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Emotional Inheritance

Healing the mother wound can feel like a heavy lifting. It's mainly because we're dealing not only with our own stuff but with the emotional inheritance that passes down to us through invisible means--our biology, our cultural, social and political contexts and through our collective narratives of womanhood and the divine feminine. So it might be as important know what happens when you heal the mother wound and what emotional inheritance we keep on carrying when we don't

Loves, my last letter to you was a while ago. I wanted to send you a thank you note for participating in the Mother Wound Healing Summit, but then the world went up in flames. At least mine did.

Many of you know that originally I come from Israel. Since October 7th my life hasn’t been the same.

A good friend of mine was murdered inside his home, in front of his two small kids.

Then a war started, bringing in more killing, more pain, more collective trauma…. And so the wheels of Samsara, the wheels of pain keep on rolling.

What I’m seeing a lot now is how it triggers heated arguments about who’s right or wring, who’s suffering more, who has the right idea of what justice looks like.

All this pains me deeply. As I know it leads to no healing, no resolution, only greater division.

So it’s important for me to share with you, what happens when we don’t heal our emotional wounds. Because our own emotional baggage has more to do with our capacity to contribute to peace and freedom than most of us are aware of.

Emotional baggage or emotional Inheritance

Trauma or emotional wounds live within us as part of what we perceive to be “myself”.

Unchecked traumas and emotional wounds are registered in the body of our ancestors, passed down to us through the DNA.

DNA doesn’t mean ‘things set in stone’. I like looking at DNA as a recipe that can be changed.

In my early twenties I travelled from Israel to stay with my grandparents who lived in Switzerland. I spent the week in the kitchen with my grandmother. I wanted to learn from her how she cooked. I wanted to make sure I gleaned her kitchen-genius before it was too late.

There were many ingredients in her recipes that today I can’t eat.

I still use the recipes, but instead of white flour I’ll use buckwheat flour. Or instead of sugar I’ll use maple syrup or a few drops of lemon.

Our DNA acts in the same way. It’s a recipe for living life—perceiving levels of safety or lack of it; creating a sense of self; responding to relationships and so forth. This is our emotional inheritance.

These recipes can be changed. But when our emotional wounds and traumas remain unchecked we persist in consuming all those old ingredients, the habits and the perceptions, that make us feel stuck or even sick, without knowing why.

The process of changing the recipes and letting go of unwanted emotional baggage includes three elements:

1. Recalibrating memories

2. Rewiring to an embodied sense of safety

3. Organic discharge and spontaneous healing

Recalibrating memories

Many of my clients who experienced emotional neglect told me different stories where their mother left them alone, suddenly.

It happened to me when my mother left the house in the middle of the night, leaving behind her only a letter bereft of clear answers.

One young client told me that her mother asked her to get out of the taxi and walk to their destination by herself, roaming the big streets of NY on her own as dark descended.

Another client shared a childhood memory of coming out happy from a cinema night with the family, whereupon her mother made her walk back home alone in the dark as some form of edifying life-experience.

These stories are not just words stored in the archives of our linguistic memory.

We remember the terror of being left without guidance or safety, we remember the emotions of anger, disappointment, sadness, confusion, we remember the experience of shame and guilt.

We remember not only “what happened” but mainly “how and why it happened to me”.

These are moments when something deep inside our psyche breaks. There’s a split in our system.

Our system comprises many layers—mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, energetic.

While our emotional and physical faculties experience overwhelm with emotional neglect, our mental system steps in to create a story that makes sense of what happened.

How can we make sense of the unimaginable and unwelcome? Something in us goes to the archives buried in the depths of our being and pulls out those recipes.

A mother that abandons was abandoned herself. A mother that neglects was neglected herself. A mother that traumatises was traumatised herself. This is the manifestation of intergenerational trauma. This is how emotional inheritance becomes emotional baggage.

The recalibration of memory results in remembering the story of what happened but with a different, embodied sense of how and why it happened to ‘me’.

So we can be different with our loved ones, with the world.

So we can be relieved from emotional neglect and carry on only the goodness of our emotional inheritance.

Intergenerational trauma

Rewiring to an embodied sense of safety

Most of us grew up in an environment where experiencing and expressing feeling wasn’t welcome. Our emotional inheritance is not only what passes down through our family but also what comes with our culture, our history, our society’s values.

Repressing emotional expression, as our emotional inheritance models, leads to a self emotional neglect.

Self emotional neglect happens when we’re neglecting our own emotional needs.

I know I’m not alone in the experience of being told I’m too sensitive. It’s a subtle manipulation on what was a label used exclusively for women: hysteria.

Even though we’re wired intuitively to having an embodied sense of safety we learn how to detach ourselves from it just to fit in.

We need to relearn the capacity for an embodied sense of safety, which is different from the default sense of safety.

A default sense of safety is instinctual. We’ll employ any means to detach from the piercing feelings or avoid unfavourable labels such as hysteric or too much of something.

The most common methods of default sense of safety include: numbness, addictions, rationalisation, distraction, separation. Anything to avoid feeling the difficult feelings.

As opposed to a default sense of safety, an embodied sense of safety is a state of mind and a felt-sense of security, rootedness, protection within ourselves.

In an embodied sense of safety we’re much less swayed by what's happening around us.

In other words, it is a place of nervous system regulation, where we experience belonging, flexibility of heart and mind, choice and possibilities and spontaneity.

Without an embodied sense of safety we keep on responding to what happens around us through the lens of our emotional inheritance, the lenses of emotional neglect.

Organic discharge and spontaneous healing

Many women who’ve had a challenging or wounding relationship with their mother would naturally make any effort possible to be un-like their mother.

We want to make sure we’re not repeating the hurtful behaviour we experienced at the hands of our mother, we want to make sure we’re forming better relationships than she did, we want to reassure ourselves that we are living our truest nature rather than manifesting the effects of the mother wound.

In spite of our best efforts, though, many of us find that it’s not so easy to escape the repetition of what we disliked about out mother or our relationship with her.

I love how Mark Wolynn writes about this in his brilliant book, It Didn’t Start with You:

“The emotions, traits, and behaviors we reject in our parents will likely live on in us. It’s our unconscious way of loving them, a way to bring them back into our lives.”

The emotional inheritance of most of us (I’d even say all of us) is drenched in trauma. I don’t know anyone in my circle of acquaintance who doesn’t have someone who’s been in wars, who's experienced isolation, who's lost a dear one to violence.

Women who deal with a mother wound carry inside them the intergenerational scars of having been dismissed, violated or down-powered in some way.

We get stuck in unwanted patterns not because we don’t have the willingness to be different, not because we don’t try hard enough, but because we’re motioned automatically to repeat the instruction of the recipes from our emotional inheritance.

Eventually, after we’ve discovered and named what our emotional inheritance is and shifted into an embodied sense of safety something magical and joyful happens.

Our emotional inheritance comes out of its static state that dictates ‘this is how things need to be’, and we experience an organic discharge of new strengths and inner resources, we discover our capacity for spontaneous healing.

My biggest wish is that we each pull our our emotional inheritance so we could find the ways to replace the harmful ingredients with new, more healthy ones.

If you don’t want to do this alone, I can help. I’ve been doing this with women from different parts of the world for more than a decade. You can check out my 1:1 here to set up a complementary time to explore this option.

And after all, before my the world reminded me wha it’s so important to heal our intergenerational trauma, I did notice that many of the mother wound summit’s participants were new on this healing journey.

So I wrote a couple of blog posts for you:

Healing the mother wound: the first steps

What happens when you heal the mother wound

May we all know deep in our hearts

what it’s like to feel safe,

to feel deeply loved

and keep the hope for peace alive.


Here are a couple of ways to stay connected:

Sign up to my Museletter for regular useful content on healing the mother wound

Take my video training on breaking free from mother wound limiting beliefs

healing the mother wound

Shelly's helping women whose relationship with their mother left a negative mark and want to become un-limited in their personal or professional life


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