Reading Discovering the Inner Mother (DTIM) has been a transformational experience. It is one of the most profound self-help books I have read in a long time and I would recommend it to anybody who does not feel able to fully express themselves or is questioning the society we live in.
I was fortunate enough to read the book at the same time as a dear friend and we spoke weekly to talk through the questions at the end of each chapter. We both experienced huge revelations, recognising unhealthy beliefs and behaviours we had not previously been aware of and identifying how these habits had stemmed from our childhood experiences. Working through the book with somebody and being able to air our thoughts and feelings was an extremely vulnerable and healing process. The book bought up many uncomfortable feelings, namely anger and sometimes sadness. But as explained in the book, this is part of the healing process, and through processing these feelings you are effectively releasing them from the body. DTIM does seem to be aimed more at women and their relationships with their mothers, however, it does include references to the patriarchal society that we live in and the effect this has on all of us. Some of the examples Webster lists as ‘corrosive principles’ of our patriarchal society include:
- Normalizing the suppression of feelings
- Feeling shame for resting or slowing down
- Looking down upon whatever is perceived as feminine
- Objectification; not seeing people as people
- Holding the racist belief that ‘white is right’
- Holding the belief that heterosexuality is the norm and ideal
Although I previously agreed with the feminist movement and respected people who are working to promote women’s rights, I had not previously appreciated how the suppression of the feminine had impacted my life. This book has greatly improved my awareness and understanding on the importance of the feminine, what this means in our day-to-day lives and why we must work on ourselves to incorporate and be proud of our feminine nature. Something that is greatly suppressed both in the corporate world and by attitudes in today’s society.
My key takeaways from the book included:
- Trauma is intergenerational and is passed down from your parents. The ways your parents were raised, the traumas they experienced, will impact your upbringing and consequent beliefs and behaviours. For my parents, one grew up in a physically abusive household and the other where emotions were not allowed to be expressed. Although I have not directly been impacted by these forms of abuse, the impact on my parents has definitely shaped my feelings and behaviours on safety and self-expression.
- It is okay to separate how hard your parents tried and any negative beliefs or behaviours you have picked up from childhood. All parents have done the best the job they could with the tools, knowledge and coping mechanisms they had at the time. The book is not about blaming your parents for limiting self-beliefs, but about accepting that the way your parents were raised has shaped how they raised you. And if this was negative in anyway, it is not your parents fault. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that even though your parents tried their best, you can still have suffered negatively as a result of their behaviours and actions. DTIM bought up some painful memories and experiences where my parents acted in a less than ideal way, and this subsequently made me feel angry at the person they were in that moment. Fortunately, however, these feelings have not transferred over into my current interactions with my parents and has instead increased my understanding for their behaviours and patterns.
- Learning to feel emotions and listen to my inner voice. Like many people who experienced some level of trauma in their childhoods, I learnt to cope and avoid the pain by spending most of the time in my head, rather than in my body. As explained in the book, this habit of avoiding difficult emotions is often more damaging to the sense of self than feeling the emotions themselves. As a result we learn not to trust our intuition and to over-analyse, which means we don’t really know who we are at the core. DTIM teaches the importance of feeling these difficult emotions and learning to self-soothe, cultivating an inner mother who is loving, reliable, provides a sense of safety and is not dependent on the actions of anybody but yourself.
Criticism: My only concern when reading this book was that Webster states it is impossible to do the healing without a therapist, and that she was in therapy for seventeen years. For many people, I imagine that financially this would prove to be a barrier to healing, so I would be keen to hear any alternative thoughts she has on self-healing or on how to create a friendship group to facilitate the healing process.
That said, I finished the book feeling incredibly empowered and ready to re-approach my life in way that felt more aligned with who I am. This includes setting boundaries in certain relationships, working on expressing true emotions and spending more time with my feelings. If possible, I would really recommend sharing this book with a friend as I think talking about the feelings that come up makes it easier to understand and process the relevant emotions. If that is not possible, I believe this book would still be a powerful tool to identify causes of sadness and limiting behaviours for most people.