The mother wound – First In, Last Out
In the world of warehousing in which I once worked, there are various stock rotation policies. One is called FIFO—First In, First Out. The oldest stock is sold first. Another is called LIFO—Last In, First Out. Our mother wound is FILO—First In, Last Out.
To heal the mother wound we have to strip away everything. That means stripping ourselves bare as an empty warehouse: First In, Last Out.
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 life: body, blood, breath, food. Without them we wouldn’t exist.
This is the first connection that we form: First In.
Our mothers are 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 commitment and responsibility in future relationships.
- A mother’s touch (including breastfeeding) nurtures a child and creates a pattern for healthy adult touch and sexual expression…
…in an ideal world.
We do not live in such a world.
As I write in A brief history of shame, 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
The psychological programming humanity acquired at this time has weakened but has not—as yet—been healed. Six millennia of violent, masculine-dominant ‘civilization’ later, the breakdown of the mother child bond still haunts us.
Hannah More, a popular religious writer, asked in 1835: “Is it not a fundamental error to consider children as innocent beings… rather than as beings who bring into the world a corrupt nature and evil dispositions?” (The History of Childhood, ed. Lloyd DeMause)
With attitudes like More’s it’s no wonder that beating children to correct their “evil dispositions” was standard childrearing practice until quite recently.
Most men of my generation were beaten as children; most of them did not beat their own children. Breaking the cycle of child beating has been a huge step towards healing the mother-child bond, and the wider mother wound of which it is but a part.
The mother wound is the first wound as it develops from the point of conception, even before physical birth. It includes inherited traumas from recent and distant ancestors, as I mentioned earlier, and can be exacerbated by any traumas we incur during our lives.
During the journey to wholeness it can take a long time to become aware of this wound, because it feels so normal. Yet as we go deeper into healing we have a growing realisation of its enormity.
In We uncover issues from the least to the most buried, I write how the healing journey follows the homeopathic principle known as Hering’s Law of Cure. This states that disease leaves the body in reverse order to which it entered it.
The mother wound, which is both psychological and biological, follows this principle.
It’s the first wound we incur but one of the last—if not the last—we heal. To heal the mother wound we have to strip away everything. That means stripping ourselves bare as an empty warehouse: First In, Last Out.