Your Own Childhood Can Stop You From Feeling Joy In Motherhood

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Image via Ana Joanes

‘Wrestling Ghosts’ is an honest, open look at how childhood trauma can affect our own parenting – and what to do about it

There’s so much to learn about parenting that you can really only learn once you have kids. But for millions of parents, becoming a parent also necessarily means reflecting on your own childhood. And if your childhood was traumatic, parenting can be overwhelming, scary, and painful until you you can process your past and look toward the future.

In a new, brutally honest and breathtaking documentary, Wrestling Ghosts, director Ana Joanes follows one mom over five years as she struggles to make peace with her past so that she can be present for her kids and her partner.

The film, which was a final selection for the Doc NYC film festival and L.A. Film Festival, and  now available for rent on Vimeo, focuses on a young family of four that’s struggling, mostly because the mom, Kim, can’t seem to function as a parent, even though she desperately wants to connect with her sons and husband. When she tries to break through by processing her childhood trauma, she bravely sets out on a journey of healing, for the sake of her and her family’s future.

“So many of my friends say, How much do you love hanging out with your kids? And I don’t feel that,” Kim admits during an early counseling session.

It’s one of the first sessions of many where she begins to come to terms with her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — and to find a way forward.

Image via Ana Joanes

The director was inspired to make the film after becoming a mom herself – and realizing that there was a lot more to parenting than just the day to day.

“When my oldest was about one and a half, I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and didn’t have even a framework about how to raise kids,” she told Scary Mommy. “I asked a friend for recommendations on books and she gave me a few names. The shortest one was called Parenting from Your Heart by Inbal Kashtan and I read it in one sitting. It really spoke to me. It focused on recognizing that parenting is mostly about parenting yourself and learning what’s going on with you.”

The book led her on a long path of healing and learning that involved meditation, mindfulness, modeling, and a lot of coaching and counseling, regarding her inner journey, her marriage, and her role as a parent. Nonviolent communication, a mindful communication process, helped her heal her own childhood trauma and move forward.

“[Nonviolent communication help me with] my relationship with myself and that became a journey into my childhood and my inner child,” she told Scary Mommy. “The process was really so powerful and positive that I felt an urge to share with the world.” 

As her documentary took shape, it came to focus on Kim and Matt, a young couple that was struggling to survive because Kim had trouble engaging with her kids – and she wasn’t sure why.

“We ended up shooting for almost five years (on and off),” Joanes told Scary Mommy. “As time passed, the process got deeper and the inner work lead us to learn about the impact of childhood stress on our nervous system and to learn of other healing practices and that became a big part of the movie. At its core though, the movie is about the universality of suffering – isolation and shame is often the more damaging aspect of our suffering – the power of compassion, and about showing that healing is possible and what it looks like.” 

Image via Ana Joanes

“[The] biggest takeaways I think for most people is, I’m not alone in my suffering, and If she can do it, I can too,” Joanes said. “Just building a sense of compassion for their loved one or themselves for the way their childhood impacted them.” 

You can rent Wrestling Ghosts on Vimeo for $15 for 24 hours. You can use this promo code  WG40Discount for 40% off until April 9. The Wrestling Ghosts site also provides some wonderful resources for you to begin your own healing.