The Mother Wound

The mother wound doesn’t refer to a particular psychological diagnosis, but rather to a loss or a lack of mothering in our lives. Often this is described as a deficit that is passed down from one generation to another. When parenting is felt to not adequately satisfy our needs for care and nurture it leaves a sense of an ongoing emotional and psychological deficit in our psychologies, a mother-shaped wound. The sense of feeling we are not good enough, that we are not enough, is something that affects both sons and daughters.

This can lead to problems that become visible in the way we try to become attached to people in our mature love relationships, and it is at those moments that the sense that we have missed out on something vital tends to surface again. The dynamics of the mother wound can always become active again. The dynamics of our emotional traumas and wounds may settle, but we are always sensitive to disturbances of this kind.

The Mother Wound and Problems with Trust

If we grew up without the sense of positive validation that comes from well-balanced parenting, then in later life attention and interest from others may make us feel anxious and uncertain. In relationships, we may start to doubt that we can trust our partner.

From this, we may feel that we are becoming more emotionally unstable. For this reason, it is essential to find ways to address the mother wound in us so that we can limit its capacity to drive further problems in our lives and in the lives of our partners and children.

If we ignore or try to avoid the mother wound in us, we may find ourselves turning to destructive and pathological solutions to eliminate the sense of emptiness and longing that we feel.

Addiction and Codependency and the Mother Wound

From this basis, addictions and codependent relationships often follow in which we become caught up in maladaptive ways of relating. This leads to toxic relationships that make our own emotional pain worse while inflicting all manner of complications on other people.

We feel we can never relax, that we are never enough. Instead of relationships making us feel safe and at home, we feel uncertain, that we might lose our partner at any moment. We have no way of judging what our relationship is like, we always feel incomplete and insufficient.

The mother wound leaves us feeling that we are not enough, that we are a let-down. Under the pressure of ordinary intimacy, we are vulnerable to feeling that we are not sufficient for our partners. It is from this basis that feelings of insecurity, of retroactive jealousy start to emerge. If we don’t come to terms with this sense of emotional absence in us it is likely to cause us all sorts of problems.

Attachment issues and the Mother Wound

We might take it for granted that mothers and babies will bond and become attached but it is often not so straightforward. Daughters who were themselves raised with their own maternal mother wound may be vulnerable to struggle to bond and develop an ordinary attachment with their children. These kinds of psychological issues need to be addressed and recognised so that we can break the chain and not hand the problems on to our children.

Furthermore, complications and failures of early attachments can make it hard for children to develop a straightforward relationship with their own emotions. Negative emotions and the experience of shame and failure may be magnified. It becomes hard for a child to understand, access and assess their feelings. Feelings become confused, and instead of being able to relax with positive feelings a child might feel anger and become reactive. Feelings become compartmentalised and cut off. The sense of being inadequate and simply not good enough proliferates and hinders the ongoing development of a healthy emotional life.

As adults, we have to find a way to work on these things so that we can contain the complex feelings and emotions without us being pushed around by them. Growing up with a mother wound can leave us feeling that we are unlovable, that we are not good enough. It is very difficult to thrive when we hold such ideas about ourselves.

A Client’s story

‘It took me such a long time to make peace with my mother wound, but in the end I came to see that my relationship with my mother was never going to change and that I had to stop expecting it too. In therapy I found ways to acknowledge my feelings, and I came to terms with what I always felt I had missed out on. I understood that just because things were difficult between my mother and I, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t have good things now. I think I grew up on the idea that there were no happy endings, that everything would always fail, that I didn’t deserve good things, but I don’t think like that now. I can see it isn’t true. I suppose I developed a sense of self-esteem for myself.’

Contact me

Having the chance to speak in a confidential setting is often the key to developing a clearer understanding of the way we are prone to codependency and codependent ways of relating.

By giving yourself a safe space to look at these things you may start to discover a greater sense of possibilities, and this may be the beginning of developing a greater sense of understanding how to relate to yourself and others, and how to start living more fully again.

The chance to reflect on ourselves, our feelings and experience can be powerful and transformative.  Out of this, you may be able to develop a clearer understanding of how you and your sense of your problems have developed.

I have been working with people on issues such like this for more than twenty years.  My work is built around helping you to develop greater insight into who you are, and how you live. 

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.