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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.

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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.

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Persephone’s Tor

Persephone’s Tor (in Women on Nature)

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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’.

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‘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’.

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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.

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Trauma-worlds and the wisdom of Marion Woodman

Growing up traumatised our lives become rooted in a different reality – one I’ve called a ‘trauma-world’. Marion Woodman’s work can help us to bring trauma-worlds into consciousness. Additionally, the BodySoul Rhythms® approach that she developed together with dance educator Mary Hamilton, and voice coach Ann Skinner, can help us to move beyond trauma-worlds into a healthier reality.

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Confronting Death Mother – An Interview with Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman was pivotal in forging an awareness of the Death Mother, and the life-denying impact this force has on both bodies and minds. In this powerful interview, Woodman shares her understanding, drawing on Jungian thought, literature, and also her personal experience both as an analyst and as a woman facing her own internalised Death Mother.

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Being Animal

I knew that I was an animal. I had studied ecology and understood that I was part of the web of life. I had studied evolution and understood the processes that had forged humankind. But my understanding came from books, and it was not until I lived in Tanzania that it became real to my own body and mind.

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My animal body

How my understanding of the world and my place in it, was forever changed by moonlight and mosquitoes.

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Authenticity – are you going to be real?

Precious opportunities for my healing and growth came from Marion Woodman/ BodySoul Rhythms® workshops. In these workshops we called on myths, masks, movement, voice, art and dreams to discover aspects of what we held in our unconscious minds and bodies. This chapter recounts my experience of those workshops. It is published in ‘Love Matters for Psychic Transformation’ by Jungian analyst, Maja Reinau.

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Trauma-Worlds and their Transformation

When we suffer experiences that are emotionally damaging, survival systems are activated inside of us. These systems are built around fear, dissociation, and shame. They change how we feel and think about both ourselves and others. They also change how we behave. In the short term these changes are protective, but in the long term they create terrible suffering. Indeed, as the changes are incorporated into both our minds and bodies, we start to live from within a reality that is distorted, self-critical and dulled. I call this reality a ‘trauma-world’. In this presentation I’ll describe trauma-worlds, the protection that they offer and the suffering that they create. I’ll then explore how we can transform our trauma-worlds, and move away from their distortions towards a more compassionate and vibrant life.

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