Apr 22, 2021

Photo Credit: K. Mitch Hodge via Unsplash

Our colleague Puddi Kullberg, author of The Bad Mother, joins us to acknowledge motherhood’s shadow. A link to her paper is below. Our culture idealizes motherhood, but mothers everywhere have experienced themselves as bad in varying ways and to various degrees.

Jung suggests that even truly harmful mothers can expiate their actions by becoming conscious of what they have done. If we can face even grievous mistakes, we can deepen into our ordinary, sometimes dark humanity. Confrontation with our negative mothering leads to experiencing emotions that were previously unrecognized or denied.

We can mitigate isolation by getting help. We can be known, our experience is understandable, and we can choose the life that lies before us now. We may also discover new capacity for compassion and presence—and moments of genuine joy. 

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I climb a gigantic rock. In the carrier on my belly, I carry my son. I am trying to reach the tree that stands solely on top of the rock, which feels like the ceiling of the world. The tree is bigger than any tree I have ever seen. It is, in fact, so big I feel it to be the world tree. I am desperate to reach it, for I feel I need to be there; it is essential. The tree is wildly moving its gigantic trunk from left to right all around its circumference. There is no wind, so I feel it must be moving from itself. Its crown is damaged by what seems to have been lightning. It feels overwhelming how big the tree is. I know that I have to reach the base of the tree when it is moving its trunk into the other direction. Although there is a risk of its branches hitting me and my baby, I know there is a certain time span for me to quickly reach its base before the trunk will change direction again. Suddenly there is a figure that attacks me as I climb upwards. He hits and tries to throw me off the mountain. It feels like he is from space, for he has a strange appearance, metallic-like. I know I will have to fight him; it is too important to reach the tree. I feel a sense of overcoming this figure, but there is no real image of that. I am very aware of my baby on my belly during the fight.”


Lisa Marchiano. Motherhood: Facing & Finding Yourself (Amazon) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1683646665/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_14TP3MBSAKD72A2JSV36

Puddi Kullberg. The Bad Mother: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00332925.2019.1564512

Daniela Sieff. The Death Mother as Nature’s Shadow: Infanticide, Abandonment, and the Collective Unconscious: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00332925.2019.1564513


Learn to Analyze your own Dreams:  https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/

You can contact our guest Puddi Kullberg here:  http://puddi.com/home.html

The myth of Tane Mahuta: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Tāne


  1. Leah Ruekberg

    Perfect timing for this episode! I appreciate the thoughtful discussion of “good-enough mother” “bad mother” and “dangerous mother.” I felt accompanied as I approach a difficult Mother’s Day — my least favorite holiday in which there are no cards on the rack that speak my truth about mothering. I also appreciate your reference to “Daniella Sieff’s article about “The Death Mother.” We don’t talk about this in polite company — but we must. I’ve pre-ordered Lisa’s book and look forward to reading it. Love this podcast!

  2. Melanie

    For non-academic listeners, you can find the full text of the Death Mother article at Dr. Sieff‘s website danielasieff.com. Plus she has done several interviews about the concept on YouTube.

  3. Luli

    Any chance that Puddi Kullberg’s article could be made accessible?

    Also, would you consider providing links to purchase books via independent booksellers (through Bookshop) rather than Amazon?


  4. Tania

    Yes, I’d rather appreciate you posting links to independent booksellers, as I do not buy from Amazon


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