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.
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.
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.
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.