I’m not intentionally paraphrasing Saddam Hussein here: “the mother of all wounds.” But I may as well be. Deep in the core of our psyche, we all have a connection to our mothers—or not.

Our mothers are the vehicles that gave us physical life: body, blood, breath, food. Without them we wouldn’t exist. They are also our primary source of emotional connection to the world. The strength, depth and breadth of that connection—the mother-child bond—have a huge bearing on our wellbeing.

A mother’s love makes a child feel wanted and, free of anxiety, liberates them to fulfil their potential. A mother’s consistent emotional presence creates a role model for future relationships. A mother’s touch nurtures a child and creates a pattern for healthy adult touch and sexual expression…

…in an ideal world.

Ancestral trauma

We do not live in such a world. As I wrote in Ancestral trauma, Part II – separation from nature/nurture, about 6,000 years ago humanity underwent a huge psychological shift from famine due to climate change. This shift gave rise to patriarchy. It damaged all things feminine—including the mother-child bond:

“A passive indifference to the needs or pain of others manifested itself, and hunger, feeding of the self, became their all consuming passion… The very old and young were abandoned to die. Brothers stole food from sisters, and husbands left wives and babies to fend for themselves. While the maternal-infant bond endured the longest, eventually mothers abandoned their weakened infants and children.”—James DeMeo, Saharasia

Six millennia of violent, masculine-dominant ‘civilization’ later, the breakdown of the mother-child bond still haunts us. Many mothers, struggling with their own issues, remain emotionally unavailable to their children. This perpetuates the cycle of damaged mother-child bonding.

Emotionally crippled

My own mother was a case in point. Emotionally crippled when her own mother was ejected from the family for having an affair in 1932, she was a physically and emotionally distant figure my whole life. This contributed to:

  • A lack of self-belief
  • A lack of self-love or capacity to love others
  • Emotional immaturity and inappropriate behaviour
  • Fear and shame around physical touch and sexuality
  • A sense of neediness, trying to ‘fill the hole’

The ‘hole’

The ‘hole’ manifests as a deep, unshakeable belief in not being enough. It even manifests physically as an indentation in the heart area. A number of bodywork healers have associated this dip with a lack of nurturing.

The ‘hole’ is like an anchor, or living with the brake on. Filling the hole is a long and painful journey of dredging up, healing and releasing wounds one by one, all the layers of disempowerment and dysfunction that accumulated on top of, or tried to compensate for, the original mother wound.

The mother wound is the first wound as it develops from the point of conception, even before physical birth. It’s the first wound we incur but the last one we heal.

We have to strip away everything else to get to it. Perhaps Saddam’s phrase is apposite after all—the mother wound is the mother of all wounds.

Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash