HEALING THE MOTHER WOUND
an interview with Bethany Webster
photography by Erica Wyant
I have been interested in Bethany Webster's work since I met her in person two years ago at one of her beautiful workshops. I was immediately drawn to the name: "Healing the Mother Wound." It was as if, for the first time, I had heard my internal reality spoken out loud. I realized, before even reading any of her work or sitting with her in a circle of women that day, that I had been living with, and mostly ignoring, an open wound since my earliest days of life. It was a blessing to re-connect with her for an interview with Cordella Magazine.
CORDELLA MAGAZINE: Could you tell us a bit about what the mother wound is for you, and how you came to realize its existence in your own life?
BETHANY WEBSTER: As a young girl, the patterns I had were that of the “good girl,” the striver, and the parentified child. I played the role of my mother's counselor and confidant from a very early age. I prayed to the Virgin Mary daily. I had an intense devotion to her, praying the rosary daily. Later, as an adult, I realized I was simply longing to find a mother. As a teen and young adult, my symptoms were low self-esteem, lack of boundaries, co-dependent relationships, and a deep sense of shame.
At the age of 19, I became unexpectedly pregnant. I remember struggling with what to do, but came to a strong decision. I remember saying to myself, “I can’t give birth to someone else until I’ve given birth to myself.” I knew I needed to find the deeper truth about who I was and the purpose of my life.
Having the abortion caused me to focus intensely on my personal growth and finding out who I was and what my purpose was in life. I was on a spiritual path and in therapy. At a certain point, those two paths merged into one path. I saw that healing the mother wound was essential to being a clear channel for the spiritual energy that I sensed wanted to come through me.
But for YEARS, I avoided the mother wound for a long time. It just felt too painful to look at. I was an approval seeker. I spent years as a "spiritual by-passer," hoping I wouldn't have to look at my family stuff if I just became spiritual enough. The big awakening/breakthrough happened when I found the courage to stop dealing with surface symptoms and begin focusing directly on Healing the mother wound.
I saw that the mother wound was actually the central point from which all other issues in my life were arising because my early relationship with my mother affected every area of my life, including how I felt about my body, my career and relationships.
Through years of working on this, healing the mother wound transformed my relationship with life in powerful ways that I did not expect. My approach to life dramatically changed from the predominant feeling of separation to viscerally experiencing my true unity with all life. It was a door to a deeper spiritual opening. That which I thought had been harmed and lost due to trauma, I discovered had never been harmed. I discovered my deeper, true identity as divine.
Over time, I realized that there are milestones on the path of healing the mother wound; certain steps that must be taken to truly heal it. Looking back on my own process and also combined with an enormous amount of research, I created a roadmap of the healing process so that other women could more easily take on this journey to their full selves.
It is now my deepest passion and desire to share with women the transformation that is possible by healing the mother wound, how the wound is not a black hole but a doorway into your greater Self.
CM: I have been estranged from my mother since I was 14. So I've been dealing with this for the past 20 years, and usually feel that I'm okay, that "I'm over it." However, when Mother's Day comes around every year, the pain comes back. I can't handle seeing grown-up daughters having brunch with their mothers- I feel so jealous. I long for my mother in these times, and wish I could know her again. My question for you is, how does one heal the mother wound when the broken relationship with one's mother can't be healed?
BETHANY: This is a powerful question. I also struggled with Mother's Day for years. I remember spending like an hour in the drugstore looking at the mother's day cards and feeling like I should send one, but none of the cards told the truth about what really happened in that relationship, they reinforced the myth of a perfect mother/daughter relationship and instilled shame because that wasn't the truth. There's no place in our culture to acknowledge the fact that there can be immense pain in the mother/daughter relationship. A powerful point in my healing journey was when I wasn't willing to live the lie anymore. And I wanted to be authentic in every area of my life, including the relationship with my mother. That commitment to what is real in myself and in my life has been the most trustworthy and life-giving force.
We all come from families where people have had to suppress the truth of their experience, to bury things under the rug, to deny their own observations and responses. Many people in our families, including our mothers, come from long lines of suppression and deprivation. To be committed to truth and healing can be very threatening to them and may cause backlash. Some families are not capable of accommodating a fully empowered daughter/woman and so a relationship is not possible. It's simply too threatening to their own wounds. The important thing here is to get support from people who DO get it and stay focused on your own healing, even in the face of rejection or backlash from your family. This can be an incredibly challenging experience and it can also be one of the most empowering experiences of your life. I wrote an article on this that went viral called "Navigating No-Contact: When Estrangement from Your Mother is the Healthiest Choice.”
I believe that estranged daughters like yourself are spiritual warriors! It's one of the hardest things to ever go through. And yet it has the potential to birth you into a powerful spiritual awakening. This really excites me and is why I like to call myself a midwife to women walking this path. This is a big wound and it offers big transformation on every level.
I think we live in a time where people are really craving what is real, in themselves and others. We're beginning to see there is no payoff for silence. The mother wound is just one of the taboos that needs to be brought into the light if we are to truly heal ourselves and this planet. I feel really excited about being a woman at this time in history, and meeting more men and women every day who are ready to do the work necessary to heal inter-generational wounds. If we can't embrace the pain of the child within ourselves, how can we embrace it in others? That is the inner sanctum, the most central, foundational place we must bring our compassion. As we do, our compassion flows out to others, to the earth and to all beings. I think this is the exciting evolutionary step that lies in the mother wound.
CM: Something that we really want to bring out into the light in Cordella Magazine are the stories which are passed down through the generations of women in a family. In my own family, there are many traumatic stories that have been buried so deep, there is only now a vague awareness of their impact on the individual lives and on the family as a whole. I feel the need to protect the women in my family who have gone through this trauma, but at the same time, because this trauma has been passed to me and caused insurmountable suffering in my own life, I also feel the need to uncover it, and bring it into the light, to find healing. I'm wondering, when one begins to heal one's own mother wound, if the wounds of the generations of women that have come before also begin to come into the light and be healed?
BETHANY: Absolutely. There is value and importance in facing the pain that has come through the generations of women. Often the secrecy, the lies and the denial is what has permitted abuse and trauma to continue unimpeded through the generations. A woman choosing to be conscious and heal herself is a powerful being. And for those unwilling to heal, she is also a feared being. And that is why support is so essential.
Looking deeper into our histories helps us to understand why things are the way they are so that we stop blaming ourselves. And it helps us have compassion for the actions of the wounded women in our mother lines who were unconscious and unaware. It empowers us to make new choices, to consciously choose a new path, a path to heal and grow beyond what our mothers and grandmothers experienced. I truly believe that as a woman heals her mother wound, energetic changes do happen in the lineage, going forward and backward. It's a healing journey that is sacred, mysterious and births us into our divine feminine potential. One could say that the process of healing the mother wound helps us become initiated into our own lives as sovereign women, conscious of our power, our potential and a sense of being unstoppable. These are the women we are being called to be, to also bring forward new ideas, solutions and transformation to our communities and the world at this time.
CM: How has your own process of healing the mother wound impacted your professional work in the world- in coaching, writing, relationships, ambitions and successes?
BETHANY: The process of healing the mother wound has enhanced my life in every way. Through the process, I've gained greater access to my truth, my vision, and an unshakeable confidence that comes from having faced my greatest pain. It's as though the wound has transformed from a source of depletion and pain into a source of vibrant creativity and wisdom, from which I can feel my potential continually expand into reality. It's like a constant shedding down to what is most real and most true, and then expressing myself boldly from that place, knowing that my primary source of safety is within. My relationships, my writing and my work now all feel deeply in alignment with this, reflecting back to me the level of self-love I have come to feel inside. Life has become more and more about play, connection, joy and freedom. I realize that my success in the world rests on how honestly and lovingly I face myself. Everything I teach I have gone through first myself. I go through a new layer of my own healing, integrate and metabolize it and then share it with the world through my writing. By seeing the response around the world to my work, I know that I can trust my process to guide me. I can trust the depths of my own experience because it always delivers me to new insights, new shifts, and an ever-growing capacity for compassion and joy.
CM: Your work seems to go beyond the personal healing of the individual, and out into the collective healing of women & girls around the world. You travel extensively leading retreats and workshops with women. Could you tell us a bit about these retreats?
BETHANY: Yes! I do one-day workshops around the world mostly in Europe and some in the U.S. I've been to the UK, Spain, Greece, Hungary, and Slovenia among others. This year I am going to Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and London. I've had many invitations to give longer retreats and am planning some now. For example, I am in talks now with someone in Bali who would like to assist me in organizing a week-long retreat. It's amazing to see the universality of the mother wound, how it is present in almost every culture. It's inspiring to see women around the world ready to do the work and heal this. It's incredible.
CM: What is your vision for the future of your work?
BETHANY: I think this is a potent time where people are realizing that ignoring the pain of our childhoods perpetuates inter-generational wounding and the answer is to consciously embark on a healing journey. I'd love my work to be instrumental in breaking down the stigma around the mother wound so that mothers and daughters can feel both empowered as individuals AND deeply connected in their hearts; to no longer feel a scarcity of personal power between them, but an abundance of space for both to be heard, loved, understood and seen in their magnificence. I think collectively, as women learn to love themselves the world will shift to be more loving and honoring of women.
My vision for the future of my work is to have hundreds of thousands of women do my signature course on healing the mother wound. I'd love to write several books, and to perhaps expand my work to also include men in healing their mother wound. I know this is my life's work and I'm deeply committed to following this journey to where it leads me. I'm very excited and deeply grateful for the work I am doing.
CM: As I've been ruminating on the role of the mother wound in my own life, I've realized that it has greatly inhibited my abilities to receive love from others. Could you leave us with just a few tips on receiving love, and on cultivating self-love?
BETHANY: Yes. The mother wound does tend to have the affect of limiting our ability to receive love. The reason why is because we will limit our capacity for love to the degree we felt un-loved by our mothers. There is turbulence at the horizons of accepting more love because it shakes our early foundations around our worth and what is possible. It offers a magnificent opportunity to expand our ability to receive love. What I've found is that the place we must go to expand that capacity is tending to the inner child who learned she was un-loveable at some point in the past. The answer is to help her feel her loveable-ness and safety in being loved for who she is. No outer person can convince us we are worthy of great love if this child is un-convinced. The greater love cannot truly reach us if we haven't sufficiently mourned the ways we felt un-loved. Often this involves much grief that we must approach with tenderness and empathy. I have found that a greatly expanded kind of romantic partnership can emerge as we cross the threshold of feeling deeply worthy of that love as a result of doing the work of loving that child until she can feel it in her bones that it is truth. Then, no lesser love will do. The outer love that appears then reflects that immense love we have learned to give ourselves within. A tip I would give is to talk lovingly to your inner child each day. In the moments when you feel un-loveable, instead of berating yourself, take an action that demonstrates an offering of unconditional love for yourself. Do this consistently and the child within you will, with time and practice, take in on a deep level that she is loveable even in her messiness, her mistakes and confusion. Receiving is a kind of skill that we have to learn with time, with practice and with deep tending to that magical child within us.
Bethany Webster is a writer, transformational coach, international speaker and what you could call a "midwife of the heart." Her work is focused on helping women heal the mother wound so that they can fully claim their brilliance, own their power and live as their authentic selves. Her work has appeared in Elephant Journal and The California Journal of Women Writers. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Healing the Mother Wound: Move Beyond What Your Mother Never Gave You and Become the Woman You're Meant to Be." Read more about Bethany's work on her powerful blog, womboflight.com.