The Negative Gift of being unmothered


This weekend I read a fascinating article about the mother wound, from a Buddhist perspective. It described it as a very deep wound that has to be faced with mindfulness to be healed. To be faced, it has to be understood. To understand it, one has to consider the qualities that are expected from a mother. It outlined four major roles of a mother and how a deficit of each of these causes various dysfunctions later in life.

The roles were a mother as the one who nurtures her child, protects, empowers and initiates. It was a very interesting read for me because it was good for me to look at what I didn’t get, what was absent, so that I can work on mothering myself with these qualities. You can create an inner mother with knowledge of what a ‘mother’ is.

All of us who were unmothered, can learn how to nurture ourselves, not just with food and clothing but emotional nurturing too. By creating an emotionally safe place for ourselves and watching closely over our own thoughts and feelings.  Nurturing should  be done with a sense of joy and deep delight in ourselves rather than a chore that has to be completed begrudgingly.

We can also learn to protect ourselves fiercely by listening closely to that inner voice that guides and directs us.We can establish firm boundaries and decide who and what we let in. Moving away from people who hurt us.

Empowering would be to allow ourselves to fall, collapse and make mistakes and hold ourselves kindly and gently in that space. Allowing ourselves to fulfill our potentials and being our own best cheerleaders as we try to forge new paths and dare greatly. Holding ourselves in those moments when we are filled with fear and step out of our comfort zones. Telling ourselves that we are capable and that we can do it. Inspiring confidence and self-belief.

The last role of a mother is that of initiator, and that would be accepting ourselves and our identities, being sure of who we are and what we want. It would be mothering ourselves with complete acceptance in the face of any external opposition. It would be pushing ourselves to initiate change and take an active role in our lives and relationships rather than the role of a passive victim.

The final part of the article was most interesting as it advises that to fully heal we have to let go of our expectations of our biological mother and accept her as a flawed human being who was a victim of her own circumstances. This is on no way to excuse or to say that her behaviour was acceptable but rather a chance for letting go of the past, and accepting it for what it was. We are adults now, no longer helpless, voiceless and powerless and we can take over the reins now and become our own mothers. It’s no longer her responsibility, it was back then and she failed miserably but it’s our turn now.

When I accept what happened and when I accept that I can’t change any of it, then I can free my mind of expectation and neediness of finding that all encompassing love from a romantic partner, a friend or any other substitute mother I may conjure up in my fantasies subconsciously. When I accept that I can mother myself and fill in all those cracks and holes because I know myself best and because I always have my best interests at heart then I can recognise the negative gift that I was given. In the absence of the emotional nurturing, empowering, protecting and initiating I became fiercely independent, deeply intuitive, compassionate and fearless. A warrior who empathises with the inner wounds of others. The absence brought me here, to who I am today and what I have. A negative gift that has the potential to be transformed into something powerful and beautiful.

When I can accept that what was done to me was in no way a personal attack against me, but rather a set of circumstances that happened not because I am me but because I happened to be their child, then I can accept that my essence is unchanged. That permanent essence that I was born with was not destroyed nor will it ever be.

I am impatient so I want to heal today, I want to be able to transform myself overnight but of course I know that won’t happen.  I want to be able to stop obsessing over this man who I developed a crush on, who I spend far too much time thinking about, a man who made it clear that I was like a sister to him, who hasn’t replied two of my messages and an email from before. I want to be be so filled with self-worth that his inability to love me in the way I want him to doesn’t upset my equilibrium. I want to focus on what I am getting from others and not what I don’t get from him. Just like I want to let go of what my mother didn’t give me and look at what my grandmother and other life experiences did give me.

These new realisations in my consciousness are just the very first steps in the very long and difficult journey ahead to mother myself I know. It will take time, lots of time to learn to be a mother to myself. To mother all the parts of me and continually fan my internal flames. May you learn to be a mother to yourself too because there are no perfect mothers only a world filled with flawed parents and wounded children. The wounds may not be the same but the struggle to mother ourselves is not unique to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. May we use our negative gift wisely.


9 thoughts on “The Negative Gift of being unmothered

  1. Thank you for this! I needed to read it. I will need to think about my mothering of myself in each of the four areas. This week I seem to be working on the “protecting” component, as I try to figure out my response to my bad gynecological appointment and a couple of other things that also have to do with defending boundaries.

    I recently added a book to my Healing Reading List ( that you might like. It’s called Growing Up Again, and one thing I like is that it talks about what we need from our mothers at different ages. So if there are particular times in our lives when we did not get what we needed, we can also concentrate on providing that for ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You write so well, that I feel a little guilty about saying anything adverse to your message. But I do think that there are really very good mothers out there – I agree that there are no perfect mothers – but I have to say, that there are some wonderful mothers. I didn’t have one, and neither did you in terms of emotional love and support and empowerment, and as you say we need to forgive them and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

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