Heal The Mother Wound: Shelly Sharon
My first marriage was to Mr. Perfect.
Mr. Perfect was an Italian with dusky southern looks—olive skin, green twinkling eyes and a thick mop of flowing brown hair. Tall and robust, he moved through space with assurance. I imagined how easily and gracefully he would catch me if I fell.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle:
Not long after I caught his eye on an evening maths course, he took me out on a date. Soon I was spending most of my nights at his place. I had a spot on his bedroom floor for some bags of clothes. Shortly after that, we were having conversations with his parents about buying a house. Four years later, we got married. “You have everything,” my then-best friend told me as I cooked us lunch in the house I had with Mr. Perfect.
“While on the outside Mr. Perfect and I looked like the dream couple, I was suffering.”
Did she mean the cute little garden I had just planted out with Chinese oranges and herbs? Or was it that we had a car, a scooter for me and an off- road motorcycle for him on which he would take me away for weekend trips and holidays, events and parties? Or was it his stable, loving, ever-present parents— something I did not have?
Back then, I couldn’t have said. Because her comment came in response to my first, hesitant sharing with her that I wasn’t happy… I was confused!
When Confusion Is A Gate:
While on the outside Mr. Perfect and I looked like the dream couple, I was suffering. In all my feminine-ignorant years, I was never happier than to get my monthly menstruation – while Mr. Perfect mourned the loss of his precious seed. I just wasn’t ready to be a mum.
Mr. Perfect was not happy at all with my dreams of a career, of progressing to a Master’s once my Bachelor’s was finished. I kept it a secret when I finally started going to therapy because I knew what he thought about therapy and those who went to it. The contrast between the life I had and all the stability and predictability I missed from my childhood started to run its course to its logical conclusion.
The more confused I became the louder my inner voice became. The biggest threat to my life was being like my mum, in one way it meant being divorced. It just didn’t feel safe enough to not be married to a Mr. Perfect when my identity was glued to him with the stickiness of my mother wound. My life wasn’t in danger but for my inner world, a divorce meant annihilation.
I wanted to be me but I had no idea what it meant, or how to pursue it, I had no resources to guide me. To everyone else, I was living a fairy tale. Only years later, I came to see it and call it by its true name: I was a Sleeping Beauty.
“Feeling safe, however, has little to do with any of these scenarios.”
What It Means To Feel Safe:
In my previous article, ’No mother is perfect, right?!’, I named the three universal needs of motherhood and how we understand the mother wound through them— guidance, safety and nourishment.
Of these three, safety is probably the most confusing one. Most of us are trained to understand ‘safety’ through very dramatic, sensationalist lenses. We measure ‘feeling safe’ only as having no food or roof above our heads. If our country is not at war then we deem it irrelevant. In the absence of a major life crisis such as the loss of a job or a long-term relationship, we say “There are people who have it worse.”
Sleeping Beauty Is A Story Of Transformation:
Feeling safe, however, has little to do with any of these scenarios. In principle, it’s not a matter of voluntarily, rationally deciding whether we feel safe or not. The Sleeping Beauty archetype helps us understand what feeling safe actually means, especially for a woman. While the overculture portrays Sleeping Beauty as a young woman who needs saving by a Mr. Perfect, the archetype she stands for cannot be corrupted.
Feeling safe is a deep inner state, informed by our nervous system and our emotional body. When we don’t feel safe, a part of us “falls asleep”. It’s the part in us that perceives an emotional or psychological threat if it were to be expressed or explored.
Didn’t Feel Safe Enough:
Think of the times you didn’t feel safe enough to simply be happy because you were concerned about something that might ruin it for you. You probably felt the need to tone down your happiness, or even mute it altogether. Or occasions when you were reluctant to share good news lest someone darken your moment with jealousy, envy, or the usual dose of criticism and cynicism. Most likely, you felt the need to conceal it and “put it to sleep” for a time.
Sleeping Beauty is a story of transformation from a young naïve girl to a full and fertile woman. As an archetype, it symbolises the many transitions of a woman’s life, a spiral movement of awakening and an ever-growing presence of safety for herself and her community. “Sleeping” is a woman’s road to maturing
We All Go Through A Sleeping Beauty Phase:
When we feel safe we experience it as a form of confidence in being ourselves. We may feel safe through a fundamental sense of enough-ness or belonging.
We experience the core of feeling safe through the capacity to move beyond our “comfort zone” and show up with sincere listening to the heart’s needs. When we’re not feeling safe, on the other hand, a part in us goes numb. It’s a part-biological, part-spiritual, part-emotional, part-energetic process.
“When we feel safe we experience it as a form of confidence in being ourselves.”
“A man sees sleep as a defeat or a lost opportunity for heroism” writes Joan Gould in her book about exploring the ever-green wisdom of fairy tales. “Sleeping Beauty” she continues, is a woman “for whom transformation carries a sting she has to absorb.”
Women withdraw inwardly, especially when life outside says, “Don’t be different”. The princess in the story falls asleep when she breaks the rules and wants something she wasn’t allowed to want! We all go through a Sleeping Beauty phase multiple times during the course of our lives.
Women who’ve had a challenging relationship with their mother learn from a very young age to hide the part of themselves that doesn’t feel safe to simply be: to be ebullient, extroverted or bold; to be sensitive, dreamy or intuitive; to be career-driven or open-hearted.
Our Numb Parts Don’t Lose Their Wisdom:
Putting feeling safe into perspective leads many women to realise how, or indeed remember that, they didn’t feel safe with their mothers.
As daughters, many women have experienced constant criticism, doubting, belittling, not being taken seriously or listened to, marginalising or being openly mocked. Little wonder they are unable to feel safe to be who they are with their mothers. In such circumstances, something in them must go into a form of hibernation in order to satisfy other survival needs.
Other women needed always to be on their guard for the next unexpected twist, to be their mother’s saviour, or to learn at a very young age how to become responsible for their own needs due to the physical, emotional or energetic absence of their mothers. It wasn’t safe to be a girl who needed protection rather than taking responsibility over others.
“We’ve all had our version of Mr. Perfect, and I’m aware that my allegory can lead me now into a trap if you read ‘perfect’ to mean some easy, comfortable life situation.”
In psychology, the process of silencing, numbing, muting, or forgetting parts within ourselves is called ‘normalisation’. Normalisation affords us an important and beautiful truth: Not able to wake into your fullness now? Don’t worry! Your inner gifts, your cosmic inherited treasures will wait inside you until you’re ready, no matter how old you are!
Who Is Mr. Perfect:
We’ve all had our version of Mr. Perfect, and I’m aware that my allegory can lead me now into a trap if you read ‘perfect’ to mean some easy, comfortable life situation.
As for the first of the three pillars of motherhood mentioned above, ‘guidance’ (which I explore in my previous article through the notion of the ‘good enough mother’), ‘perfect’ means a bit of ease mixed with a bit of frustration, measured to the extent that makes sure we don’t fall asleep but don’t become traumatised either.
It’s just enough to move us towards change. I’ve had many gates like Mr. Perfect throughout my life. Each time they awaken me into a different manifestation of my fullness. Sometimes it was indeed through relationships, intimate or others. But there were also “perfect” livelihoods or career paths, “perfect” teachers, “perfect” homes, “perfect” travels, “perfect” ideas and dreams and many more.
Sleep Is A Crucial Need:
“The “sleepy” part of you is already beautiful. You already have it. It needs only to learn how to feel safe so it can be infused with the serum of action.”
Sleep is a crucial need that affords us creativity, relaxation, and assimilation. The beautiful part of you that wants to be more courageous, to find the right partner or friendship, to start a new career in her second phase of life, to feel enough, to say what she wants to say, to be successful—needs to feel safe to become activated.
Activation is the masculine principle which enters Sleeping Beauty’s life when her soul is ready. The “sleepy” part of you is already beautiful. You already have it. It needs only to learn how to feel safe so it can be infused with the serum of action.
Just as Sleeping Beauty wakes up to a world of possibilities when she wakes up, so do women who apply themselves to healing the mother wound. No matter how old you are or what has happened in your past, feeling safe is something we can learn at any moment. Guidance and safety are two of the three elements of healing the mother wound. In the next and last part of this article, I’ll explore the third element, nourishment.
About the Author:
Shelly is a therapeutic coach specializing in healing the mother wound. She helps women who want to move beyond the negative impact of a challenging relationship with their mum in order to find deeper levels of healing and become un-limited in their personal or professional lives.
Shelly’s had a rich and diverse career path, from being a ballet dancer, a computer programmer, a gourmet chef running her own catering business to being a successful, sought-after effective social change consultant implementing her own method of mindfulness-based strategic planning.