When we talk about our “mother wounds” we are talking about the wounding that has been passed down for generations, mother to daughter, while living in a patriarchal culture. These wounds are all the ways mothers have tried to keep their daughters “safe” in a culture and world that doesn’t value them and considers them to be property.
This wounding didn’t start with our relationship with our own mother. It began millennium ago when we shifted from egalitarian cultures to patriarchal ones. As women became oppressed, we looked desperately for ways to survive. The meant “falling in line” and “playing the game.” It meant honing and utilizing our “feminine wiles and charms.” It meant silencing our Self, playing small and meek, and doing as we were told.
The consequences of not playing by the rules set by the dominant and oppressive culture were dire. They could be physical torture, the rape and torture of our daughters or our self, or even death.
It makes sense that the women who came before us played by the rules and did everything in their power, including abuse and oppression, to keep their daughters safe and alive.
This training and fear has been passed down, genetically. Epigenetics, while an emerging science, has already shown us how the effects of trauma are passed down through our DNA. One of the side effects or symptoms of trauma is anxiety. Anxiety had already been shown to run in families. And the reality is that the symptoms are compounded, as we have the marker in our DNA we each also are raised in homes with anxious mothers (and often anxious fathers). Nurture and nature coming together in a way that will most certainly keep us playing small and worried about anything and everything. Including harm coming to ourselves or our children.
It’s not a coincidence that “helicopter parenting” is on the rise. I believe we have compounded trauma to thank for this.
So yes, our mother’s do literally pass on this wounding, both in our genetics and in the ways they have tried to keep us “safe.” Add to this the way women and mothers are utterly unsupported in our culture and it is no wonder the women who are supposed to love us most in this world, who are supposed to be our protectors at all costs, are the ones who are causing us the most harm, intentionally or not.
In addition to all of these factors that contribute to our “mother wounds” there is also the reality that our culture pits us (women) against each other, and this include mothers and daughters. We live in a culture where women look at other women as direct competition for all available resources (partners, jobs, attention from others, even food, clothing and shelter). When we look at other women, including our daughters or our mothers, as competition, it is no wonder that the mother-daughter relationship is filled with strife and conflict and deep wounding.
When we look into our own wounding, as we heal our own hurts and shift our ways of being in this world, we also develop empathy for our mothers (and their mothers, and their mothers, and so on up our family trees). We are also able to heal their wounds and the wounding our own daughters inherited.
Healing of the mother wounds is intricate work. It requires us to have compassion, for our mothers and for ourselves. It requires us to see our own imperfections and flaws and how we have participated in inflicting our own “mother wounds” on our daughters and the world. It requires forgiveness, of ourselves and the women who came before us. And it requires an openness to do and be different in the world, to stop the wounding and to intentionally and humbly participate in the healing.
One of my own greatest challenges is seeing and then working to unravel, heal and stop passing on the wounding I have inflicted on my daughter. Seeing and acknowledging my own failings, the ways I have internalized misogyny and our patriarchal training, has opened me to being more compassionate and forgiving to my own mother. Also seeing the ways women, and mothers specifically, are unsupported in our culture helped me to see the many ways my own mother was unsupported and trying so desperately to do it all while also holding onto to some semblance of her own Self.
The web is tightly woven, yet it can be unraveled. As we focus and pick away at and heal one part of our wounding, other parts become looser too. We shift our focus here and there in an eternal cycle of going deeper and deeper into the layers. These layers are millennium deep. We cannot heal completely within a week, a month or even a year. Yet the more we are able to explore and heal these wounds, the freer we are in the world, the more comfortable we become in our own skin, and the less wounding we perpetuate out into the world.
I talk more about mother wounds and healing them in this video below. It’s just over 20 minutes long, so go ahead and make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and settle in.
(If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to subscribe to my weekly love letter right here.)
This blog post and video are part of a series to introduce my 12-month circle Wild Woman Within :: (Re)Connecting to our forgotten knowing. You can learn more about the circle and request an application right here.
Want to see the other posts in this series? Here’s a list:
Healing the mother wounds (this post)