When you were growing up, what was your relationship like with your mother? 

Did you feel like you were walking on eggshells? Were you worried about her disapproval or that she would be highly critical of you? Did you long for a present, stable, supportive maternal presence in your life?

If so, you might have a mother wound. Leaving this emotional and psychological injury untended can impact the way you feel about yourself, your relationships, and the way you show up in the world. 

In this week’s episode, I’m defining the mother wound, its causes, how it could be impacting you now, and sharing the benefits of taking steps to heal this primal injury.

 

What is a Mother Wound?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to defining the mother wound, and both are valid:

  1. In a big-picture, existential sense, the mother wound can refer to the collective, inherited injury of humans raised as women in a society that devalues their existences and experiences and treats them as second-class citizens. The collective wound is unintentionally passed down from generation to generation of women to their daughters and female family members. It can include ancestral experiences such as abuse, neglect, trauma, and marginalization.
  2. From a psychological perspective, the mother wound is any kind of psychological or emotional injury incurred because of a maternal impactor and sustained in this lifetime. In this view, the Mother Wound is the result of mothers or maternal impactors who cannot and did not treat their child with unconditional love or compassion. As a psychotherapist, I will be diving more deeply into this kind of Mother Wound.

Quick clarification: you don’t have to have been raised by a biological mother to have sustained a mother wound. You will notice I use the term “maternal impactor” to describe the female adults that raised you. That could be a grandmother, foster mother, aunt, and even an older sibling. The important part is not the biology, but the impact these relationships had on you. While in my experience, the mother wound usually presents in a mother/daughter dynamic, anyone can have a mother wound. 

Growing up with a mother or maternal impactor who was absent, not emotionally attuned to you, and/or did not or could not meet your needs as a child, can cause inconsistencies in your relationship with your own identity. 

How we experience and see ourselves has so much to do with the relationship and attachment style with our maternal impactor. 

Mother wounds come in all shapes and sizes, and your experience is, of course, unique to you, but these are some maternal behaviors said to cause this kind of injury:

  • Met your basic physical needs but didn’t give love, care, or emotional security
  • Didn’t have the ability to mirror your emotions, show empathy
  • Didn’t teach you how to manage your emotions
  • Didn’t have compassion for you when you were in pain
  • Became overwhelmed by your feelings
  • Didn’t allow you to express negative emotions
  • Were very critical or judgemental
  • “Parent-ified” you as a child and expected you to provide them with support and care
  • Largely physically absent or unavailable (death, sickness, working, busy with own interests)
  • Passed on their own unprocessed trauma to you
  • Had untreated mental health conditions
  • Addiction, abuse or neglect

This isn’t about blaming your mother or judging her for what she did or did not give you. The beginning of the healing process is raising your awareness of the truth of your experiences. If any of these experiences resonate with you, it is important to take steps to process and heal because there is a cost to not doing this work.   

Possible symptoms of the Mother Wound are:

  • The feeling of being monumentally broken in some way
  • Never reaching your potential in life because there is a deep, primal fear of criticism, judgment, rejection, and abandonment
  • Self-sabotage of your success or happiness
  • Chronic imposter syndrome 
  • Disordered boundaries 
  • Overgiving + Overfunctioning
  • Feeling unclear about who you are and what your purpose is
  • Need for external validation
  • Low-self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and inadequacy
  • Not feeling safe to speak your truth
  • Conflict-avoidant and lack of emotional awareness
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Having a sense of waiting for your maternal impactor’s permission or approval (which can lead to perfectionism)
  • Inability to become sovereign in your own life
  • Seeking ways to numb your feelings with alcohol, drugs, technology, etc.
  • Difficulty in relationships, poor communication skills, and conflict 

In more than 2 decades as a psychotherapist and empowerment coach, I have seen so many women suffering due to the nature of attention and care they did or did not receive in childhood. This pain negatively impacts how they relate with the world, and most importantly, how they perceive and relate to themselves.

Now for the good news: it is absolutely possible to heal a mother wound. 

Here are some amazing things that can happen when you do:

  • Your emotional IQ increases and you become much more skilled at emotional regulation
  • You gain the ability to self-soothe emotionally 
  • You trust yourself and can use your emotions as data to inform your choices
  • You can set and maintain healthy, flexible boundaries
  • You see yourself as capable and confident of attaining your highest desires
  • You learn how to take care of yourself in a real way
  • Your inner dialogue becomes more loving and supportive 
  • You are discerning about who gets access to you 
  • You have deep compassion for yourself and your experiences
  • You can build a self-directed life 

Taking steps to heal the mother wound can enable you to reclaim your sovereignty, express your boundaries, and open your heart to your highest potential. 

Healing this primal injury and taking impeccable care of yourself are both vital for you to thrive. If you continue on this path of tending to the original injury of a mother wound, you can begin to trust the process of life and trust yourself

I created a worksheet for you to get more clarity around your experience of the mother wound and you can download it right here. 

If you’re ready to take the next step and want more guidance through this process, I’ve created a course, Understand and Transform Your Mother Wound. I will personally be leading a group of like-minded, like-hearted individuals inside a sacred, safe container so you can do the work and get the support, strategies, and expert guidance you need to lovingly tend to yourself, process and heal. 

Here’s where you can get all the information about the Understand and Transform Your Mother Wound course! 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the mother wound, so please drop me a comment here or hang with me on Instagram @terricole. 

I read all of your comments and love to connect with you so I can cover topics that add value to your life, decrease your suffering and increase your joy. That’s what it’s all about! 

Have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.  

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  1. Holy crap!! This is my life!! The mother would is so deep and I’m just learning this is an actual thing in this very moment at age 57, married with 4 kids ages 17-25! I am SURE I have passed on the mother wound to all 4, including my son! Can’t wait to evolve and become healthier! Just bought your Boundary Boss book for starters. Do you have vlogs and podcasts? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kelley,
      Thank you for being here and for checking out Boundary Boss ? I’m so glad you’re on this journey to self-discovery and unpacking your mother wound ❤️ There are tons more blogs and podcasts here for you to check out!

  2. I am blown away , I always saw my mother as someone who gave her best and that was loving. And she was. And then again I can not deny that I have a mother wound. I thought my wounds came only from my father being unavailable. I have bad boundaries, always felt as if something was really wrong with me, always feeling I am not enough ( to this day even if I have put a lot of work in healing and I am 62 years old), the list goes on. Thank you so much for sharing .I am presently still working on building my own set of values and being able to recognise and respect of my own needs and desires and thought. I will look into this mother wound Thank you again for shedding light on this. Please talk to us about the father wound if that exists and the difference between the two. Thank you again and I LOVE your videos. Mary Ann

    1. Hi Mary Ann,
      Thank you for sharing and for being here ❤️ I appreciate your comment and I’m holding space for you with so much compassion!

  3. Thank you very much! I have been strugling with the problem all my life, even after my mother’s death.
    I hope that will help free myself.
    Love
    Alicja

  4. Hi Terri,
    I am a huge fan of yours, have The Boundary Boss book (some sections read repeatedly) which is now loaned out to a friend who is loving it.
    I am a 64 year old divorced man. I listened to Mother-Wound in interest for myself. And there were great key points in it for me. But what astounded me was the dead-on exact description of my ex-wife. I never knew her mother, but from all accounts she was cold, detached, and married a violent alcoholic. Of course I presumed this was the foundation of issues, but I never expected such a complete read of my ex in one podcast.
    Thanks for all the work you do, and the great efforts you go to reaching out.

    1. Hi Gilbert,
      I’m so glad this podcast and Boundary Boss have been resonating for you! I appreciate you sharing! ??

  5. Dear Terri,

    Yes Terri, you are definitely on the right track. I am in my sixties and still searching for ways to heal from what you are describing as the mother wound. Thank you for creating a course; I will be signing up. Much gratitude is being extended to you for addressing this issue. Your Boundary Boss book has been invaluable to me.

    1. Hi Marjorie,
      I’m so glad this is resonating for you ❤️ Thank you for being here and for purchasing Boundary Boss! I think you’ll find your boundary journey to be transformative ?

  6. Terry,
    I am grateful beyond belief for “The Boundary Boss” book and your continual posts. I have been wrapped in a safe blanket of self insulation for so long. Both my mother and sister went to therapy for so long and neither got out of their own way. And I was terrified to be like them, terrified of the cures a.k.a. shock treatments, institutions, animal therapy. This post about the mother wound resonated to my core and explains some of my behaviors. Your book is helping so much, and your posts are doing the same. Your style is incredible, you are approachable and compassionate.

    1. Hi Anne,
      Thank you so much for being here and for sharing! I’m so glad Boundary Boss is resonating for you! ❤️

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