Were you undermothered? Learn all about healing the mother wound using 10 practical strategies.
- The Powerful Influence of Mothers
- The Good Enough Mother
- Good Mother Messages
- Identifying The Mother Wound: 6 Symptoms of Being Undermothered
- Undermothered: Healing The Mother Wound Using 10 Practical Strategies
- #1. Processing Your Feelings
- #2. Connect With Good Mother Energy
- #4. Addressing False Childhood Messages
- #5. Working With Good Mother Messages
- #6. Identifying Specific “Holes”
- #7. Meeting Mothering Needs With Partners
- #8. Stepping Out Of Deprivation Consciousness
- #9. Changing The Story
- #10. Taking Care of Yourself
- Inner Child Healing Exercises PDF
Did your mother regularly:
- Demean or criticize you?
- Make you a scapegoat?
- Ignore or discount your feelings and wants?
- Turn on the charm for other people, but turn cold when she’s alone with you?
- Try to live out her life through you?
- Take credit when things go well, and blame you when they go wrong?
- Tell you or imply that she can’t cope without you?
- Tell you or imply that you are the reason for her unfulfilled life?
Our relationship with our mothers is not a simple subject.
Our feelings about our mothers are often inconsistent and tangled.
We feel that mothers should be honored and appreciated for their sacrifices.
Yet many of us are unsatisfied with what we got from our mothers. Some are even resentful that their mothers failed to provide our basic needs, and would blame their mothers for the price they’re paying because of that.
While many people like to blame their parents and circumstances as a mechanism to avoid taking responsibility for their own healing, getting caught up in protecting the image of our mothers might also prevent us from healing.
The Powerful Influence of Mothers
There are many influences in a child’s life, such as birth order, the Father’s availability and the bonding with him, environmental and genetic influences family dynamics and important events during the childhood like a major illness or stress.
Despite these many factors, the influence of Mother is unparalleled.
The love and attention of the Mother can help us through many handicaps, and the emotional absence of Mother can be the greatest handicap of all.
In fact, our Mother is the building material for how we see ourselves, our sense of self-esteem, our unconscious beliefs about relationships, etc.
But it’s not what Mother does that’s so critical, it’s her love and energetic presence that makes whatever we get nourishing.
The Good Enough Mother
Mothers can’t be perfect and they really don’t need to be. Perfection is perceived through the child’s eyes when his Mother does a good-enough job meeting his basic needs.
A good-enough Mother starts off with almost complete adaption to her baby’s needs, then as her child grows and become able to tolerate more frustration, she adapts less and less.
In fact, a mother who continues to satisfy every need of her child would rob him of the need to develop new skills and become able to handle frustration.
Research suggests that the mother needs to be available only 30 percent of the time to offer good-enough mothering.
Good Mother Messages
The way our Mother responds to our basic needs tells us how important we are to her. We read a lot in her attitude, touch, eyes, facial expression, etc. We receive a message from her.
Below are what may be called “Good Mother messages”
1. I’m Happy That You’re Here
The child gets the message that he is valued and wanted. It helps him be happy and comfortable himself being here.
When this message is absent, the child experiences fear of abandonment. He may even conclude that maybe it would be better if he wasn’t here.
2. I See You
A mother communicates the message “I see you” through responsiveness and accurate mirroring. She knows us – what we like, what we don’t, how we feel about things, etc.
When this message is absent, the child feels invisible. The Mother’s responses will not hit target. She may try to protect or guide, but starts in the wrong place.
3. You Are Special To Me
This messages is communicated when we feel valued for who we are.
When this message is absent, the child won’t feel cherished for who he is. He might even think that his mother might like it better if he was someone else.
4. I Respect You
The message “I respect you” is conveyed when the mother supports a child’s uniqueness and accepts the child’s preferences and decisions.
When this message is absent, the child doesn’t learn to respect his capacities and preferences. A sense of fail, shame or even unworthiness might develop.
5. I Love You
The message “I love you” isn’t just conveyed by words, but also by nonverbal means, including eyes, facial expression, tone of voice, touch, attentiveness, etc.
When this message is absent, the child might conclude, “I am unlovable as I am.” He might also conclude that for others to love him, he may need to conform to what others want.
6. Your Needs Are Important To Me. You Can Turn To Me For Help
The message “Your needs are important to me” conveys a sense of priority. The Mother isn’t just taking care of the child’s need because she has to, but because this is actually important to her.
By communicating the message “You can turn to me for help”, the Mother is giving permission to the child to have needs and to ask for help.
When these messages are absent, the child might believe that his needs are “shameful” or a “burden” and that he shouldn’t have needs or shouldn’t ask for them.
7. I Am Here For You
The message “I am here for you” is communicating that the Mother is a consistent presence in the life of the child, which helps him relax.
When this message is absent, the child feels alone in his experience.
8. You Can Rest In ME
The message “You can rest in me,” expresses availability and offers the child a safe space to be himself.
When this message is absent, the child feels that being with his mother is not safe to be himself. Being with mother represents a time to perform or stay alert.
9. I’ll Keep You Safe
The message “I’ll keep you safe” or “I’ll protect you” helps the child relax while exploring his environment
When this message is absent, the child feels vulnerable and might conclude that the world is dangerous.
10. I Enjoy You
The message “I enjoy you” affirms the child’s preciousness and value.
When this message is absent, the child might conclude that he’s a “burden” and that no one wants him.
If most of these messages feel unfamiliar to you, then you might be undermothered.
Identifying The Mother Wound: 6 Symptoms of Being Undermothered
Most undermothered adults are unaware of their mother wounds or deny them completely. Some would even go to great lengths to create cover-ups to hide the damage. They may start idealizing their parents.
However, denial is never foolproof. There will often be clues that the person is undermothered.
Some of these clues might include the following:
1. You feel triggered when seeing a tender mother-child interaction. You either become teary or try to push away the pain by becoming dismissive.
2. You avoid looking deeply into your relationship with your mother as to not instigate any hidden pain.
3. Visits to your mother are upsetting and reminds you of painful childhood feelings.
4. Closeness and intimacy are great needs for you, yet they feel unfamiliar to you and you feel uncomfortable about them.
5. Subconsciously you feel unlovable.
6. You avoid having children of your own because you’re afraid you might do to them what your parents did to you.
Why Heal Your Mother Wounds?
Although there are many aspects of mothering that are instinctive, for many mothering should be consciously learned.
For those who are undermothered, they have to heal their own wounds as well as learning a different way of being with their own children.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to totally remove your scars. The things that happened to you play into who you are today. Yet they do not define you.
By working in recovery, you face your past and accept it as part of you, and you move on.
If you’re still having a relationship with your mother, this article will help you learn strategies to help you maintain a good relationship with her, while protecting yourself from emotional abuse.
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Undermothered: Healing The Mother Wound Using 10 Practical Strategies
This Is Not About Blaming Your Mother
When you blame you avoid taking responsibility for yourself and give the control over to someone else. Healing the Mother Wound is a form of taking personal responsibility and taking control.
Are you mother-blaming? You are blaming your mother when you experience the following:
- Feeling powerless
- A sense of victimhood
- Avoiding underlying grief about your childhood
- Projecting unprocessed anger onto others
Healing the Mother Wound is about:
- Examining the mother-daughter relationship with the intention to gain clarity and insight and create positive change.
- Changing limiting beliefs you’ve inherited and adopting new beliefs that fully support your healing.
- Becoming conscious of previously unconscious destructive patterns and making new conscious choices towards your healing.
#1. Processing Your Feelings
Processing feelings is much more than just talking about them. You can tell something in a story form without feeling it, and that is not processing.
Processing feelings is about feeling the pain as you talk about your story.
Healing your mother wounds requires breaking through your self-protections and connecting with the lived experience of your childhood.
It hurts, but you can’t heal what you can’t feel. Numbing protects the wounds, but also prevents the healing.
A journal is a safe place for you to work through your feelings, without judgments or criticism. It can serve as a confidant and guide.
Research shows that expressing your feelings on paper helps reduce your stress levels.
You start exploring your feelings by writing them in your journal. It may be the pain of disappointment, loss, victimization, grief – anything that hurts you.
Writing about your pain may bring tears. This is a sign that you’ve hit a turning point and that continuing to write will help you open your heart and heal your wounds.
Many of us have learned to swallow our pain. Practicing journal writing consistently will help undo the self-censorship habit.
Mother Wounds Journaling Prompts
You can use journaling prompts to help you uncover mother wounds and heal them. The following are some examples:
- Imagine your mother standing in front of you. How does that make you feel? How do you want to feel instead?
- What unspoken rules do you have with your mother that you didn’t realize?
- Do you believe what she thinks or says about you is true? If yes, why?
- In what ways has your mother made you responsible for her feelings?
- What did you need from your mother that you did not get?
- What negative thoughts or beliefs your have about your needs and wants? Are they your own thoughts, or her thoughts?
2. The Healing Power of Anger
It’s okay to be angry, even when the person who hurt you did it unintentionally. By expressing your anger, you allow your wounds to heal.
Sometimes it’s hard to be angry at your mother when she was the person who gave you birth and spent so much of her time, energy, and even money to raise you. It’s also hard to be angry when you know that she tried or that she did love you.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that anger is a part of the healing process and not a place to stay in forever.
Your journal is a great place to express your anger without judgment.
Start your sentences with “I am angry that…” and after you finish, read all of your statements and notice how you feel. Reflect on your anger to make a list of the things you haven’t forgiven your mother for yet.
If you feel as if you have no control over your anger or find it hard to give yourself permission to feel it, you may consider taking anger management classes or working with a mental health counselor.
3. Accepting Your Mother’s Limitations
It can be shocking to realize that your own mother may not have been capable of real love and empathy.
Mothers are considered to be the most reliable source of love and empathy, and if your mother did not provide that, you might have spent your life denying your feelings about it and maybe even blamed yourself for your mother’s inability to love you.
Accepting that your own mother has this limited capacity can help you let go of the expectation that it will ever be different, but also correct your distorted belief that you’ve somehow caused this.
Keep in mind that you cannot change others. You can change only yourself.
4. The Expected Guilt
Our culture teaches us that we shouldn’t hate our mothers. So expect to feel guilt as you go through your healing journey.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to write or talk negatively about your mother. This doesn’t mean that you hate her or express your anger to her. It just means that you allow yourself to face your losses and disappointments before you can get past them.
Write a letter for your mother to help you get to the core of your negative experience. You may choose to send this letter or throw it away.
This letter contains four parts:
- This is what you did to me.
- This is how I felt about it back then.
- This is how it affected my life.
- This is what I want from you now.
#2. Connect With Good Mother Energy
In order to heal, you need to acknowledge and grieve what was missing but also you need to find ways to make up for it.
To make up for what was missing means to open up to receive these lost needs and feelings. The longing being mothered might feel embarrassing or even dangerous, but it’s healthy and vital to your healing process.
The longing that has been repressed in the past, can be fulfilled now from people we choose to put in these roles. Eventually, we can develop an internal Good Mother within us through the experiences we will have as we receive our needs from other people.
For this, you need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to receive these needs.
1. Getting Help From The Divine Mother
Mother Mary from the Christian tradition is one of the classic images associated with the Mother that can be used to receive maternal energy.
Many people reported receiving love, comfort, and guidance from Mother Mary or other mother figures of other religions, such as Kuan Yin (or Guan Yin), the bodhisattva of compassion.
2. Working With Imagery And Symbols
Making a representation of the Good Mother is a good way to connect with Good Mother energy. It can be a drawing, a collage, a sculpture, a symbol in meditation, a list of Good Mother messages and qualities, etc.
You can also build an internal sense of a Good Mother through memories of a loving person in your life, or internalization of the person’s love and support, such as having a dialogue with your mental health counselor or another safe person in your journal.
The idea is to anchor the ideal mother and give her a form. That form can help you evoke her energy when you start doing your inner work.
3. A Second Chance At Finding A Good Mother
The undermothered can still receive the mothering they have missed in their childhood.
You might find yourself receiving love, guidance, encouragement, protection, nurturance, etc. from more than one relationship – from your partner, mental health counselor, close friends, spiritual teachers, in-laws, and from the mother you eventually develop within yourself.
These relationships help you see that your needs are being fulfilled out of love and not out of obligation (like you used to feel during your childhood). This helps you develop a healthy sense of entitlement.
For this to happen, the Good Mother substitutes must feel safe to you and need to be generous with their love and attention.
To heal our mother wounds, you need to open up to receive your basic needs from these relationships. You might need to sit through the discomfort of dealing with feelings of unworthiness and learning to trust, before you can open up to receive nurturance.
#3. Healing Your Inner Child
Your inner child is the foundation upon which adult life is built.
When the inner child is carrying too many wounds, even if these wounds are out of sight, the adult will suffer.
Fortunately, childhood wounds can be healed.
1. Inner Child Work
The most common methods used in inner child work are the following:
* Guided meditation, imagery, or hypnotic trance used to meet and interact with the inner child
* Pulling out childhood photographs to help access memories and feelings from that time
* Working with dolls, teddy bears, or similar props to access child feelings or learn to nurture and protect the inner child as an adult
* Using art as a medium to express feelings and thoughts
* Writing letters to or from the inner child as a way of establishing contact
* Dialoguing between adult and the inner child through journal writing, or internal self-talk.
Uncovering and meeting the previously unmet needs of the inner child will help you mature and become more resilient.
Your inner child can also bear important gifts. These are qualities that were cut off and lost during childhood, which you can now reclaim. Some of these qualities include:
- Curiosity and wonder
- honesty and genuineness
- innocence and sweetness
- generosity and a loving heart
- openness and trust
- imagination and intuitive knowing
- vitality and aliveness
Doing the inner child work won’t just meet your previously unmet needs, but also help you reclaim these wonderful child qualities.
2. Parts Work
Inner child work involves working on each part of the inner child, such as the vulnerable child, the wounded child, the angry child, the neglected child, etc.
By becoming aware of these parts, you get to choose where you want to be operating out of.
You might even name the parts and associate them with an image if some kind or even incorporate photographs of yourself if you find this to be helpful.
3. Becoming Your Own Best Mother
The author Marion Woodman said, “Children who are not loved in their very beingness do not know how to love themselves. As adults, they have to learn to nourish, to mother their own lost child.”
Learning how mother our inner child happens in stages. In other words, we grow into the job through instinct and increased awareness.
You can look for models, read books and articles, and ask for help. Remember a time when you felt nurturing of another and bring that feeling through you. Intensify it. Feel yourself as a nurturing mother for your inner child.
Remind yourself that the more you give your inner child, the more you’ll get back.
#4. Addressing False Childhood Messages
The false beliefs you adopted as your truths can be verbal or nonverbal.
For example, your mother may have behaved in a way that let you know you displeased her by shooting you an angry look.
The following are some examples of false childhood messages:
False messages from childhood that demean you
- There’s something wrong with you.
- You can’t do anything right.
- You are such a disappointment to me.
- You’ll never amount to anything.
- You’re the reason I have so many problems.
- No one cares what you think.
- You’re nothing but a burden.
- You’re more trouble than you’re worth.
False messages from childhood that unfairly burden you
- You are my whole life.
- You’re the only one who cares about me.
- You’re the only one who can keep the family together.
- We’re so close we have to share everything; no secrets.
- You’re my best friend.
- You’re the only one I can count on.
- I need you so much—I couldn’t make it without you.
- You have to help me figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
False messages from childhood about your role
- It’s your responsibility to make me happy.
- It’s your job to earn my love.
- It’s your job to respect me, obey me, and take care of me.
- You should never get upset with me.
- You have no right to disagree.
#5. Working With Good Mother Messages
A list of ten Good Mother messages, presented above, include:
- I’m happy that you’re here.
- I see you.
- You are special to me.
- I respect you.
- I love you.
- Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help.
- I am here for you.
- You can rest in me.
- I’ll keep you safe.
- I enjoy you.
You can also create your own Good Mother messages by asking your inner child parts what messages they want to hear.
1. Communicating Good Mother Messages To You Inner Child
A good way to communicate the Good Mother messages to your inner child is by creating statements from the child’s voice and repeating them to yourself, such as:
- Mommy really likes me.
- Mommy loves to give to me and is there for me.
- Mommy is really proud of me.
- Mommy is keeping me safe.
The more you repeat these affirmations, the more they can take hold within and become part of your new foundation.
Another way to communicate these messages is by writing a letter to your inner child.
Choose a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. Create a soothing atmosphere and relax by meditating and taking deep breaths.
Compose a letter to your inner child from the place in you that can be nurturing to this child. Tell him how you feel about what he has been through and include some of the Good Mother messages if it feels appropriate.
2. Healing The Unloved Child
For most undermothered, the major focus when healing inner child parts, is healing the unloved child.
Despite having other basic unmet needs, such as guidance, protections, encouragement, etc, the most important and urgent need is love.
To express love and nurturance toward an inner child, it can be helpful to have an outer representation of this quality that you can have physical contact with, such as a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, or any other soft objects to hold.
#6. Identifying Specific “Holes”
For the undermothered, their unmet needs leave holes that feel unfillable.
It’s important to identify these holes and work proactively to fill them.
The following is a list of the most basic needs every child has:
1. Feeling that you belong somewhere
2. Feeling safe to be vulnerable and show your needs
3. Having help and guidance that is calibrated to your needs
4. Being seen for who you are and have your feelings met (mirroring)
5. Receiving encouragement and support
6. Having a model for you that teach you skills that you need
7. Being comforted and soothed when you are upset, thus establishing an ability to soothe yourself
8. Bringing your system back into balance (self-regulation)
9. Having adequate protection
10. Being treated in a way that communicates respect for your needs, feelings, preferences, and so on
11. Feeling loved and cared for
Look at the list of needs above and for each, consider how well it was fulfilled.
The goal is to end up with a list of needs that needs to be fulfilled, and to start responsibly working on fulfilling these needs.
You can either:
* Identify what we need and ask for it directly.
* Look for people or situations where we can find these needs (e.g., a situation in which you feel safe).
* Provide ourselves with what is missing.
1. The Hole of Support
Without people who communicate that they believe in us, it’s hard for us to believe in ourselves.
Lack of support often results in lack of confidence and lack of sense of capacity and inner support. This leaves the undermothered feeling inadequate and insecure.
The lack of support often intensifies when we are tackling something new or when there is a great risk of failure.
There are many ways to fill your hole of support:
1. Ask for support from others from people who have a decent chance of providing it.
2. Learn to access others even when they’re not available. When you need support and your Good Mother figure isn’t available, imagine what they would tell you to support you.
3. Find supportive structures, such as support groups, classes, an exercise buddy, or whatever you think would be supportive in a particular situation.
4. Step away from your feelings and stay objective. Remind yourself of your actual capabilities.
5. Support your inner child. Your feelings of insecurities come often from your inner child. Step into your own Good Mother, listen to your inner child’s fear, and offer reassurances. You can offer nice things, such as “I have faith in you,” or, “I know you can do this.”
6. Feel the fear and do it anyway. By facing your fear and doing it anyway, you build the confidence that you can actually do it and it becomes a reference when you attempt do to something as challenging.
2. The Hole of Confidence
Confidence is not all or nothing, rather it’s something that we feel more of or less of in different areas of our lives.
For instance, you might feel confident in your social skills, but not your decision-making skills.
For most of the undermothered, their confidence can get tied up with doing things rather than their security with others, especially if their parents put a lot of emphasis on competence.
In fact, when a child is loved for who he is, competence becomes less important. He feels comfortable about the fact that he might not know how to do something and looks on with curiosity.
One way to fulfill your need for confidence is to show up and express yourself. This is easier when you get support.
In fact, confidence comes with the fulfillment of other needs, such as feeling accepted, feeling seen, being treated with respect, etc.
Ask your inner child what he needs to develop more confidence in and work on that area.
There are many ways you can increase your confidence, including:
* Developing communication skills and assertiveness that help you advocate for your needs.
Related: How To Communicate More Effectively
* Finding the power to say no when you need to.
* Looking for opportunities where you can make a difference and minimizing situations where you can’t.
* Noticing your accomplishment. You can’t grow your sense of confidence if you keep overlooking your capabilities.
* Changing your negative self-talk into a more positive, compassionate, and objective one.
* Learning how to locate resources to help with specific needs. Feeling confident doesn’t mean you have to know everything or do everything all by yourself.
3. The Hole of Not Having Your Feelings Met (Mirroring)
Most undermothered don’t feel comfortable when it comes to emotions.
John Bradshaw explains how many get cut off from this world: “Children growing up in dysfunctional families are taught to inhibit the expression of emotion in three ways: first, by not being responded to or mirrored, literally not being seen; second, by having no healthy models for naming and expressing emotions; and third, by actually being shamed and/or punished for expressing emotion.” He continues, “The earlier the emotions are inhibited, the deeper the damage.”
The undermothered have to open themselves and learn how to expand their repertoire when it comes to emotions.
Some emotions may be harder to express than others.
The first thing you need to do is to identify which emotions are hardest for you to accept and express:
For each emotion you picked, come up with a plan that would support you in developing it.
For instance, you might not have had room for you to show hurt in your family of origin. Choosing a trusted person to share some of your hurt and asking for validation might help.
An example of normalization might be, “I can see how that can make you feel hurt. I would feel hurt, too.”
4. The Hole of Belonging
Without a strong connection with the Mother, the child feels a lack of connection with other family members and the family as a whole.
The feeling of belonging is also a source of support and sense of identity.
Having your own partner and/or children might help compensate for the earlier lack of connection, but there are also other ways you can develop feelings of connection and belonging:
* Your close friends, who are there in times of needs, may take the role of your “family of choice”.
* Groups such as support groups, social groups, interest groups, and any other group help provide a sense of connection in meaningful ways.
* Meaningful work – volunteer or paid – gives us a purpose and a place in the world.
* Ties to places like your home or areas surrounding your home provide a sense of connection.
5. The Hole of Being Seen
When we’re not mirrored, we feel not seen. We lose touch with parts of ourselves.
Filling the hole of being seen involves seeing yourself through any kind of self-exploration, but also having others see and acknowledge these lost parts.
To expand your opportunities to be seen, expressive and performance activities, such as dance, painting, writing, theatre, singing might help.
6. The Hole of Having Your Needs Met
Most undermothered adopt their Mother’s attitude when it comes to their needs.
Having your needs rejected or being shamed for having needs, may lead you to see them in the same way. You might find yourself feeling very apologetic whenever you express any of your needs, or feel in danger because you felt dependent on a person to fulfill a need of yours.
New experiences can help you change your old beliefs. When you show your needs and you have them met, you start to feel more comfortable about having needs and expressing them.
You start feeling a healthy sense of entitlement that you didn’t feel before.
It’s helpful if you can start by reaching out to people who are safe and willing to meet your needs so you can slowly build tolerance for the vulnerability that comes with expressing your needs.
7. The Hole of Protection
Feeling protected isn’t just physical, it’s also emotional.
We don’t just need a safe environment where we feel nourished, we also need boundaries and limits that keep us safe emotionally.
Do you know how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships? Can you keep others at the right distance as to not intrude on your privacy with nosy questions and unsolicited advice?
It’s essential that you feel you can protect yourself as needed.
#7. Meeting Mothering Needs With Partners
Our relationships with romantic partners can be the main source to fulfill our unmet needs.
Author Susan Anderson says in The Journey from Abandonment to Healing “Many people function as well as they do precisely because they feel so secure in their primary relationships. They are self-confident, self-directed, and content because they know someone is there for them.”
In fact, research shows that healthy relationships lead to better emotional and physical health and longer life spans.
However, trying to get earlier needs met with no conscious agreement can make your partner feel resentful to find themselves enlisted in this role without their prior consent, especially if they don’t get any time off.
This is why it’s important to give your partner choices and negotiate specific needs to be met.
For instance, you might want to ask your partner, “I feel insecure, would you hold me for a while?” or, “I feel scared right now and want to hear you say that everything is going to be all right.”
There should also be exchanges in roles, especially when both of you are wounded children.
1. Choosing A Healthy Relationship
Unconsciously, we tend to repeat unhealthy patterns from our early parent-child relationships.
For instance, someone who had an abusive parent, might find himself, unconsciously, picking up partners who are abusive.
In such cases, healing mother wounds require first becoming aware of these unhealthy patterns and working through these childhood wounds in therapy or other places before choosing the next partner.
A partner who is like your mother won’t be able to give you what your mother didn’t give you.
In your journal, examine your own patterns:
* Start by describing how you experienced your mother as a child. It doesn’t have to be a full paragraph, it could be a list of adjectives.
* In the same way, describe how you experienced your romantic partners.
* Look for similarities. Are there indications of earlier unfinished business you can see in your relationships?
The following are examples of unmet childhood needs that might show up in your relationships:
- Needing an excessive amount of reassurance
- Feeling insecure and jealous when your partner doesn’t respond to your needs right away
- Being unable to tolerate your partner’s absence, or tolerating an unusual amount of abandonment or unavailability of your partner
- Idealizing your partner and feeling that somehow has more value than you
- not expecting intimacy and emotional closeness from your partner
2. A Chance To Be Held
Your relationship can offer you a chance to be held by a safe person and allow you to experience receiving without having to earn it or give anything back.
It’s even more healing if you imagine your inner child receiving this.
A good exercise to help you receive nurturance is to ask your partner to hold you in a safe, nonsexual way. He doesn’t stroke or comfort, but provides a simple accepting presence.
It’s helpful to agree on a set period of time – twenty minutes can be a good guideline. After that, discuss with your partner what the experience was like for you and if it went well, you can set a time to do it again.
You can switch roles with your partner and provide the same nurturance.
#8. Stepping Out Of Deprivation Consciousness
When our Mother isn’t responsive to our needs, we get the idea that the world won’t respond to our needs either.
This is why many undermothered suffer from a “deprivation consciousness”. This sense of lack becomes the unconscious filter through which they experience the world.
They might have beliefs, such as “There’s never enough for me,” or, “I’ll never get what I want.”
Think of the people who win the lottery. They become rich instantly, but a few years later they’re back at the level they were beforehand. That drastic change wasn’t integrated.
This is why changing your deprivation consciousness will help you welcome riches and abundance into your life.
Counting Your Blessings
Make a list of capacities that you have developed and things in your life that you might consider blessings.
Here are some examples:
- I am a good friend and provide support to others.
- I am compassionate with myself as well as others.
- I have learned to recognize my feelings and manage them rather than simply act them out.
- I live in a safe area where my neighbors know and like me.
- My partner is generous with me.
It also helps to make a list of positive things about your childhood, especially about your mother.
Keep these lists available for reference whenever a sense of deprivation starts setting in.
#9. Changing The Story
The story we tell ourselves about something may be very different from the objective facts.
For instance, when we’re caught in a “deprivation consciousness”, we fail to see how much we have.
1. Changing Your Mother’s Story
Our story is by nature subjective and self-centered. We know Mother by who she was to us.
This prevents us from seeing the big picture. Your Mother isn’t just limited to your interactions with her. There are so many more aspects to her.
An important step in healing your mother’s wounds is to step out of the limited story you told yourself about your mother and see her life as it was.
Ask a friend to listen or write it on paper. You can do this at any length. You can also use the question below as a prompt:
What do you know about your mother’s childhood? How was her relationship with her mother?
- Was her childhood happy?
- What did she want out of life as she emerged into young adulthood?
- How well do you think she had “known herself” before starting a family?
- Why did she have children?
- What was it like for her to be a mother? What kind of support did she have?
- What else was going on at the time in the household and in the world? Did she experience any kind of stress?
- How was her mental health and overall energy level?
- Do you think she felt satisfied with how she parented you?
- What regrets might she have, if she could be totally honest?
Another to write this story could be done in a form of a letter to yourself from your mother. Imagine what she might say to you if she were able to be genuinely disclosing.
Note after her story how you feel.
Understanding Mother’s experience will help you let go of any grudges or anger. You might find out that Mother had limitations in expressing love because she had absolutely no experience in experiencing love while growing up.
2. Changing Your Story
Your story is as important as your mother’s story.
Because your story is subjective and self-centered, you might focus on the hurtful aspects and minimize any positive aspects.
Write your story of your childhood and especially your relationship with your mother. It can be the long or the short version.
Find out what themes stands out when you consider your entire life experience.
As you heal and let go of your pain, your story will change.
#10. Taking Care of Yourself
We tend to treat ourselves as we have been treated.
An important step in breaking this pattern is to work proactively on taking good care of ourselves.
Meeting your needs isn’t exclusive to having them met by others. Meeting your own needs not only helps you feel a healthy sense of entitlement but also models how you want others to treat you.
Create a list of things you can do when you need to feel nurtured, like a hot bath, curling up in a comfy chair with a good book, or making a hot cup of tea. You can find here more ideas.
Whatever you choose, make sure that:
- It feels good to your heart.
- You’re not pushing yourself to function at your optimal level when you’re feeling emotionally drained.
- You’re treating yourself with compassion as though you would have for a close friend.
- Whatever you’re doing is a healthy activity and isn’t simply a mechanism to avoid addressing underlying issues.
- You’re being responsive to your needs rather than shutting them down.
What we haven’t healed, we repeat.
Breaking that pattern and enjoying a better life requires healing your mother wounds.
Recovery entails three steps.
1. Understand the problem and get the background information that defines it.
2. Process any feelings related to the identified problem that you might have, especially the ones that were not validated or acknowledged growing up.
3. Reframe your problem by seeing it differently from when you were feeling like a victim of wrongdoing. This is when you begin to get in touch with the authentic you and your real values, and belief system. This requires facing your anger and hurt, identifying your unmet needs, and working proactively on meeting these needs.
Inner Child Healing Exercises PDF
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book The Emotionally Absent Mother, © September 2010 by Jasmin L. Cori. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, © 2008 by Karyl McBride. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters, © 2013 by Susan Forward. All rights reserved.
- The Mother Wound: What It Is and How to Heal (healthline.com)
- Writing The Mother Wound: A Mother’s Day Anthology — The Latinx Project at NYU
- The Mother Wound | Psychology Today Canada
- The Mother Wound – How To Heal The Mother Wound | Goop