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5 Mother Wound Red Flags

Updated: Mar 27

“We all know the ways in which maternal care and concern can turn into authoritarian control.” - Adrienne Rich

woman laying on bed

No two mother wounds are exactly alike. What results in the mother wound for one person won’t necessarily result in the mother wound for another.

Trauma expert Peter Levine puts it astutely by saying, “When it comes to trauma, no two people are exactly alike.” One person’s experiences with their mom will never completely match someone else’s experiences with their mom—this is true even when that other person is a biological sibling. Having said that, what I have learned from my more than a decade’s worth of study on the mother wound, as well as my work with hundreds of mother wound counseling clients is that there are several red flags that can pretty accurately point to one’s experiences with their mom crossing over from a healthy mother-child relationship into the mother wound.

In this blog post I’m sharing five of these red flags with you. Please keep in mind that this article is not meant to serve as a substitute for a relationship with a mother wound specialist or any other mental health professional. If you or someone you care about is in need of help for the mother wound, I encourage you to reach out to a professional for support.

1. She Used Physical Punishment

There is no way for a mother to physically punish a child "gently" or "kindly." Physical punishment does not need to leave a visible wound or scar to be deeply damaging. If your mom hit you, spanked you, slapped you, smacked you, etc. you experienced not only physical pain, but emotional pain, too. Like all children you needed to see your mom as good because you relied on her to care for and nurture you. This is why children who are hit by their moms internalize this treatment. This can sound like, "I must be so bad that I deserve to be hurt when I make a mistake," or "Mom hurts me because I'm not lovable."

2. She Rarely if Ever Apologizes

Genuine apologies are necessary in healthy relationships. Mother-child relationships are no different. This is true regardless of how perfect your mother might think she is and how young or old you were at the time. If your mother regularly failed to apologize to you chances are you learned to blame yourself for mistakes that weren't even yours in the first place.

3. She Doesn't Take Your Feelings Seriously

Your feelings matter. They have always mattered. This is true even if your mother doesn't take them seriously. When a mother dismisses, ignores or shuts down her child's feelings, she is sending a loud and clear message of "How you feel doesn't matter." If your mother shamed you for your feelings as a child, you might find yourself struggling to accept and be with your feelings as an adult.

4. She Made Negative Body Comments

For many people who have the mother wound the very first person to ever say something unkind about the size or shape of their body was their very own mother. Well-intentioned or not, these comments can erode away not only your comfort in your own skin, but your sense of self-worth as well. And they can create the foundation on which decades worth of body image issues and eating disorders are built.

5. She Consistently Makes Things About Her

Moms who cause the mother wound often center themselves. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • "I can't believe you're upset after all I've done for you!"

  • "If you get a divorce think about how bad that will make me look!"

  • "Moving for your job?! But when am I going to get to see you?"

  • "You need to have kids because I need to be a grandma!"

  • "I won't be happy on Christmas if you don't come to church with me."

Are you someone who wants to take your mother wound healing journey to the next level? Come join the conversation, learn more about the mother wound, and receive compassionate support in our now 100% free private mother wound healing community over in The Porch. Interested in keeping up with the latest Mother Wound Project news? Follow us on Instagram.


Meet Reclaim!

Stephi Wagner, MSW's 60-day mother wound healing journal is here! If you like what Stephi shares on Instagram, you won't want to miss this. Mother wound recovery here you come!

reclaim - 60-day mother wound journal


Learn about how the Mother Wound Project can help with 1:1 support.

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