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
The Death Mother as Nature’s Shadow: Fostering compassion and healing through an evolutionary consciousness
Western culture tends to view maternal ambivalence and hostility as unnatural. Evolutionary research challenges this view. The situations faced by ancestral mothers sometimes made abandoning a child inevitable. Recognising this fosters compassion for today’s struggling mothers, as well as greater understanding of the trauma carried by their children.
The Death Mother is best understood when approached with compassionate curiosity and from a variety of perspectives. Here she is explored through Jungian, psychodynamic, evolutionary and anthropological lenses. The aim is to help both mothers who are living this damaging energy, and those who grow up damaged through encounters with this energy.
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.
How my understanding of the world and my place in it, was forever changed by moonlight and mosquitoes.
How I came to know my evolutionary heritage from inside the fibres of my muscles and the immediacy of my senses.
Recent evolutionary thinking has much to contribute to attachment theory and to the understanding of childhood relational trauma.
Modern evolutionary thinking challenges the ideas that secure attachment is ‘normal’ and insecrue attachment is ‘abnormal’.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s ideas contribute not only to our understanding of the evolution of human sociality and intersubjectivity, but are also extremely relevant to psychotherapy. This is especially so for those who are struggling with the consequences of childhood emotional trauma.
The village chairman agreed to the pilgrimage with three Datoga elders to the Ngorongoro Crater. Our purpose was to visit the grave of Gitangda, the revered ancestor and spiritual leader who died over 100 years ago..