Like any other archetype, the Mother has nearly an infinite selection of aspects from which we can all draw from whether we are mothers, in the traditional sense, whether male or female.
The Mother archetype represents anything that can be universally symbolized as that which protects & nourishes all goodness, one’s instinctual bleeding of emotions and inherent emotional freedom, as well as the dark & obscure depths of the feminine authority.
Variations of the personal mother and mythological mother can lack or combine characteristics of creative force, fertility, protection, guidance, innate maternal love, as well as any inspiring force, including a person, place or thing that fosters the creation of life into anything and its growth.
The mother complex is the psychic projection of the mother archetype formed by the personal mother onto her son or daughter. The mother complex of the daughter will present itself in 1 of 4 ways, either by hypertrophy of the mother elements or by atrophy of them.
In hypertrophy, an overdevelopment of the feminine instincts during maiden years and beyond occurs. In atrophy of the mother elements, there are three variations of the underdeveloped feminine: (1) The Overdeveloped Eros, (2) Identity with the Mother, and (3) Resistance to the Mother.
A daughter who is unconscious of her own personality, or sense of self, due to the overdevelopment of the feminine instincts learns to live her life through and in others. Her sense of meaningful existence relies solely on the measurement of others’ happiness and satisfaction through her sacrifices.
The paradox is that no sacrifice or selflessness is truly being attained because, subconsciously, she is driven by an unrelenting will to pursue her own maternal rights separate from that of her mother. In the process of her own unconscious behavior, she sacrifices her own personality and those of her children.
Consciously, she is re-enacting the sacrificial personality of her mother while unconsciously, she has become the executioner. Doing for others and abandoning all sense of self, including intuitive insight, desires, feelings and needs for the sake of minimizing or preventing discomfort, and attaining good measure is, in fact, selfish. Without a sense of self, others’ discomfort becomes her discomfort and therefore, she is in actuality behaving with self-interest, and not of interest to her children, partner, family and/or community.
When she “lives for others”, she is, in the literal sense living for them. This is disempowering to those around her. Living for another, she intercepts the opportunities for them to acquire knowledge and wisdom through lived and learned experiences, thus a healthy development of their own sense of Self, and understanding of their own identity and its significance. Their sense of Self then becomes enmeshed and lived by her, and understood only through that which their mother can provide.
Resistance to the mother is the complex that I have experienced for as long as I can remember, and with which I’ve come to understand in unnerving, humiliating, and devastating ways. A strong resistance to the maternal is the drive of a woman to avoid anything related to or identified with her own personal mother. She knows exactly what she doesn’t want, but is usually clueless as to what she does want which shows up in her life as repeated attempts to establish her own identity. She may get married in an unconsciously driven attempt to get away from her mother, yet show up in the marriage as irritated and impatient.
She may experience reproductive and sexual dysfunctions and demonstrate a rebel resistence (or indifference) to anything traditional or resembling the mother, such as matriarchy of the family, community and society.
When a woman is motivated by resisting her mother, she can also develop an exaggerated masculine energy and higher levels of intelligence in order to become the supreme authority in something, or many things that her own mother cannot be a part of or take from her. This is accompanied by the development of many other masculine traits.
The biggest percieved threat to this woman is the idea of feminine itself; the chaos of the maternal womb. Her unconscious attitude towards reality more often than not produces a life dominated by what she energized herself so much to resisting- the exclusive maternal feminine aspect of self.
These descriptions could not encompass my own personal path more accurately: representing the tomboy daughter who rebelled against anything traditional and fixated herself on intellectual ventures and undertakings, avoiding anything “feminine”; in other words, “weak” like I perceived my mother. Thus I became the unexpected mother - not once, but three times; all daughters... tasked with the obligations that enlightened me. My mother was, and is anything but "weak".
This paradoxical path led me straight to my purpose: to be a healing guide for women; researching and studying the unique differentiations of the female psycho bio physiology, writing a course and book on women and practicing as a coach and therapist for women, partners and families.
When a woman feels inferior to her own personal mother, she sees her mother as perfect and as the representation of unattainable feminine traits. She becomes detached and unconscious of her own maternal instincts, as well as her eros. A strive to an elusive perfection can come from the conditioning of dogmatic religious beliefs tied up with guilt and shame, and a narcissistic mother; one who imposes strict and impossible rules that often conflict with reason, and one who projects her own undesirable traits on to the daughter.
Any or all of these can cause the daughter to become immobilized to her mother’s authority, and thus leading a woman to become passive, doubtful and vulnerable to controlling and abusive relationships with partners who desire an empty vessel with which they can imprint any of their ideas and desires onto.
When this woman finds a man who is happy to project himself onto her, she will become self sacrificing and loyal to him in order to find herself meaning, and she may do this for a long time, with much effort until she realizes how much she hates the role she plays and the fate he has mapped out for her. Jung notes that these women often have great talents and gifts of their own, however they project them onto their husbands who lack these gifts and eventually becoming, once again, the shadow, this time of her partner who now flies high in achievement and success due to her projections.
Eros is a manifestation of sexual drive and agape; love. It is both a physiological need to seek pleasure through the release of tension and a psychological desire that seeks romantic union for the fulfillment of creation. The overdeveloped eros or the “Electra complex" can result in a daughter whose mother over-glorified the material and physical aspects of her being, and she may have experienced a lot of neglect and abuse as a child. Jealousy for her mother intensifies the eros and her abnormal desire to outdo her through romantic sensations & dramatic experiences throughout her life.
The father’s projection of the anima, his feminine side, can also arouse a subconscious sexual fixation within the daughter in which she must use her eros to compete with other women for the affection of men. Subconsciously, she is chasing the affection and approval of her father. She may experience a complete absence of the maternal instinct because children can represent a division of the attention she craves.
The Electra complex develops in reaction to a mother who is all-consuming, has no boundaries and operates purely from instinct and emotion. A mother who thinks very little of men and/or her husband other than being a sperm donor and something to devour should he attempt to exist beyond that.
Whichever of these complexes correlates to the nature of your own personal psyche, know that placed within it are the very signs guiding you to your purpose.
In Health, Happiness,
Freedom & Truth
Sara Gustafson PhD, HLC
Sara's Bonus Resources and Recommended Learning
Mark's brilliantly written book links the traumas of our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents who can live in our unexplained depression, anxiety, fears, phobias, obsessive thoughts and physical symptoms—what scientists are now calling “secondary PTSD.”
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w/ Nathan Riley MD
Episode 12 - Sara Gustafson: The Thoughtful Wise Women Who is Changing Women’s Health.
Sara and Dr. Riley explore a multitude of women's health topics in this episode of the Holistic OBGYN podcast. Here is just a sample of their conversation topics;
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Vaginal Steaming Explained
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