‘Good enough mothering’ is important for the psychological and physical well-being of a growing human being. A nurturing, caring and psychologically present mother person (not necessarily the biological mother) during infancy and early childhood is a keystone of optimal adult human health.
But what if the mother figure is either emotionally, physically, or psychologically absent?
The mother’s impact on her children can be enlivening or deadening as reflected in the positive and negative mother complexes. “The negative mother complex can include self-alienation… It adversely affects confidence, promotes idealization of others and erodes life energy; feeds an internalized cycle of self-hatred, oppression, and vengeance.” (p. 7)
“At the core of the mother complex is the mother archetype, which means that behind emotional associations with the personal mother, there is both an archetypal image of nourishment and security on the one hand and an archetypal negative of devouring possessiveness, darkness and deprivation on the other.”(p. 3) The mother archetype can manifest as the ‘loving’ mother, demonstrating nurture, wisdom, fertility, birth and growth (Jung, 1990, par. 158), but may also manifest as the ‘terrible’ mother (Jung, 1990, par. 157), devouring, engulfing or suffocating her children emotionally
Allan Score’s Interpersonal Regulation Theory, grounded in developmental neuroscience and attachment theory/research emphasizes how our sense of self as well as brain development are formed via our early relationships. Early interpersonal trauma such as loss, rejection, absence and insufficient holding may lead to feelings of being flawed, inadequate and ‘not good enough’.
Awareness of how mother images live within is us integral to becoming more conscious. Join us this month as we explore the relationship with the mother, whether personal or collective, and the impact on one’s sense of self.
A post I wrote for @jungsouthernafrica
Image credit: Gustav Klimt
Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D. THE ABSENCE OF MOTHER
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