What is the Mother Wound?

The mother wound is the pain of being designated either as a woman or man as passed down through generations in patriarchal cultures. It includes the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are used to process that pain. Contrary to the popular thought, the mother wound effects both daughter and sons, and is embodied by both mothers and fathers.

“The Mother Wound is not about restricting our love for our mothers, it’s about liberating love. Liberating love from the conditions set on it by the one we imagine our mother to be.”


From the family kitchen to the organization of government, from our first ‘hello’ after an experience of pure unity with another human being, to our philosophy of education, the mother wound is playing out. It can be found embedded as the core shock of separation from unity, or embodied as all that blocks us from experiencing unconditional freedom, naturalness, honesty, love and peace in active form.

The pain of the Mother Wound emerges choicelessly, at a preconscious level, as we absorb the stress hormones of the mother nestled in physical unity deep inside the womb. It echoes through the first shock of birth, the sting of air on the newborn skin, and the appearance of physical space between our body and that of the mother. It stands up in all that which disallows reunion through manifestation in separate form. At the core level, it shows up as the unprocessed, disallowed pain of physical and sentient separation.

Later, the Mother Wound gets embodied and reaffirmed through social and psychological archetypes and stereotypes. It gets fed back through the environment, and passed between us and on to future generations. A consequence is a deep imbalance between active and receptive and a collective prohibition on moving with pure allowance. What is at stake is the fundamental allowance of our unarguable right to exist here, in naturalness as human brothers and sisters.

The mother wound can manifest as:

  • Lack of naturalness in the here and now,  because naturalness will threaten others; OR moving with entitlement, privilege and moving without empathy towards others.
  • Having a high tolerance for poor treatment from others; OR treating the needs of others as irrelevant if they are not in service of yourself.
  • Shame OR disgust at the behavior, naturalness or sexuality of others.
  • Guilt OR accusation towards the other who is seen as responsible for the pain.
  • Emotional care-taking; OR emotional neglect.
  • Toxic competition and comparison; OR deep authority issues with whoever is the external authority of the moment.
  • Self-sabotage; OR narcissism.
  • Being overly rigid and dominating; OR “giving up” on whole dimensions of life, such as professional or domestic.
  • Conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression and addiction.
  • Loneliness.
  • Despair and senselessness, a seemingly bottomless rift of inherent separation.
  • Intense fear around revealing authentic feelings and emotions.
  • Insatiable ambition, ensnarement in the duality of success and failure.

For daughters, the cultural atmosphere of female oppression puts daughters in a “double bind.”
According to pioneer of understanding the Mother Wound Bethany Webster:

“If a daughter internalizes her mother’s unconscious beliefs (which is some subtle form of “I’m not good enough”) then she has her mother’s approval but has in some way betrayed herself and her potential. However, if she doesn’t internalize her mother’s unconscious beliefs in her own limitations but rather affirms her own power and potential, she is aware that her mother may unconsciously see this as a personal rejection. The daughter doesn’t want to risk losing her mother’s love and approval,  so internalizing these limiting, unconscious beliefs is a form of loyalty and emotional survival for the daughter. It may feel dangerous for a woman to actualize her full potential because it may mean risking some form of rejection by her mother.

This is because the daughter may unconsciously sense that her full empowerment may trigger the mother’s sadness or rage at having had to give up parts of herself in her own life. Her compassion for her mother, a desire to please her, and a fear of conflict may cause her to convince herself that it’s safer to shrink and remain small.”

Among daughters, the mother wound includes the pain of

  • Rejection: feeling rejected due to an inherent inner flaw
  • Dread: an apprehension of punishment for expression
  • Irrational fear: an inability to feel safe and relax
  • Attenuation:  an inner prohibition on taking space or time.
  • A sense of lack, deficiency or being cheated by “the world”
  • Mythological thinking: replacing grounded happenings with mythological interpretations (bypassing the pain)
  • Betrayal: a background atmosphere of a-priori betrayal

Together with daughters, sons also have their share in the double bind. They inherit the twin obligation to fulfil the male role of the father: taking care, making good, providing safety and protection, being “strong”,  while at the same time being pushed to do this according to the male form – through taking the position of the patriarchal ‘abuser’.

By trying to compensate the sacrifice made by the mother for father and children, the son has to move into separation; and out of the unity with the mother. Painfully, just as with the daughter, this pain is not here for the child to fix. A child cannot replenish the manifestation void in either parent.

Some manifestations of the mother wound in sons:

  • Sexual promiscuity and shame, arising from the repression of natural sexuality and loyalty conflicts
  • A sense of inherent inner condemnation, unworthiness, or never being good enough.
  • A feeling of unbounded loneliness in the struggle to “take care”
  • Issues with other male authority figures – projection of the forbidden inner abuser on an external power figure
  • Intense distrust of women, darkness and formlessness, as if constantly betrayed.
  • Addiction to substances to attempt to replenish the inner void of separation.
  • Entitlement and pretense (lack of empathy). Belief that the respect of the name in the public eye is more important than inner worth (self abandonment)
  • Compulsively judgmental, beyond rationality.

These gender-based limitations of form and manifestation are actively passed down and affirmed (consciously and unconsciously) by mother, father, family, education, religion and society at large. They can be healed and liberated not through trying to change the character or condition of our birth parents or colleagues, but only through a willingness to heal the stagnated energy of the mother wound within ourselves. Much is at stake in this, including:

  • Our own happiness, ability to manifest and freedom in form
  • Taking out our part in perpetuating the suffering of the mother wound around us and in our own children
  • The release of the limitations unconsciously laid down on our ability to receive life, vitality and to find fulfillment through living.

In future posts, we will move more deeply into techniques for working with and healing the mother wound, in ourselves and in others. The latter will always begin with the former. These layers of affliction (or blocked energy) are personal, intimate and partly unconscious. Allowing these layers of pain and vulnerability requires courage.  Freedom from repression within our own energy field is essential in order to be of service to others, (including our mothers) 🙂

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