We're living in a transformational time in history. Patriarchal systems in our world are crumbling and more dysfunctional than ever.
World changes are pointing to the fact that we must rely on our own inner wisdom as our primary source of truth and no longer defer to outer authorities to define our realities. Age-old hierarchies based on "power over" are now clearly visible as increasingly toxic, obsolete and illegitimate. After centuries of imbalance under white male patriarchal values, (domination, greed, and exclusion) our planet and humanity itself is at a critical crossroads.
Now, more than ever, feminine values are needed in our world; values such as cooperation, collaboration, listening, process, empathy, emotional intelligence, intuition, and more. We need more men and women capable of expressing these values, embodying them and modeling them for others.
Because our world is in need of feminine values, we need women leaders who are capable of authentically embodying these feminine energies, while also confident in embodying healthy masculine energies as well. (Healthy masculine qualities such as directed action, firm boundaries, and sustained focus.)
In other words, we need women leaders who have sufficiently healed the patriarchal wounds in themselves so that they can lead large-scale change in their communities, neighborhoods, families and corporations.
In order for women leaders to lead the way to a post-patriarchal world, they must do the necessary "inner de-cluttering" from the internalized oppression that they've unconsiously inherited from their mothers. In other words, authentically and powerfully embodying the feminine values requires that we look deeply at the ways we have felt "in exile" from the feminine. Which of course, originated in our earliest experiences with our mothers.
The "mother wound" is the seat of our deepest limitations as women because the most insidious forms of patriarchy are passed through the mother to the daughter, often unconsciously and unintentionally, remaining deep in the fabric of our sense of self.
This inner de-cluttering clears the pathway for your genius and your greatness to emerge and flow into everything you do; it is what gives your work a new level of depth and power, creating luminous and transformational impact all around you.
I spent the year 2016 speaking to thousands of women leaders around the world about the invisible link between their struggles and the "mother wound." I was amazed (but not suprised) to see that these symptoms show up in the majority of women leaders, even women at the highest levels of global success.
Why are these inherited limiting beliefs so "sticky" and hard to shift?
No one has a more formative impact on our psyches than our mothers. As author Dr. Mario Martino would say, mothers function as "significant cultural editors" defining the limits of what is possible through their own beliefs and behaviors, which we unconsiously internalize as our own as we develop in early life.
The limiting messages that we inherit from our mothers have been deeply FUSED with our deepest human needs for love, safety and belonging. Letting go of those limiting beliefs can feel like letting go of "mother." It takes inner work to disentangle our sense of self from these early messages of limitation.
Our task is to de-couple those inherited limiting beliefs from our needs for love, safety and belonging.......so that we can effectively dispose of them.
If we don't do this necessary de-coupling, a part of us will always remain somewhat attached to them out of old childhood fears that still operate in the background; keeping us in a state of perpetual limbo, not fully empowered and always a bit doubting of ourselves. This inner "de-cluttering" of limiting beliefs received from our mothers (overtly or covertly) is a form of deep initiation that clears the pathway to our full expression as women.
The good news is that you are not alone. All women have the mother wound to some degree. Even if you have a harmonious, supportive relationship with your mother, she inevitably passed down cultural messages of limitation, just by virtue of living in a patriarchal culture that de-values women. Ultimately, it's impersonal and not about your mother in the end. So the mother wound is not something to feel shame about. We all have it to some degree. It's time to pull this out of shadow, remove the stigma and bring it into the light if women are to collectively move forward on a huge scale.
The bad news is that the mother wound stays in place until we work through it. We project whatever we refuse to own within outselves onto our spouses, bosses, children, colleagues, employees, friends and situations. This can create problems in our relationships, both with ourselves and to others. The question really becomes how long do you want to postpone your potential? How long are you willing to tolerate painful patterns in your life? How much longer are you willing to stay in limbo?
The invisible Axis: Moving from External Safety to Internal Safety
The main reason this is so critical for women leaders is because now, more than ever, we need to be brave and to feel safe within ourselves to bring forward unprecedented ideas and solutions that the world needs. And we can't be brave unless we place our primary sense of safety within our own bodies, not in the ourside world. Let me explain...
As children we need external approval to survive. When we are children, physical and emotional safety are always externally located in our parents, particularly our mothers. Our sense of well-being rests on the whims, preferences and presence of people outside of ourselves. Thus, pleasing them and bonding with them is essential. To survive, most of us create some kind of mask in order to be accepted and get our needs met.
As adults, particularly for women leaders, the primary source of emotional safety must move from the external to the internal. You see, if we haven't sufficiently healed the mother wound, unconsiously our emotional safety still depends on the external approval of others. And that is a trap that keeps us stuck indefinitely. It's as though we move through life, problem-to-problem, projecting "the longed-for-mother" or "lack-of-mother" onto other people and situations, while always a little at war with ourselves. This inner war is unwinnable and must be stepped away from in order for us to actualize and live as the true self.
Internal safety is the solid foundation for your courage, creativity and for your full potential to emerge. It's the secure base for exploration, for being truly creative and innovative as a leader. Internal safety becomes our experience when we've de-coupled limiting beliefs from our core needs for love, safety and belonging and created an "inner mother" that unconditionally supports us. It's the little girl inside you that still believes her safety is external that keeps you stuck, that keeps you from rocking the boat, that plays it safe, that keeps you in perpetual limbo.
Examples of Manifestations of the Mother Wound in Women Leaders:
© Bethany Webster 2017
Art credits in order of appearance: "Key Lady" by Lidia Wylangowska, "Independence Day" by Katie Hoffman, "In her dream she flies" by Pam Hawkes, Random Red Thoughts by Katie Hoffman, "Luxcondivis" by J. Kirk Richards,"Receiving the Blessing" by Ezshwan Winding, "The Light" by Tamara Natalie Madden, Photo of Bethany by Wendy K Yalom
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