Archive for the ‘Jungian Psychology’ tag
I have used this photo before when I took it last autumn in my back yard. The photo shows all of my children, their spouses and all my grandchildren as well as family pets. The pets were included because they simply belong in the family. I can say “this is my family, we are one” with pride and with love. We are one family. Yet when they return to their homes they find “family” centres around a more nuclear definition – mother, father, and child(ren), a grouping which still holds true. I often wonder about how my family has changed over the years from three children in a house where we laughed, played, worked and cried. We shared it all. We were one, separate and whole, a family.
But the truth is, even then we were more than that. My friends, my wife’s friends, our extended families, my co-workers, my wife’s co-workers, our neighbours, our children’s playmates and even enemies were intricately woven into the very fabric of what and who we were as a family. People we didn’t personally know or meet also became vital forces working on who and what we were as a family – politics, economics, the market place, and other things we had no awareness of at all.
As I sit and look at this photo, I am reminded of the places we have been, of the moments where nature was at the centre in provincial parks, on the shorelines of various lakes and rivers, when we fished, when we hiked, when we played. As we wandered through small sloughs seeing life in front of us, we connected, learned and grew to be healthier. I see in the photo, the love of the outdoors - of water, earth and sun – and I know that nature is at the centre, always present.
Now, my house is empty. My wife is at work, my children are in their own homes with their own children. In spite of the distance and physical absence, we are still one. Joining them in the embrace of my family are people I have met in my travels, people who have touched me, nourished me, and taught me to be more open and inclusive – a gay psychiatrist in America, a teacher in Rajasthan, a guide in Vietnam, a young Buddhist monk in Laos, a nameless girl taking her brothers and sisters to school in a small boat in Cambodia, a young man in China who adopted us as his Canadian parents, fellow pilgrims on the Chemin de Saint Jacques in France – the list goes on and on. And surprisingly, some who join them at the centre of my family I have never met at all. Thanks to the work of countless numbers of people, the world of cyberspace has given me brothers and sisters of spirit and soul – a man in Denmark, a fellow pilgrim in Australia, a writer in Britain, a psychotherapist in Ireland, a psychologist in Mexico, a naturist author and professor in America – and so many more. Each of these people have taught me simply through their existence, that I am more than the sum of my body’s cells. And, they have taught me that the countless billions who I don’t yet know, may never know, are also members of my family.
We are all one with this place we call home, our planet. We are all the children of Mother Earth and Father Sun. We are all One.
I am back home in Canada. I have been home for almost a week and have yet to discover spring-like conditions. With snow still laying on the ground, slowly melting into what can best be described as a wet mess, it is the perfect time for sitting indoors and thinking. I realise that I have been posting very little here or on my other blog sites, but I am not very worried about that in the least. I haven’t abandoned them, but have simply taken some space and time for other things in my life. I will continue to post relevant articles on each of the blog sites that are appropriate for the theme of each site.
I have been keeping busy with a number of different activities such as snow removal, checking out resources and building extended community networks based on Buddhist and Naturist interests. But mostly, I have been writing. The writing isn’t destined for any of my blog sites. Rather, it is an attempt at a book, what could best be described as a non-fiction book. I have created an outline, written the preface and have begun to fill in the blank spaces. At some point I will call on a few of you to proofread the work in hopes of getting it ready for publication. With that said, I will leave this alone and now talk of other things. For this space, Through a Jungian Lens, I intend continuing with the subject of Mother-Complex. There is a lot more to yet be said.
On another front, I am finding a pull back into reading the works of James Hillman and of another Jungian oriented writer, Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul. His books with titles such as The Lost Sutras of Jesus and The Soul’s Religion have piqued my interest. I was led to discover the existence of these books through two separate incidents. The first was a question from my wife about Care of the Soul, a book I read a long time ago. More recently, I received notice from Huffington Post about an article written by Moore called “Catholic Without A Church“, an article that resonated with me. Somewhere along the way, I lost my connection to the church while still remaining a catholic. Other books waiting for my attention are Buddhist in orientation, with titles by Osho, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa and a few others. Of course I won’t have time this spring for all of these books. Simply thinking of taking time for them is filling me with a sense of anticipation.
With this now said, I will take my leave and return relatively soon with the next instalment in the Mother-Complex series.
Men, all men, are wounded in some fashion by their mothers and fathers, as are all women. But as I am a man, I can only speak as a man. When I was a youth of 18, I went to see a live production of Oedipus Rex at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. I was captivated by the story. I wondered why, in later years why a teenager would like a Greek play such as this where the pull into an incestuous relationship with the mother lead to so much destruction. The presence of Eros is always there between a mother and a son (as well as between a father and a daughter) despite all conscious intentions. Thankfully, most parents manage to navigate the relationships of parent and child without falling into the unconscious expression of Eros upon a child.
With the death of my own mother, the veil was lifted to reveal my own Oedipus story. Men are wired to find an Other that evokes the mother either as a positive or a negative figure. Regardless of the dark or light aspect of personal mother, each boy child wants to be loved by his mother, the person with whom he has had the most intimate of all relationships from birth until separation. So, it should come as no surprise, that following separation, the search begins for someone else who will then love the boy child grown into a man. But, it would be a mistake to think that this someone else is necessarily a woman; it just isn’t that simple.
The person we find becomes a Magical Other.
“Behind the search for the Magical Other lies the archetypal power of the parental imagos. Our first experience of ourselves is in relationship to these Primal Others, usually mother or father. Consciousness itself arises out of that splitting of the primal participation mystique which characterizes the infant’s sensibility. The paradigms for self, for Other, and the transactions between, are formed from these earliest experiences. They are hard-wired into our neurological and emotional network.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 37]
Yes, what then is love? I know it exists and that it blossoms and often withers turning into bitterness, sorrow and even sometimes hatred. I that magical attraction in others, and even see it in birds and animals. And most importantly, I have lived the experience of love, and still continue to find myself held within its bounds. Is it simply chemistry? Or, is there more to it? Sadly, I don’t have the answers but I do know that love exists.
For a man, it is confusing, this thing called love. Perhaps it needs to be called lust, or need, or dominance, or perhaps simply just love. Because of my history as a child, and because of everyman’s history as a child, the Mother creeps in to claim her share, to voice her approval and disapproval, to give or withhold as we enter into relationship with a woman once we have left childhood behind. The mother-complex influences us, directs us, pulls at us within our unconscious. For us as men, we simply find ourselves fascinated by a particular woman, a stranger or someone we have seen often, but yet have never really seen. We don’t see the energy of a mother-complex at work. For us as men, we simply fall in love. We don’t need explanations or reasons. It’s simple. We fall in love.
“We say we love, yet we know not what it is. We say we love many things in many different ways. We borrow words from the Greeks who sought to differentiate these states of desire: eros, caritas, philos, storgé, agape. And yet we sense the shadowy beast behind our purest motives.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 30]
But, it turns out not to be so simple after all. After time has allowed us to discover the real person beneath the fascination, with in turn that person discovering the real man beneath her fascination, we are faced with dealing with loss, real loss that demands that we go through the stages of grieving for what has been lost, that Magical Other. For some, time and effort allows a new kind of love to emerge. For others, the grieving becomes destructive of the relationship creating even more grief. And for more than a few, the desire for answers to pull us out of depression, dysfunction and confusion sends us into therapy. We need to find ourselves and know ourselves as we find ourselves lost in some dank and dark swamp. With loss of the Magical Other, we are left questioning our own identity. If only we would know then perhaps we could again be in relation with our Magical Other.
“So we bring ourselves to relationship. With scant knowledge of ourselves, we seek our identity in the mirror of the Other, as we once did in Mom and Dad. With all the wounds of this perilous condition we seek a safe harbor in that Other who, alas, is seeking the same in us. With the thousand adaptive strategies derived from the fortuities of fated time, fated place, fated Others, we contaminate the frail present with the germs of the past.” [p. 32]
Hang on, there is hope. There is a way out of the swamp.
So far it is becoming clear that everyone has a charged energy response to mother and father. For sons, the complex that arises in response to his mother and/or those who mothered him, obviously will influence his relationship with other women in his future, an influence which for the most part is unconscious. Will he find the woman he needs in someone like his mother, or in someone who seems to be a polar opposite? The complexes and neuroses of the mother have been active in conscious and unconscious interaction with the son as well as between the mother and the father (or father substitute in the case of absent fathers). The son having been wounded, and not even aware of that wounding, with the energy that burst forth out of the mother’s activated complexes, is primed to respond to similar patterns of energy in later life. Nothing is going to be simple when it comes to relationships in the boy child’s future as an adult male.
“Consider the obvious, then, that we can hardly have a conscious efficacious relationship with the Other, when we have a deeply wounded relationship with ourselves. Consider, then, how difficult it is to have any relationship at all. All that I do not know about myself, all of my secret projects for healing myself of the wounds derived from my culture and family of origin, I am now imposing on you. All the complexes I have acquired in my life on this earth, you will have to suffer from me. How could I do that to you, while professing to love you? How can you do that to me, while professing to love me?” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 30]
Wow! Hard words from Hollis. But, and there is always a but, isn’t there? But, what about love? I fell in love. Everywhere I look people are truly falling in love. I can see it in their eyes, in the way they move in relationship to their new-found love, the person who becomes a Magical Other. Is love based on our wounds and our projects to heal those wounds? Are we demanding our Magical Others to stay magical and to continue to feed us, nourish us, out of the depths of our wounds?
I have to admit, that I am guilty of imposing my wounding on my love, my Magical Other. Over the years, it seems new wounds present themselves, old wounds actually, but long banished into the dark depths of unconsciousness. And each time I discover, feel and am overwhelmed by these wounds, it is to my Other that I turn to and somehow expect her to take in my pain and heal me as if she was my Magical Mother. And, at times, this flows in the opposite direction when it is I who meets the wounds of her life, her childhood, and become her Magical Father, the Other who will hold her in safety and security.
What is love then?
It’s Easter Sunday morning in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. This means that in two weeks from today I will be flying home with my wife to Canada. But of course, there is more to Easter Sunday than a calendar reminder for me. I have chosen a photo I took two days ago, the view from behind the small church in Puerto Morelos, with a statue of Mary beneath one of the lattice windows of the church. I haven’t attended any Easter service since 1993 when I attended the service in Avignon, France. Somewhere along the way, I lost the connection with my French Catholic heritage. However, I never did lose the resonance with the mysteries of soul and spirit that certain days are able to evoke.
Today is the official day of a new season of life, for me, an annual resurrection like some phoenix bird arising out of the ashes of the old year. The warmth of the sun urges flowers to appear, stirs animals and birds to come together for unconscious procreative purposes. As I meditated this morning, I felt the stirring as well. What new manifestation of my self will arise from the tomb of who I was, what new consciousness will burst forth into the sunshine of rebirth.
A child, such as the type of child that I was who either adopted or was thrust into the role of mediator or go-between within the family, internalizes the idea of being the good child of the family, one who carries the shadow, the families secrets as a personal burden. I found out early that I was different from everyone else. Others could be messy, but my being special carried the responsibility of cleaning up the mess. Rather than going to a parent, siblings came to me with their problems for that is what my parents did. Not knowing any better, I took on that burden rather than shouting out, “But I’m just a kid!” That’s the problem with magical thinking. Powerless to avoid the burden, one comes to believe that this is the way it is supposed to be, that this is the kind of person one really is.
Typically, a child that takes on this role will engage in relationships with others in school and in play that reinforces the patterns.
“Thus the problem of powerlessness subtly works its way through the life of an individual. One may even go so far as to choose – if that is the right word, for it is surely and unconscious choice – to have relationships only with weak or wounded persons so that the template of care-giving is served.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 25]
When one becomes of an age, one finds that one is being attracted to some young women, but not others. As I reached that age in high school, I found that my female friends as well as my male friends were the obviously wounded souls, those who were rejected by their peers – consciously and unconsciously rejected. Of course, I didn’t understand what was going on within me and within them; all I knew was that with these friends, I was important. I held their trust, their pain, their secrets without divulging anything from my own past. All that existed was the fact that I was there for them as I was for my siblings and my mother.
As a male leaves childhood and youth, there is usually also a time for leaving the home and his mother. However, regardless of the distance travelled from home, and mother, a male can never leave his mother-complex. The complex buries itself deep into the psyche, into the unconscious where it lays dormant. And when does it show up? Typically, when one falls in love. One finally meets that one special person who allows all the self-beliefs, conscious and unconscious, to be held by her, held unconsciously. Jung calls this the dance of projection and hooks, a dance that goes in both directions at the same time. One doesn’t fall in love by accident. Somehow, the psyche senses the presence of a psyche with which it can mate, that is, have a hook which is prepared to catch certain kinds of projects. A man needing to be in control, finds a woman who needs to be fathered. A man needing to be nurtured, finds a woman who needs to mother. It isn’t as simple as all of that – but then again, it is really that simple if one could just set aside thinking and the illusion that one is really in control of the self.
“Many therapists will recognize this common pattern in a relationship, a ballet of approach and avoidance, where one partner needs reassuring closeness and the other is more comfortable with distance. One draws close, seeking assurance, while the other, feeling invaded, draws back, raising the anxiety level of both. In the latter’s need for protective space is the desire to do what the child could not do, that is, keep the intrusive Other at bay and preserve a fragile psychic integrity.” [pp 25-26]
It sounds kind of messy. And I know from living this dance, that it is very messy indeed. At some point, someone has to wake up and see what is going on in the relationship. And when that happens, the relationship as it was, is no more. I quickly must say that it isn’t the end of the relationship, necessarily, it is the end of the relationship as an unconscious ballet of approach and retreat.
“. . . the capacity to suffer wounding and learn to adapt to it is crucial to the development of self. . . We have wounds, and the clusters of energy that accompany them, because we have a life history. The deeper question is whether we have the wounds or they have us.” [Hollis, The Eden Project. p. 21]
The wounding – are we victims of our woundings; or, do we use these woundings to craft the unique individual we are?
So, getting back to my own story which is not so unique as all men have a story that includes a mother-complex, it is important to note that how a man is wounded has a huge impact on how one responds to life and to relationships to life, particularly to the women in our lives. Our mother-complexes exist because we have parental imagos, that is, we all have images of parent – mother and father – regardless of ever having had a particular relationship with one’s unique biological parents. Present or absent, a relationship exists within the psyche. Positive or negative experience, presence or absence, too muchness or not enoughness – all help to colour that image we unconsciously build of parent and of our future relationships to both men and women.
“Children are driven unconsciously in a direction that is intended to compensate for everything that was left unfulfilled in the lives of their parents.” [Jung, CW 17, par 328]
To understand the unconscious image we build of mother and father, we not only include our experiences, but as Jung tells us. we have all the unconscious inheritances of those images within those we engage in familial relationships. The unlived lives of parents influence their way of being with their children. All this and more all mixes together in an unconscious mess, a shadow image that becomes our foundation for what it is to be mother and father. As well, it serves to create the roadmap for relationship.
My story of being a child to a woman who was also wounded as were her parents allows me, at this point in my life to understand and accept better the wounds inflicted unconsciously. That said, I was a child.
“If I have found myself essentially powerless against the Other, and what child has not, then how am I to comport myself in order to manage this distress? If I have routinely been invaded by abuse, verbal, emotional, sexual, or have more commonly been at the mercy of the moods and emotional vagaries of the parent, so I am inclined to identify with the Other.” [Hollis, p. 23]
Identifying with the Other, in my case my mother. James Hollis, in his book, The Eden Project, exposes the raw truths and how response to wounding makes its way into relationships and life in general. With abuse, one either learns to be controlling or to be pleasing. I fell into the pleasing mode of managing my response to abuse.
“Since the child felt powerless in the face of the Other who was yet the source of well-being, so it learns to be pleasing, to be mollifying or overly responsible for the well being of others. What is called co-dependence is one such anxiety management strategy. If I am responsive to the needs of the Other, the, possibly, the Other might be there for me. “ [Hollis, p. 24]
As I read these words, I was shocked. How had Hollis got inside my head? These words exposed me, left me feeling naked and vulnerable. I thought, “Now everyone will know the truth about me, that I am a defect, not really a caring person at all, but someone who acts this way simply to keep the darkness of abuse barricaded. As the eldest child, I was the one who brothers and sisters would go to for help. I became the alter parent. I took care of my mother’s needs and found that what I did was never enough as more and more was needed. As an adult I became the trusted “go-to” teacher, the one to whom others would tell their sad tales knowing that I cared and would support them. I was the mediator between students, between staff and even for others in the community. I took it all on yet somehow knew that it was never enough. My childhood survival tactics translated into the tactics that I would use as an adult. And, as to be discovered in another post, into the tactics that I would bring to relationship to the woman who became my Magical Other.”
I am ready to go on with what I had begun last day, looking at how my Mother Complex makes its appearance in my life and how it influences my relationships. Though I do find myself going on and on about the technical stuff, the ideas and words that I have learned through my study of Jungian psychology, I do so so that as I present my case study, I will have in place a foundation to understand and present the case study. As expected, any case study must begin with the child and the mother. Since it is the child who will have the mother complex, the central focus shifts to that child, through the lens that the child uses to decode and understand the world. Now, to be fair, one has to realise that a child is just a child and does not have the mental faculties needed to objectively analyse the world. So, what will emerge through the lens of a child is just a version of reality. Of course, that version of reality does have its roots in the experiences that the child has in relationship to his or her mother, and for this particular case, the relationship that I had with my biological mother.
For the next part, I will relate some of the known story. My mother was a young teenager when she became pregnant with me which resulted in her having to get married to my father before I was born. Becoming pregnant resulted in her being tossed from her home, a quiet Protestant anglophone home, and having to learn to live in a boisterous and rowdy French Catholic home. She didn’t know the language or the culture. She had been rejected and thrown away by her own culture, her own father (and mother). Not long after the marriage, my father left to chase his dreams in the wild west, hoping to become rich and famous in the process. The scene isn’t a pretty one in which a young teen-aged girl/woman could feel confident and positive. So how does this find its way into the psyche of a young infant?
“. . . the infant reads the world in other ways to figure out what it is saying. As early as six weeks, infants have been fount to mirror their parent’s face, emulating fear, depression, joy and so on. In this process, the child not only seeks its own grounding in some elemental reality, but also assumes the emotional reality of the Other. . . “ [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 19]
My mother was depressed, often withdrawn into herself as the world swirled around her in what she could only see as chaos. It’s not the best way to bring a child into the universe, but as someone important to me is prone to say, “Shit happens. Get over it and get on with life.” Life indeed goes on and the process of building a mother-son relationship continues. Now, it is important to understand that children are prone to magical thinking, thinking that not grounded in reasonably in reality. This magical thinking sees the child interpreting the world as centred around him or herself. I will give an example: Dad went away and left Mom alone and sad – something I must of done or said or not done or not said made Dad leave Mom. The child is not old enough to be able to understand the bigger picture, but has no doubt that since he or she is at the centre, he or she must have caused the negative result. But time, changes all of this. An infant becomes a toddler and then a child ready to participate in a larger world, larger than the hot-house of the biological family.
“In addition . . . there are other experiences that have a huge impact on future relationships . . . the wounds of too-muchness and not-enoughness, engulfment or abandonment.” [p. 20]
It seems that no matter what we do as parents, what children experience is some sort of wounding of the psyche. The best that we can hope for as parents is to be “good enough.” Perhaps good enough is good enough. Was my mother good enough? Before I answer that question, I do have to say that she, like every woman that becomes a mother, could only do as well as she could. It is a rare, extremely rare woman who doesn’t do her best possible to be a mother. Now, as I experienced and interpreted being mothered, I would have to say it wasn’t good enough. I don’t blame her. She did her best.
“But it is nonetheless inevitable that the prime source of wounding to the child will be the parents. Since we are human, our less than perfect nature will necessarily impinge upon the child and leave its imprint forever.” [p. 20]
And it is this imprint that we carry with us that will influence our relationships to men and women in our adult lives. And, it is vital that wounding does occur as it is through wounding that one is pushed to learn and adapt and survive and perhaps even thrive as individuals. So, I don’t blame my mother. But that said, there is still the issue of a mother-complex to uncover.
Grow up! Stop being a two-year old! Stop being such a baby! Be a man! What kind of man are you? Stop asking my permission! Grow some balls!
Before I even begin to write this blog post, I realise that it will take quite a bit of space and time to get it all said. After the last post, about the need to be authentic and transparent, I know that this is one area that I need to stop avoiding. Every man who has ever been in a relationship, if that man is honest with himself, knows that his partner is more than just a physical person. I am married, yet at times I become a child with my wife. Consciously I know she is my wife and that I am enjoying her physical and psychological presence as my wife, as my love-mate. Yet there are things going on beneath the surface that we both become dimly aware of – something uncomfortable lurking beneath the surface. And we may or may not give voice to what we sense. My wife has no problem telling me that I leave her feeling as if she is my mother rather than my wife at times. that I have, at least for a moment, become a child. At times I hear her call me Papa, moments where I am a dependable authority who will make the good decisions needed for the questions that are ready to be asked. Both of us shift out of our relationship as husband and wife, and become mother and father and for the most part, we are unaware that it has even happened. And truth be told, we both vehemently deny the appearance of the inner child into our relationship with each other. In other words, we are normal people in a relationship, not unlike every other relationship that exists in some fashion.
What has appeared for both of us, are complexes; a mother complex for me and a father complex for her. We all have complexes and they almost always show up in our relationships with people; intimate relationships, friend relationships, work relationships, community relationships. Whenever we find ourselves reacting with energy to another person, a complex has been activated. There are all manner of complexes that lurk beneath the conscious surface. But rather than try to list most of them here, I want to focus on just one, the mother complex. Why this complex and not a different complex? Well, it is this complex that is messing up quite bit of my psychic life – and actively since the death of my mother just over a year ago. With that said, it’s time to begin.
Before there comes into being, a mother complex, there is something beyond our personal experience of mother. Of course there is the instinct of mothering in each woman and of being mothered, by all infants. The role seems to exist outside of the limits of any one, single female. C.G. Jung called this bigger than life mother, the Archetypal Mother. It is the psychic source from which each woman takes her turn, should life allow, at being a mother whether it is intentional or not. Even women who never bare children slip into the role of mother, sometimes consciously, most times unconsciously, during her life. Every child exists because there is a mother. So much for the background of the mother archetype. If you want a fuller understanding, the pdf that is linked above will likely provide enough before heading into the depths of Jung’s work for a more complete understanding. It is enough for now to say that in spite of the reality of my biological mother, there is/was more going on within me which has made its way into my relationships.
Daryl Sharp, in his book, Getting To Know You, takes some time to explain how complexes such as the Mother Complex, limit our ability to relate to another person.
“To the extent that we’re still unconscious of ourselves, so we are limited in our ability to relate psychologically to another person.
Let me put it another way: whatever aspects of ourselves we’re not conscious of, we’re apt to see in someone else. The question is, are we then relating to that person at all, or to an unconscious side of ourselves?” [Sharp, p. 29]
There is so much more to say, but I have to be patient and approach this without trying to say it all at once. But before I leave today’s post, I want to end with some words from Jung, words which will serve as a direction sign post for where this will take me, as well as where I have already been.
“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings.” [Jung, CW Volume 8, par. 253]