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Understanding the Mother Wound

Updated: Aug 30, 2022


Wow, I know those three words "the mother wound" are triggering to a lot of people.


Mother's definitely get triggered that they must have done something wrong raising their children but it goes beyond that. The mother wound has been passed down from generation to generation because of the patriarchal world that we live in. The mother wound doesn't necessarily mean you had a bad mother (but if you did, read this article too). The mother wound runs deeper into our ancestry. It is part of our epigenetics.


We live in a male-dominated, patriarchal society and although things are shifting, that has been true throughout time. This has conditioned women to feel undeserving, unworthy, and inferior. These feelings have been internalized and passed down through countless generations.


When a daughter internalizes their mother's unconscious beliefs that they are not good enough in some way then she feels more accepted by the mother but she has betrayed herself and her own unlimited potential. On the other hand, if she doesn't internalize these feelings and believes in herself and her highest potential then she may face her mother's rejection. What child wants to risk rejection? We all want to be accepted so internalizing these limiting unconscious beliefs is a form of loyalty and survival.


A daughter may unconsciously sense that embodying their highest potential could trigger their mother's sadness or disapproval because she had to sacrifice those parts of herself in her own life. I think we all tend to have a deep desire to please our mothers and don't want to provoke any type of conflict so it is easier to stay small and safe.


A common objection to facing the mother wound is "let's just leave the past in the past". Well, we can't truly escape or bury our past without confronting it. The decisions and choices we make each day are based on our past experiences and that can hold us back immensely if we don't address it. If we avoid dealing with the pain associated with one of THE most primary and foundational relationships in our lives, we are missing a pivotal opportunity to discover the truth of who we are and to authentically and joyfully live that truth.


How do you know if you have a mother wound? These are eight ways that the mother wound can manifest:

  • Not being your full self because you don’t want to threaten others.

  • Having a high tolerance for poor treatment from others.

  • Emotional care-taking.

  • Feeling competitive with other women.

  • Self-sabotage.

  • Being overly rigid and dominating.

  • Conditions such as eating disorders, depression, and addictions.

  • Autoimmune disorders and chronic illness

If you are a mother reading this, your job is to heal your own mother wound. It is not our job to heal each other, our job is to heal ourselves and that will have a ripple effect through generations to come. By healing your own wound you may notice a healthy shift in your relationship with your children.


We have all sensed the pain that our mothers have carried and are curious if we are partly to blame. This is where our guilt starts coming in. If we don't address this unconscious belief then we simply continue holding ourselves back and playing small throughout life. Is that really what you want?


The cost of not healing the Mother Wound is living your life indefinitely with:

  • A vague, persistent sense that “There’s something wrong with me”.

  • Never actualizing your potential out of fear of failure or disapproval.

  • Having weak boundaries and an unclear sense of who you are.

  • Not feeling worthy or capable of creating what you truly desire.

  • Not feeling safe enough to take up space and voice your truth.

  • Arranging your life around “not rocking the boat”.

  • Self-sabotage when you get close to a breakthrough.

  • Unconsciously waiting for your mother’s permission or approval before claiming your own life.


So how exactly do you heal the mother wound? When it comes to healing, we all need different tools and resources but I will give you three things you can begin reflecting on! I would break out a journal and take some time to reflect on this:


1. Get real about your own suffering. Being a mother in our society is extremely difficult. Take the time to reflect on the sacrifices you did make and grieve your losses.


Mothers need to mourn what they had to give up, what they wanted but will never have, what their children can never give them, and the injustice of their situation. However, as unjust and unfair as it is, it is not the responsibility of the daughter to make amends for the mother’s losses or to feel obligated to sacrifice herself in the same ways. For mothers, it takes tremendous strength and integrity to do this.


Mothers liberate their daughters when they consciously process their own pain without making it their daughter’s problem. In this way, mothers free their daughters to pursue their dreams without guilt, shame or a sense of obligation.


2. Become aware of society's messages about motherhood. Here are some examples:

  • If motherhood is difficult then it’s your own fault.

  • Shame on you if you’re not super-human.

  • There are “natural mothers” for whom motherhood is easy. If you are not one of these, there is something deeply wrong with you.

  • You’re supposed to be capable of juggling it all with ease: having well-behaved children, being sexually attractive, having a successful career, and a solid marriage.

  • Mothers are ALWAYS nurturing and loving.

  • Mothers should never feel angry or resentful towards their daughters.

  • Mothers and daughters are supposed to be best friends.

Recognize how these examples can make anyone feel broken. Is there anything you can reflect on here to help you see that your own feelings of inferiority, guilt, or shame are from society's conditioning?


The stereotype of “All mothers should be loving all the time” strips women of their full humanity. The truth is that mothers are human beings and all mothers have unloving moments. Because women are not given permission to be full human beings, society feels justified in not providing full respect, support, and resources to mothers. Until we are willing to face these uncomfortable realities the Mother Wound will be in shadow and continue to be passed through the generations.


3. Recognize the roles of sacrifice and anger in your life. Many mothers in our society have sacrificed so much in order to have children and raise them well. When a child goes on to surpass the dreams and expectations of the mother it can feel like rejection in a way, like they have become too successful and are on another level than you. There may be a sense of feeling owed, entitled to, or needing to be validated by your children, which can be a very subtle but powerful manipulation. It is better to reflect on how your sacrifices have enabled your child to become so successful. You are supposed to give yourself a pat on the back!


Mothers may unconsciously project deep anger toward their children in subtle ways. However, the anger really isn’t towards the children. The anger is towards the patriarchal society that requires women to sacrifice and utterly deplete themselves in order to mother a child.


And for a child who needs her mother, sacrificing herself in an effort to somehow ease her mother’s pain is often a subconscious decision made very early in life and not discovered as the cause of underlying issues until much later when she is an adult.


The Mother Wound exists because there is not a safe place for mothers to process their anger about the sacrifices that society has demanded of them. It also arises because daughters still unconsciously fear rejection for choosing not to make those same sacrifices as previous generations.


Of course, most mothers want what is best for their daughters. However, if a mother has not dealt with her own pain or come to terms with the sacrifices she has had to make, then her support for her daughter may be laced with traces of messages that subtly instill shame, guilt, or obligation. They can seep out in the most benign situations, usually in some form of criticism or some form of bringing praise back to the mother. It’s not usually the content of the statement, but rather the energy with which it is conveyed that can carry hidden resentment.




If you aren't a mother yet, take time to reflect on all the ways you have played small and how you have been self-sacrificing your own needs. You could go through the above 8 ways the mother wound manifests and journal about how that has come up in your own life and why you are ready to break the cycle. You could also take the time to become aware of the sacrifices your mom did make for you and have a nice conversation to thank her. Even if your mom has passed, writing a letter can be very healing.


I hope this was an enlightening read and that you take the time to reflect and journal about this! I would love to hear what came up for you, please feel free to send me an email at hilery@healingwithhilery.com

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