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Mother Knows Best

The message that we get in childhood either from our own psychological system or from society is that mother knows best. If we dare to confront it we face either harsh criticism or an inner sense of life-threat that leads to (often chronic) shame and guilt. The idea that mother knows best is enshrined in the fairy tale Rapunzel, where we learn that if our own truth, point of view, feelings and impressions about life differ from our mum’s we unconsciously deem ours to be wrong and exile our intuitive knowledge. In healing the mother wound, we disentangle from these early impressions and relearn to embrace our inner wisdom as a true and reliable compass.

mother knows best blog

It often happens in healing the mother wound sessions that women suddenly become aware that certain hurtful aspects in the dynamics between them and their mums are replicated in their relationships with other women, friends or partners.

This can be confusing and sometimes shocking. Naturally, no woman wants to consciously repeat the harm that she’s experienced in the relationship with her mother.

It can be that you choose a business partner who embodies bullying behaviours such as your mother had, and you don’t even notice it.

Perhaps you’re in an intimate relationship with a partner who makes your intuitive knowledge and emotional intelligence feel irrelevant, even dismissing them as childish and immature in a manner that echoes the absence of your mother’s voice in childhood.

In spite of our best intentions, we will internalise messages, behaviours and habits embodied and modelled by our mum because she is our first contact point with reality and through her we gain our first sense of how it looks.

But it’s not the only reason why we recycle aspects of our mother or our relationship with her that we didn’t like.

The psychological and social messages that mother knows best

When we’re little we don’t have any life experience besides what we get at home. Psychologically, it’s impossible to reconcile the complexity of, say, a mother that doesn’t know how to love with the belief that we, nonetheless, are worthy of love.

Vulnerable as we are in our dependence on our mum, we resort to rejecting any instinctual reality that contradicts the one our mother presents as normal. But that’s not all.

How many times have you had the command “don’t argue with your mum” thrown at you?

Social systems that on the one hand dismiss the autonomy and agency of women while on the other setting mothers on an untouchable pedestal send the message that mother always knows best, regardless of their misgivings.

The concept ‘mother knows best’ is beautifully captured in the fairy tale Rapunzel. It tells us how society treats women that leads to this double edge sword message about women and motherhood and also, through Rapunzel’s journey, what is the guidance for healing the mother wound.

Healing the mother wound with fairy tales

Mother knows best in ancient stories

My fascination with fairy tales started as a young girl. My grandmother, who was my protector against my mother until I was 7 years old, used to read me bed-time stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Later in life, I came to study with different teachers such as Dr. Clairssa Pinkola Estes  how to enter our inner world through the ancient wisdom of fairy tales.

With time I developed my own sense of interpreting the ancient wisdom embedded in these stories for healing the mother wound, which I’d like to share with you here.

In Rapunzel, a little baby was lost to a sorceress because of her pregnant mother’s lust for a plant from the sorceress’ garden. The beautiful baby, called Rapunzel, was locked by the sorceress in a high tower when she reached puberty. All her life she knew nothing and no one other than her captor, whom she believed to be her loving and protective mum.

Naive as she was, Rapunzel let slip one day of her encounter with a charming prince who visited her in her tower. The witch’s vengeance was terrible: the prince was blinded by the claws of a cat while Rapunzel had her golden braids brutally shorn and was cast out into a life of exile. They are saved by Rapunzel’s healing tears and therapeutic voice, and, needless to say, live together happily ever after.

The mother wound as generational trauma

The story starts with the understanding that the mother wound is a generational trauma. When a woman wants something passionately for herself she’s going to be punished for it. This is the sometimes latent sometimes explicit message transmitted to women through their mother.

Like so many life stories of women replicating parts of their life with their mother or their mother’s trauma, the mother in the story loses the life she gave birth to and the daughter loses touch with life outside of her personal story, as if she didn’t exist.

Both mother and daughter break the rules imposed on them—the mother when she asks for the “forbidden” plant from her neighbour’s garden, knowing intuitively that it will awaken in her the magic powers she yearns for, and the daughter when she allows in the love that exists outside her story of loneliness.

Mothers don’t always know best. But even when they do know what’s the right medicine they need in order to provide empowering environment for their daughters, they get separated by social forces that deem a woman’s wisdom as subversive.

Using your voice to heal the mother wound

The name Rapunzel derives from the name of the plant rampion. This is what her then pregnant mother craved and sent her husband to collect. Rampion has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, in particular for clearing the throat.

In the tower, lonely and pining for company, Rapunzel uses her voice to sing for self-comfort and soothing. Later in her exile she keeps singing and the prince, in spite of his blindness, finds his way back to her.

Many women are afraid of using their voice as a result of their mother wound.

Breaking the cycle of women’s hereditary threat of punishment for being larger than life, for following passion, intuition and ancient wisdom happens withering your voice.

Healing the mother wound is more available and accessible than most assume

Rampion symbolises the wisdom and vitality of the earth, and its flowers are associated with profound ancient wisdom and visionary powers.

If you live in Europe Rampion probably grows in your back garden during the summer months. To me, the wide-spread plant, positioned in the story as a unique food for satisfying hunger means that Mother Earth always knows how to provide us in accessible, everyday ways the medicinal knowledge we need.

Our own flesh and blood mother, who was kept away from that knowledge through the adoption of patriarchal practices, begets her daughter with both this inherited ancient wisdom that cannot be eradicated by man-made social norms and the evergreen desire to be free to sing her song.



mother hunger free webinar


When we stop interpreting everything as the desire for penis the feminine life awakens

The erect tower where sexy Rapunzel grows into womanhood is often interpreted as the Freudian desire for the phallus. But I have another interpretation for it, one that doesn’t reduce feminine wisdom to singular chase after penetration.

The tower is a point of view. While the young daughter has only her mum’s point of view and no other life experience to compare with, she takes the dynamic with her mother as the only vision of life.

She’s freed from that point of view when she becomes interested in allowing life experience in and merging between the inner and the outer.

The vehicle for letting life in is her hair, an ancient symbol of individual power and magical strength.

The mother wound is akin to the violent cutting of a daughter’s point of view when she’s locked inside her internal reality to protect her from an outer world that’s porter as unsafe.

Daughters often experience being cut off from their strength through feeling guilty for talking unfavourably about their relationship with their mother. The guilt inhibits the passion to explore what is growing in the neighbour’s garden, meaning what happens in a different way of living.

In the competition between points of view about the sense of self, purpose in life and the meanings of being a woman, the daughter has only one default—if mum’s right then I must be wrong. Harmony is restored when the daughter, Rapunzel uses her voice to merge with the outside world and discovers that the magical healing powers of her tears cannot be taken from her.

mother wound rapunzel

How mother knows best looks like for adult daughters

Rapunzel as a fairy tale captures the ancient lesson that when a mother is not allowed to be in her power a daughter will be trapped in a limited understanding of herself and the inflicted mother wound is healed with the natural expression of her soothing voice and the meeting with the nourishment that exists outside of what she believed to be reality.

Here are a few ways in which the psychological understanding that mother knows best translates into an adult daughter’s life:

  • If mum discredits your observations and ways of interpreting life or even your dynamic with her, you will start doubting your own judgments. Your intuition’s compass will go off and you’ll be fumbling to find your way back to your path.

  • If mum is neglectful, you’ll assume that you don’t deserve better. Later in adult life, it’ll manifest in many aspects of life, such as—you don’t deserve attention, you don’t deserve to be paid what you’re worth, you don’t deserve to shine, you don’t deserve satisfying intimacy and so on.

  • If mum was critical, you’ll internalise that criticism, because mum is always right in the infant’s mind. Thoughts about being wrong and doing it wrong will haunt you, and it’ll be challenging to imagine succeeding in endeavours and reasons why not to pursue your wishes will be all too available.

  • If mum was absent—physically, emotionally or spiritually—you’ll exile many parts of yourself. The sense of not really knowing who you are, a tendency to please and grow into co-dependancy will be some of the personality traits you’ll cultivate.

  • If mum is defensive, secretive or volatile when you are a child you’ll be hyper vigilant, probably fearful of rejection and you’ll cultivate a belief you can’t trust others to be there for you, without you making an effort to prove you deserve it.

These different scenarios—which are not exhausting the many ways the mother wound shows up in women’s adult life—illustrate how the idea and the concept that more knows best finds its way into our life.

Our belief system prescribes beliefs from these scenarios such as “I cannot be loved” or “If I use my authentic voice something bad will happen”. The good news is that our belief system is very adaptable and those beliefs can be rewritten.

‘Mother knows best’ is partly a psychological mechanism that shapes the way we make sense of our world as children, partly a social construct that prevents mothers and daughters from exploring their individual power. But this concept or command can be rather easily disavowed with the exposure to healing and guiding relationships that empower the voice of your inner truth. The fairytale Rapunzel illustrates how the mother wound as a generational trauma passes down not only because of toxic mothers but also as a dogmatic patriarchal view that women with individual needs should be punished. Healing the mother wound is found in relearning how to use your voice and your intuitive feminine wisdom.


Need help with discovering or amplifying your unique voice as a woman?

Want to embrace more empowering and enabling belief system to heal your mother wound?

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