Let me ask you…every year when Mother’s Day comes around, do you spend hours looking at cards but end up frustrated and kind of sad because none of them actually fit the relationship you have with your mom?
Deep down, do you feel ashamed that the relationship you have (or had) with your mother is nowhere near picture-perfect?
If this resonates with you, I invite you to keep reading. This week’s episode is Part One of a two-part series on mother/child relationships and how this foundational dynamic could still be affecting you today.
Throughout more than 2 decades of my therapy practice, I have seen so many women suffering in their relationship with their mother and others as a direct result of what attention and care they did or did not receive in childhood. This pain negatively impacts how they relate day to day with the world, and most importantly, how they perceive themselves.
In the video below, I’ll help you learn how to identify if you’re suffering from “The Mother Wound” as well as give you some steps you can take to begin to heal.
In most cases, the first person anyone has a relationship with is their mother. It is from those very early experiences that our sense of self develops.
That’s because our first internal representation of ourselves comes from how our mother or primary caregiver interacted with us when we were infants. If there was neglect, ambivalence or abuse, the result can be an inconsistency in your relationship with yourself…and that wound can last a lifetime unless you do something about it.
So what exactly is the Mother Wound?
There are two schools of thought on this. The first is a bit more esoteric and existential, but I believe it to be true:
The Mother Wound can be thought of in a broad sense as the collective injury from being a female in our society. It is unintentionally passed down from generation to generation of women to their daughters. It can include the pain of ancestral experiences such as abuse, neglect, trauma, and marginalization. I’ve included resources for further reading on this in the cheatsheet, and you can download it right here.
For our purposes, I am interested in diving more deeply into the wounds of any psychological injuries that have been sustained during this lifetime. This psychological view of the Mother Wound is the result of mothers who cannot and did not treat their children with unconditional love and compassion.
If your mother did not or could not meet your needs when you were a child, if you did not have a caregiver that was emotionally attuned to you, it can cause inconsistencies in your relationship with your self-identity. How you see yourself has so much to do with your attachment style, which affects how you relate to others and the world.
Attachment theory, originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby, asserts that our earliest caregiver relationship can impact our romantic relationships later in life. The theory identifies two main results from having this type of primary caregiver. Ambivalent attachment happens because you have learned from your early experience that intimacy and connectedness are not safe, so you’re never fully invested; and avoidant attachment, meaning that because you find relationships so stressful, you simply take yourself out of the running – often ending a relationship yourself rather than risk being rejected.
I’ve created a guide for you to help you see if and how the mother wound might be showing up in your adult relationships, so download it here now and spend some time exploring the questions.
Symptoms of an unresolved mother wound can range from unhealthy attachment styles to low self-confidence and lack of self-esteem, from an inability to trust yourself or anyone else to a deep sense of never feeling like you’ll ever be good enough. It can manifest in perfectionism, chronic imposter syndrome or always undermining your own success.
If your deepest, darkest fear is that you are unworthy of love, attention, and affection, you will find that experience everywhere. You might find that you are unable to set boundaries because there’s so much fear of rejection, abandonment and being left alone, which might mirror the way you felt in your childhood.
The “Disease to Please” or chronic overfunctioning sometimes is rooted in an adaptive response in which a child learns to focus on their mother’s feelings instead of their own, in order to survive. This can be so painful and have lasting effects because if you were raised to only be dialed into your caregiver’s wants and needs, you become an expert at ignoring your own.
Another common symptom of the mother wound is emotional transference, that is, reacting in real time to a situation, but transferring the emotions from unresolved injuries or wounds from the past onto what you’re experiencing in the present.
I walk you through real-life examples of what this all can look like in the video, so be sure to watch and then get the little cheat sheet I created for you to take a self-inventory that can help reveal how an unresolved mother wound could be playing out in your life.
It can be challenging to create and sustain healthy love until you uncover the mother wound itself and start to take steps to heal. If from a very early age you felt invalidated as a human being, it can be difficult to trust the motives of other people, especially in romantic relationships. This might look like needing the other person to prove time and time again that their feelings are genuine or repeatedly choosing relationships where your deepest fear of being unworthy gets played out over and over again.
Consciously acknowledging what you experienced with your mother growing up is the beginning of transforming the negative impact of the mother wound.
I hope that this helps you in some way and inspires you to raise your awareness and take some steps to further understand yourself. Next week I’m taking on Part 2 of the mother wound series, so make sure to tune in to learn the actual strategies and things you can do to start to get yourself on the path to healing because you so deserve that.
Don’t forget that The Terri Cole Show is starting this month on April 18th, at 9 PM EDT! It’s a live Q+A with me, it’s all happening on my YouTube channel, and I want to see you there! Click here to subscribe to my Youtube channel so that you get notified for our big debut!
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