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How to Heal the Mother Wound

by Andrea M. Darcy

Our mothers give us life. In the face of this, it can feel hard to admit if our mother was unable to provide us with the unconditional love, support and safety we needed.

How can we heal the mother wound and stop wandering through life without the self-esteem that others seem to naturally have? 

[At the end of your rope over your relationship with your mother? We understand. Book a session with one of our Skype therapists, and you can be talking to someone as soon as tomorrow.]

Reparenting yourself – a How -To Guide

Yes, when it comes to being under-mothered we need to work on acceptance, letting go, and the level of forgiveness that works for us.

But to heal the mother wound we also need to find ways to give ourselves all that we did not receive as a child. And the faster we do that, the more energy we have for forgiveness and acceptance

What are these things we missed out on?  And what tools can we use to get them?

1. Love.

Most under-mothered adults deep down do not feel loveable just how they are. We feel that we have to earn love, or that we have to accept relationships where we aren’t loved.

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The step to take here is to become brutally honest with yourself by asking good questions.

  1. Are you actually codependent or counter-dependent?
  2. Do you have anxious attachment or avoidant attachment?
  3. What sorts of friendships and relationships are you always engaging in?
  4. What are your actual core beliefs around love?
  5. How do you block and sabotage love?
  6. Do you even, deep down, believe love exists?
  7. What ways have you tried to get love that clearly haven’t worked? Have you tried to manipulate, or cling, or beg for love?

2. Structure.

Are you completely unorganised? Messy despite best effort? Always missing appointments?

This can come from a mother who was inconsistent with her affection.  Meaning as a child you had to always be available and on alert for morsels of attention.

As an adult you can unwittingly be doing the same thing. Your lack of scheduling and commitment can be a way to be ‘always available’. 

Spend two weeks writing down what you do every hour to get a real idea of where your time is going. Set a timer to go off on the hour to remind you.

The results can be eye opening. Try not to judge yourself but instead decide what you want to let go of or change. Learn about time management and how to set and achieve goals. If you find this very hard, consider some sessions with a life coach.

3. Limits.

If you had to be a ‘good, perfect’ child for mother growing up, or your mother over-relied on you as her source of identity? Then you missed the learning curve of setting healthy boundaries and saying no.

The result? An adult who is always exhausted from doing too much for others, never has time for what brings them joy, and feels stuck in life.

It’s time to study and learn what personal boundaries are and how to say no in ways that work. Give yourself a big time container to learn these skills, as it can feel very uncomfortable at first.

4. Identity.

Children who have inconsistent parenting often learn to be the child the adults around them want. It’s a way to survive around a mother who is volatile or unwell, or who punishes you.

The result is we get so used to fitting ourselves around the needs of others, we end up an adult who has no idea who he or she is.

Consistent journalling can help here.

But one of the best tools is mindfulness. Mindfulness pulls us away from our worries and analysing and into what we feel and think right here and now.

And don’t worry, it’s easy to learn – read our free ‘Guide to Mindfulness’, and try a mindfulness app.

5. Guidance.

Are you indecisive? Never know what you really want? Tend to do what other people tell you, and then regret it or feel angry?

When we don’t have a strong mothering presence guiding us as a child, we can unconsciously seek all answers from others as an adult. We don’t learn to recognise our own needs and desires and hear our own instincts. 

It’s time to develop your own inner guidance system, or ‘inner parent’. Mindfulness is again highly recommended. It gives you direct access to your ‘inner wisdom’, a voice that waits behind the criticism and overthinking.

Body awareness is also a useful tool here. Learn to notice your physical response to decisions. Are you constantly pushing yourself to do things that give you anxiety or fear just because someone else told you you ‘should’?

And learn the art of good questions. This means sitting down and spending time journalling responses to ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions (avoid the ‘whys’, they lead to dispiriting rabbit holes).

6. Self-acceptance.

The sister of love is self-acceptance. And it’s actually far easier to achieve than self-love, which tends to come in its wake anyway.

The first thing is again awareness. Often the soundtrack in our mind is something we aren’t even aware is hugely self critical and mean to ourselves. We are accustomed to our negative thinking.

Check in with yourself several times a day (read our article on how to learn what you think and feel). What have you just said against yourself?

And try learning thought charts, a CBT therapy tool proven to stop a tendency to black and white thinking.

Then shift your focus to what is right about you and your life. Each day take time to write out not just three things you are grateful for, but three things you’ve achieved, no matter how small. 

As for raising your self-esteem, the best tool here is self-compassion. This means constantly asking yourself, would I say or do that to my best friend? Then why am I doing or saying it to myself? How can I start to treat myself as well as I treat my friends?

When is it time for support?

Growing up without the mothering we need can indeed leave us with real psychological issues that take time and commitment to overcome. Low self-esteem and relationship problems are common.

Yes, there are a lot of great self help tools nowadays. But working with a counsellor or psychotherapist can fast-track your results. There is something about the calm, non-judgmental space that therapy provides that means we have self revelations faster.

And some therapists also provide psychotherapeutic reparenting. This means they stand in, within limits, as the parent you never truly had. It can be the support you need to learn to trust both yourself and others.

Are you ready for support with your mother issues? Harley Therapy puts you in touch with London’s top therapists in central locations. Not in London? Our online booking platform connects you to therapists across the UK and now globally via Online therapy

Andrea M. DarcyAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and mentor, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She grew up without much mothering so knows a thing or two about all the things she shares in this article! Find her on Instagram @am_darcy

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Blog Topics: Anxiety & Stress, Self Esteem

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