Jun 09, 2023, 05:55AM

The Mother Wound

Do you “stay small” to win her affection? 

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I was never great at listening to podcasts. I was jealous of everyone sounding so intelligent talking about all the podcasts they listen to on the way to work, or at the gym. But I follow an impactful influencer named Mollie Adler on Instagram who’s a fellow Borderline Personality Disorder warrior, and identified with her social media posts along the way during my treatment for BPD.

I admire her outlook on working to debunk the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with even just the concept of a “disorder,” and she often referred to her podcast. I decided to try to challenge the undiagnosed ADHD that keeps me from being able to focus and listen to podcasts, and try listening to “just one episode.”

I tuned in to “Back From the Borderline” and was hooked. It was powerful to feel like someone finally knew and understood the difficulty with managing emotions (and people) I’ve struggled with my whole life. Her dedication to research, humor, and journalistic skill in bringing experts in for topic discussions all add to the experience.

But her most recent episode “The Mother Wound” hit home more than any other episode, leaving me covering my mouth in awe at some of the realizations, in tears at others, and with a sense of long-awaited healing by the end.

Mollie herself describes the importance of “talking about things we don’t talk about” in approaching the quintessential importance of the primary relationship between mother and daughter and its innate imperfections.

“The mother wound exists,” she says, “because there is not a safe place to process the rage about the sacrifices that society has demanded of women.” She tackles complicated material and does it with grace, discussing the anger mothers can sometimes unconsciously display towards their children that represents a “displaced rage projection towards patriarchal society that requires women to sacrifice and deplete themselves to raise a child.”

I’d never considered the concept of societal oppression, how we might become “complicit in our own oppression,” “stay small” out of fear of losing a mother’s affection, or how feelings one didn’t even know they were experiencing could affect a child, including some women who unfortunately let unconscious envy win out over love.

Not to mention the effect our mothers had on us when it comes to how we raise our children, particularly daughters. I know that as someone who escaped a very dysfunctional family, I went to college and became a psychology major only because I was so fascinated at how “normal” families functioned and because of my desire to learn more about abnormal psychology as it related to my family and the impact it had on me. The day I learned of my first pregnancy 30 years ago was when I first signed up to enter therapy as a result of the terror of repeating the motherhood mistakes I was afraid of making.

This podcast episode dealing with how in dysfunctional relationships between mother and daughter “a daughter reminds a mother of her unmet potential” and how if “a mother is relying on her daughter as her main source of emotional support it exacerbates the mother wound” because “it is not a daughter’s job to fix or save her mother…” well, wow. This reminded me of my past in many ways. As a mother who’s done my best to break the chains of generational trauma while under their weight, mother wound struggles are perpetually heavy.

She doesn’t just talk about the problem, she talks about solutions. One of the things this poignant podcast episode illustrates is that in order to heal the mother wound, a mother must fully grieve her own losses; liberating daughters to pursue their dreams through doing the work to heal herself. The episode also offers a meditational portion that’s particularly helpful; I shared the podcast experience with one of my adult daughters and we were able to discuss it together and find healing; powerful stuff.

  • Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious issue for those families affected by it. My mother had BPD and it definitely caused a great deal of tension between her and my older sisters which unfortunately lasted up until our mothers death. The strains of parenting particularly for mothers who do much of the day to day multitasking that parenting requires while simultaneously putting many of their personal desires and ambitions on the backburner while they spend their time and energy raising their kids can lead to anxiety, exhaustion and resentment which happened to my mother who never felt she got the credit she deserved for the sacrifices she made as a parent and her resentment manifested itself in periodic emotional outbursts towards her daughters.. Only now after her death do my sisters see that on balance they were lucky to have a mother who loved and cared for them and always wanted the best for her children even though she could get a little unhinged and difficult to deal with at times.. My sisters and I all having children ourselves have experienced the challenges of parenting and it has provided us with perspective and a greater appreciation for what our mother did for us in spite of her flaws. Ultimately she gave us love and devotion and we are grateful for that albeit belatedly in the case of my sisters....

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  • As a mother of 4 with BPD myself, it is no easy task raising children and although they came out ok, they didn't always have an easy time with me as a mother by any means. Therapy all around. The best thing I can offer them is a willingness to admit wrongdoing and imperfection, continue to work on myself as a perpetual work in progress, and let them know we love them as you noted; this often seems insufficient in the Yelp reviews, but one does one's best.

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  • It’s to your credit Mary that you have a healthy sense of introspection and are proactive in trying to work toward self improvement. Too often self righteousness, ego or stubbornness can prevent people from doing an honest self assessment and acknowledge their short comings and then work towards self improvement...As the son of a BPD Mother and as a far from perfect Father of two one thing I have learned and perhaps the hard way is that mutual love, understanding and especially gratitude can go a long way towards creating familial harmony. If a parent feels appreciated for all their efforts from both the children and spouse it makes the whole parental experience more rewarding and it makes criticism far easier to take. If all a parent hears is criticism even if it is deserved it can lead to frustration and resentment. The same holds true with the way a parent treats their child although the dynamics are a little different. Children need to feel loved and appreciated along with a healthy dose of constructive criticism when it is called for....

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  • "mutual love, understanding and especially gratitude can go a long way towards creating familial harmony.." how true. I gave my oldest daughter a cross-stitch that says "Sorry For Fucking Up Your Childhood" (tongue in cheek butttt.....) I feel like we are all on a journey, constantly learning from our mistakes-- it's those who don't think they ever make any who have a real issue: but toxic narcissism is another article entirely ;)

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  • Well said Mary and I like the cross stitch that you gave to your daughter. I can certainly relate to that.

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