Do you get that feeling of longing before Mother’s Day that doesn’t make sense?
You do/did have a mother, and she (when you think about her from the societal point of view) was an “ok mother” bringing you up. She gave you all you needed: food, shelter, education, and even decent pocket money. Yet, you are feeling the void, the feeling of “nothingness”, an emotional distance, when you are thinking about her. You start to get upset at yourself for these feelings, as you think you should feel grateful to your mother. Despite your immediate reasoning, these feelings do make sense. You might be feeling what’s called a “mother wound”, an emotional pain, a trauma created by a secure attachment deficit with one’s maternal figure. This maternal figure can be a mother, but it also can be a stepmother, a father or another family member or guardian who was acting as the main caregiver to a young child.
You can find a good dive into the origins and the therapy of the “mother wound” in Jasmin Lee Cory’s book “The Emotionally Absent Mother: A Guide to Self-Healing and Getting the Love You Missed”. Jasmin, a licensed psychotherapist, unfolded the previously overlooked complexities of a mother-child emotional relationship in this book.
So, what does Jasmin (and the research she’s conducted) recommend doing with one’s “mother wound”?
Firstly, to address one’s mother wound, one must know what a “good mother” is, and what is the “ideal to have” roles (or aspects) that the “good mother” archetype should portray.
According to Jasmin (and the research she cited in her book), a “good mother” archetype is a combination of mother roles such as source, place of attachment, first responder, modulator, nurturer, mirror, cheerleader, mentor, protector, and home base. Each role, if “played” by a mother, is projected to a child via numerous messages and received by a child via a certain feeling and, later in the child’s development, by a certain thought. “Source” role of a “good mother”, for example, can be projected by a mother through the verbal or non-verbal message “I am glad that you are here”, and received by a child as “I am of Mommy” ( meaning that the child feels the connection to the mother as their origin).
If your actual mother (or your main caregiver when you were born) didn’t exemplify at least one of the “good mother” roles, you, as an adult, might develop emotional “deficits” in that area. If, for example, your mother didn’t mirror your emotions when you were a little child (<3 yo), then you might be struggling with emotional regulation as an adult. Strong emotions (like anger or sadness) would often overwhelm you. With the lack of self-soothing skills, these overwhelming emotions could find their way out in aggression towards others or self, addiction, or depression (among other psychological conditions).
The situation becomes more complex when such an under mothered child is a girl. This girl, without being aware of her mother's wound, would have a high chance of transferring the same emotional unavailability to her kids, should she choose to have them in future. The cycle would repeat until someone would address (and heal) this wound.
Every healing starts with realizing and facing the issue that caused struggling. Mother wound feels like trauma. As with other kinds of trauma, there are mental and physical cues that one can investigate in their behaviour, feelings, and thoughts to find painful points of parental emotional neglect. Sometimes it can be a “numbness” during physical contact with others (do you like hugs?), or a nauseating feeling when imagining being in your Mommy’s belly before you were born.
For those of us who happened to be raised by an emotionally distant mother, there is hope for healing. First, though, we should let all the emerging anger at our mothers out (therapy or journaling can be helpful here) and forgive our mothers. If we, as adults, analyze our mom’s life circumstances at the time of our early upbringing, we could find some reasons why our mother was not giving us enough emotional “syncing” and stop holding resentment towards her. Was she a single mom working multiple jobs when you were born? Was she an immigrant without a support system? Was she emotionally or physically abused by her parents and/or love partners? There could be plenty of reasons, and they all deserve empathy.
The next step to healing is to start filling emotional deficits in the areas of emotional neglect that are still hurting. We cannot change our mothers (or those main caregivers we had as kids), but we can fulfill the emotional void by surrounding ourselves with others, who naturally project “good mother” qualities. One good place to get such support is our loving community Mothers to Daughters (M2D). You can find a “Mother”, a mentor, and a friend, who might be able to help you find that missing sense of belonging, mentor you for success or simply be your cheerleader.
Starting on June 1st, 2022, M2D is also running a pilot Legacy Building Apprenticeship. As it states on our website: “This program is curated to address the different needs at each stage of women’s lives, spanning from 18 to 80 years of age. It is designed to create opportunities for current leaders and shape future leaders. Mentors will offer their experience to the younger generation to equip them with tools to show up differently in society and in their personal lives to empower the generations to come”. We would love you to give it a try.
For some of us, M2D is a perfect choice to fill the attachment “void”. Others might feel that they need more support. All your feelings (even anger or disgust toward your own mother) are normal. We encourage you to seek professional therapy if you feel that you need extra guidance in understanding and processing your emotions. You are worthy, just because you exist. You deserve to live the best life you want for yourself.
And we are always here for you if you need us.
Your M2D Team
Post by Ielyzaveta