To contextualize the topic today, amongst all of the things I do—personally and in my work with clients—amongst the most powerful is to look behind and to see what the patterns and stories from our past are, to glean wisdom from them. I believe looking back and seeing where we come from, our own personal history, is CRUCIAL in creating a future of our truest desire. As George Santayana, Spanish philosopher pointed out, “Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” I’ve always found it to be so.
Out of our history, probably the most profound aspect —the earliest, in the very least–, of our history is our relationship with our mother (or lack thereof). This relationship and its dynamics informs much of our relational pattern—with the world in general, and in our personal, intimate relationships. Unless we look at this wound, we will continue perpetuating potentially very painful patterns in our lives.
“I see way too many women entrepreneurs struggling, not because they don’t have the right business training or the right systems in place, but because they haven’t yet addressed the very foundation upon which their success truly rests: They haven’t yet created the inner environment of safety and self-love necessary to truly lead, innovate and be visible on the world stage. Any unaddressed patterns or beliefs associated with our relationship with our mothers show up in the ways that we hold ourselves back, feel shame, guilt and ‘not good enough.’ No amount of business training will address that.The most urgent issue today in women’s leadership is the necessity for women leaders to heal the ‘mother wound,” states Bethany Webster, a friend and author of the blog “Womb of Light,” as well as facilitator of the “Healing the Mother Wound” Course.
If things were so simple, and we could simply look back objectively at our history with our mother to glean wisdom from it and learn from it, why do so many of us experience pain in our lives? Why do so many of us suffer from addictions? From divorce? From relational ruptures? From business failures? Our society in general does not advocate nor celebrate looking back. In fact, if we think of the most famous story of “turning back” from our Western history, we might think of the famous destruction of the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah, destroyed for being “sinful” (linked with homosexuality and such, which we could write a whole other blog post about). Lot and his family were spared and rescued, told to leave without turning back; Lot’s wife did look back, and was then turned to salt. This, like the article on Adam & Eve and the proverbial apple, is a strong message, that regardless of one’s own personal religious or non-religious associations, having grown up in the modern Western world, would have trouble erasing from one’s memory, and would have one FEAR turning, and looking back.
Not looking back at our own mother wound has been “taboo” within our society. Bethany states, “Many of us confuse being loyal to our mothers with being loyal to their wounds, and thus, we become unknowingly complicit in our own oppression. Historically, examining this relationship has been a taboo. Due to the central nature of the relationship with our mothers, unless we inquire into that relationship for the purpose of healing and self growth, the suffering from the ‘mother wound’ will continue for generations to come. We can stop the cycle.”
The mother wound exists within two contexts: the personal and the collective. On the personal, Bethany explains “the mother wound is the set of painful patterns that originated with your mother that cause you to unconsciously limit or sabotage yourself,” and, further, “On a collective level, the mother wound is the pain of female oppression being passed down through generations of women and the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that women have employed to process that pain.”
To include some example of some of the symptoms of the mother wound, here is a list from Bethany’s blog:
- Shame: a vague sense that there is something wrong with you
- Comparison: not feeling good enough
- Attenuation: feeling you must remain small in order to be loved
- A persistent sense of guilt for wanting more than you currently have The mother wound can manifest as: • 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 when you’re close to a breakthrough
- Conditions such as eating disorders, depression and addictions
- Being too rigid and dominating • Perfectionist, feeling like you have to control everything to be OK
To speak on the mother wound on the collective level is to speak of patriarchy. Patriachy has not only affected women, but affects men as well; in fact, recently speaking to Toko-Pa Turner, Dreamworker and author, she shared that patriarchy, in fact, is passed down in the female body or form. “Patriarchy negatively affects both men AND women. One of the main principles of patriarchy is that feelings are inherently weak and are to be suppressed. Some emotions are actually labeled ‘negative’ and are viewed with judgment as weak, unattractive, inconvenient and ‘bad’,” Bethany shares. How familiar is that?? We have all experienced so-called “negative” emotions and, as Bethany further explains, in patriarchal culture, when we as children feel these towards our mothers, we are shamed and these feelings then go into suppression and reemerge as “painful dynamics that impact their (our) self-concept and ability to thrive in the world. We are manipulated into thinking that any reflection on the pain we may feel in relation to our mothers constitutes mother blaming, causing us to view ourselves with suspicion, and as women, to see ourselves as ungrateful daughters.”
I don’t know about you, but this truly brings chills down my spine. After having studied depth psychology, I found Bethany’s work shortly after writing my master’s thesis on women healing through mothering our own selves. I think it was no accident. Since then, I registered for her course, and then became an affiliate for Bethany and spoken to her a handful of times. I have followed her blog and I find her work powerful. Recently, I have found connection with a few other women authors and leaders who also are somehow connected to Bethany’s work. We are all also tied together by the elder in the community, Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst and so much more, who wrote so exquisitely on the topic of the negative mother. So many depth psychologists write about this double standard women, particularly mothers, are held to, being considered both the “Virgin” and the “Whore”. As Bethany puts it, “Patriarchy does not see mothers as full, complex human beings, but polarizes them into either idealization (‘Mothers are to be revered’) or denigration (‘It must be the mother’s fault’).”
Processing our feelings, our pain, about everything in our past, including our own relationship with our mother, is CRUCIAL in healing the collective. Allowing ourselves this space in which to fully heal and then claim our power and energy is priceless.
Further, I am a firm believer in the connection between our own individual mother wound and the wound of healing the Mother Earth. Global warming, the pollution, the contamination of the earth, is something psychologists have been delving into through ecopsychology and others. Bethany and I coincide, too, on this matter, and I love the quote that Bethany picked out to demonstrate this, from Eckart Tolle, “The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.” I see the earth as the ULTIMATE mother for us, she nurtures us, she takes care of us, and collectively, we do not give her a voice, we trash her, and yet we demand from her; I see that in order for us to heal this, we must face the pain within ourselves, take responsibility for our own inner relationship with the Mother (archetype), and thus, restore our relationship with the Earth, this mother that nurtures and takes care of us.
I am an affiliate of Bethany Webster’s course, and that is, ultimately, because I KNEW I would be speaking about her material since I am such a firm, convicted believer in it. I do not represent or stand for things I do not 100% believe in. Though this may be an uncomfortable topic for many, I choose to address it because I see over and over in my depth work with people how absolutely crucial it is to address, and that without addressing it, any work done on the surface, is pretty much done in vain.
All of the quotes from Bethany Webster’s work above are taken from her website: www.womboflight.com. Please visit her blog for more wonderful articles and resources. Here’s to collective healing. If you would like to find out more about Bethany’s course, follow this affiliate link, please.