What Happens When You Heal the Mother Wound
It can be easy to imagine what it would be like if you travelled to a beach in the Bahamas for a week. Other, similar beach holiday experiences or snaps of golden beaches can help us build up a picture in our minds of what would happen if we went. But it may well be not so easy to imagine what happens when you heal the mother wound.
One of the things that stand in our way of imaging what happens when we heal the other wound is not only lack of experience but also a natural biological process called ‘negativity bias’.
Negativity bias means that when we suffer—physically, emotionally, psychologically, economically—our attention is fixed on what’s absent in the area of life where we suffer.
Negativity bias is a useful survival skill that teaches us to quickly see what to be aware of. It presents us with images and possible scenarios of what could go wrong.
Have you noticed how easily you can get swept up in a frightening thought about something unexpected ruining your best moment?
Because of negativity bias we tend to be keenly aware of what could go wrong if we started addressing a painful past with our mother, how painful it could be or what we might lose if we take the path of healing the mother wound.
I’d love to share with you what happens when you heal the mother wound. But because of negativity bias it would be difficult to listen to or take in any of the gems that may come up as a result. So let us name both—our worst case scenarios versus what really happens (from experience) when you heal the mother wound.
1. Negativity bias says: it’s just going to hurt
As a dancer I went to physiotherapy quite often. The number one thing I heard from almost every single PT I went to was, “it’ll probably be more painful in the next few days before it gets better”.
In many ways this is true of the emotional healing process of the mother wound.
When we visit the painful emotional and psychological experiences of our life with our mother it releases pain that’s stored in our emotional body.
At first, it hurts. It’s a crucial starting point since healing difficult feelings has to start with getting in touch with those feelings.
This will involve learning how to become comfortable with discomfort, as Brené Brown once famously said. It becomes very useful as life in general is far from being always comfortable. But more than that, it opens the door to a deep sense of feeling safe within ourselves, with others and in the world, something that’s often missing when a women has a mother wound.
Healing says: there’s nothing to be afraid of
Once you start getting in touch with certain difficult feelings you are no longer rejecting certain parts of yourself. A big part of the mother wound derives from our mother not accepting us as we are or not giving us the support we needed in order to feel confident and sufficient in who we are.
As you learn to process the charged relationship with your mum, you become more resilient, your capacity to cope with more challenging or complex events grows and your confidence in yourself develops.
Often, because of negativity bias, we differentiate in psychology between physical danger and psychological danger.
Psychological danger is a perception of something dangerous to our well being, a perception that feeds off past hurts and trauma.
Our capacity to reduce the extent of psychological danger is a huge contribution to our overall well being.
2. Negativity bias says: you should be ashamed of yourself
Many women who’ve had a difficult relationship with their mother are familiar with the experience of being judged or shamed for not forgiving their mother or accepting her and what she did.
Keeping stories of what happened to yourself a secret can only increase the sense of shame. We only keep away from others what we feel ashamed of.
These voices of shame and criticism are embedded deep in us until at some point they seem to be our own voices.
Starting the journey of healing the mother wound rubs against those voices and can trigger shame and a sense of guilt for mother blaming.
Part of the mother wound will always involve shame since the early experience of not being met by your mother is what creates the shame that’s stored in us.
Shame is a very shy creature not easy to detect, which is why the sense of being not enough can be so difficult to dispel. Unearthing shame that’s buried deep within can feel at first very unsettling. It’s also an amazing turning point.
Healing says: there’s nothing to be ashamed of
We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s nothing to be ashamed of” and we’ve all experienced at least once this phrase washing off us like water off a duck’s back.
Shame is not a rational experience. It can be a feeling, a state of mind or a sense of self (identity), but it’s far from being something we can intellectualise.
When you are in the presence of someone who doesn’t demand that you forgive or accept, someone who’s able to offer genuine validation and appreciation for who we are, shame begins to dissipate.
Releasing the burden of shame is a great recipe for feeling a lot of joy in life and the courage to be who we want to be, be it in our personal or professional life.
3. Negativity bias says: you’ll lose your family/friends
Unpacking your relationship with your mother or other significant maternal figures means unpacking a lot of the unspoken dynamics you also have with other family members, friends and other people you have different kinds of relationships with.
The fear of changing those dynamics is the most ancient fear of being left alone. No one can survive that.
The relationship with your mother acts like a blueprint for how to bond with others, what relationships are for and what roles you can expect to take in relationships.
It’s probably not going to be news to you if I say that being the pleaser with your mother you’ve probably ended up taking the pleaser role in many other relationships in your life. Or being the scapegoat, or being the saviour, or being the healer, or any other familiar roles you’ve employed in relationships.
But what bothers us is why it’s so difficult to not play that familiar role and not get into similar relationships after we’ve promised ourselves we won’t anymore. It’s because those dynamics and roles remain unchecked, as do our ways out of them.
Healing says: you belong
As you begin to identify the roles you take in relationships, recognise what you need from a relationship in order to feel safe, seen and truly loved, you lose the fear of being left behind and alone.
Naming our needs and learning how to resource them and advocate for them in a grounded, peaceful way results in discovering many new people that get you, that have space for you just the way you are and appreciate you immensely.
From a Buddhist psychology perspective there will always be some loneliness involved in our life. There are undeniably moments of loneliness no matter how much we’re loved or how healthy our relationships are.
But with healing the mother wound you reach a state where, even during the most challenging and possibly lonely moments in life, you don’t feel completely cut off from what your heart yearns for and your whole experience is carried by a deep sense of belonging and a deep knowing that you are cared for.
As you start your journey it’s important to find ways to imagine what happens when you heal the mother wound. You can find that through listening to other women’s stories of healing, reading about the journey and what it entails, getting involved with communities that offer a non-judgmental space for talking about your perspectives and needs and finding a close person who’s skilled and trained in offering the necessary compassion, psycho-education and sense of safety needed for healing the mother wound.
Not there yet? Here a couple of way 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