Maternal Negativity and Child Maltreatment: How evolutionary perspectives contribute to a layered and compassionate understanding

In Western culture most people believe that mothers evolved to love all of their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalence or hostility towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically. This chapter draws on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood. The goal is to foster a more evolutionarily valid, nuanced and compassionate understanding. Such an understanding has the potential to contribute to clinical work with faltering mothers and also to programmes focused on preventing maternal maltreatment of children.

Trauma-Worlds and their Transformation

Our minds & bodies respond to unaddressed emotional wounds with increased fear, a propensity to dissociate & developing toxic shame. This creates an altered & distorted inner reality which I call a ‘trauma-world’. Healing requires that we transform our trauma-world by developing consciousness, responsibility & compassion.

Persephone’s Tor (in Women on Nature)

Persephone’s Tor

I am on a retreat in the middle of Dartmoor. The week offers an opportunity to drop into the shadowlands of our unconscious minds and bodies, and to explore this inner terrain. This essay recounts an archetypal encounter with shadow, fear, and transformation, which was inspired by the outer terrain of the moors themselves. It is published in the anthology, ‘Women on Nature’ edited by Katherine Norbury.

Maternal negativity and the Archetypal Death Mother: Evolutionary and psychodynamic approaches

In this conversation I discuss various factors which can contribute to a mother feeling negatively about her child. In particular, I describe some of the challenges that ancestral mothers faced throughout human evolution and how these impact us today. I also explore ideas about the archetypal Death Mother, inspired by the late Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. I found it a rich and rewarding conversation and am grateful to John Wilks and Our Birth Journey Professionals for the opportunity.

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

In a wide-ranging conversation, Sara Avant Stover and I explored Death Mother from several perspectives. Sara’s own insights prompted me to move between different areas of my research, and our exchange encompassed trauma psychology, Jungian analysis, anthropology, evolution and personal experience

Being Human Podcast

Being Human - Podcast

Discussion of how to define trauma, the trade-offs that come into play in the wake of traumatising events (and their roots in evolution), the difference between healing and curing trauma.

‘What makes emotional trauma? Fear, disconnect and shame.’

When we experience overwhelming pain and fear, we develop an unconscious conviction that our life is at risk. As a result, survival systems are activated in our minds and bodies and we move onto a different developmental path to the one we would have followed had we not been traumatised. We begin to live our lives from within a ‘trauma-world’.

How to Understand and Heal Emotional Trauma (Royal Society of Arts)

We are becoming increasingly aware of how widespread trauma is, and of the huge costs it imposes not only on individuals and their immediate communities, but also on society more generally. But there is a great deal of misunderstanding about trauma, and we need to develop far greater clarity if we are to work with it more effectively.