What Do We Actually Need To Heal?
Due to our brain’s incredibly smart defense mechanisms, we are not necessarily fully aware that we all need healing, let alone what needs healing. Many of us even think that our childhood was great since we were never sexually, physically or emotionally abused. In fact, our parents did a great job with taking care of us. Unfortunately, you would not believe the percentage of clients who start our work saying that they had a great childhood, only to later find out that that was not exactly how it went and that they too suffer from the psychological Mother Wound.
Why we see it for something better than it really is has two major reasons. For one we easily believe that only “obvious” and horrible childhood trauma would result in and justify suffering and explain mental health problems. Reason number two is denial and repression being at full work to protect us from emotional upheaval (thank you brain for doing your job!).
No matter how well intended our brain is, remaining unaware of our pain and wounding does not help us free ourselves from those wounds, become the most expanded glorious version of ourselves and form healthy secure relationships. It’s not our fault though, because we can’t possibly know what’s not revealed to us but lies hidden under the veil of defense and repression. If we lift the veil and allow the painful feelings and memories buried in our subconscious to surface, we would come in contact with the very thing we need to heal.
Apart from “obvious” trauma we have talked about above, however, there is another extremely underestimated form of trauma that is not given the same attention or awareness. This form of trauma brings countless negative consequences to our adult life and is responsible for creating millions of what Arthur Janov, Founder of Primal Therapy, refers to as “normal neurotics”. It might sound harmless, but actually it isn’t. The trauma we are talking about is the gut-wrenching pain connected to what we call;
The early absence of secure love, resulting in the psychological Mother Wound.
The Psychological Mother Wound
Let’s first distinguish the psychological Mother Wound from the term Mother Wound as defined by Bethany Webster. Webster says “the Mother Wound is the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures” She goes on saying “in our patriarchal, male-dominated culture, women are conditioned to think of themselves as less-than and not deserving or worthy.
This feeling of less-than has been internalized and passed down to countless generations of women.” Although this being an important concept for all women out there, the psychological Mother Wound is something different and not gender specific. It has affected pretty much every human being on this planet in one way or another.
Although this being an important concept for all women out there, the psychological Mother Wound is something different and not gender-specific. It has affected pretty much every human being on this planet in one way or another.
With the term early absence of secure love, we refer to both parents providing or not providing secure love and emotional attunement to the child, especially during the early ages from around 1 to 7 years of age. Click To Tweet
The Early Absence Of Secure Love
With the term early absence of secure love, we refer to both parents providing or not providing secure love and emotional attunement to the child, especially during the early ages from around 1 to 7 years of age. We long know that those early childhood experiences fundamentally shape the brain of a child. Data from Harvard University confirms that the brain develops rapidly during the first years of life. Already one million neural connections are formed every minute before children turn three years old and these links become the brain’s mapping system.
Hilary Jacobs Hendel, a psychotherapist specializing in Trauma & Attachment, says “Neural connections are like the roots of a tree, the foundation from which all growth occurs”. One of our favorite child & adolescence psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Dr. Bruce Perry, even says that the very first year of life is crucial as the brain is most sensitive and most rapidly growing. He goes on saying that the brain reflects the world you grew up in. If that world is relationally impoverished, if people are not really talking with each other or are present with each other, you won’t get adequate stimulation of the parts in your brain involved in forming and maintaining healthy relationships and you will be fundamentally self-absorbed.” So, a loved brain is hugely different also when it comes to the ability to build the seed of resilience later on in life.
But What About Father?
When we emphasize on the psychological Mother Wound you might ask yourself, but what about father? Of course, father plays an important role in those first seven years as well and there is such a thing as the psychological father wound as well. However, we know that our relationship with our mother is the most primary and foundational relationship in our life. We need to understand that her mothering had a huge impact on how we learn to trust ourselves, others and life as well as on how worthy we feel.
If we look at Margaret Mahler’s separation-individuation theory (she was a central figure on the world stage of psychoanalysis), we learn that for the first 9 months we are not even a separate entity. We are in a symbiotic bonding with mother where the child is aware of his mother but there is no sense of individuality. For a long time as children we are fully dependent on mother to meet our emotional and physical needs to ensure (emotional and physical) survival. The child needs his or her mother without a doubt more than his or her father in the first couple of years as she provides the necessary nurturing for the child to feel safe, trust and develop a sense of worthiness.
What Does Secure Love Actually Mean?
When we are born, we are little beings, full of needs, and we are fully dependent on someone else taking care of us. We need to be fed, dressed, bathed, put to sleep, and kept safe, but, most importantly, besides the obvious needs for food, shelter, and safety, we need to be securely loved, positively mirrored and our caretakers need to be emotionally attuned to us. We need to be held, cuddled, loved, seen, validated, paid attention to, touched, looked at, talked to, and respectedin our feelings.
In other words, our most prominent emotional developmental needs were:
- to be loved when and how we needed to be loved &
- to be acknowledged, seen and validated in our being and feelings
If these needs were not met the moment, we needed them to be met in a consistent matter, meaning if we were not consistently loved when & how we needed it, we were in deep pain.
Not only have we (Aleah & Dan) experienced those feelings in our own process, but we observed it with our clients too. We, as well as our clients, have consciously «gone back there», feeling the pain of not feeling loved and cared for and it allowed us to conclude the grieving process that brings deep lasting healing.
A Sad Truth
If proper attachment doesn’t happen, we internalize a kind of toxic shame and it affects our self-esteem in our adult life. It can actually result in a huge fear of abandonment and an underlying subconscious fear of intimacy.
Another thing that was truly missing for many of us is emotional support where we were helped in dealing with what we were feeling. Unfortunately, many of our parents have not learned that themselves which is why they did not know either how to deal with their children’s emotions in a healthy and constructive way. As a result, we often felt completely invalidated. The simple question of “how are you feeling today? Tell me all about it”, allowing us to share our feelings, our pain, frustrations, anger, sadness or maybe insecurities for as long as we need to, and in the way we need to express it, was pretty much unavailable to many of us.
Most of us never had anywhere to go with our feelings. This lack of emotional support and attunement often created a deep feeling of loneliness and isolation because we are left to ourselves with what we were feeling and therefore carried those feelings resulting in emotional suffering.
Negative Consequences Of The Early Absence Of Love
The early absence of secure love has brought a myriad of negative consequences in our life. We talk about all of this much more in our work and in our upcoming book that will be released spring/summer 2021. However, involuntary act/outs, fears, dysfunctional attachment styles, loneliness and isolation, tolerating abuse, low self/esteem, self/abandonment and self/harm, mental health problems, feeling lost, depression and anxiety are only an overview of what the early absence of secure love does to us.
In one way or another we have all experienced a lack of secure love and it truly led to a huge universal trauma resulting in a humanity full of “normal neurotics”.
If we want to heal, we need to break denial and stop repressing our feelings, and instead become comfortable with emotional discomfort. There is as much beauty in our pain as there is in our happiness (even if that is hard to accept and difficult to imagine at this point).
Don´t hesitate to contact us if you are ready to start your own healing journey. We are excited to hear from you.
Aleah Ava & Dan Hart,
Founders of The Royal Path