on the well-being of her mother.

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The most common theme I’ve heard from women is “My mother’s happier when I’m experiencing challenges. But when things start going well in my life, she gets increasingly cold, distant and critical.” 

Another common thing I’ve heard is “On some level, I can sense that my mother wants to destroy me.” 

Usually this is very unconscious and unintentional on the part of the mother. But unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, there are mothers who willingly make their daughters feel responsible for their own happiness. This may be due to the deprivation consciousness that can be found in some women in patriarchal cultures; women feeling owed and entitled due to the level of sacrifice and the inner split they had to make within themselves to be acceptable and loved in this culture. It’s nothing short of tragic.

Melissa Zexter

In patriarchal cultures, the power of the parent is often considered unquestionable and can easily be mis-used; power for power’s sake. If a mother has not acknowledged or refuses to directly address how her child may be triggering a painful emotional wound within her, she may unconsciously bully her daughter in covert and overt ways to relieve herself of the pain she is pushing into shadow within herself.

(The trigger in itself is not a problem; it’s normal to feel triggered in moments by your children. The problem is when it is not directly addressed and the mother begins to project her wounds onto the child.)

For the sake of illustration, here is a more extreme example of a patriarchal mother who has not addressed her own wounds. She may unconsciously convey the following message to her daughter:

Your smallness makes me feel safe. By staying small you protect me from my pain. Please don’t be your full self–it will remind me of what I had to give up in order to have you. Please don’t leave me with my pain. I’ll be all alone. Be a good daughter and carry my pain for me.”

More examples of unspoken messages of mothers in a patriarchal mindset: (comes from feeling powerless and out of control in her own life.)

  • “You’re being ungrateful when you’re being your full, big, authentic self.”
  • “You’re honoring me when you’re suffering because look how much suffering I endured to bring you in the world.”
  • “I’m your mother and I deserve your respect no matter how much I denigrate or abuse you.”
  • “You make me feel inadequate when you reach your goals.”

What happens is there begins to be an association between being small and non-threatening as a way of feeling loved by mother. In this situation, we give our power away to our mothers in exchange for her love. We may sense her fragility, her weakness, her unacknowledged pain, and out of compassion, we commit to staying small so as not to cause her any more pain. The child within us feels it is the cause of her pain, but the cause never had anything to do with us.  I’ve talked to hundreds of women all over the world about their mother wounds and it’s incredibly sad to hear about the level of emotional abuse mothers are capable of when they feel threatened by their daughters. This is not about love, but about power and control. Because this is such a taboo subject, most women feel very alone in this predicament.

Jonathan Glazer

For many women, one of THE hardest things is allowing your mother to have her own painful lessons and her own healing process. This is about releasing the need to display a false self to please your mother and instead being your authentic self in her presence, even if she expresses disapproval. It involves allowing your mother to express displeasure about your truth without allowing it to dis-orient you and without getting pulled into a battle with her.

You are not a “bad daughter” for allowing your mother to have her own lessons and challenges without rushing to solve them for her. 

In the best of situations, letting your mother handle her own painful lessons and problems is what may stimulate the grief that is necessary to bring true healing within her, but only if your mother is open and willing to grow. The unfortunate truth is that some mothers are patently unwilling to do the hard work of healing their own wounds and would rather make their daughters feel responsible for them.

As a daughter, when you express your own separate self-hood, individuality, realness, power, etc. if your mother has a pattern of reacting with hostility, it may be because your authentic expression has stimulated the seeds of those things that never came to blossom in herself. Your mother may experience your true, vital, authentic self as a painful mirror showing her the ways she had to forsake herself in order to survive her own family and patriarchal society. It may trigger deep grief over her of her loss of self. If she’s unable or unwilling to feel the full grief and process it, she may react with anger, manipulation, competition, jealousy or withdrawal.

Sofia Bonati

The deprivation that your mother feels cannot be solved by anything that YOU do.

Her pain cannot be filled by you staying small and unhappy. Walking on eggshells and “not rocking the boat” may accomplish short-term “peace” but in the long-term you are handing your life-force over to the mother wound. It’s a form of giving your power away. You do not owe your mother anything. Your unhappiness and dissatisfaction will never compensate for her unhealed wounds and struggles. She is the only one that can take the necessary actions to change her situation.

When we emotionally caretake our mother in the form of self-sabotage we actually inhibit our mother’s healing because we become complicit in maintaining her illusions. And we put our lives indefinitely on hold waiting for her approval that will never come.

We best serve both ourselves AND our mothers when we confidently and non-defensively rest in our worth and authenticity while she has her upset.

Hans Holbein

I call these upsets “mother tantrums” because this is when the unhealed inner child within a mother starts projecting unprocessed pain onto her daughter (or son) in response to the daughter not complying with an unspoken mandate to stay non-threatening to her. A mother tantrum can be expected if the daughter has had the role of being subservient, deferential or submissive to the mother, and is now changing the dynamic in the relationship by more fully expressing her authentic, true self around her mother. (This could be in the form of the daughter setting boundaries, speaking her truth, limiting contact, making authentic choices that are not necessarily in alignment with the beliefs of the mother, etc.)

In that moment of a mother tantrum, your mother is NOT seeing you accurately (as her daughter) but rather, she may be seeing you as her own rejecting mother. That’s why it feels like she may want to destroy you–that is the regressive energy of the angry child within your mother that she has yet to integrate and heal within herself. (Understanding this helps to not take your mother’s behavior personally. It’s really not about you at all.)

Internal Sunset | LINDSAY STRIPLING

The “mother tantrum” can range from a minor upset to a full-on episode that can include the mother flying into a vicious rage, jealously withdrawing or sulking, calling you every name in the book or bringing up every mistake you ever made to shame you back into being her emotional crutch.

The intensity or duration of the tantrum depends on how severe her mother wound is. 

No one wants to witness or be subject to this kind of event as it can be incredibly hurtful and disturbing. It’s understandable to want to ignore or prevent this at all costs. And the child within you is terrified of this situation. The point is to support your inner child in realizing that although you were not safe THEN as a child (rejection by mother meant death), NOW you are an adult capable of supporting your inner child through this experience. This is what breaks the spell of self-sabotage and it’s such an important step in healing the mother wound. (It’s important to be ready and fully supported before attempting this. It can take a while to work up to this.)

sealmaiden- heather murray

You WILL survive the tantrum and it will liberate you in more ways than you can imagine. You just have to be emotionally prepared for the consequences and have vital support in place. How you respond in the face of a mother tantrum can look different for many different people and it will be specific to the particular dynamics between you and your mother. The challenge is not get pulled into the drama of victim, perpetrator or rescuer, but to stand in your truth. For example, it may mean speaking out or it may mean remaining silent. Reflecting on what would be the most empowering and appropriate response to a mother tantrum is a powerful process of discovery in itself. 

I recommend that this be deeply reflected upon prior to taking action steps to change patterns of relating with your mother. The most important part is to feel supported on the inner and the outer before attempting a confrontation.

Taras Loboda

How do we stop self-sabotage?

The experience that breaks this pattern is realizing that you can survive your mother’s rejection of you. This may seem obvious to your intellectual, adult mind, but to your inner child, or primitive emotional parts of your brain, rejection from mother still feels very dangerous and way too risky. That’s why we get so far and then, BOOM, we unconsciously feel unsafe and revert to old patterns of guilt, emotional-caretaking, shrinking to please others, apologizing for existing and being addicted to approval and external validation.

Feeling small and stuck doesn’t feel good, but to our inner child it feels SAFE.

  • In order to heal self-sabotage, we need to break the link between: Being authentic = abandonment, rejection (Loss of Mother) 
  • And we need to create a NEW link between: Being authentic = Being safe, Loved, Cherished (by inner mother)

We do this by separating out the past and the present. In the past we needed mother’s approval for survival. But now as an adult you are capable of surviving her disapproval which can take the form of a mother tantrum (her upset when you refuse to cater to her illusions).

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This is one of the most empowering steps of healing the mother wound and self-sabotage. It’s a form of creating the healthy emotional separation between mother and daughter that needs to happen for both to flourish as individuals and to have an authentic, nourishing heart connection between them.

Healing the mother wound is part of healing the female “pain body.”

In order to truly own our worth and live our greatness, we must be willing to be disapproved of, misperceived and unseen — all while feeling deeply safe, loved and cherished within ourselves. Creating this inner safety is essential to blazing new trails, innovation, soulful creativity, inventiveness and originality. There are limitless gifts within you waiting to be discovered and manifested. As we heal self-sabotage we become liberated to access and enjoy ALL that lies within us.

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© Bethany Webster 2014

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Question for reflection:

When you were a little girl, what were the specific situations in which  your mother responded to you with praise, recognition, rewards, validation and love?

And what were the specific situations in which you were met with some degree of rejection, aggressive hostility, cold withdrawal, animosity, jealousy or bitterness?

Can you see a connection between what responses you were met with when you were a child and what comes up for you when you approach new, exciting ventures and goals that require you to be seen, vulnerable, visible and confident? Is your inner child trying to keep you safe by self-sabotage? A simple exercise is to help your inner child feel safe by explaining to her in writing that what happened in the past is not a danger now in the present because you are a grown adult.  Empathize with her pain of what she experienced and her desire for safety. Think of ways you can demonstrate in the present that she is safe. Soothe and nurture her on a daily basis so that her trust of you increases.

I invite you to leave a comment below: What has been your experience with self-sabotage? 

Update: My online course on “Healing the Mother Wound” is now available! 

Sign up here for my newsletter and receive a FREE copy of my e-Book “Transforming the Inner Mother.” 

Thank you for reading! :)

(art credits in order of appearance: Alet Pilon, Frederic Leighton, unknown, Melissa Zextor, Jonathan Glazer, Sofia Bonati, Hans Holbein, Lindsay Stripling, Heather Murray, Taras Loboda, stock photo,  stock photo)

 

Self-Care is Not “Selfish”

olof grind

As women, the need for self-care can trigger feelings of guilt. We’ve been conditioned to automatically think that we are neglecting others when we take time and energy to care for ourselves. Even if we have very supportive partners and family members who actively encourage us to love and care for ourselves, it can feel dangerous in moments to actually do so. This is because there is a very strong cultural message that has powerful intergenerational momentum which states that a good woman is a self-sacrificing woman. 

Many of us have grown up watching our mothers neglect themselves in order to care for their families–not just to care for their children but also to care for their parents and their husbands. Many of us have looked on as our mothers received praise for their self-neglect and we’ve seen the destruction that their inner deprivation can cause–as it manifests in family dynamics–and within our mothers in the forms of rage, depression, emptiness and bitter resentment.

Jane Bouse 1938 Johan Hagemeyer

There is a profound misconception that taking care of ourselves is bad for others. There’s a sense of scarcity; of having to choose between caring for yourself or your loved ones and not being permitted to have both.  It’s a double-bind in which we lose if we care for ourselves because we end up feeling guilty, and we lose if we neglect self-care because we end up feeling resentful.

The more we can actively care for ourselves in small and big ways, the more this old belief can be seen for what it is: a way to control women and keep them ignorant of their power.  It’s becoming clearer to modern women that there are no payoffs to martyrdom and self-deprivation. And as this becomes clearer, the more women can support one another in actively caring for themselves and asking for support when they need it. This support among women is so key to the paradigm shifts that are needed in our culture in order to create a more positive future for humanity and the planet.

Definition of self-care: Activities that nourish and replenish the mind, body and soul.

ye rin mok

Examples of self-care:

  • Rest, sleep, slowing down; listening into inner rhythms and cycles, solitude and reflection
  • Stimulating, creative and enriching activities like reading books, learning new skills, creating art, music or writing
  • Acts of receiving support from others such as mentorship or massage
  • Spiritual and inspirational activities that accentuate one’s sense of place in the world, in the universe and larger scheme of things such as connecting with a larger, supportive community

Claiming our need for self-care is claiming our right to be whole people. 

Esben Bøg

The irony is that this pattern of self-sacrifice and self-neglect creates the resentment that can actually induce one to act in truly neglectful ways towards our children and families.

Self-neglect is a pattern of deprivation and scarcity that we’ve internalized based on the patriarchal belief that women’s lives are less valuable.  

Many of us grew up hearing women being called “selfish” or “ungrateful” if they spent time focusing on their own pursuits or feeling entitled to some degree of independence from traditional female roles. We’ve learned to think of it as black and white, as an “either/or” not a “both/and.” It was rare to see a woman was able to enjoy independent pursuits and simultaneously be seen as a good-enough mother or wife.

We must be willing to be misperceived for the sake of what is true and real.  

I truly believe that in order to break the cycle of exhaustion and resentment, we must claim our need for self-care as valid, even in the face of criticism from loved ones. Even in the face of being called selfish. We have to let go of the fear of being seen as selfish for the sake of our own well-being and that of our children. And if we need support so that we can truly care for ourselves and others, we must begin to ask for support and claim that need as valid as well.

A woman who loves and cares for herself is NOT selfish. She is powerful … and she is harder to control and manipulate. 

Nirav Patel

Self-care is not only available to the wealthy woman who can afford to hire a nanny or pay for a massage. Self-care can come in the tiniest of forms and each step we take to care for ourselves brings rich rewards to ourselves and our children, especially our daughters. We model what it means for a woman to value herself. As daughters see their mothers take care of their own needs and carrying themselves with self-worth, daughters can more easily internalize their own self-worth. The more a daughter sees her mother demonstrate respect for herself and other women, the higher esteem a young daughter will hold herself.

Simple ways we can demonstrate self-care in our daily lives: 

  • Take a little quiet time for yourself every day (meditation, long bath, walk, etc.)
  • Breathe deeply and fully
  • Take care of your physical body with healthy food, enough rest and activity
  • Craft potent affirmations that reflect new beliefs that you want to embody in your life. Speak them out loud daily.
  • Speak your truth; say Yes when you mean Yes and No when you mean No.

Self-care is ultimately about seeing ourselves as good, worthy and holy, even when our families and our cultures have been unable to. It is the work of a pioneer. We are owning our worth and laying new roads for future women.

Part of stepping into our power as women involves processing deep grief; grief not only for the pain you’ve experienced in your own life, but also the grief from acknowledging the oppression that has been experienced by the women in your generational lineage.  On an even deeper level, there’s  the grief of seeing that you cannot rely on your family or society to give you permission to be your full self. It’s the grief of realizing that they are incapable of giving you this permission. If you are to claim your full self, you must give yourself permission to be that full self. Only you can do this.

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Something powerful arises from this reckoning and the grief that follows. It’s the ability to see your worth and value as a human being independent of the ability of other people to understand you.

From that moment forward, you can act from that place of knowing your worth even in the face of outer rejection and criticism. You have stepped across a threshold into a territory many women have never had the fortitude or opportunity to go to. You become a radiant light unto yourself, a light that others can begin to feel burning within themselves by virtue of witnessing your light.

This path may be incredibly lonely at times, but you are never truly alone. When you’ve touched this place of utter aloneness and singularity within yourself, paradoxically, you begin to touch something in the universal collective.

maud chalard

As we move forward diligently with our self-care, we demonstrate the potency of the self-anointed woman who is: 

  • willing to be misperceived by others
  • willing to be seen as inconvenient or “not good enough”
  • willing to be seen as “too much” or “too intense”
  • willing to cease putting vital energy into people-pleasing and approval-seeking
  • willing to be seen as selfish by others for the sake of demonstrating self-care practices to her daughter(s) and other young women
  • willing to follow her inner wisdom and intuition even when it may conflict with the conventions and norms of the culture.

A free, self-anointed woman is willing to do these things because she is committing to living from her own sacred source…no matter what.  She refuses to be confined by the patriarchal conventions of the culture. She demonstrates profound self-trust, aliveness, strength, joy, wildness and deep integrity.

As we become more free ourselves, living from our inner truth and authentic center, we assist others in discovering their own freedom as well. There is also a connection between our commitment to our own self-care and creating the cultural shift toward greater care of the planet. It all starts with the radical and simple commitment to value and care for ourselves.

Dorothea Lange 1

© Bethany Webster 2014

I invite you to leave a comment below. What are your challenges related to self-care? What are your favorite forms of self-care? Thank you for reading!

Click here to sign up for my newsletter and receive a FREE download of my e-book entitled “Transforming the Inner Mother.” 

Private Coaching program now available! Click here for more information.  

Online course on healing the mother wound is almost ready. Stay tuned! Thanks for your patience!

(Art credits in order of appearance: Olaf Grind, Johan Hagemeyer, Ye Rin Mok, Esbeg Bøg, Mirav Patel, artist unknown, Maud Calard, Dorothea Lange)

The Mother Wound as Initiation into the Divine Feminine

We live in a very fast-paced culture. There’s an atmosphere of pressure to be productive, to show our value through what we do, and to expect instant results from our efforts. This atmosphere of being rushed can be challenging when we are in the process of healing emotional wounds, because the process unfolds on its own timeline. The tendency to “power through”doesn’t work in terms of the healing process, which has an organic intelligence that can’t be forced. It has cycles and spirals of ups and downs. It’s not linear the way our minds would like it to be.

Catrin Welz-Stein

Healing the mother wound takes time. It’s common for people to reach places of intense discomfort and think “What am I doing wrong? I thought I was healing, but I feel miserable! When is the pain going to end?!” It’s at this point that people can get down on themselves, get distracted, or doubt their ability to heal. Yet, it’s at this place when it’s important not to give up, to hang on and get the necessary support to keep going.

It’s important to keep going because the pain does in fact come to an end. Transformation is indeed truly possible. But only if we stay committed. I came so close to giving up so many times, and I’m so glad that I didn’t because I had no idea what gifts and transformations were lying before me. The light at the end of the tunnel was more than I could have imagined during all the years I spent processing my early wounds.

Edouard Antonin Vysekal--A Figure in Shadow,

In this post I’d like to talk about what it’s like to come out the other side of the mother wound and why its so important to stay committed to your healing.

The process that I offer on healing the mother wound supports one to:

  • Gain mental clarity on the “mother gap” (gap between what you needed and what you actually received from your mother) and how you have compensated for this gap through dysfunctional patterns and beliefs.
  • Process the emotions of grief and anger that arise after we have the mental clarity.
  • Fill the mother gap with our own love and love from those around us.
  • Transform the inner mother into an unconditionally supportive one.

I would say the steps above are phase 1 of the healing process, which together work to de-construct the false self. As we complete these steps, and if we stick with the process, there begins a second phase. During this second phase of healing the mother wound we begin to increasingly integrate, embody and realize ourselves as the Divine Feminine, and ultimately as the Self.

Alexei Jawlensky, Blasse Bluten

The problem is that many of us stop short and never make it fully through all the steps of phase 1, so the fruits and gifts aren’t fully tasted. We usually stop short because it gets intensely uncomfortable and we think this means something is wrong. But what we must realize is that it’s necessary for a de-construction to take place within us. By virtue of living in a patriarchal culture, we’ve had to internalize structures and beliefs that are  actually built to prevent our empowerment and self-realization as women. So without this necessary de-construction and the discomfort it brings, no authentic transformation can take place. That’s why I’m so passionate about being brutally honest about the fact that this work takes time AND emphasizing that each woman is worth the time and effort it takes to do this work.

If we follow the process of phase 1 all the way through, this is what we can expect to unfold in phase 2. I call the second phase:  Emergence of the true self, which contains 3 steps.

1. Integration.   

After we have done the work of phase 1 (identified the main issues of our mother wound, have seen how they have caused us pain and have given up the hope of our mother changing, etc.) we can deeply let go and begin the process of building a new structure within us that supports us in flourishing as our authentic self. Time is critical to integration. It is a natural process, much how healing a physical injury has its own timeline. Our psyche is the much the same. We fully integrate when we have long-enough received and sufficiently internalized the love (from the outer and inner) that we never got as children. This creates a fertile inner environment to subsequently expand our ability to receive in a variety of ways, because we now feel worthy and deserving. We finally know ourselves as infinitely good. This foundation is strong and can now support us in receiving and offering higher energies and experiences.

Alison Blickle - Cypress

2. Embodiment.

After we have deeply integrated this love into our being, through the unconditional love of our inner mother and supportive people in our lives, we begin to have the capacity to embody the divine feminine. What this means is that we begin to have the increasing ability to express, in our words, bodies, actions, thoughts, behaviors, dreams, creations, etc. the energies of the divine feminine. Not just intermittently, but more and more sustainably. We begin to operate primarily from a space of Being, rather than with an emphasis on Doing. We no longer experience ourselves as only a child of the Goddess, but we begin to have moments of experiencing ourselves AS the Goddess; to hold these powerful energies and bring them into our lives as women.

You become capable of embodying the Divine Feminine because you’ve filled the gaps within yourself, and by doing so, you increasingly become a container and vessel of higher energies that impact and elevate your environment.

The more we heal the mother wound, the more we can embody these qualities:

  • Ability to take emotional risks; being open and radically honest
  • Willing to be vulnerable and transparent
  • Ability to be imperfect without self-recrimination
  • Owning one’s physical presence with confidence and power
  • Embracing one’s cycles and natural fluctuations without judgment
  • Lightness, laughter and deep trust even when you don’t know
  • A greater capacity to experience pleasure and welcome good things
  • The ability to hold space for others to know their deeper truths
  • The ability to experience abundance as part of your own nature, not something outside of you.
  • The ability to welcome fear and uncomfortable emotions (of yourself and others) into the core of your Being to be transformed into light and higher consciousness.
  • So much more…

Agnieszka Szuba

3. Realization.

If we continue still on the path of healing the mother wound, something truly miraculous and profound may begin to awaken within us. We may become aware of our own presence in a palpable way, perhaps a presence that feels familiar. It may feel like a divine longing, a bliss, a source within us that is always there, and always has been there from the beginning. We may begin to realize it’s power as an overflowing emanation from within, the core true self, the source of all. What results in this stage is knowing. A knowing of your divine nature dawns in your being. 

At the realization stage, we begin to know ourselves as the one divine presence within all forms and to see this presence reflected back to us in everything we see. This is beyond ego and gender identification. And it’s not just an intellectual understanding. It’s deeply knowing your divinity and your humanity as one. It becomes apparent to you; self-evident. So much is released here, and yet there is still so many layers to be uncovered and revealed; but rather than it being a burden of suffering, the unfolding process is pervaded instead by a stable baseline of peace, joy, and love. Even grief and disappointment are relished because they bring us ever deeper into contact with Truth, with the Real, with the One that we are and that lives in all beings. This is the dawning of unity consciousness.

Mark Schaller, Big Orange Nude

It’s a paradox that we arrive at unity consciousness by first committing to fully embracing the pain of our deepest aloneness, which resides in the mother wound, the site of our first heart-wound as a human being. Any place of pain or wounding can serve as a doorway to this higher consciousness. The mother wound is a particularly potent access point because it touches our deepest vulnerabilities as human beings and impacts every area of our lives.

In order to fully arrive at realization of unity consciousness, we have to bring a certain mindset to the healing process. This mindset is quite counter to what is commonly believed in our fast-paced culture, which demands quick fixes, brute force to achieve, and lack of patience with things that inherently take time.

Antonio Fonseca Vázquez-Title- Eve

The mindset that we must espouse to make it to the other side, is a deep letting go: 

  • Surrender attachment to outcome
  • Trust: both the process and yourself
  • Accountability to keep your commitments to yourself
  • Integrity and self-honesty: to not turn away from your deepest pain or your deepest truths
  • Willingness to be uncomfortable for the sake of knowing and embodying that which is true and real.

In order to fully let go, we first need to feel fully supported. We have to first make sure we have a safe environment in our lives to support this work. In my opinion, the most ideal environment for support for this work has three elements simultaneously, however, this is not required. Each of these elements are wonderful on their own, but together they form a powerful base of support that can move you through the mother wound to the other side. You may experience one or more at different times of your journey.

1. Individual, long-term psychotherapy with a therapist that you deeply resonate with. This allows you to go deep into the emotional processing that needs to happen to create meaningful change in early patterns and beliefs. (I strongly recommend this component for women who have experienced trauma or abuse in relation to their mothers. And I think women who have not experienced trauma can greatly benefit from it as well.)

Gabrielle Senza

2. Coaching with a competent, compassionate mentor/life coach who has already been though this process herself. This person supports you to take action on the shifts and insights that happen as you process and heal the mother wound. This is a service I provide through my private coaching.

3. A supportive, stable community that fosters safety, authenticity and transparency. This could be in informal group of friends or it could be a formal community that meets regularly with the intention to support one another’s unfoldment.

Because the mother wound has two levels (personal mother and collective patriarchal inheritance), when we heal, we do so on two levels. We heal our own personal selves, and we also contribute to a massive cultural shift on the collective level.

I’m excited to share this process and greater vision with you to inspire you to see what is possible when we focus on healing the mother wound. And to underscore that when we commit to the healing process, it ceases to become a black hole that we’d rather avoid and ignore. Through our willingness to do the work it takes to heal, the mother wound begins to transform into a door into our greater wholeness and evolution. It is a second birth; a birth into your core, authentic, Divine Self.

© Bethany Webster 2014

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I teach a workshop on healing the mother wound. The next workshop is on June 28th, 2014 in Shelburne Falls, MA. For more info, see Events page. 

The online course and private coaching packages are about almost ready to launch! Stay tuned for more information. Coming very soon!

Click here to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free copy of my e-book on “Transforming the Inner Mother.”

(art credits in order of appearance: Catrin Welz-Stein, “A figure in shadow” by Edouard Antonin Vysekal, Alexei Jawlensky Blasse Bluten, “Cypress” by Alison Blickel, Agnieszka Szuba, “Big Orange Nude” by Mark Schaller, “Eve” by Antonion Fonseca, Gabrielle Senza)

The Importance of Resisting the Cultural Pressure to Ignore the Mother Wound

In January, I posted a blog article that went viral called Why It’s Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound.”  One of the themes in the feedback I received is that some women felt guilty for being in wholehearted agreement with the article. Even though they felt great relief in reading it and totally resonated with it, some women expressed fear of their mothers finding out that they had read it because it articulated the deep pain they had been feeling in relation to her.

W. T. Benda

This struck me as a vivid illustration of the very strong cultural taboo against examining the relationship with one’s mother. Let’s look at the reasons why this taboo exists and why it’s so important to break this taboo in order to step into true fulfillment, wholeness and empowerment as women.

There are many variations of the taboo that says “Don’t look at your relationship with your mother.” Most of these beliefs equate the desire for healing from painful feelings in relation to your mother with “mother-blame.” This is a false equivalence, a distorted view that puts a daughter who is seeking healing into the position of a perpetrator against her mother, which instills guilt and shame. This can greatly thwart her process and keep her stuck.

The tragedy is that the fear of being seen as “mother-blaming” while pursuing our own healing, may prevent us from accessing the many gifts and powerful transformation that lie within the pain of the mother wound.

Ryan J. Michaels

When seeking healing in relation to our mothers, we may be encouraged to ignore our feelings and blame ourselves.

  • “She didn’t have it easy. Don’t put extra more of a burden on her.”
  • “Your mother tried her best. You know she loves you.”
  • “Focus on the good in the relationship. You only have one mother.”

These things may well be true: your mother may love you; she may have tried her best; you only have one mother; she didn’t have it easy, AND that shouldn’t be cause for you to swallow your pain, stop seeking healing, and silence yourself. This silencing is in accordance with the silencing of women as a whole.

The underlying message is “Bury your pain. Don’t be inconvenient.”

There is an interesting paradox operating here: As daughters, we don’t want to be in alliance with the patriarchal culture that perpetrates against our mothers, so we turn away from the opportunity to examine the relationship for insight and healing. We’re taught to think of this willful ignorance as beneficial and protective to her and to ourselves. But it is precisely when we turn away from the opportunity to heal the mother wound, that we actually are in cahoots with the patriarchy, because we are then enabling our own oppression, stuck-ness and smallness.

David et Myrtille

We must resist the cultural pressure to deny unpleasant thoughts and uncomfortable emotions in relation to our mothers. This task of resistance is essential to our realization of wholeness. 

Not healing the mother wound is very costly. If we ignore the pain of the mother wound, we risk living our lives indefinitely with persistent feelings of deep shame, self-sabotage, competition, comparison, self-doubt and attenuation. We also risk passing it along to our daughters and sons. The template that we inherited from our mothers (with its patriarchal distortions) will remain intact until we consciously act to transform it so that we can live in alignment with our deepest truth and thus experience deep fulfillment.

We fear being complicit with the damaging cultural paradigm of mother blame. “But mother-blaming” is very different from healing the mother wound. This is an important distinction: Mother-blame is avoiding responsibility and healing the mother wound is a form of taking personal responsibility. 

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Healing the mother wound is a process of gaining clarity on the predominant dynamics with our mothers that impacted our early development and our choices as adults. It also involves processing the challenging emotions that accompany those dynamics for the purpose of healing and discovering our authentic self. Eventually we reach a place of insight, wisdom, acceptance and gratitude.

Accessing your truth and power is worth the risk of being misunderstood and misperceived by others. 

Alexandra Levasseur

“Mother-blame” is different than healing the mother wound. “Mother-blame” is characterized by:

  • Complacency and a sense of victim-hood
  • A way of hiding from your own power
  • Projecting unprocessed anger and avoiding underlying grief

In the healing process, there may be moments of experiencing challenging emotions towards our mothers like sadness, rage, disappointment, etc. They are temporary places on the cycle of healing. If we stick with the healing process, those feelings eventually transform into peace and acceptance.

We have to believe that we are worth it and have what it takes to come out the other side of this wound. 

by Meghan Howland

Healing the mother wound is a personal journey which does not require that your mother heal herself. The focus is on YOU and your own healing and transformation. However, it is very possible that your own healing process may trigger your mother in some way. The trigger can be viewed as a valuable opportunity; an opportunity for mother and daughter to potentially come to deeper understanding. It could also be an opportunity for the mother to reflect and have insight on herself and her own life, if she is willing.

It’s interesting that we can only come to genuine acceptance and gratitude for what our mothers could give us only after we have honestly acknowledged the difficult feelings we may have about what she could not give us.

Healing the mother wound is characterized by: 

  • Examining the mother/daughter relationship with the intention to gain clarity and insight in order to create positive change in one’s life.
  • Transforming limiting beliefs you’ve inherited with the intention of adopting new beliefs that fully support you in flourishing as your authentic self.
  • Taking responsibility for your own path by becoming conscious of previously unconscious patterns  and making new choices that reflect your true desires.

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Healing the mother wound is a powerful catalyst for exponential growth; for discovering and living as our authentic self. When we examine and reflect on the mother wound, we gain powerful clarity about who we really are, and what our genuine wants and needs are. It’s a chance to articulate our deepest self, and to live in alignment with that.

There’s an old belief that says “Only one of us can win.” This is a patriarchal belief that unconsciously manifests in dynamics of competition and dominance between family members, including mothers and daughters. We can replace this unconscious belief with a new belief: “I can validate and heal myself without the need to condemn you.” As we live from this new paradigm, we may experience backlash from others who still subscribe to the old patriarchal beliefs. However, we mustn’t give up in the face of backlash, but continue to stand firm in our integrity and get the support we need to live our truth.

by Erin Fitzpatrick

It’s important that you know there are no guarantees. Our own healing does not necessarily mean that we will have a better relationship with our mothers nor does it mean that our mothers will also seek their own healing. Accepting this unknown is part of surrendering to the organic process of healing and trusting it will deliver us to our highest good. It’s the risk that we have to take.

Healing the mother wound is not a rejection of mother, it’s a powerful form of claiming oneself as whole. 

Because our relationships with our mothers served as the foundation for our relationship with ourselves, they offer massive potential for growth and transformation. That is the point of healing the mother wound; not to blame, not to judge or reject one’s mother. But to experience the peace and freedom of self-actualization, which is the birthright of every woman.

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© Bethany Webster 2014

(Art credits in order of appearance: W.T. Benda, Ryan J. Michaels, David Et Myrtille, unknown, Alexandra Levasseur, Meghan Howland, unknown, Erin Fitzpatrick, unknown)

I teach a workshop called: “Healing the Mother Wound: Move Beyond What Your Mother Never Gave you and Become the Woman You’re Meant to Be.” Click here to see dates of upcoming workshops! 

A big, heartfelt THANK YOU to all who completed my survey on what you’re looking for in a program on healing the mother wound! I’ve received 137 responses and I’ve been carefully reading every one. Thanks for your continued patience and enthusiastic support as I build the online course and coaching packages! Stay tuned! Love, Bethany

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