Through a Jungian Lens

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Mother and Child: A Complex Relationship

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Mother and son

I was fortunate to find this mother and son in the parkway alongside the canal I frequent when I need to escape the noise of busy streets in the city. As I looked before taking the photo (they looked back at me then returned to their dialogue) I thought of how mothers had an impact upon their sons and daughters that seemed to transcend the actual relationship. I’ve been thinking of my own mother of late because of serious issues surrounding her health. My mother is a lady of 79 years. I don’t really want to tell a tale of my mother in my own life as the tale would not really be adequate. There are too many little stories, scenes, poses and vignettes which would need to be presented and then there would still be huge holes in the tale. The mother I experienced and the mother experienced by each of my brothers and sisters is not the same. We each have left our childhood years with different images and associations with the word mother.

The images and feelings that are tied to our personal idea of mother combine to help create a mother complex. Added to the personal mother are the experiences one has directly and indirectly with other women, other mothers. Daryl Sharp, in his Lexicon of Jungian Terms describes the mother complex:

“The mother complex is a potentially active component of everyone’s psyche, informed first of all by experience of the personal mother, then by significant contact with other women and by collective assumptions. The constellation of a mother complex has differing effects according to whether it appears in a son or a daughter.”

Sharp goes on to quote from Jung on the impact and effect of mother complexes on both sons and daughters. I recommend the reading of the passage in Sharp’s book for those interested in hearing what Jung had to say on the subject. For my purposes, it is enough to say that mothers are powerful beings in the lives of their children whether or not they are present in the lives of their children. I also want to add that the power is a two-sided power, with aspects that wound as well as heal the child and the adult who contains a child within, a child still responding unconsciously to the echoes of the personal mother as well as the numinous image of mother.

The relationship between a child and his or her mother is a complex relationship, more complex when one realises that the archetype of mother joins in at an unconscious level to make matters even more complex.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

October 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm

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