Your mother was likely your first teacher and role model – the person you looked up to starting in early childhood. As your primary caregiver, your mother was responsible for shaping your worldview and influencing the adult you would someday become. But what happens if your mother was emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to your needs? According to some psychologists, you may end up severely affected by a phenomenon called the mother wound.
What Is the Mother Wound?
The mother wound is a form of intergenerational trauma passed down through your family’s maternal line. In other words, if you have this issue, it’s likely your mother got it from her mother, and so forth. You are also at risk of inflicting an unhealed mother wound on your children, particularly daughters.
A mother’s love is supposedly unconditional, but some women are incapable of showing affection and support to their children due to factors such as these:
- Unprocessed trauma, including emotional or physical abuse
- A lack of empathy or emotional awareness
- An untreated mental health or substance use disorder
Warning Signs of the Mother Wound
Does thinking about your mother trigger anxiety, guilt or anger? You may be a victim of the mother wound if your mother did any of these things:
- Placed unrealistic expectations on you, then judged you harshly if you didn’t meet them
- Imparted outdated, patriarchal standards regarding gender roles
- Did not respect your need to express your feelings
- Failed to provide enough love, care and security
- Avoided touching you affectionately, such as giving hugs, kisses and cuddles
- Expected you to take care of her needs or responsibilities
- Was overly strict or lenient with her parenting
Growing up without adequate parental love and support can make it more challenging to navigate relationships later in your life. For example, you might feel like you are unworthy of someone else’s love and develop an avoidant attachment style. Or, you could have the opposite reaction and become overly attached to people at the first signs of affection.
Sadly, the mother wound sometimes causes women to fill the void in their lives by developing unhealthy coping mechanisms like eating disorders, self-harm or substance abuse. In many cases, this self-destruction may be a continuation of your mother’s behavioral patterns, but there is also a genetic component to mental health and addiction that may have made you more susceptible to these issues from birth.
How to Heal the Mother Wound
If you have a strained or toxic relationship with your mother, it’s essential to remember not to blame yourself – or her. If reconciliation is possible and something you both wish to achieve, family therapy can go a long way toward resolving your issues and helping you both start a journey to recovery. If you have children, they can likely benefit from counseling as well, even if they are adults now.
Since being victimized by a mother wound is traumatic, you may want to pursue trauma-focused treatment for yourself. A counselor who specializes in this form of therapy can equip you with healthier tools and strategies for dealing with complex emotions and processing any anger and shame stemming from your relationship with your mother.
Recovering in a Women’s-Only Community
At Canyon Crossing, we enable women to recover in a gender-specific environment. Surrounding yourself with peers who have had many of the same experiences can benefit you by making you feel comfortable enough to discuss profoundly personal issues without fear of judgment. Contact us to verify your insurance and learn more about our transitional living and outpatient treatment.