Owning our Wounds is an Important Step in Owning our Power

The martyr archetype becomes strong in us through the unconscious belief that suffering is noble and that other women who refuse to suffer in the same way are betraying us. This puts women in a double-bind- “If I’m powerful, I will lose relationships, yet if I shrink and stay small, I lose myself.”

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This is partly a by-product of oppression. Those who have been oppressed are the best at oppressing other people in their group. Women are best at oppressing women.

The martyr archetype arises from un-mourned trauma that has become an identity which one protects and refuses to release– simply for fear of the pain that lies beneath it. This can manifest itself in many different forms between women. It also happens intergenerationally. For example, an older woman may unconsciously feel inferior to her bright young daughter and may have a fear of being surpassed or forgotten. Instead of working through these difficult feelings on her own, she may unconsciously and covertly make her daughter feel guilty or somehow shameful for her increasing independence or success.

It takes enormous courage and self-awareness to own our projections and not pass along our own pain onto others. Yet it is the task before us, requring the best of us, and of which we are infinitely capable. The challenge has been that we have been taught to see our wounds as something to avoid, rather than the essential keys to our empowerment.

As daughters we have a built-in loyalty to our mothers and that’s partly why many of us feel afraid to be fully empowered. ‘Who am I to be amazing? My mother has sacrificed everything for me. What will happen to my mother if I am strong, powerful and confident? She may feel left behind. I can’t stand the feeling of surpassing my mother. She’ll be alone with her suffering.’

We may feel we have to return the sacrifice by not stepping into our power fully because our mothers did not have that chance.

David Larson Evans

Daughters in this situation often hold these beliefs:

“I have to “shrink” to be loved.” 

“If I give to myself, I deprive others.”        

“If I’m seen as powerful, no one will love me.”    

As daughters we must refuse to be the food for the “starving mothers.” We cannot let them feed on our dreams through covert competition and guilt. This is not the true nourishment they seek, but in their pain it may seem like there is no other way. We have to let our mothers have their suffering, for in the mourning of their wounds lies the gift of their own transformation.

Our mothers can only be fed by the relief of their own grieving.

As mothers, we have to mourn the ways we have been deprived and not put the onus on our daughters to compensate for our losses. We have to deal with our difficult feelings on our own time and not make it our daughter’s responsibility.

It’s totally natural for an older woman to seek solace in other women, even her daughter. But there is a line between honestly sharing how you’re doing and dumping your wounds onto the younger woman. Sometimes a mother may unconsciously look to her daughter for the mothering and nuturing that she did not receive from her own mother. This happens because the older woman is unaware that she has an “inner mother” she can cultivate and turn to for support. To prevent the wound from being passed to them, younger women must feel empowered to set a firm boundary when they become the dumping ground for the wounds of older women.

Mothers may unconsciously hold their daughters back due to their own ungrieved wounds, unknowingly crippling their daughters.

The patriarchal oppression of women will increasingly lose hold as older women take responsibilty for their own pain and when younger women refuse to carry wounds that are not their own. This allows young women to walk confidently in the direction of their dreams without crippling shame or guilt.

We have to stop equating being a loyal daughter with carrying the unresolved pain of the women who have gone before us.

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As daughters, our starvation serves no one, it only keeps the mother wound alive; the  wound that gets passed down over and over again through the generations.  When we offer ourselves up as food to the “starving mother”, the pain is passed on to us and we then become starving ourselves.

By sacrificing ourselves, and not stepping into our power for fear of threatening our mother/elder, we are serving our mother’s smallness, not her greatness. As daughters, part of stepping into our greatness is consciously and respectfully setting boundaries with other women who wish for us to stay small for the sake of their own insecurities.

We have to gain a sense of entitlment to ourselves and to living our greatness on our own terms.

three women at the spring pablo picasso

Patriarchal society has taught us that we have to exchange our power for love. However, the love we receive in exchange for our power is not actually love. We have to be willing to examine and re-evaluate relationships that benefit from our smallness. We have to see the futility of expecting true comfort from those that are threatened by our potential, even if those people are other women who we love. Women who cut other women down, either consciously or unconsciously, are coming from a place of woundedness. We can show them that there is a different way.

We can model to each other that it IS possible to be powerful AND to be loved.

Christiane Vleugels

We must change the “either/or” framework into a “both/and.” We have to take the risk of being authentic and setting boundaries. We may be pioneers, blazing a new trail without many models and with few leaders, yet it IS possible! We are stepping forward, stepping up to this challenge and finding other women who are mutually supportive as we embrace this new paradigm that supports the greatness in all of us.

s-In-Bloom

© Bethany Webster 2013

Art credits in sequence of appearance: Two Women by Frida Kahlo, Easter Painting by David Larson Evans, Title unknown by Ryan Pickart, Three Women at the Spring by Pablo Picasso, Tamara by Natalie Madden, In Bloom by Xi Pan

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Does this article resonate with you?  Sign up here for a free 30-minute “Healing the Mother Wound Clarity Session” with Bethany to learn about her private coaching on healing the mother wound. 

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Manifesting the Divine Feminine through our Female Friendships

Our first experience of loss was in relation to our mothers, when we realized we were not one being, but two. I think we all retain an unconscious memory of the loss of having realized our “separateness.” As we heal our relationships with ourselves and other women, we evolve consciously into the greater truth that we can be both separate AND one–the beautiful paradox at the heart of  human life.

All human emotions are valid and healthy. However, in our culture negative feelings are considered taboo. As women this can present challenges when we feel negative feelings toward the other women in our lives. We tend to repress them and they go underground and come out in destructive ways. So often the taboo on “negative emotions” causes us to walk away from each other rather than to reach out to one another.

Our ability to have healthy bonds with other women is directly related to our ability to form a healthy bond within ourselves

I recall a dream I had years ago in which I said to myself somberly, “I know that ultimately I must fall in love with a woman.” I realized that the dream was telling me that ultimately I have to learn to love myself completely. I really believe that as women we must fall in love within–not in a narcissistic way, but in such a way that there is an inner bond of trust and support that holds you no matter what life brings.

This trust is developed by demonstrating to yourself that you will not abandon yourself the way that you have been abandoned by others. 

The bond will manifest in different ways at different points in life, sometimes like an inner mother, or an inner sister, and at other times like an inner lover. We hold all of these feminine archetypes within ourselves. More recently, I had a dream in which I had fallen deeply in love with a woman and it was incredibly healing. I realize the dream was a message that a new level of deep self-love was emerging with me. Since the dream, I can feel a new dimension to this loving inner bond. It feels more solid. It’s a feeling of “no matter what I will never abandon you.”

There is true power in owning our capacity to have an inner bond of love and support within ourselves. 

Our outer relationships with other women are critical to creating the inner bond because the outer relationships represent new opportunities to heal the wounds of the past.

Transformation is more likely if we can approach a conflict with another woman consciously aware of the wound that has been triggered and our genuine desire for connection with the other woman. If we can hold the tension of both (the wound of the past AND the love for the other woman) without giving into a polarized view (she is wrong), then it is possible for a new depth of consciousness to be born within us.

I had a conflict with a friend in which I perceived she was feeling threatened by me, which reminded me of a similar pattern I had experienced with my mother. Seeing the opportunity, I respectfully confronted her on what I was observing in the relationship, while conscious of the fact that this was happening on multiple levels. I knew I was confronting the current situation and also speaking the words I never had the chance to speak to my own mother. I was also conscious of my love for this woman and the desire to come to a deeper understanding. It turned out to be one of the most healing experiences of my life because I had the courage to speak my truth and she responded in an authentic way–a way in which she fully owned the truth of her feelings, both her challenge of feeling threatened and her genuine love for me. Through that experience we each transformed something shadowy and dark into something full of light and love. It was the willingness to endure the discomfort of being vulnerable and confronting “negative” feelings that we were able to experience an entirely new depth and dimension to our friendship.

The opportunity for transformation lies wherever there is a charge or an emotional trigger. Move toward it…

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Move toward the charged situation, not with the intention to re-live the past but to re-write it. Triggers can be viewed as exciting opportunities to transform! As we consciously make different choices than we did in the past, we literally transform our lives and the possibilities before us. Life is always presenting us with these opportunities, “oh, here is that situation again!” I invite you not to see the recurring pattern as a failure but rather as a brand new chance to re-wire your brain, to address the wound and therefore change the future. This is the alchemy of awakened living.

While that situation had a happy ending, I’ve had other experiences where the other woman did not respond as openly or honestly as I’d hoped. However, this does not mean that transformation didn’t happen. When the conflict is approached consciously and with radical self-honesty on your end, it doesn’t matter how the other woman responds. For example, if my friend had reacted negatively to me, while that would have been difficult, the situation would have been nonetheless empowering because the very act of speaking up, being radically honest while centered in my heart is an act of power and truth that only reinforces my sense of worthiness and self-love. Your empowerment does not depend on the response of the other woman. However, if your friend does respond with equal love and honesty, the transformation can be doubly powerful and life-changing.

Everything we encounter is teaching us how to love…

copyright canova

We cannot change the past, we can only grieve it. And in every moment we have a new chance to be creative and make a new choice. The more we allow ourselves to continue to grieve and process the difficult feelings of the past including anger, rage, sorrow, disappointment–the more easily we can make new, empowered choices in each moment that directly transform our lives.

To make new choices we have to feel a degree of support.  It’s harder to feel empowered to make new choices when we feel depleted or depressed. Find the support you need–perhaps more time to yourself, sessions with a therapist, or a commitment to becoming more aware of what you actually need to feel supported. The more we have an inner and outer foundation of safety and support, the more we can really stretch and take healthy risks that transform our lives; healthy risks that demonstrate to ourselves and others that we know we are worthy, wildly worthy of all that we love and desire. The more experienced one becomes in making empowered choices, the clearer it becomes that you are a divine being, consciousness itself, transforming darkness into light.

The situations in your daily life are perfectly tailored for your empowerment. 

Our wounds represent divine opportunities to step into higher levels of consciousness. The consciousness gained through facing our wounds manifests as the very gifts that we offer the world. As we heal the split within ourselves as women, we can more easily heal the splits between women and the divine feminine is made manifest in our world for the benefit of all beings.

© Bethany Webster 2013

(Art credits in order of appearance: Three Graces by Antonio Cadova (2) by Ketrin1047

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Does this article resonate with you?  Sign up here for a free 30-minute “Healing the Mother Wound Clarity Session” with Bethany to learn about her private coaching on healing the mother wound. 

Ways to work with Bethany: 

Click here to download my FREE e-book on “Transforming the Inner Mother” and sign up for my newsletter.