“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses in other people” ~ C.G. Jung
So I have decided to throw some light on the subject and try to make it a little easier to question and remove the magical mantle of ‘motherhood’ and see what lies beneath it. Mothers were and are, after all – people first before they donned the magical mantle of motherhood. They were human. They had flaws. They had struggles, lived a story in which they forged an identity. They were mortal and sometimes their mortality leaks through in to the magical land of mothering.
This is very difficult for some of us, the lucky ones who had a ‘good enough’ mother, to imagine being anything else for your child. You might even be a mother like this to your children. You know what I am talking about don’t you? You have bad days and bad moods, but bottom line – your kids know, you love them and you will be there for them – to the best of your ability that day, and try to help. You were there to pick up pieces after your kids felt shattered by frustration, fear, fatigue or rejection. You soothed, you bathed, you rubbed, you fed, you tried, you hung in there. You learned how to be ‘mother’ and after a while and wrestling with an acute sense of your own failure – something worked. The kid smiled and hugged you and more importantly slept through the night eventually. Then so did you, the sun came up, the wheel of life turned and evolution continued. Things began to work – more or less.
Psychology or more specifically Psychoanalysis has a lot to say about ‘mothers’ and how important they are to the development of our Psyche or Ego, the part of us that identifies as being “I”. ‘The Body of the Mother’ – literally your sensory recollections of being held, soothed, bathed, fed, changed, chastised, carried, hugged by your Mother’s Body created the foundation within your mind and understanding of what it feels like to be – YOU, of who you are. ‘The Body of the Mother’, the body of your mother is like a container for your Ego – a container in to which you put your feelings and through interacting with her real body you build up thousands of sense memories that, when added together, showed you – who “I” is.
There are millions of sense experiences that get encoded in to our memories before any of us learned to speak. These collection of memories are visceral, they can be felt. And if you have ever heard a baby scream in pain or hunger – you will feel a jolt in your body. The sound taps you in to the memory of that same experience in the annals of time when you yourself were helpless, hungry and in pain and you needed some Mother Magic. Sense memories provide a sentient foundation for your Ego, that feeling of “I”. Your experience of ‘Mother’ or being ‘mothered’ is the foundation for the Self of each of us.
‘Mother’ in each of us is defined by the way ‘she’ interacted with you taught you how to make sense of your feelings, how to soothe and calm yourself, how to handle anger but most importantly – how to build a relationship with yourself and with … another. This is the good part. Remember most women who become mothers are ‘good enough’. They hang in there and learn as they go but some mothers for a variety of reasons, do not learn as they go. They have an entirely different agenda that springs from a Self – with cracks in it. Remember all Mothers were people before they became Divine, or they are divine – in our minds.
I remember the moment I realized my Mother was not magic and could not soothe everything. I’d pranged myself being too ambitious. Not exactly Icarus but this is a lesson in self mastery that remains – unmastered. We were living in a Queenslander in Toowong. I was just 3 years old and consciousness had very recently connected my legs to my brain. Our house had the traditional veranda at the front and steps leading down to a path and ran to the letterbox under a Jacaranda Tree. It had been raining and so the veranda, steps and path were wet and slippery. Also, owing to the shade of the Jacaranda Tree – the path was a little slippery from unidentified slime to be investigated on another day.
I had discovered several new things. Leg control, letters and the daily excitement of the Post Man’s visit. Was there a letter? I recall the leaping sensation of excitement. The only sensation comparable to this I have experienced as an adult is listening to Celtic Music, particularly a jig. It is like your feet magically begin leaping about in joy, as if compelled by some invisible celtic pied piper. Feet move magically, completely independent of whatever nonsense your mind is wopping on about in that moment. But possibly you need Celtic ancestry for this to be fully embodied. I may scourge you tube for a sample of one such …
Here’s an expedient selection, listen for the beginning but stay for the live musicianship of Harpist & Songstress Extraordinaire, Loreena McKennitt
“The Old Ways”
Long story short – I skied without ceremony or skill down the wet white painted stairs, crumpled on to the gravel path, skinned knee, felt embarrassed, affronted and annoyed with rude stairs and somehow it was Mum’s fault. She went to cuddle me and tell me it would be alright but I was so angry, I bit her! This was a bit of a ‘stage’ of confusion I was travelling through. It was early days linking cause and effect. I also ripped up a picture book that refused to lay flat – that showed it! And Mum! This was after all – Mum’s fault.
Blaming Mum made sense to my 3 year old brain – because Mums can fix everything – can’t they? Well – you believe so until your independence and curiosity begins charting expeditions and luring you in to unexplored waters such as the veranda – where Mum’s reign, is not, and things happen – they just happen! There is – uncertainty! Rude! This was very shocking to my little mind. There was a pain in my knee, the stairs bit my knee – the letter did not fly in to my hot little hands using kinesis. Things did not go to plan! And Mum could not fix it! Seemed wrong!
This is the moment where I learned my Mother’s powers are limited and when my Mother learned the same thing. Although most likely both of us took many more similar situations to completely grasp and to come to a place of acceptance about this. These years and the interactions that make them up are called childhood and adolescence. Human beings need to be children and dependent on the care of parents, so we can learn not only how to care for ourselves but to build up essential memories of how to nurture and care for children when our turn comes to be parents. We all need to experience the power battles faced in adolescence, real conflicts with parents and other figures of authority so we can polish our skills adapting to the world around us. If there is an ideal trajectory – this is it.
But … and there is always a but, isn’t there? Things do not always go to plan. Mothers were people with their own story before they were mothers. And now we reach the pointy end of this post. The part where the taboo is ignored and the unspeakable is spoken. Some Mothers cannot put their children’s needs before their own. Some Mothers have not been mothered ‘enough’ themselves and the Self they inherited, the container their own Mother gave them – has cracks in it. Holding a sleeping baby is a beautiful feeling. Some Mothers have children – to try and fill those cracks and to don the Mantle of Mother in the mistaken belief and misguided hope that being a Mother will make up for what they did not receive. What happens when that Mother realizes children require rather than give care?
We are getting better, as a collective, about speaking of Mental Illness, Psych Disorders, Trauma – but we are doing it well after the damage has happened. So Mother’s Day is a loaded topic and complex issue for many of us. Those who have had a ‘good enough’ Mother cannot imagine much less have empathy for those whose Mother was not quite ‘enough’. Sometimes a woman will decide to have a child because they hope and believe a child will attract needed resources (social and financial), attract friends, maintain a relationship, hide a mental illness, make them happy, provide comfort and care.
These experiences create a False Self where ‘the child’ grows up believing the only purpose “I” have on Earth is to be compelled to give care, receive neglect at best and abuse at worse. This Self that grows in the child has a distorted view of “I” and exists in a psychological prison of emptiness and depression that never questions or hopes for something different.
If this is “You” and Mother’s Day is difficult for you, this is not the end of the story. Believe it or not. Most of us are on a healing journey. Some of us are aware of this – and travel through these terrains quicker, get more honest, more easily – while others are still trying hard to ‘please’ a Mother who cannot see us. She sees something we cannot be when she looks at us. Such a Mother cannot see herself, so how can she see us? If your Mother was a little ‘cracked’, a little broken, all is not lost. We all have another Mother, a much older wiser Mother who sees knows and understands everyone’s Authentic Self and can teach you through a real relationship with her, how to be your Authentic Self.
Some of us will take this path if for no other reason than they are in so much pain, they can no longer be in relationship with a Mother who can only smother, neglect, punish, abuse or in some other way hurt.
The Earth is our original Mother and ‘Nature’ is the essence that animates her. The Earth and Nature is a self organising intelligent system than seeks growth and homeostasis. The Authentic Self, your Authentic Self is revealed to you most dramatically in ‘Nature’. The natural world will put you immediately in touch with your Authentic Self through your feelings and emotions, in fact – this is their purpose, to create relationship, to create connection with yourself and the world around you. Following your sense of situations, watching, observing and spending time in Nature will progressively weld you to your instinct. Listening to and following your instinct will reveal your Authentic Self to you in a way that keeps pace with change you and your body can handle.
Indigenous Culture all over the Earth sees our planet as a Conscious Being and a Mother. All political thoughts and leanings aside, it may sound strange initially but your body is a part of the Earth and governed by the same self organizing tendency present within all Natural Systems.
And now for something even more provocative …
If you are one of the ‘lucky ones’, if you are someone who has had a Mother who for whatever reason, could not Mother you in to your Authentic Self and a place of contentment and security in adult life – and you want to feel better, a relationship with the Earth through studying and learning about Nature – can fill the cracks the woman who was your Mother – could not.
How? I hear you ask … there are as many answers to that question as there are inquirers after it. Begin with your own Authentic Self – who usually leads through sense experiences and internal promptings, you will feel a little curious about something. Act on it. Put yourself in Nature -or as close to using your body in Nature as possible. Begin practicing Mindfulness – which is doing what you can to notice everything happening, through your senses, moment by moment. If you are even more motivated – look to the Elders, those who have gone before. If you live in Australia, or are Australian – our Aboriginal Elders have a lot to share about the land and its ways. Learning to care for the land, teaches connection to and expression of the Authentic Self.
There is so much more to say on this. Altered states of consciousness such as dreaming, learning to dream consciously, lucid dreaming and lastly … The Dreamtime is the way to Our Mother.
Curious? Begin. Work with your own Dreams. They will lead you all the way home. Truth.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” ~ C.G. Jung