The “MONEY wound” in the Mother Wound

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Many woman feel ambivalent about money and financial success because it brings up issues related to emotional safety, survival, self-worth and the act of receiving. Issues that go back to the original patterns of safety and trust from our early relationship with our mothers.

A woman’s place in a patriarchal society as “less than” men implies scarcity in its very description.

Our mothers were the most powerful person in our lives and often the most powerless as well. Powerful because we needed her for survival and powerless because she was devalued to some degree in society.

Many women feel guilty for their success because their mothers were somehow deprived of it. Some unconsciously sabotage the measure of success they have achieved while others barely allow themselves to desire it. Others speak of feeling their mother’s jealousy in the face of their achievements, leading them to unconsciously hide or stall their success.

A conflation of success and guilt starts at an early age, when we could feel our mothers emotionally deflate in proportion to how we expanded as we grew.

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The truth is we never had the power to make our mothers feel small or “less than.”

We had the power to trigger the pain that was already in her that started long before we came into her life. But in our innocence as children, we believed ourselves to be the source of her pain.  And we believed our mother if, in her wounded moments, she may have told us that we were the cause of her suffering.

Our commitment to keep ourselves “small” out of loyalty to our depleted mothers is based on a major misconception. 

Our mother’s jealousy and sense of deprivation can only be healed and addressed on the level it was originally created, which was within herself and related to her own early wounds. These things have always been outside our control as daughters. The fact is that it is something only SHE can do. Our smallness does not serve. This isn’t being un-compassionate, but respectful of our mother’s inner journey as something that is completely hers and hers alone.

Inspired by Anahata Katkin

There was never a transgression. Only a projection. 

By feeling guilty for our mother’s jealousy we actually become the unknowing purveyors of the very thing that has oppressed her. Because in our willingness to feel guilty, we deprive ourselves of our own potential and will undoubtedly blame it on the next generation when they expand.

Sympathetic oppression with our mothers is not altruism, it’s ignorance. It’s the misunderstanding of a child left unaddressed. It’s a form of unconscious self-harm.

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The way to liberate ourselves from this is very simple and very challenging at the same time: The answer is that we grieve.

We grieve for …

  • the fact that we were powerless as children and no matter how hard we may have tried, we could not save our mother from her pain
  • the fact that our good intentions and huge love for our mothers may have been invisible to her due to her own wounding
  • the fact that she may have mistakenly seen us as the cause of her pain and abused us as a result
  • the heartbreaking tragedy of watching the suffering of our family members
  • the fact of your mother’s lost opportunities, loneliness, isolation or any other things that caused her to suffer when you were growing up
  • the fact that you may have spent years blaming yourself for the pain of your family
  • the fact that you cannot convince your mother that your success is not intended to be a personal attack on her

bird catcher2 by Anahata Katkin

As we give ourselves permission to grieve, to accept the loss, and move forward we demonstrate a profound act of self-love. This is the first and most important step in learning to mother ourselves.

Grieving the mother wound makes way for freedom, including financial freedom

The truth is that we must be willing to surpass our mothers if that is where our path leads us. Not just in outer ways, such as how much money we make or what we are able to do in the world, but more importantly, we must be willing to surpass her level of consciousness and continue to evolve into greater awareness and understanding. This is maturation. All else is stagnation and a childlike romance for the wound.

Our mothers may not be able to fully join us in our emerging insights and realizations and we must grieve that as well. We can find other conscious women who DO understand and cultivate authentic, nurturing relationships with them.

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As we grieve, we cross the border from struggle into ease

In many families, struggle was conflated with love. If you did not struggle, financial or otherwise, it was somehow seen as a betrayal of the family ethos. As we continue to grieve, we see that we can be financially abundant and it does not have to be equated with an emotional loss of connection. In fact, we can emerge into even stronger and more authentic connections as we allow more abundance into our lives.

Contact with our inner wealth leads to outer wealth

Our true wealth is inner. It is the overflowing connection to our deepest, truest core self. We connect with this divine self as we heal from trauma and access the inner gifts that comprise our higher purpose in this world. By connecting with this overflowing source within, we have a direct experience of our very essence as abundance. We can embrace money as a neutral form of energy that we can use as a tool to carry out our higher purpose. With greater connection to our inner richness, we increasingly welcome outer riches.

I see many coaches of female entrepreneurs addressing lack of financial freedom on the level of symptoms, much how the western medical model addresses human health. Or to use another metaphor, what is needed is to go to the very “root” of the problem and thus, the “branches” automatically become more healthy. The “root” is the mother wound and as we heal it, the “branches” of our lives (such as relationships, career, parenting, etc.) transform automatically as a result. Sustainable, long-term growth happens as we heal this foundation.

Fearless, mixed media illustration by Anahata Katkin

As you heal the mother wound you cultivate an inner safety that frees you to flourish as a feminine leader

We break the conflation of success and loss when we grieve what we could not give our mothers. We can then allow ourselves to experience financial abundance easily because it doesn’t trigger cognitive dissonance any longer. It no longer stands in direct opposition to our primary attachment figure. Our primary attachment bond increasingly becomes the mother within and through that inner bond, we have a strong foundation of safety to venture into exciting new territory, to feel ourselves as “unstoppable” and to fully live our dreams.

© Bethany Webster 2015

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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.

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All artwork featured in this blog post is by the fabulous artist Anahata Katkin. Click here to visit her website and explore her work. 

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Making Peace with Our Power and Releasing the “Pleaser”

Sami Aboul Azm, Egypt- Nostalgia, oil on canvas. 2009

Many women express this fear: “I’m afraid that if become successful,  I’ll be all alone.”

I’ve spoken with women from numerous countries around the world who have expressed this verbatim.  And some have reported a strange, overwhelming fear that their mother will actually die if they succeed. It may seem irrational or out of the blue. But it has roots in very real situations that happened very early in life. It’s important to understand this on a personal and cultural level because as we understand it, we release the hold of an ancient pattern that has kept women down for centuries. (Bear with me, this is a longer post. You may want to grab a cup of tea for this one!)

We are NOT afraid of success. That’s a misconception. What we’re really afraid of is abandonment.

The “fear of success” indicates that earlier in life we learned to conflate success with loss. 

Underneath the fear of success is the memory of the abandonment that we experienced in the past as children during the moments when our joy somehow triggered our mother/parents’ anger, fear or jealousy. That is how we learn to conflate our own personal joy with a loss of belonging.

The “fear of success” is an echo of this memory.

Wildgoods by Karina

I don’t think we’re afraid that we’re “powerful beyond measure” as Marianne Williamson describes in her famous quote. I think the child within us is afraid of the permanent banishment that ownership of this vast power would imply.

Cultural backdrop…

There’s a scarcity consciousness that is intrinsic to our patriarchal culture. It’s the invisible backdrop to all our current problems. It’s so woven into the fabric of our society that it’s barely perceptible. It’s the belief that there’s always an “either/or.”

The deeper cause of this pervasive scarcity has its roots in individual lives over the centuries. The truth is that the first scarcity we ever experienced was the terror of feeling abandoned by the one person we needed to survive, our mothers.  (either momentarily or chronically)

Imad Abu Shtayyah

Historically, we’ve lived in a culture that doesn’t take childhood fears seriously. We are a culture that largely dismisses children’s fears as insignificant and nothing to worry about. It’s true that from an adult’s perspective that things that terrify children are inconsequential to an adult. But our inability to take the extra step to empathize with what things feels like from a child’s perspective demonstrates how divorced most of us are from the pain of our own childhoods.

Parents cannot completely prevent children from ever experiencing moments of fear or aloneness. However, they can empathize with them consistently, so that over time,  the child develops a a predominant, overall sense of safety. Empathy is key. Empathy is more possible from adults who grieved enough about their own history that they don’t avoid their child’s pain as a way of avoiding their OWN pain.

Isabelle Bryer

I repeatedly hear from women who take my online course that the more they embody the loving inner mother to their inner child, they find themselves much more present, empathic and emotionally available to their children, resulting in an increasingly rich connection between them.

On a cultural level, we have equated female power with abandonment.

This is a cultural echo of that original scarcity of feeling abandoned by mother. Broadly speaking, men have feared that women who are conscious of their power will abandon their roles as nurturers. And patriarchy has taught men to disown their own nurturing abilities, encouraging them to seek nurturing mainly through sex.

Society’s need for a subservient female, unaware of her power, is our deeper collective need to find a mother who won’t abandon us. It’s a projection of our traumatized inner children who are longing for an inexhaustible mother who isn’t coming. We have to give up this collective dream. She can only come from within. The inner mother emerges as we grieve and learn how to mother ourselves consistently. It’s a skill that can be learned. If we fail to grieve and learn to mother ourselves, we risk passing along the mother wound to the next generation.

by Joyce Huntington

Culturally we need to grieve. Personally we need to grieve. And the situations in the outer world reflect this mounting inner imperative to look at our own pain. There is an exciting evolutionary step within the mother wound –that is IF we listen to the call to go within and grieve. However, if we choose to continue to postpone the grief, we’ll continue to act it out and harm the earth. The more individuals do this work, the more the culture will transform.

On a personal level, success can remind us of our ability to trigger our mothers’ fears and the resultant threat of abandonment by her.

Did you ever hear any of these growing up?

  • “Don’t complement her. She’ll get a big head.” (to others who complement you)
  • “Stop looking at yourself.” (if looking at your self in the mirror)
  • “Who do you think you are?  I’ll bring you down to size!”
  • “Don’t complain, so many people have it worse than you.” (when expressing needs)

For women of past generations, success as a woman was equivalent to abandonment. 

As little girls and young women, we were taught that our value comes from supporting others and diminishing ourselves in the process. We were taught that “good girls” don’t “shine too brightly.” We also saw how this belief damaged and depleted our mothers.

We learned to view our success as a betrayal of the unspoken rule to put pleasing others ahead of our own needs.

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The aloneness that we fear when we imagine future success is an inner echo of the terrifying aloneness we experienced in the past as small children when, in our innocent joy,  we unexpectedly triggered our mother/father/caretaker.

The good news is that the thing we fear most has already happened. We can never be abandoned to that degree again. As adults, we’ll never be that helpless, vulnerable or dependent again on others in the ways we were as children.

We may have experienced emotional withdrawal or physical abandonment or violence. Our conscious mind may not remember the details. Our nervous system remembers this clearly. And it throws up the warning signals of “fight, flight or freeze ” when we allow ourselves to contemplate levels of success or happiness that were considered traitorous in our families.

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Our freedom lies in our courage to grieve the traumatic aloneness we felt as children. The fear of success fades as we do, allowing us to step more freely into our potential.

It can take time to work up courage to feel this grief fully. We do it in increments. It’s a primordial, existential grief and it may feel like you’re grieving for countless generations before you. I’m here to tell you from experience that It hurts like hell but it will NOT kill you and it DOES pass. And the relief you feel as the grief subsides opens up a whole new world. It’s like the tectonic plates of your being shift finally into place opening up possibilities that were previously invisible to you. 

The truth is that your value is not contingent on the ability of other people to see it.

AHMAD AL SHAHABI

The people in your life who ask you to shrink for for the sake of their own insecurities rarely become capable of seeing your magnificence. This is an important one to take in. Usually, your shrinking only enables their own avoidance of themselves. Things radically shift when you realize that you are not losing anything when you cease striving for love from people who are simply incapable or unwilling to give it to you.

Have you ever felt the need to hide or downplay your success?

As women, we feel guilt based on the false assumption that it is our job to make people feel good all the time. If they don’t feel good all the time, we think it represents a failure on our part. Give yourself permission to put down this ancient guilt. It was never a true obligation.

We have to let go of this “pleaser” role in order to step into our full power.  

Matriarchal Trinity (2009) - Arab Iranian Artist SAMIRA ABBASSY

The truth is that we cannot protect people from their own painful feelings. Distracting others from their pain doesn’t serve them. It only prolongs their suffering and postpones their healing.

The irony is that being a “pleaser” is not the same as being generous. It’s actually a form of feeding on other people in order to feel better about yourself. Are you avoiding your own pain by focusing on pleasing others?

There’s actually a boundary violation happening there. We have to see what we’re really doing when we seek to please others at all costs. We’re actually using people in order to feel our own value. It comes from a place of inner deprivation where you “feed” on the validation of others. (It’s heartbreaking to really take it in that there have been generations of women who felt they had no other source of validation except through pleasing others.)

Our attempts to validate our mothers or efforts to make up for the damage inflicted on them cannot undo the suffering they have experienced. Resist the urge to believe that suffering in the same way as your mother did is a form of solidarity with her. It’s not; it’s a form of inner oppression. We can only grieve and move forward.

Making peace with our power involves accepting the fact that our authenticity will inevitably trigger painful feelings in others.  (And that’s OK. Really.)

Listens to Her Own Inner Wisdom ~ Shiloh Sophia McCloud

When we stop over-functioning in our relationships, it releases enormous energy back to us to use for our own evolution. And it gives others their power back to process and use their own emotions for their own transformation. Triggers are keys to healing that belong to the person who is triggered–keys to a door which lies inside them. It’s their journey to use the trigger to unlock greater freedom in themselves. It’s their opportunity to take or not.

There’s a delicious kind of freedom in making mistakes, in being misperceived and in being disliked. 

It’s delicious when you know that those things no longer have the power to diminish your self-love. When they happen, they may feel uncomfortable in moments but they no longer take you out of your center. In fact, they begin to serve as opportunities to more effectively mother yourself and anchor even deeper into your truth.

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This delicious freedom is NOT the same as being rebellious or oppositional simply for the sake of it. It is delicious because it is part of the freedom to be a full individual. An individual means the right to have all kinds of emotions and feelings that deserve respect, even if other’s don’t agree. Being a true individual was a freedom that was not afforded by most of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Claiming the right to be an individual could have meant injury, death or banishment. Staying small was indeed a way to be safe and out of harm’s way. 

The truth is that the bigger change we want to experience in our outer lives, the bigger the inner change that must take place first. To make these big, lasting changes, we must go to the point of causation, to our past where painful patterns were put into place in our childhoods. In grieving the cause, we open up new horizons that were impossible before. We become generational change agents! 

Art by Toni Truesdale

There will be discomfort when we cease deriving our sense of value from pleasing others.

We’ll be uncomfortable because we’re releasing an ancient pattern that feels so familiar. And others will be uncomfortable because the buffer between themselves and their “stuff” will be gone. They they will be forced to be in contact with their own pain. Your ability to endure the discomfort of this change is critical. Remember that this discomfort is temporary. The important thing is to withstand the guilt feelings that may arise and not allow them to direct your behavior. Use the guilt as a stimulus to more fully affirm yourself.

With consistency, the discomfort will give way to a profound sweetness of being, of feeling the joy of belonging to yourself. As a woman radiating with the permission to be her full self, you offer a powerful “frequency of possibility” for others. You become the fulfillment of an ancient dream of your foremothers—a woman who is an individual, a woman unto herself…

Moon Goddess by Mollie Kellogg

©  2015 Bethany Webster

(Art credits in order of appearance: Sami Abouel Amz, WildGoods by Karina, Imad Abu Shtayyah, Isabelle Bryer, Joyce Huntington, Auna Salome, Clare Elsaesser, Ahmad Al Shahabi, Samira Abbassy, Shiloh Sophia, Rafael Espitia, Lilith by Mara Diop, Toni Truesdale, Mollie Kellog )

Thank you for reading! I Invite you to leave a comment below: Have you experienced “fear of success?” What has been your experience with the “pleaser” role? 

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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.