I’ve been asked to write about this topic for a while, but I kept putting it off, maybe because this one feels personal and a little close to home.
One of the reasons I do the work that I do, is because it is just as healing for me, as it is for my clients. This means facing my own vulnerability and using my voice to discuss topics that feel uncomfortable or sensitive.
This article is not meant to place blame on anyone, rather bring awareness to something so many of us expereince throughout our lives. It only takes one person to put a stop to passing down intergenerational trauma, and if you are reading this, maybe this person for your family is you.
There has been a lot of research done that speaks to the fact that we pass on the stories and fears of our ancestors, which includes unresolved traumas. A shared trauma between mothers and daughters, passes counter-intuitive behavior patters from one generation to the next.
The mother-child relationship is profoundly important. It influences our ability to feel loved and to feel safe in the world.
the mother wound
The mother wound is a concept that speaks to the generational pain inherited and passed down between grandmothers, mothers, and daughters caused by living in a patriarchal culture that’s often oppressive toward women.
Women often grow up internalizing and then acting out disempowering messages that aim to socialize them into being a “good girl,” one that plays small, accommodates, tolerates, and is ultimately spiritually disconnected as they neglect and devalue themselves to take care of others first.
If not resolved, this trauma then gets passed down to the next generation. Girls raised by mothers who’ve internalized these negative messages also grow up obediently taking on those learned, oppressive standards to connect to their mother and interact with their surroundings
where does the wound come from
The mother wound comes from what girls witness from their mothers in their formative years. Women are often taught to prioritize relationships above all else, and seeing their mother conforming to these pressures, they, too, learn to believe that accessing their power will somehow damage their connection with others. This belief creates limitations and confusion on their authenticity.
As children grow up, they may harbor guilt since they feel conflicted between wanting to live out their authentic truth yet fearing they could lose their mother’s love if it’s perceived as a rejection of her teachings.
By disconnecting from your true self, it creates a fundamental distrust of your own needs, feelings, desires, gut instincts, and perception of reality. The distortion manifests in behaviors such as codependency and people-pleasing.
healing from the trauma and breaking the cycle
In order to break this cycle, someone has to recognize how their own behaviors, whether internal or external reactions, are enabling this hurt. With this comes a need to reflect thoughtfully on who we are as individuals and how our actions are shaped by our experiences and imbedded subconscious memory.
To heal the mother wound, you must create a new relationship with yourself—one that isn’t based on what society expects from women or what your mother expects from you.
Healing the wound requires you to re-mother yourself, this includes connecting with your inner child to grieve the pain together. This process takes time and patience, it is not a linear process.
You can communicate with your inner child through visualization exercises, mindfulness, letter writing, or affirmations. Practice holding compassion for the part of you that needed to be showered with unconditional love, presence, and safety.
You may find yourself wanting to blame your mother, but instead try to witness those complicated feelings with empathy when you can. It’s more useful to try and get to the origins of the wound, to recognize patterns to break the cycle. You can’t change your mother’s behaviors, but you can choose your reaction to it and hold space for her. Offering your family and yourself forgiveness will reinforce your own healing and promote healing for future generations.