Inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
You spend your whole life wearing the wound, thinking it’s a part of your identity. You don’t question it. You think that that’s just how you are — flawed, broken, and incomplete. That something is wrong with you. That it is your fault no one treated you the way you wanted to be treated. That it is your fault your father didn’t love you the way you needed to be loved. That it is your fault that no one saw you. That it is your fault, because you were bad, that he didn’t love you. And then one day you realize that it was actually a lie. That it wasn’t because of you at all. That all of the stories you built up in your head had nothing to do with your ineptness as a human being — but with someone else’s inability to make a gesture known and felt. His/her own inability to give what was most likely never given to him/her — a sense of love, warmth, encouragement, guidance, and comfort.
No one tries to traumatize you. It happens through carelessness, ignorance, and neglect. If no one is intentionally trying to hurt you, and then you end up feeling hurt, how do you proceed from there? How do you just wake up one day and forgive all the pain that was a misunderstanding? All the pain that shouldn’t have hung over your life like a dark cloud. Just letting that smoke dissipate and trying to find the sunlight again.
The thing about unmothered children is that it makes them stay too long in places they hate. It makes them fear for their lives and make themselves smaller. It makes them say yes when they want to say no. It makes them hide in the dungeons and caverns so no one will see them, because, God forbid, if anyone were to ever see or hear them they would be picked apart whole and eaten alive. The flies would land on their skin and consume their very flesh. This is the woe of the unmothered child. Chained to isolation out of shame and fear of abandonment. Chained to the table that no longer serves love.
The unmothered child has a story to tell. It does not come out all at once — and certainly not when anyone else commands it to. It takes more than that. It takes more space and more quiet and less involvement with the outside world. The unmothered child has wonders in the mind and mouth, waiting to spill out onto the page.
We should treat the unmothered child with the greatest care and concern, for she (or he) is returning to herself. She is coming home after being scared out of her skin. The hardest part for her is waking up to the reality that she’s been gone for so long. And then there is a grieving process that takes place from there — that may or may not be small at all. Who’s to say? But one thing is for sure — the unmothered child is strong. An incessant, unending fire burns deep under her skin. It may not look like it to the outside world, but inside, she is preparing. Her bones are thickening. Her words are widening. Her tongue is sharpening. Her thoughts are emptying, and her breath is deepening. She is brought to the earth again and again to bring out the pain of centuries. Extract it like a bulb from the earth’s dirty soil. She digs on and on. Trying to uproot this trauma that’s taken her so far back into the catacombs of her mind and her mother’s mind and her father’s mind and her ancestors’ minds. So much time spent denying it and disowning it now gone into unraveling it.
The unmothered child needs time to shed layers and release the toxic shame that keeps her fused to the wound.
The unmothered child has grown up without guidance. She has grown up under the perceived care of “adults” who appeared to be normal when in reality they were completely emotionally numb and bereft of any depth.
She gives her yes too easily and her no too abruptly. She was never seen for who she really was. She was never allowed to be free or be heard or seen. Instead, she was ridiculed, always constantly watched and berated. The unmothered child had no role models. All she saw were people she didn’t want to be like. People she swore she’d never turn into.
She develops her own insight behind the scenes — when everyone else thinks she’s mute or doesn’t have much to say — she’s actually digesting thoughts and feelings. Trading fact for fiction. Swapping out wounds for remedies of her own making. Sewing herself together again, stitch by stitch, the way that no one taught her. This is the unmothered child’s work — to learn how to return to herself and make it safe to do so. And so she gathers up all her energy and begins her journey, not because anyone’s told her to — but because she knows it’s time.