What is the Mother Wound? - Terri Cole
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What is the Mother Wound?

Let me ask you…every year when Mother’s Day comes around, do you spend hours looking at cards but end up frustrated and kind of sad because none of them actually fit the relationship you have with your mom?

Deep down, do you feel ashamed that the relationship you have (or had) with your mother is nowhere near picture-perfect?

If this resonates with you, I invite you to keep reading. This week’s episode is Part One of a two-part series on mother/child relationships and how this foundational dynamic could still be affecting you today.

Throughout more than 2 decades of my therapy practice, I have seen so many women suffering in their relationship with their mother and others as a direct result of what attention and care they did or did not receive in childhood. This pain negatively impacts how they relate day to day with the world, and most importantly, how they perceive themselves.

In the video below, I’ll help you learn how to identify if you’re suffering from “The Mother Wound” as well as give you some steps you can take to begin to heal.

In most cases, the first person anyone has a relationship with is their mother. It is from those very early experiences that our sense of self develops.

That’s because our first internal representation of ourselves comes from how our mother or primary caregiver interacted with us when we were infants. If there was neglect, ambivalence or abuse, the result can be an inconsistency in your relationship with yourself…and that wound can last a lifetime unless you do something about it.

So what exactly is the Mother Wound?

There are two schools of thought on this. The first is a bit more esoteric and existential, but I believe it to be true:

The Mother Wound can be thought of in a broad sense as the collective injury from being a female in our society. It is unintentionally passed down from generation to generation of women to their daughters. It can include the pain of ancestral experiences such as abuse, neglect, trauma, and marginalization. I’ve included resources for further reading on this in the cheatsheet, and you can download it right here.

For our purposes, I am interested in diving more deeply into the wounds of any psychological injuries that have been sustained during this lifetime. This psychological view of the Mother Wound is the result of mothers who cannot and did not treat their children with unconditional love and compassion.

If your mother did not or could not meet your needs when you were a child, if you did not have a caregiver that was emotionally attuned to you, it can cause inconsistencies in your relationship with your self-identity. How you see yourself has so much to do with your attachment style, which affects how you relate to others and the world.

Attachment theory, originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby, asserts that our earliest caregiver relationship can impact our romantic relationships later in life. The theory identifies two main results from having this type of primary caregiver. Ambivalent attachment happens because you have learned from your early experience that intimacy and connectedness are not safe, so you’re never fully invested; and avoidant attachment, meaning that because you find relationships so stressful, you simply take yourself out of the running – often ending a relationship yourself rather than risk being rejected.

I’ve created a guide for you to help you see if and how the mother wound might be showing up in your adult relationships, so download it here now and spend some time exploring the questions.  

Symptoms of an unresolved mother wound can range from unhealthy attachment styles to low self-confidence and lack of self-esteem, from an inability to trust yourself or anyone else to a deep sense of never feeling like you’ll ever be good enough. It can manifest in perfectionism, chronic imposter syndrome or always undermining your own success.  

If your deepest, darkest fear is that you are unworthy of love, attention, and affection, you will find that experience everywhere. You might find that you are unable to set boundaries because there’s so much fear of rejection, abandonment and being left alone, which might mirror the way you felt in your childhood.

The “Disease to Please” or chronic overfunctioning sometimes is rooted in an adaptive response in which a child learns to focus on their mother’s feelings instead of their own, in order to survive. This can be so painful and have lasting effects because if you were raised to only be dialed into your caregiver’s wants and needs, you become an expert at ignoring your own.  

Another common symptom of the mother wound is emotional transference, that is,  reacting in real time to a situation, but transferring the emotions from unresolved injuries or wounds from the past onto what you’re experiencing in the present.

I walk you through real-life examples of what this all can look like in the video, so be sure to watch and then get the little cheat sheet I created for you to take a self-inventory that can help reveal how an unresolved mother wound could be playing out in your life.

It can be challenging to create and sustain healthy love until you uncover the mother wound itself and start to take steps to heal. If from a very early age you felt invalidated as a human being, it can be difficult to trust the motives of other people, especially in romantic relationships. This might look like needing the other person to prove time and time again that their feelings are genuine or repeatedly choosing relationships where your deepest fear of being unworthy gets played out over and over again.

Consciously acknowledging what you experienced with your mother growing up is the beginning of transforming the negative impact of the mother wound.

I hope that this helps you in some way and inspires you to raise your awareness and take some steps to further understand yourself. Next week I’m taking on Part 2 of the mother wound series, so make sure to tune in to learn the actual strategies and things you can do to start to get yourself on the path to healing because you so deserve that.

Don’t forget that The Terri Cole Show is starting this month on April 18th, at 9 PM EDT! It’s a live Q+A with me, it’s all happening on my YouTube channel, and I want to see you there! Click here to subscribe to my Youtube channel so that you get notified for our big debut!

If you liked this episode and it added value for you, please share it on your social media platforms. That is the best way for you to help me do what I want to do in this world, which is to empower as many people as possible to live the best lives they can. I super appreciate you and thank you for watching, for listening, and for sharing.

Terri Cole
  • Erika Lacroix
    Posted at 12:39h, 15 April Reply

    Thank you for this video! It very much resonated with me. It describes my relationship with my mother very accurately and the challenges I face in life because of it.
    I look forward to watching video number two with strategies to help heal!

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 08:24h, 19 April Reply

      Thank you Erika! And I am so glad it resonated with you. See you in part 2!

  • Kirsty M
    Posted at 14:01h, 15 April Reply

    I’m sitting here crying. You explained it all so perfectly. The cards that just don’t fit. I’m the ultimate people pleaser. My needs don’t matter. I’ve taken this to all extremes, even sexually. I have very little boundaries. I don’t want to be this anymore.

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 08:23h, 19 April Reply

      Kirsty, I am witnessing you with deep compassion. I am so glad you are here. I see you. You matter. Your needs, boundaries, and wants matter. Saying that you don’t want it to be the same is the first step to move forward.

  • Anusha Narayanan
    Posted at 14:01h, 15 April Reply

    Dearest Terri,

    Definitely, relate to some of this. Also can relate some of these wounds to a friend who lost both parents very young in his life. I can also relate some of this to other friends whom I have grown up with. Grateful that you put this content out and gave a name to a feeling/event. Thanks.

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 08:28h, 19 April Reply

      Anusha, it makes me glad to know it resonates with you and it is helping. And thank you for being here.

  • Paula Greer Young
    Posted at 18:32h, 15 April Reply

    Thank you so much.

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 08:28h, 19 April Reply

      You are very welcome!

  • Noelle way
    Posted at 16:19h, 16 April Reply

    Thank you for this Terri,
    I still have not received the guide you have put together to go with this.
    I need this truly!!

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 18:55h, 16 April Reply

      Hi Noelle, I had someone from my team send it to your email. Thanks for watching!
      XO, Terri

  • Charlotte Squire
    Posted at 10:14h, 27 April Reply

    Thank you so much for this Terri. It´s feels like being heard and truely understood for the very first time.

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 10:40h, 27 April Reply

      I am so happy to hear that. You are so welcome.

  • Emilee Sanders
    Posted at 15:26h, 15 May Reply

    I’m 36 years old and I’ve only recently started seeing the truth about my Mother and her connection to my lack of boundaries and people pleasing. I’ve had all of these questions swimming around in my head with no idea how to find the answers and then I stumbled onto your YouTube channel. I’ve already learned so much from the videos I’ve watched and am anxious to learn more, about myself and my relationships! I cannot thank you enough for what you do!!!

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 11:42h, 17 May Reply

      I am SO glad to hear this!! Thank you for being here and I am cheering you on. I am so happy to hear the videos are helpful to you.

  • Rebecca A Hawksley
    Posted at 14:06h, 29 June Reply

    I’m may have the mother wound from birth but there was a more significant time it stands out. When I was 8 years old my parents were divorced and my mother had a boyfriend. I told her that he had molested me. She took me to a psychologist and her boyfriend was there in the waiting room also. I sat in a room that seemed so large in a chair that seemed so big and had to tell this middle-aged man, just like my mother’s boyfriend, I don’t remember my words. He told my mother it was a figment of my imagination. She decided to believe him, as best she could. She didn’t see her boyfriend for six months after that. I only learned that in my thirties. But she did continue to see him until I was 14. He called me the little liar, my mother seemed to keep me at a distance. I felt like The Other Woman. I’ve tried to fix these things, my mother has believed me since my late twenties when we went to see a therapist together. My mother’s tried to make amends as best she could. That I’m still left with an emptiness of not having love from my mother. She still says things to me like I’m dramatic, I overreact. The things that I was told as a child. It hurts me a lot. How can I fix this?

    • Terri Cole
      Posted at 10:25h, 02 July Reply

      I’m witnessing you with deep compassion. I would recommend continuing to work with a therapist that can guide you in the process. You may also benefit from writing a letter that you will never send. Write a letter and tell your mother all the ways you wish she had given you love. Write down all the ways she failed you. And then write a response from you to you. Give yourself all the love and apologize for the ways she let down the younger version of you. And then burn the letters and release them. I am sending you so much strength.

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