Upcoming Events

The Archetypal Death Parent and Toxic Shame:
A Traumatising Partnership

On-line organised by the Irish Society of Jungian Analysts.

8-9.15pm (Irish Time). June 30, 2022. 

Livestreamed. The recording will be available to those who register for 2 weeks afterwards.


The archetypal Death Parent represents harmful and traumatising energy that comes to us from a person, institution, culture or nation state which we would expect to nurture and support us.

Having the Death Parent turn on us feels like being caught in Medusa’s gaze: we are paralyzed, frozen, and turned to stone.

The Death Parent’s energy can be expressed in a variety of ways. This presentation explores the Death Parent expressed as toxic shame. 

Healthy shame is a social and moral emotion which evolved to warn us that our behaviour is jeopardising important social relationships. In contrast, toxic shame is an embodied and enduring conviction that we are so intrinsically flawed that trustworthy and meaningful social relationships are forever beyond our reach. Throughout human evolutionary history, those without trustworthy and meaningful social relationships would have died.

Once toxic shame is woven into our bodies and minds, we have no choice but to turn Medusa’s gaze in on ourselves and to project it out on to others. A traumatising and self-perpetuating cycle ensues. This presentation will illuminate that cycle. 

Click here for tickets

This event will be recorded and the link will be available for 2 weeks for the personal viewing of registered participants only

Maltreating Mothers: How evolutionary insights can offer a more compassionate understanding of motherhood, and contribute to preventing child maltreatment by mothers

Keynote address: The Compassionate Mind Foundation Conference.

12th October, 2022, 9.30-10.30am, Edinburgh.


In Western culture, both the lay public and mental health professionals tend to believe that mothers evolved to love all their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalent or hostile towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically.

In this presentation I will draw on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood.

In particular, I will explain how, throughout human evolutionary history, raising children has required mothers to negotiate a series of complex trade-offs, and argue that maternal negativity can sometimes arise from this.

I will also discuss how the evolved pressure to conform to group norms can drive mothers to maltreat their children.

Finally, I will describe how children have evolved to learn about mothering from what they experience whilst growing up, and argue that this can tragically lead to patterns of maltreatment being passed down generations.

The goals of this presentation are (1) to foster a more evolutionarily valid and compassionate understanding of motherhood, and (2), to show how this understanding can contribute to both clinical work with faltering mothers, and to programs focused on preventing the maltreatment of children by their mothers.

A Selection of Past Talks by Subject

Emotional Trauma and its Healing

Trauma-Worlds and their Transformation

The Embodiment Conference, Online

How to understand and heal emotional trauma

Public Lecture, Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London.

Transforming trauma in psyche and body

Plenary Lecture, Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, USA.

Toxic Shame

The archetypal Death Mother as the nursemaid of Toxic Shame

CG Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, UK

Maternal Negativity & Child Maltreatment.

Maternal negativity and child maltreatment: Evolutionary perspectives

Keynote address, Royal College of Psychiatry, UK

Maternal ambivalence, early relational trauma and insecure attachment:
Evolutionary insights

Scientific Meeting, Tavistock and Portman Trust, Tavistock Clinic, London, UK.

Death Mother/Life Mother:
An anthropological contribution to understanding mother-infant dynamics

Clinical Forum, The Bowlby Center, London, UK.

The Archetypal Death Mother.

The archetypal Death Mother as nature’s shadow: Infanticide in human history

Public Lecture, C.G. Jung Club, London, UK.

The archetypal Death Mother as the nursemaid of Toxic Shame

CG Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, UK

How to Understand and Heal Emotional Trauma

Public Lecture, Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London.

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