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
A vibrant exchange about the creation of emotional trauma, and the fear-laden and shame-filled inner world which form around it.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.