And it's effect on the Child's Selfhood
Dr. Avi Baumann
The aim of this article is first to reveal and present the dark and hidden motivations and needs of the archaic mother figure, which penetrate the maternal relationship and her love in general. Second, to discuss the various possibilities and prototypical situations of the mother-child relationship, which will evoke the dark motivations and needs of this kind. Third, to shed light on the personal corridor through which it is possible to reach this hidden side of motherhood
through which it is possible to reach this hidden side of motherhood.
The recognition of those motivations and the identification of the situations will be revealed by means of mythological stories, which present mother-child relationships with emphasis on the tragic story of the mother.
The motives in the stories about mothers provide markers of universal human maternal motivations and needs. Myth testifies to the primordial aspect of the dark dimension of motherhood. The choice of relating to the complexity of maternity via myths is based on Jung's archetypal approach.
There is a huge lacuna in the various psychoanalytic theories regarding the figure of the mother. On the one hand, most theories give the greatest importance to the figure of the mother in the child's development and the formation of its character, but there is hardly any reference to the mother herself and to the dynamic among her many forces.
The psychological and psychoanalytic literature seldom deals directly and theoretically with the dark side of motherhood, with the ugly, the anti-maternal faces, which secretly penetrate the mother-child relationship. That is to say, in the therapeutic approach and in the analytic work, we do tend to place the patient's blame on the mother. Usually she is accused of his or her mental illness. In the various psychoanalytical theories, which try to explain the formation of psychological problems we find that there is no reference to the mother's hidden motivations. There is not enough clear reference to the drives, the needs, and the negative aspects that can arise in the mother in the wake of the birth and appearance of the new child, which have the characteristics of primacy, power, and hope for the mother.
Similarly, there is not enough reference to the immanent variables in mother-child relations that can arouse the mother's hidden faces. For example, the infinite and absolute dependence of the child on its mother can arouse unconscious resentment in the mother, as a threat to her freedom, and at the same time a feeling of power and control such as she has experienced in no other area. Another variable is the infant's huge power of life and the vitality imbued in it and given to its surroundings. This factor can arouse new feelings in the mother and deep needs to live through someone else. The strong erotic feeling, like that which exists in intimate and incestuous relations of mother-child, can arouse incestuous desires in the mother or awaken needs for love and warmth, which she lacked until then. Similarly, the possible narcissistic satisfactions that the darling, charming infant can give to its mother in such a connection, or those satisfactions which it is supposed to give her, can bring to life repressed desires for splendor, for self-importance, for prominence within her, or, alternatively, latent shame or repressed inferiority.
Most theories see the child as small and developing and the mother as adult and formed, so that the factors inherent in the special mother-child situation are attributed to the child to explain its behavior and especially its “dark” motivations. The mother's motivations or needs will only be seen as dark in exceptional instances, when she is problematic or pathological.
Usually the child is described as having incestuous or oedipal desires, as possessing narcissistic needs or envy: the mother's motivations are not mentioned either on the theoretical level or in clinical descriptions.
Sigmund Freud related to the child's incestuous desires toward its mother, but he did not relate to the mother's parallel needs toward the child. Similarly, in Freud's account of the oedipal triangle, he describes the child's aggressive urges against his father but not those of the father toward him. Freud did not relate to the new urges and motivations of the parents, which are produced with the child's arrival in the world, not even those that appear in the myth of Oedipus, upon which his theory is based. For example, he did not attribute importance to the fact that Jocasta, Oedipus' mother, was the one who wanted a baby very much and brought it into the world deceitfully, after making the father drunk with wine.5 Nor did he relate to the fact that the fears of Laius, the father, and his rejection of the infant preceded the child's urges and desires.
Melanie Klein also related mainly to the development of the infant and not to its mother: according to her theory, the child is born with envy, anger, and destructiveness, which it brings to the primal connection to its mother and transfers them to the mother with a mechanism of projective identification.6 Klein did not deal with what develops within the mother in this specific situation, what she brings and transfers to the child, perhaps by the very same mechanism. Heinz Kohut did not relate to the figure of the mother but to the needs of reflection and mirroring from her.7 As to the question of why its needs were not satisfied and what the mother's needs were in that very situation, there is no room for it.
Only Donald Winnicott related to the special psychological condition of every mother after the birth of a baby. He claimed that not enough attention had been paid to what he called the “Primary Maternal Preoccupation,”8 a particular psychiatric situation that develops in the mother before and immediately after the birth. He described this as a syndrome of withdrawal, dissociation, or even temporary psychotic disturbance. According to Winnicott, this is a kind of “illness,” which is somewhat vital to maternal devotion. The maternal regression can hint at a fissure, through which a dark and unconscious part of motherhood is liable to penetrate the special and shared circle between her and her child.
According to Jung one may say that the mother's special situation intensifies and activates the archaic maternal images and experiences in her psyche, but some of them will influence her as an actual mother, and determine the personal experience that she had with her surroundings, especially with her mother and father. The penetration of unresolved complexes into the mother's psyche and perhaps even deeper shadows, such as have never risen to the surface, takes place because of the regression to which the mother is subject and the influence of her past experience.
It is important to emphasize that the degree of the influence of these complexes, how much they will penetrate and how much they will allow the archaic material to express itself in life will also depend on the nature of her spouse, the husband, and the father of the child.
Motherhood According to Jung
C. G. Jung saw the figure of the mother, with all its contradictions, as the key to the door of the unconscious and the source, and therefore as the key to understanding and accepting ourselves, our development, and our possibilities for renewal. The figure of the mother is not identical to the unconscious, but it we listen to its voice within us, if we allow ourselves to descend into the emotional tangle she causes in us, for better and worse, we will be reconnected to the entrance of the unconscious.1 Jung claimed that the effort to be aware of who the mother is within us and what her image is will not bear fruit if we ignore it or refrain from solving our personal mystery, about who was the mother with whom we grew up. Because the impression on us is only partially conscious, we must know how to recognize the hidden negative of her image. At the same time, our understanding will remain limited if we do not attain a deeper realization that our mother, as important as she is in our lives, is the woman who bears for us the image of the Great Mother, for better or worse.
According to Jung's theory, it is important for a person to get to his inner self-experience of maternity by bringing his personal mother down to the human level. Everyone places a large burden on his mother: expectations from her, the unfinished responsibility for his fate, and the enormous debts that she owes him : the earth, heaven, and hell that she was for him. All of these were placed upon the shoulders of a single, fragile, erring woman, while in fact most of them belong to the Great Mother.2
Hence, in order to understand the inner experience of maternity, one must recognize two important truths: first, the existence of the massive and unconscious projection of huge archaic images of the mother, the good ones and the bad ones; and, second, it is important to know about the various faces of one's personal mother, the woman who raised one, because they were partially what activated that projection. For example, a negative or harmful experience of the personal mother can create a kind of dark corridor through which negative archaic images of the mother can penetrate, in various periods of one's life. One of the obstacles that prevent one from attaining a comprehensive view of the figure of the mother is the tendency toward idealization, and most psychological theories claim that this view of its mother on the part of the child and of the child on the part of its mother, is necessary and even required for the proper development of the self.3
The child's picture of the world can be deeply influenced by the degree of idealization of the mother or premature disappointment.4 The strong need for the idealization of a lost paradise blurs the picture of the bipolar mother, which has existed eternally, even when in the capacity of the Great Mother.
In various mythological sources and in fairy tales, there is evidence that the bad mother always bustled about, as splendid as she may be, serving various dark and hidden purposes for the woman. If the Mother was Great, a goddess, she was also bi-polar, and it is no wonder that when a flesh and blood mother raised a child, various, strange motivations should enter the maternal connection, beyond her intention to raise the child as a natural extension of herself. From time immemorial the mother's disguised personal needs entered this connection, and the raising of every child served its surroundings and not only itself.
The Use of Myths for Understanding Motherhood
The Jungian approach claims that good and deep understanding of the psyche is not acquired only on the basis of exact scientific research, and also not only from the personal world, but also through the ancient cultural world that resides within our souls.
Man brings with him systems that are organized and ready to function in a specifically human way and this owes to a millions of years of human development.....man brings with him at birth the ground plan of his nature and not only his individual nature but of his collective nature.. only the individual consciousness experiences this things for the first time(cw vol 4 part 728).9
From this point of departure, the investigation of the negative and dark faces of the mother figure and of mother-child relations can be assisted by ancient stories. In many tales the figure of the mother is split between the Good Mother and the Bad Mother: usually the good mother dies, and the bad one, or the stepmother, introduces evil, and the selfish, harsh, and ugly side. The stepmother seduces the child and uses it for her purposes, and she abandons it or wants to devour it, puts a spell on it, and thus prevents its development for her own needs. The powers of the bad mother over the little child are intensified mainly when the father is not present, or when he is weak, his image is feeble, or when he is under her dominion.
In Greek mythology, which is more ancient than fairy tales, the figure of the mother is large at first. She appears as a powerful goddess who undergoes many transformations. First she is the earth itself, from which everything grows, nature itself, and the defense against dangers, but she also becomes a possessive mother, who seizes the child as her own property. An example of this is the Greek myth of Kore, the daughter of Demeter (the Great Mother), who cannot free herself from the bonds of her mother without a secret kidnapping that takes place behind her mother's back. This myth deals with the separation of mother and daughter: first the Great Mother guards her daughter intensely. She wants her only for herself. But the daughter's needs for autonomy and her curiosity, her desire to develop and learn about life, by means of the patriarchal powers of the gods, bring about a separation from the mother and produce a new situation. The myth of the Great Mother ends with the mother's acceptance of the new situation and her giving up of the symbiotic relations with her daughter. After her loss, with anger and depression, the mother accepts the daughter's vital need for separation which makes new life possible for her.
This is a vital psychic stage for all of us, and therefore every mother must allow its formation. Only development connected to separation from the omnipotent mother creates full psychic life for both sides. The mother who is well enough developed takes upon herself the inevitable separation from her children and understands its importance for the dynamic cycles of life.
One of the most difficult aspects of the Great Mother is her own great dependence on her children in order to actualize her power and vitality. Erich Neumann emphasizes the dependence of the mother on her infant and calls this situation of mutual dependence “Reciprocal Bliss.”10 According to Neumann, in this stage symbiosis, which characterizes the first months of the infant's life, is necessary and gives the mother huge power over her child.
Woman exists from the everlasting self-subsistent, immutable; man, evolving, is subject to continual decay…..The first earthy manifestation of masculine power takes the form of the son. From the son, we infer the father, the existence and nature of masculine power are evidence only by the son (Bachoffen in Neumann, p. 47).11 .
When the mother gives birth, she is under a great enchantment, “When a man is born from a woman's womb, the mother herself marvels at the new apparition. For she recognizes in the form of her son the very image of that fecundating power to which she owes her motherhood. Her eyes linger with delight upon his limbs (Bachoffen in Neumann, p. 48).12
In many ancient myths a prominent theme is the mother's harsh and cruel resistance to giving up her children, who supply her needs. In relations of this kind, as portrayed in myth, there is no possibility for separate growth, there is no room for anyone else beside the mother, there is no liberation from her figure, and frequently these mothers make their male children into a kind of “lover-sons.” These tragic cases can be understood against the background of the dark face of motherhood. These mythological stories end with the failure of good motherhood and the victory of the dark face, in the death of the children, and in their being turned into lovely flowers like violets, poppies, and narcissus. Unlike the mythological hero who succeeds in extricating himself from the maternal bond and overcoming it, in leaving his mother and setting out on the voyage of life, these lover-sons failed in their tasks and remained immobilized under the mother's hegemony, without the ability to live their own lives.
Although the myths that I present below tell about mothers and sons, in my view they relate to the “young self,” which needs separation and independence, both of sons and daughters.
Through them, with emphasis on the personal story of the figure of the mother in myth, it will be possible to learn a great deal about the mother who ties her children up in impossible bonds. Furthermore, these stories can help us understand and reveal the negative, the dark part, which is in every system of relationships in which the maternal relation is central, as in the relationship between therapist and client, between counselor and the counseled. That which is characteristic of the three mothers in the myths I present is their huge, desperate need for a child. These are women for whom “the kingdom of the mother,” as Neumann calls it,10 is not self-evident in their lives, but it depends desperately on the son who is to be born, who in some way gives her the right to exist.
For every woman the birth of a child is an exceptional event, evoking her Holy of Holies and bringing it into existence, but at the same time it also arouses all her own primordial problems and complexes. Motherhood can arouse great expectations in women for compensation or reparation of what they had experienced as faulty in their personal past and their womanhood.
The full story of the mother will give us a possible explanation of the creation of this dark side in her soul and to a degree make things easier than placing the full weight of failure in the process of separation and individuation on the children's shoulders. Neumann said of the son- lovers that they are beautiful and make the mother happy, like spring fertility celebrations.13 But, as in the drama of the “gifted child,” about which Alice Miller writes,14 they are not meant to live their mothers' lives.
Cybele (the Axe-Goddess), the Mother of Attis15
The Mother who Restores her Power and Control by Giving Birth
This myth is an ancient Phrygian story about Cybele (who is also called Agdistis) and her son-lover, Attis. Here is the myth:
Once, when the god Zeus was tired, he found a resting place in one of the mountains, which was shaped like a huge and mighty woman. While in a deep sleep, he ejaculated semen, which was absorbed by the earth, and a large, powerful being was created, which developed as both male and female. This strange creature, which was named Agdistis, wandered about in the world, happy and goodhearted, but its perfection frightened the gods very much, and they decided that they had to determine its gender. In the discussion among the gods, it was decided that the male organ would be removed from its body, and it would continue to live in the world as a female. The gods' plot was quite cruel. Dionysus, the god of instincts and wine, volunteered to create a temptation in the form of a small spring of wine, which would flow next to the place where the creature was resting. The bi-sexual Agdistis discovered the wine, drank it, and fell into a long slumber. While it was asleep, the gods cruelly tied its impressive male organ to a nearby bush, and when it rose from its sleep, its member was painfully torn off. The suffering creature gave a huge shout. Wounded, it left the place and became a woman, whose name was changed to Cybele (the axe-goddess). As a woman Cybele retained power from the sparks of the god Zeus, and these sparks made her into a kind of witch-goddess, with special powers. The myth also tells us that in the place where her male organ fell, a huge and mighty tree grew, which produced special almonds, and that in time it became one of the trees in the orchard of King Sangarius. The king's daughter, Nana, used to sit at the foot of the tree and play. It is told that once, while Nana was playing with one of the almonds, the marvelous fruit moved between her legs and fertilized her. From this game she became pregnant, and, to her father's dismay, she gave birth to a darling, lovely baby. But the king, Nana's father, decided to imprison his daughter, to starve her to death, and to remove the infant from his palace. It is told that the beautiful baby, Attis, was abandoned, but he was raised by a He-goat , which had a special ability to give the baby milk. The child wandered about as an orphan and met Cybele, who fell deeply in love with him and adopted him as her son. Cybele continued to raise and nourish her son lover, Attis, who became her consort. When the boy reached sufficient maturity a princess, the daughter of King Midas, saw him and wanted him as a groom. King Midas wanted Attis as a groom for his daughter and that Cybele was filled with pride because of this request and agreed to hold the wedding. However, on the wedding night, Cybele suffered greatly, and her heart would not allow her to part with Attis, her lover-son. She was dreadfully jealous, and in her anger she employed her occult witchcraft. She struck both Attis and King Midas with madness. In his madness, Attis castrated himself and shouted out loud, “Cybele, Cybele, I return to you.” He fell at her feet, wounded, and died, and violets grew and bloomed from the beautiful Attis' blood. Cybele begged for her son's life, and Zeus answered her prayer in part, agreeing that Attis' body would not decay, his hair would grow despite his death, and only his little finger would continue to move.16
The transformations of the beautiful child, Attis, bespeak birth and development in the shadow of tragedy, the tragedy of a powerful mother who had been emasculated, a mother whose phallic powers and instincts had been taken from her – and the possibility of recovering them came through giving birth to a boy and raising him as a mate, a consort. The story presents a mother who was born by chance, in nature, without parents, but possessing bi-sexual power, strong, even omnipotent. Emasculation, the loss of power and the transformation into a woman, and the possibility of regaining power through her son are central in this story. Agdistis, Cybele, and Nana, too, as well as the androgynous He Goat symbolize parts of the mother in the story of Attis.
Stories of this kind have been told and are still told in every age, because the castration, so to speak, of the woman, the removal of her power instinct exists and is possible in every culture. It is possible to expand this myth to personal stories as well, in which parents deprive the daughter of her power. The power is not eliminated, but rather it descends to the underground through the fertile almond tree, it is accompanied by injury and seeks an outlet in the continuation of life. The compensation or the possibility to reconnect with this component of the woman's psyche through her children, through her becoming a mother, is highly possible. On the face of things, because of the subject of castration, it appears that such a possibility for compensation would be greater with giving birth to sons, but it can be extended to any birth. Becoming a mother, giving birth, control of the child, and the creation of a new hegemony raises once again the subject of the young mother's power.
This story sheds light on the central, hidden dark side behind maternal power, the power that a woman receives through the new hegemony of motherhood. The power and control, which come to light when the woman becomes a mother, are within her maternal hegemony, toward her children or in her relations with her husband, and with regard to the outer world as well, because the mother who gives birth to beautiful progeny has always enjoyed a special status.
In the myth of the Hebrew matriarchs, Sarah receives power and status after giving birth to Isaac, even driving out Hagar. Rebbecca deceives Isaac by way of Jacob, and Leah receives her power from her fertility versus Rachel, who is loved.
The child who grows up in a maternal environment such as this, where the need for power has a strong effect on the mother's behavior, is liable to conceal his own power out of fear, and he might even completely deny his power and independence for the sake of his mother's love. “Cybele, I am coming back to you,” Attis cries out and castrates himself , giving up his power for the sake of relationships with his mother. He will never be able to be the tall boy, proud of his strength, who takes his proper place. Giving up his strength for the sake of his mother, in order to receive her love, derives from the same lack of effective motherhood, loving and accepting the child, and enabling him to take his proper place, to express his will, and to realize his strength.
The second myth shows another hidden aspect from behind maternal love, and it is the Eros and love that give life.
Myrrha (the Weeping Beauty) and Adonis16
The Mother who Draws the Power of Life and Love from her Children
A Greek Myth, with Syrian Influences: the Story of Adonis, the son of Myrrha, and the Myrrh Tree
The beautiful Myrrha was the daughter of King Tis [??] of Lebanon, and some say of Cinyras, founder of the city of Paphos in Cyprus. It is told that her beauty was celestial, and her hair was wonderful. Everyone who saw her was envious of her, and her father the king was extremely proud of her. The goddess Aphrodite, who watched over mortal women, so that they would not exceed the beauty of the goddesses, and who punished hubristic women, decided to punish Myrrha and her father, the king. Their punishment was especially severe: the daughter, Myrrha, was to fall in love with her father and secretly consummate that love. Myrrha, who was attracted to her father, got him drunk with wine for twelve nights, and entered his bed. The king, her father, who slept with her all those nights, ostensibly unconsciously, woke up in a panic one day, but his daughter was already pregnant by him. In anger and guilt, the king drove his poor daughter out his house. The beautiful Myrrha, who had been driven out of her home, wandered alone in the world, and in her depression she wanted to put an end to her life. However, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, the same goddess who had punished her for her pride, appeared at that critical moment and transformed Myrrha into a myrrh tree the moment she gave birth. From the trunk of this special, fragrant tree, a beautiful infant was born, Adonis. Immediately after his birth, the baby Adonis was adopted with warmth and great desire by Aphrodite herself. Aphrodite raised the beautiful and attractive baby and received great satisfaction from raising him. But, because of her other activities, the goddess had to find a substitute mother from time to time. The goddess who received the baby in a box to watch over it was, not by chance, Persephone, the queen of the underworld. As soon as she glimpsed the child's beauty, Persephone, the dark goddess, fell in love with him, and she, too, wanted him for herself. The goddess-mothers fought over the beautiful infant and turned to Zeus (as in the Judgment of Solomon), the father of the gods. Unlike Solomon, Zeus decided that the mothers must divide the beautiful child according to the seasons, until he grew up and could also receive a third of the seasons for himself alone. The charming boy, who became a beautiful lad, was nurtured by Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty of love, who made him her consort and lover. The lover-lad gave up his own season, the third that was meant for him, when he grew up. He was led to belong entirely to his mother, the sensuous goddess Aphrodite. However, jealousy arose in the heart of Persephone, the queen of the underworld, and she insisted that the boy also belonged to the kingdom of death. She aroused the envy of Ares, the god of war, Aphrodite's consort, and he, in his anger, sent a wild boar, which killed the youthful Adonis. Anemones grew from Adonis' blood. Although Adonis descended to the underworld, according to Aphrodite's wish, he returns every half year, with the arrival of spring, and helps the flowers to bloom, and then he goes back to the underworld for the winter. Adonis became the god of women, the god whose rites scattered the fragrance of the myrrh tree, which symbolizes his mother. In the worship of Adonis, women would sacrifice their hair, and when they came to the temples, they would bring small gardens , symbolizing their femininity, as a gift.
Adonis is also born in the shadow of his mother's tragedy, a tragedy connected with Eros and incestuous relations in the family. The story tells us about beauty, about love, and about Eros, which become problematic in the woman's life. Family relations became erotic relations and terminated in torment, expulsion, and severance. In interpreting this myth, too, we will relate to all the women in the story, Myrrha, Aphrodite, Persephone, and the myrrh tree, as aspects of the mother.
Myrra, her father's daughter, wanders about in the world as a pervert, lacking love and lacking the will to live, but her child is saved and is born from the tree. Although a feeling of excitement exists in the mother-child connection in its incipient stages, in this case the mother (Aphrodite) remains a divine representative for her son, someone with erotic super powers, infused with desire. She feels as if the child is the Eros the god himself, who will infuses her with vital power and saves her from her death wishes. The beautiful baby arouses the instinct for love and the renewed desire for life in the miserable mother.
With the power of his beauty, his vitality, and the hope within him, the baby arouses the desire for love and Eros in his mother, along with maternal feelings: the mother is in love with her baby.
The beautiful little baby arouses powerful emotions and urges, and the possible, hidden face can be the seductions of the mother, when eroticization serves as the central compensation in her life. The image of the seductive mother, who needs erotic satisfaction from her child, appears on the face of things as deviant, but if we expand the concept of Eros to mean the drive to live in general, this face will receive redoubled meaning. The image of the baby as bringing life, as giving love, and opening up love in the mother's heart is self-evident, but if the mother's need for love is unbearably great, whether because of her past relationships or because of her relations with her husband, then her new baby will receive increased importance as fulfillment or compensation.
The baby or the child who lives his life of love for the sake of his mother is like Adonis, who gives up his life for his goddess mother. He sacrifices himself, his Eros, and his vitality for his mother. Behind the fostering mother, who is concerned and enveloping, enters the mother's seduction and great need for love. Maternity in this case is partial and lacking, because it is largely dictated by the mother's erotic needs. The boy forfeits himself even more, because he hopes to gain true love.
In this article I will not expand upon the catastrophic results of this relationship. I will merely make a number of points. First, it shows glorification and dangerous devotion to beauty and to Eros particularly in a place where all the components of motherhood are needed. Second, the myth presents the split between Eros and Thanatos, both of which exist in this kind of motherhood. Seduction and exploitation of the child, of his beauty and his vital energy, cause a feeling of death. Both the mother and her son, Adonis, wander between life and death. The mother tries to draw out a correction for her life, to overcome death, which is in her, through the son – or the daughter – who cannot bring the correction to her, and the son or daughter try to forfeit themselves for the sake of the correction which cannot be made by means of their mother. In the end the son or daughter remain with a great void, and they are unable to live their life. They cannot use their Eros for themselves and their own satisfaction. Even if they manage to create a relationship, it will be for the other whom they serve for parental love which they lack. They are unable to use their Eros for themselves and their own needs. If they create relationships, they will be for the other, whom they serve for the sake of parental love, which they lack.
The third myth deals with the narcissistic aspect of motherhood, a dark aspect that has always existed in relations between mother and child.
Liriope (of the Lily Face), the Mother of Narcissus17
A Mother who Uses her Children as a Reflection of her Image and Self-Esteem
Liriope was a beautiful nymph, desired by everyone, and the river god Cephissus raped her cruelly while she was bathing in his water. From this cruel rape, the violent encounter between the masculine and the feminine, was born the infant Narcissus ( Anaesthetization or frozen in senses), whom all the river nymphs loved, and for his mother he was a marvelous compensation for the injury she had undergone. He grew up among the nymphs and was a source of pride to his mother and of envy for the others.
It is told that Liriope, the mother, was very fearful for her special son's fate, and she went to get advice from a soothsayer to obtain better control over his fate. The prophet Tiresias predicted the boy's future, saying that Narcissus would live as long as he did not know himself, and that the moment he knew himself, he would die. Narcissus' mother did not understand the meaning of the prophecy and she continued raising him with great pride. During his development, Narcissus parted from his mother, kept his distance, and became a cold and alienated boy.
When both girls and boys wanted to approach him, he declared loudly that he would rather die than allow anyone to rule over him or his feelings, and therefore he would never fall in love with anyone. Out of all his lovers, only the nymph Echo fell desperately in love with him and refused to give up his love. Echo, whose punishment was that she was able only to repeat the words of other people, was the one who reverberated for him as an extension of his mother. Narcissus did not reply to Echo. He caused her great distress, and in her frustration and weeping, she became a pillar of salt, and only her voice is heard in nature. Boys also fell in love with Narcussus, and it is told that one disappointed and angry boy cursed him so that he would feel the pain of impossible love. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, responded to the boy's curse and made Narcissus suffer that way. Once when Narcissus was alone near a pool of clear and virgin water in a clearing in the forest, he saw his own reflection and, not knowing that it was himself, he fell in love with it. Narcissus, in love with the boy reflected from the water, gradually realized that the handsome lad was himself. This knowledge of disappointed love shattered his soul. He became obsessive about his reflection and fatally addicted to self-regard. His soul was tormented. He stopped attending to his bodily needs until he died. In the pool that had served him as a mirror a narcissus flower grew, symbolizing his soul.
In his prose poem, “The Disciple,” Oscar Wilde wrote:
When Narcissus died the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort.
And when they saw that the pool had changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, they loosened the green tresses of their hair and cried to the pool and said, 'We do not wonder that you should mourn in this manner for Narcissus, so beautiful was he.'
'But was Narcissus beautiful?' said the pool.
'Who should know that better than you?' answered the Oreads. 'Us did he ever pass by, but you he sought for, and would lie on your banks and look down at you, and in the mirror of your waters he would mirror his own beauty.'
And the pool answered, 'But I loved Narcissus because, as he lay on my banks and looked down at me, in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.'18
Oscar Wilde understood the ambiguous situation of the pool very well, as symbolizing the mother, the mother whose children reflect herself for her. She does not even see their beauty. Therefore her grief is not for the loss of her son but of the possibility of seeing her own beauty. This mother is dependent on her children so that she can feel her value and importance. The narcissistic mother is so wounded that the world around her must nourish her value, glorify her beauty, provide her youth, and give her the feeling of success. Liriope, the woman with the lily face, and the mother of Narcissus, was cruelly injured by the river god, and she is deeply fearful for the fate of her son, whom she is afraid to lose as an object that provides her value. The beautiful baby arouses the possibility for the mother of mending and healing the injury in her life, her wound. Because Liriope uses her child as an object to reflect herself and is so afraid to lose him, he himself flees from her, shuts himself up within himself, and blunts his emotions, so as not to feel the absence of his selfhood. But secluding himself does not solve his problem, because Narcissus continues to seek his mother's observing eyes, the reflecting mirror, as Kohut states.
The women in Narcissus' life, including the mother figure, the nymph Echo, and the pool that reflects his image, are all like mothers who desire him but do not supply his needs. They are like bodiless mothers. Behind their appearance there is no enclosing, no nourishing, no true maternal presence. Though his mother is beautiful, she is a kind of lovely mask of a wounded and narcissistic woman, and Echo reverberates emptily, without feelings, not serving as a true counterpart. According to Schwartz-Salant, echo's voice is bodiless, like an alienated mother, and therefore her voice has no meaning.20 The pool is also a mirror that leaves him completely alone with himself: these are three hidden faces of the other, which leave the child hungry for love. Narcissus' tragedy, and that of every child like him, is double, because the child who tries to satisfy the mother in narcissistic fashion becomes himself a tool for her needs. But he, like her, because of his emotional seclusion, cannot show her true warmth and love. He will not reveal his true self.
Ultimately the frustration is mutual, because the son discovers that the mother is using him for her needs, and the mother, who does not feel him, does not receive his love, and reiterates, obsessively, unconsciously, the earlier injury that she had received in the past.
When the mother has a strong sense of deprivation, this dark narcissistic aspect can cause her to develop severe and vengeful hostile feelings. The mother's feeling of betrayal and narcissistic anger in these situations can be enormous, and it can be cruel to the child in murderous ways. She is liable to boycott and abandon the child in the most destructive manner. Most severe is the response at the moment when the child separates from her, and all his good qualities, the moment he is no longer hers, became hateful. Because of the separation and loss of satisfaction, she envies her child, and in extreme situations she will even try to damage those qualities that were exalted for her in the past. The child who is separated, who abandons her, becomes the enemy, like an abandoning husband.
The central difficulty that characterizes the dark, narcissistic side of motherhood is that this wound is hard to heal. A narcissistic mother, because of her vulnerability, cannot hear any kind of criticism of her motherhood, and therefore she will continue to be injured by her children and to injure them.
* * *
I would like to extend the subject of motherhood and its dark face to all the situations in which the image of the mother, and especially mother-child relations, are a leading motive in the relationship.
The narcissistic, dark face can cause great damage in all parental-like relationships, in which the child, the patient, or the person being counseled is supposed to grow, to achieve independence, and to take his or her personal or professional path and is liable to suffer from various narcissistic complexes. The therapist, counselor, teacher, or spiritual guide has the declared goal of bringing the “child” to a new place of development, but in this relationship the hidden elements we have been discussing can easily be aroused. In relation to the child, the patient, or the person being counseled, toward whom a deep and powerful connection is made, these authority figures can be preoccupied by themselves and use the other party as a reflection of their value.
Everyone in treatment who accords importance to therapist-patient relations is subject to one degree or another to the influence of the motive of the Great Mother, and the three dark faces discussed in this article can be significant for them.
The dark face of Cybele, the mother figure with the axe, deals with power and aggressiveness, which are hidden behind maternal giving. Gugenbuhl Craig21 shows that one of the darkest sides of psychotherapy and the helping professions is power. He claims that behind great giving there may sometimes be concealed a huge and exaggerated need for power and control, and we must be aware of this. Frequently therapists lack an arena outside of the therapy room where they can feel themselves empowered, as happens to the mother, all of whose essence and power are in the home. Like the mother, whose sole arena is motherhood and her relations with her children, the therapist can fall into the same trap of exerting power, even excessive power, in his or her relations with patients or people being counseled. Like the mother who is convinced she is doing everything for her children's sake, the therapist can also find himself controlling his or patients without inhibitions. Like Attis, who castrates himself for the sake of the Great Mother, the patient, the person being counseled, or the student can also conceal their will and power, give them up or sacrifice them, out of fear or love of the therapist. This giving up can be from fear of the loss of love and also as an expression of the terror that sometimes takes place in therapy, or even for both together.
The aspect of drawing life and Eros from children, as in the stories of Myrrha and Adonis, can also be a shadow hidden from the eyes of the therapist and the patient. The young, beautiful woman patient, the creative and talented therapist, or the energetic student, overflowing with life, who bring life to the dyadic relationship, can fall into the same trap of the mother who gives but in fact takes what she lacks for herself. Love and Eros can be positive for the bond, if they lead to creativity, curiosity, and enrichment, but they can also be hidden from sight and lead to exploitation, misuse, and immobilization.
The erotic energy that acts out of sight, behind the curtains, and unconsciously, can lead to sexual relations in the therapeutic situation, and the damage is similar to that of sexual relations between parents and their children. The mother, who is like Myrrha, the mother of Adonis, who was herself the victim of incest, can transfer her distress to her son. She can also refrain from physical contact with the child and from the open demonstration of love, and thus reenact the sexual abuse she experienced with her parents.
A male therapist who experiences such close intimate intensity, which arouses powerful Eros, can unconsciously convince himself that sexual behavior can be good for the female patient, who is so closely connected with him.
The dark face of motherhood can be aroused in all situations where there is intense, intimate closeness, or mystical participation,22 as Jung put it.
To the degree that a close connection and the boundaries become fragile, the separation is liable to be blurred, and the dark side of motherhood can easily enter. In cases where the experience of the sterilization of the mother is found in the shadow,23 and the misery of her life, and yearning for lover overwhelms her, she is in danger. This is especially true when her relations with her husband and her surroundings in general are not satisfying. She will seek vitality in the connection with her children.
In all the myths presented here, the mother's life was miserable, and in all of them she suffered in her connection with her father, and in all of them the absence of a mother-figure was conspicuous.
An individual's personal shadow is the entrance to the corridor through which one can penetrate to the hidden motivations that I have presented in this article. Both according to the myths and according to life experience, we know that these elements receive redoubled power when the husband, the children's father, does not exist, is not significant, or still dependent himself upon his own mother figure.
Bachofen J.J.:1948 Das Mutterecht(Gesamelte Werke,vol 1,3) Basel pub.
Kerenyi C. 1979 The Gods of the Greeks library of congress catalog '' "The Story of Attis" ch.4 pp88
" The Story of Adonis" pp75 Graves R. 1955 The Greek Myths vol1 Narcissus pp- 85 Penguin books Harmondworth, Middleesex,England Humbert E 1984:C.G.Jung . The fundamentals of theory and Practice Chiron Publication
Jecoby M. ,1990 Individuation &Narcissism' The psychology of Self in Jung - Kout Routledge , myth of Narcissus pp-18-29
Kohut H. 1971 , The Analysis of The Self 'NewYork 'Int.Univ.Press
Kohut H. 1977, The Restoration of the Self Int. Univ.Press N.Y.1977 , Miller E.1992 הדרמה של הילד המחונן הוצאת דביר 1992 תל-אביב
Neumann E.: 1954, The Origin and History of Conciousness Routledge Kegan Paul PP-88-100
Neumann E.1963, The Great mother Bullingen Faundation inc.N/Y.1963
Gugenbuhl-Craig,A:1978 Power in the Helping Proffessions,Zurich:Spring Publications Schwartz-Slant N 1982. Nacissism and Chracter Transfomation' Inner City Winnicot D.W 1992. :Primary Meternal Preoccupation in Through Pediatrics to Psycho-Analysis, Karnac Books pp,300-305
6 Klein 1946
7 Kohut 1972
8 Winnicott 1956,1992 p300-305
1 Humbert 1984
3 Kohut 1971
9 Jung c/w4,428
1 1 Bachoffen 48
1 2 Neumann E.1954 p85
1 0 Neumann E.1954 p88
1 3 Neumann E.1954p45
1 4 Miller E.The drama of the gifted child
1 5 Kerenyi 1951 p 88
1 6 Rites of self-castration for the great goddess characterized many areas, and they continued even to the time of the Renaissance.
1 6 Kerenyi 1951 p75-6
1 7 Graves R.ch.85
1 8 Oscar Wilde, Works, (London: Spring Books, 1963), p. 746.
2 0 Salant Shwartz 1982 p84
2 1 Gugenbuhl Criag 1978
2 2 Participation-mystique is a Jungian concept, similar to intellectual identification, in which a person is bound to another object with a mystical, unbounded connection.
2 3 According to Jung the shadow is the hidden and dark side of the psyche, that which is hidden from one's consciousness.