Through a Jungian Lens

See new site URL –

Anatomy of a Mother Complex – Pt 1

with 4 comments

White Ibis in Puerto Morelos

White Ibis in Puerto Morelos

Grow up! Stop being a two-year old! Stop being such a baby! Be a man! What kind of man are you? Stop asking my permission! Grow some balls!

Before I even begin to write this blog post, I realise that it will take quite a bit of space and time to get it all said. After the last post, about the need to be authentic and transparent, I know that this is one area that I need to stop avoiding. Every man who has ever been in a relationship, if that man is honest with himself, knows that his partner is more than just a physical person. I am married, yet at times I become a child with my wife. Consciously I know she is my wife and that I am enjoying her physical and psychological presence as my wife, as my love-mate. Yet there are things going on beneath the surface that we both become dimly aware of – something uncomfortable lurking beneath the surface. And we may or may not give voice to what we sense. My wife has no problem telling me that I leave her feeling as if she is my mother rather than my wife at times. that I have, at least for a moment, become a child. At times I hear her call me Papa, moments where I am a dependable authority who will make the good decisions needed for the questions that are ready to be asked. Both of us shift out of our relationship as husband and wife, and become mother and father and for the most part, we are unaware that it has even happened. And truth be told, we both vehemently deny the appearance of the inner child into our relationship with each other. In other words, we are normal people in a relationship, not unlike every other relationship that exists in some fashion.

What has appeared for both of us, are complexes; a mother complex for me and a father complex for her. We all have complexes and they almost always show up in our relationships with people; intimate relationships, friend relationships, work relationships, community relationships. Whenever we find ourselves reacting with energy to another person, a complex has been activated. There are all manner of complexes that lurk beneath the conscious surface. But rather than try to list most of them here, I want to focus on just one, the mother complex. Why this complex and not a different complex? Well, it is this complex that is messing up quite  bit of my psychic life – and actively since the death of my mother just over a year ago. With that said, it’s time to begin.

Before there comes into being, a mother complex, there is something beyond our personal experience of mother. Of course there is the instinct of mothering in each woman and of being mothered, by all infants. The role seems to exist outside of the limits of any one, single female. C.G. Jung called this bigger than life mother, the Archetypal MotherIt is the psychic source from which each woman takes her turn, should life allow, at being a mother whether it is intentional or not. Even women who never bare children slip into the role of mother, sometimes consciously, most times unconsciously, during her life. Every child exists because there is a mother. So much for the background of the mother archetype. If you want a fuller understanding, the pdf that is linked above will likely provide enough before heading into the depths of Jung’s work for a more complete understanding. It is enough for now to say that in spite of the reality of my biological mother, there is/was more going on within me which has made its way into my relationships.

Daryl Sharp, in his book, Getting To Know You, takes some time to explain how complexes such as the Mother Complex, limit our ability to relate to another person.

To the extent that we’re still unconscious of ourselves, so we are limited in our ability to relate psychologically to another person.

Let me put it another way: whatever aspects of ourselves we’re not conscious of, we’re apt to see in someone else. The question is, are we then relating to that person at all, or to an unconscious side of ourselves?” [Sharp, p. 29]

There is so much more to say, but I have to be patient and approach this without trying to say it all at once. But before I leave today’s post, I want to end with some words from Jung, words which will serve as a direction sign post for where this will take me, as well as where I have already been.

“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings.” [Jung, CW Volume 8, par. 253]


4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for this interesting and very well explained Post and vision – I am looking forward to read Part 2.

    Opa Bear

    March 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

    • It just so happens, my dear friend, that as your comment arrived, the next part was published. 🙂 I look forward to hearing from you again, soon. 🙂


      March 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

  2. hope this explains my 28 year old not speaking to me besides her being able to control the relationship via technology for the last ten years….who is she mad at.. the typed responses are animated by her, or the old me,mom of a teenager… mother archetype via electronics…?


    March 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    • At the bottom of it all is something that is deeper that the actual mother-daughter or mother-son relationship. The relationship itself is hard to explain in a response here. One can begin to get a better idea of the breadth and depth of relationship from the diagram on page 47 of Hollis’ book, The Eden Project. Thanks, Carrie for taking your thoughts here.


      March 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: