Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Let's separate the facts from fiction. What's true about the mother wound and what isn't? Read this quick list to find out.
1. "Someone's mom needs to be a narcissist or have narcissist personality disorder for them to have the mother wound."
This one is a really big nope. It is also perhaps the single biggest myth about the mother wound currently floating around out there.
The truth: A mom does not need to qualify as having narcissistic personality disorder (often referred to as NPD) for her child to develop the mother wound.
The why: The mother wound happens when a mother acts (or fails to act) in ways that cause her child pain and/or trauma that then negatively impacts their wellbeing. While it is certainly true that a mother who has narcissistic personality disorder can indeed cause her child to have the mother wound, the same can also be said for mothers who do not have the disorder.
Narcissistic personality disorder, like anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, is a mental health diagnosis found in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) and used by therapists and other mental health professionals to provide direct treatment.
In short, it’s a label. And as you already know, sometimes labels are super helpful and sometimes they can be used to needlessly overcomplicate things.
Think of it this way: You and a friend are walking into work - you own a plant shop downtown together - when you notice that a lamppost outside your storefront has been crashed into by a vehicle. The glass is shattered on the ground, the paint is all scraped up, and the post as a whole is bent way over to one side.
You know your customers use the light from this lamppost to come and go from your plant shop every evening. You put a call into the city to let them know about the damaged lamppost.
How do you want them to go about handling the situation?
A) Respond to you by saying, “But we don’t know if the lamppost is actually damaged or needs to be repaired yet. What’s important here is determining the make and model of the vehicle that crashed into it. If after all of our research the vehicle in question turns out to be an ABCXYZ vehicle, then we’ll agree with you that the lamppost is indeed damaged and in need of repair. We’ll get back to you in several weeks. Have a nice day!”
B) Respond to you by saying, “Thank you for letting us know about the damaged lamppost. We’ll send someone out later today to repair it. Have a nice day!”
You know where this is going, don’t you?
When someone is hurt by their mom, what’s important is that their pain is taken seriously and that they get the help they need to heal and recover. The time and energy someone spends trying to “figure out” their mom (whether it’s online in “Narcissistic Mom” groups, reading “Narcissistic Abuse” books and blogs, or by seeing inexperienced and even unethical therapists, is ultimately time and energy that they are not spending on what really matters: accepting their authentic feelings about their mom and the realities of their mother wound so they can get better and move forward in their lives.
TLDR: Your pain is valid. You deserve to recover. Don’t get lost in the labels.
2. “Only daughters can have the mother wound.”
This myth has been around for a really long time, and it has likely stuck around as long as it has because some mother wound bloggers have continued to focus on adult daughters who have the mother wound, which unfortunately leaves everyone else out.
The truth: Anyone can have the mother wound regardless of their gender. That means men can have it, sons can have it, women can have it, non-binary people can have it, etc. The mother wound truly does not discriminate.
The why: After more than a decade of seeing mother wound clients in individual, family, couples, and group sessions and now serving as the Executive Director of the Mother Wound Project, the world's largest organization supporting mother wound survivors and their families, I know that not only are daughters not the only ones to have the mother wound, they aren’t the overwhelming majority either.
It really all comes down to simple statistics. Mothers have children. No more than 50% of those children are daughters. And the children who aren’t daughters matter, too.
TLDR: Gender doesn’t determine the mother wound. A mother’s actions and inactions do.
3. “If it wasn’t illegal it can’t cause the mother wound.”
Laws have come and gone since humans began living together in larger and ever-growing groups. What was illegal 100 years ago might be legal today, and what’s illegal in one part of the world might be legal in another at the exact same moment.
The myth that laws can prevent the mother wound is certainly a pleasant one, but it’s completely unfounded.
The truth: Something doesn’t need to be recognized by the law as illegal for it to register as painful and/or traumatic for the person who experienced it. This is true for the mother wound and for countless other things as well. The law doesn’t say what is and isn’t harmful. It says what is and isn’t legal. Big difference!
Think of it this way: Before 1920 it was perfectly legal for men to hit their wives in the United States. In 1920 the law was changed and it became illegal for men to hit their wives.
Does that mean that a woman who was hit by her husband in 1919 before the law changed couldn’t possibly have been harmed by it, but when the same man decided to break the law and hit her in 1920 suddenly she was hurt by being hit by him?
Absolutely not! The same is true for people who have been hurt by their moms.
Pain doesn’t check in with the law to validate its existence. It either exists or it doesn’t. And as much as we all would like the laws to be sufficient, the fact of the matter is that they just aren’t.
TLDR: Listen to your own heart. The law doesn’t know you better than you do.