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July 9, 2020

The Mother Wound—How Healing it Awakened my Authenticity.


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Like most of us on our healing journey, I was faced with the details of the parenting I got as a kid.

I ended up rather resentful for many, many years. It seemed like every painful current experience had its roots in the deep dysfunction of my too young, single parent mother. Her unhealed trauma directly led to every bit of my unhealed trauma.

She was, after all, my primary caregiver. A role model for the way it all should work, and a source of guidance for what’s possible for me. However, we were forced to move all over the country and more than once into homelessness. My sibling and I separately attempted suicide when we were young teens.

The resentment I’ve felt for her choices has felt bottomless, at times, with both rage and grief, and I thought I’d never experience another emotion toward her or my childhood apart from those. 

Something a lot of us have done along the way in our healing journey is spiritually bypass our own pain and the pain of others with concepts like: “we’re all one,” “everything happens as it should,” and the one most relevant to parenting—“they did their best.”

It’s damn easy to idealise these concepts and attempt to fully claim them without doing the necessary healing or growing to actually deeply believe in them. There’s something vulnerably hopeful about it, but it’s also painfully self-avoidant.

When I started to explore spirituality in my early 20s, naturally, I covered up a tremendous amount of pain from how I was raised with “she did her best” in my back pocket. Any time that pain started to bubble up, I’d whip out that card and avoid feeling anything more than a little annoyed. This went on for years. Until about two years ago, I’d say. 

I’d been going to therapy off and on for a few years, but I had never really dove into the rage or grief. I’d acknowledged that I was carrying these things, but I didn’t feel safe enough in my own skin to embrace them all the way. I was pretty sure I would die. Or I would lose everything important to me. And then die. I was also constantly pretty busy putting out the fires I created from my own emotionally erratic inner life, I never felt available to go into those emotional shadows. 

But the thing is, up to that point, I wasn’t letting anything be important enough to me to lose. I started to really see and feel that sad truth when I put out most of the bigger fires of my own addictions and self-avoidance. I kept my life pretty small, because I was very disconnected from myself and full of unprocessed trauma. Working through this stuff by first feeling these deeper emotions was, and continues to be, a really important part of the process of reconnecting with myself and opening up to a fuller life.

It took a little therapist-hopping for me to settle in with someone who I felt safe enough to go there with. And we went there. Right into the muck, sludge, and heaviness of the hatred and despair I felt for so many unmet needs. For so much fear and longing for guidance. For profound disconnect from a sense of being loved and being worthy of that love. For heartbreaking loneliness that I thought was permanent. I finally felt the rage I’d been so scared to feel, too.

I did, in fact, stop caring for a time if my mom lived or died. I only felt guilty for feeling that way at first. I stopped relating to her as my mom for a time, too. I saw her as a human assigned with the task of keeping me alive, and how for many years she did that and a little more. I took my time with the process. Some of it I was honest with her about, but much of it I only shared with my therapist and partner. I was creating healthy boundaries within to heal. 

On the other side of many months of fully hating her, and quite a few of not knowing how to feel about or relate to her—I’m finding myself in a world where I am empowered in new ways.

In place of perpetually blaming her for the ways I now struggle, I’m realising I get to use my energy in any manner I choose to. And with much conscious experimenting, It’s proving to feel infinitely better to move toward each challenging area of my life. 

For example, where my self-esteem tanks, I see it as an opportunity to patch up a leak in my system, a way that I am losing energy to some untruth I’ve been attached to, and approach it and myself with gentleness, but also grounded practicality.

I encourage and empower myself in these moments with loving words and clarity about the situation. Journaling works best for me for this, and I consistently come out the other side with a tender open heart and more self-confidence. It’s a lot like “higher-self” journaling, where you let your wisest self speak up about whatever situation you’re feeling stuck in. 

As someone who has been savior-seeking for longer than I can remember, it’s miraculous to really understand that there’s no one out there who can recognise and address these leaks in my energy system like me. It’s been years of slowly, cautiously approaching an emotionally healthy relationship with myself, and so to feel myself really here with me is incredible.

I practiced a lot doing the right things, hoping they would eventually feel more natural and less like work—and they do. There will likely still be moments where I struggle to be kind or patient with myself, and I will have to just practice being kind anyway and hope it won’t feel so hard in the morning. But it’s getting easier and easier to trust that it will feel less hard in the morning. 

My relationship with my mom didn’t magically transform into the picture of my dreams. I’d read that this has happened for some people and I really hoped it would happen for my mom and I. But the truth is—she’s still her. She still gets overwhelmed when I’m panicking about something and essentially tries to talk me out of how I’m feeling. So, I know she’s not a resource in those moments.

She still will go weeks seemingly indifferent if we talk or not, so I know not to hope for a steadier relationship with her. She still seems to be approaching her own healing extremely slowly, so I know it won’t be safe to really be close to her for a long time, if ever. Rather than needing anything from her, I get to need it from myself, which is a way more satisfying experience now that I’m getting better at showing up for me. 

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of how this human species is just evolving through the generations, an evolutionary process of which my mom, myself, and every other sentient being is simply a part of. The stuff I’ve gone through with her, in brief moments, gets to be less personal than I ever thought it could be and becomes just a snapshot of how far us humans have come, and how far we still have to go as a species. It shows how we need to collectively embrace healing in order to nourish ourselves and the next generations to come.

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author: Leah Barber

Image: Julika Illustration

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