The Importance of Resisting the Cultural Pressure to Ignore the Mother Wound

In January, I posted a blog article that went viral called Why It’s Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound.”  One of the themes in the feedback I received is that some women felt guilty for being in wholehearted agreement with the article. Even though they felt great relief in reading it and totally resonated with it, some women expressed fear of their mothers finding out that they had read it because it articulated the deep pain they had been feeling in relation to her.

W. T. Benda

This struck me as a vivid illustration of the very strong cultural taboo against examining the relationship with one’s mother. Let’s look at the reasons why this taboo exists and why it’s so important to break this taboo in order to step into true fulfillment, wholeness and empowerment as women.

There are many variations of the taboo that says “Don’t look at your relationship with your mother.” Most of these beliefs equate the desire for healing from painful feelings in relation to your mother with “mother-blame.” This is a false equivalence, a distorted view that puts a daughter who is seeking healing into the position of a perpetrator against her mother, which instills guilt and shame. This can greatly thwart her process and keep her stuck.

The tragedy is that the fear of being seen as “mother-blaming” while pursuing our own healing, may prevent us from accessing the many gifts and powerful transformation that lie within the pain of the mother wound.

Ryan J. Michaels

When seeking healing in relation to our mothers, we may be encouraged to ignore our feelings and blame ourselves.

  • “She didn’t have it easy. Don’t put extra more of a burden on her.”
  • “Your mother tried her best. You know she loves you.”
  • “Focus on the good in the relationship. You only have one mother.”

These things may well be true: your mother may love you; she may have tried her best; you only have one mother; she didn’t have it easy, AND that shouldn’t be cause for you to swallow your pain, stop seeking healing, and silence yourself. This silencing is in accordance with the silencing of women as a whole.

The underlying message is “Bury your pain. Don’t be inconvenient.”

There is an interesting paradox operating here: As daughters, we don’t want to be in alliance with the patriarchal culture that perpetrates against our mothers, so we turn away from the opportunity to examine the relationship for insight and healing. We’re taught to think of this willful ignorance as beneficial and protective to her and to ourselves. But it is precisely when we turn away from the opportunity to heal the mother wound, that we actually are in cahoots with the patriarchy, because we are then enabling our own oppression, stuck-ness and smallness.

David et Myrtille

We must resist the cultural pressure to deny unpleasant thoughts and uncomfortable emotions in relation to our mothers. This task of resistance is essential to our realization of wholeness. 

Not healing the mother wound is very costly. If we ignore the pain of the mother wound, we risk living our lives indefinitely with persistent feelings of deep shame, self-sabotage, competition, comparison, self-doubt and attenuation. We also risk passing it along to our daughters and sons. The template that we inherited from our mothers (with its patriarchal distortions) will remain intact until we consciously act to transform it so that we can live in alignment with our deepest truth and thus experience deep fulfillment.

We fear being complicit with the damaging cultural paradigm of mother blame. “But mother-blaming” is very different from healing the mother wound. This is an important distinction: Mother-blame is avoiding responsibility and healing the mother wound is a form of taking personal responsibility. 

Healing the mother wound is a process of gaining clarity on the predominant dynamics with our mothers that impacted our early development and our choices as adults. It also involves processing the challenging emotions that accompany those dynamics for the purpose of healing and discovering our authentic self. Eventually we reach a place of insight, wisdom, acceptance and gratitude.

Accessing your truth and power is worth the risk of being misunderstood and misperceived by others. 

Alexandra Levasseur

“Mother-blame” is different than healing the mother wound. “Mother-blame” is characterized by:

  • Complacency and a sense of victim-hood
  • A way of hiding from your own power
  • Projecting unprocessed anger and avoiding underlying grief

In the healing process, there may be moments of experiencing challenging emotions towards our mothers like sadness, rage, disappointment, etc. They are temporary places on the cycle of healing. If we stick with the healing process, those feelings eventually transform into peace and acceptance.

We have to believe that we are worth it and have what it takes to come out the other side of this wound. 

by Meghan Howland

Healing the mother wound is a personal journey which does not require that your mother heal herself. The focus is on YOU and your own healing and transformation. However, it is very possible that your own healing process may trigger your mother in some way. The trigger can be viewed as a valuable opportunity; an opportunity for mother and daughter to potentially come to deeper understanding. It could also be an opportunity for the mother to reflect and have insight on herself and her own life, if she is willing.

It’s interesting that we can only come to genuine acceptance and gratitude for what our mothers could give us only after we have honestly acknowledged the difficult feelings we may have about what she could not give us.

Healing the mother wound is characterized by: 

  • Examining the mother/daughter relationship with the intention to gain clarity and insight in order to create positive change in one’s life.
  • Transforming limiting beliefs you’ve inherited with the intention of adopting new beliefs that fully support you in flourishing as your authentic self.
  • Taking responsibility for your own path by becoming conscious of previously unconscious patterns  and making new choices that reflect your true desires.

Healing the mother wound is a powerful catalyst for exponential growth; for discovering and living as our authentic self. When we examine and reflect on the mother wound, we gain powerful clarity about who we really are, and what our genuine wants and needs are. It’s a chance to articulate our deepest self, and to live in alignment with that.

There’s an old belief that says “Only one of us can win.” This is a patriarchal belief that unconsciously manifests in dynamics of competition and dominance between family members, including mothers and daughters. We can replace this unconscious belief with a new belief: “I can validate and heal myself without the need to condemn you.” As we live from this new paradigm, we may experience backlash from others who still subscribe to the old patriarchal beliefs. However, we mustn’t give up in the face of backlash, but continue to stand firm in our integrity and get the support we need to live our truth.

by Erin Fitzpatrick

It’s important that you know there are no guarantees. Our own healing does not necessarily mean that we will have a better relationship with our mothers nor does it mean that our mothers will also seek their own healing. Accepting this unknown is part of surrendering to the organic process of healing and trusting it will deliver us to our highest good. It’s the risk that we have to take.

Healing the mother wound is not a rejection of mother, it’s a powerful form of claiming oneself as whole. 

Because our relationships with our mothers served as the foundation for our relationship with ourselves, they offer massive potential for growth and transformation. That is the point of healing the mother wound; not to blame, not to judge or reject one’s mother. But to experience the peace and freedom of self-actualization, which is the birthright of every woman.

 

© Bethany Webster 2014

(Art credits in order of appearance: W.T. Benda, Ryan J. Michaels, David Et Myrtille, Alexandra Levasseur, Meghan Howland, Erin Fitzpatrick)

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.

A Daughter/Mother Revolution for Personal Empowerment and Cultural Transformation

La Nature by Alfons Maria Mucha,

“All great truths begin as blasphemy.” ~George Bernard Shaw

A very basic definition of patriarchy is “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” The patriarchy of western civilization is damaging to both women and men. In order for us to truly discover our innate wholeness and create lasting change in our world, we have to detox from the damaging patriarchal messages that we have all internalized to some degree.

Patriarchy is not a distant concept. It is alive and active in our daily lives, impacting us in internal and external ways that we are largely unconscious of. The process of naming and identifying is a powerful key in any kind of individual or collective transformation. I highly recommend this article by Bell Hooks entitled “Understanding Patriarchy.”

As women in patriarchal cultures, we are caught in a double-bind. If a woman focuses too heavily on caring for others, she is devalued and seen as weak. On the other hand, if she focuses on herself and her independent pursuits, she is seen as selfish. In either case, there is little opportunity for a woman to be accurately seen and valued as an individual.

What is needed is for us to find a way to come into balance–to be seen as distinct, unique individuals AND to have authentic connections with others.

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A woman may adapt to this double bind by either becoming compliant, passive and silent OR becoming patriarchal herself, as in controlling, dominating and rigid. In either case, the woman remains stuck.

It is time for women to courageously individuate, to become more fully themselves and to voice their innate, inner wisdom.

Individuation is the process of becoming uniquely oneself, of bringing to birth a consciousness of human community precisely because it makes us aware of the unconscious, which unites and is common to all mankind. Individuation is an at-one-ment with oneself and at the same time with humanity, since oneself is a part of humanity.” ~ Carl Jung

Individuation is different from Individualism. Far from being selfish, an individuated person feels a strong responsibility to support, serve others and to advance wholeness, peace and integrity in the world.

Individuated women are needed in our world now more than ever.

Women’s needs for individuation have been thwarted by the culture causing us to feel an unnamed aggression or chronic, low-level frustration simmering under the surface of our daily lives. A new model is needed to transform ourselves on the personal level AND to transform our culture as well.

Not every woman is a mother. But every woman is a daughter. In order to become the women we are meant to be, we must start with ourselves as daughters to address the early patterns that were laid down in the earliest days of our lives.

The mother/daughter relationship is one of the most powerful relationships that humans can have. It is also one of the most ambivalent, conflicted and challenging.

The process of separating and individuating from mothers is generally more difficult for women than for men. This is because of the gender identification between mother and daughter, which may cause the mother to unconsciously push a son to differentiate from her much more than she would her daughter.

Because we have all internalized patriarchal values to some degree, mothers pass down these values unconsciously and unintentionally. And daughters absorb their mothers’ values as a form of loyalty to mother, but the loyalty to those values becomes a form of disloyalty to their own potential.

In order to stop the unconscious, inter-generational wounding of women by women, we have to address how the mother wound is a product of patriarchy and how women have had to compensate for the patriarchal mandate for women to remain small and non-powerful.

We have to take the risk and summon the courage to love and validate ourselves even though we may have never received this from our mothers or from the culture.

Even though we’ve never had the models we needed, we’re being called to step forward anyway and be the women that we’re being called to be. 

We’re being called to take the risk to fully bless ourselves and one another, even without the external approval of family and society. Are you willing?

Most people believe that if we want something, we pray to an external force (usually male) to give it to us. This keeps us in spiritual immaturity. It is time for us to see that when we ask for something, what we actually receive is the shift in our own consciousness that is needed to create that thing from within ourselves.

“Worth is not given. It can only be claimed.” ~unknown

We are being called to consciously own our power and to step out of all forms of victimhood that hold us back from the realization of our true responsibility as creators.

We do not birth the new world by asking for it to be given to us by external forces. We create it by embodying it within ourselves. We create it by BEING it. 

The journey of individuating and becoming the women that we are meant to be requires that we first address the template for womanhood that we received from our mothers that was distorted by the patriarchy and transform that template into the divine blueprint that we are meant to live.

Leda and the swan, Albert ernst carrier belleuse

Issues involved in the mother wound that are rooted in patriarchy:

  • Receiving love in exchange for being small and non-threatening
  • Scarcity and power dynamics between mother and daughter
  • Unresolved issues of the mother being projected onto daughter
  • Mother being threatened by daughter and unconsciously sabotaging or causing daughter to feel doubtful of her aspirations
  • Daughter fears of surpassing mother and losing her love
  • Daughter feels she owes it to her mother to sacrifice herself the same way her mother did
  • Mother feels compensated for her own pain by seeing her daughter suffer

Rodin hands

A critical step for a woman’s authentic empowerment is to heal the mother wound; transforming the generational pain of maternal wounding into divine feminine power. In order to do so, both mothers and daughters must start with themselves as daughters because this is the place where the wound originally occurred. This is the deep work that is required to embody our truth, authenticity, power and creativity for the benefit of all beings.

I offer women a comprehensive process to heal the mother wound that addresses the need for both personal and cultural transformation.

Based on the many years of my own healing process and my own research on the subject, I discovered that there are 7 main steps that we pass through in healing the mother wound. I teach this signature system as a roadmap for the healing journey. In my workshops and soon-to-be-released online course, I offer tools, resources, exercises and templates for each step in the process. I describe the entire process very briefly below.

How the mother wound is transformed: 

  1. Identify the ways your mother has served as your foundation in life.
  2. Identify the cultural taboos and stereotypes that have prevented you from healing the mother wound.
  3. Identify your mother gap: the gap between what you needed and what you received from your mother.
  4. Give up the impossible dream that one day your mother will change into the mother you’ve always hoped she’d be.
  5. Allow yourself to grieve.
  6. Transform your “inner mother” from a duplicate of your mother with her limitations into an inner mother that unconditionally supports and loves you.
  7. Emerge: Living life beyond the mother wound.

Camposanto monumentale, pisa italy

The implications of this work are huge…

As infants we experience ourselves as completely one with our mothers. Because the mother = life, the mother wound is essentially a wound with life itself. As it is healed, we have the potential to realize our unity with life on a very profound level. The gift within the crisis of the mother wound is the potential to be birthed into unity consciousness.

Healing the mother wound is a revolutionary and necessary act that allows us to separate ourselves from the patriarchal mandates that have been passed down through countless generations. It is a way of honoring the women who have come before us and the women who are yet to come. It is creating within yourself the container needed to hold powerful energies that are needed for our collective evolution.

“Nothing is more important for the future of our culture than the way children develop.”~ Gabor Maté

As more women heal the mother wound, the way we treat Mother Earth will shift; the way we raise children will shift; the way men and women relate to one another will shift; the way we relate to our work and creative life will shift. I call this a “Daughter/Mother” revolution rather than “Mother/Daughter” because the transformation stems from each woman addressing herself first as daughter. This is how the cycle of pain is broken.

An attendee of one of my workshops said “I realize now that the more I nurture the daughter within myself, the better I will be at nurturing my own daughter.”

Healing the mother wound cannot be done alone or in isolation. Support is needed. Around the world, a community is being formed in which women can support one another in this process. You are not alone!

For this process, we need courage and we need each other. 

As women, when we claim and own our worth, we embody both the holder and the held. And we do this not only for ourselves but for each other and for all life.That is why our inner work is so pivotal and impactful at this time. There is a connection between our own inner healing and the healing of the world we live in. This is not a connection that depletes us, but a connection that strengthens and energizes us because it comes from the inexhaustible heart of all.

A quote from Jeff Brown:

“We must not give up. It takes so much time to heal because we are not just healing our own wounds – we are healing the world’s wounds, too. We think we are alone with our ‘stuff’, but we aren’t. With every clearing of our emotional debris, with every foray into a healthier way of being, with every excavation and release of old material, we heal the collective heart. So many of our familial and karmic ancestors had little opportunity to heal their pains. When we heal, their spirits breathe a sigh of relief. We heal them backwards, while healing ourselves forward. We heal in unison.”

© Bethany Webster 2014

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(Art credits in order of appearance: Alfons Maria Mucha, Thomas Ridgeway, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, statue from Pisa Italy, Frederick W. Ruckstill, Rodin)

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.