Negative Mother Complex: When Our Painful Childhood Owns Us

Sep 5, 2019

A mother with blond hair holds a small child. She wears a golden Buddha mask.


Healing a Negative Mother Complex

As the mother is the generator of life and usual primary attachment figure, the mother complex is universal. As the image of a “personified affect” fueled by an archetypal core, the mother complex is especially powerful. In its negative aspect it  may arise from a mother who was experienced as uncaring, attacking, possessive, withholding, absent, or wounded. It is likely to show up in relationships with others and in the relationship with oneself. Fairy tales like The Raven and Six Swans teach us that healing a negative mother complex takes time and perseverance—and that we may be aided by an animus prince or an anima princess, images of the autonomous unconscious. By responding to the turmoil of the mother complex one can embrace the task of finding the mother within.     

Here’s the dream we discuss:

“Last night I had a dream I was in a cave that had mosaic designs all over the walls. They were old ancient ruins like from Ancient Greece or Turkey. The first one was of some type of fertility goddess like Ishtar or Lilith, but I can’t remember the details exactly. But the image frightened me, and I was afraid to go inside. Then above the ruins there was a church. It was an Eastern Orthodox Church. It sort of reminded me of the Hagia Sofia. A painting of the Black Madonna was hanging on the wall. All the church members were women and the pastor was a woman as well. I don’t recall what we were talking about or what the pastor was saying, but I was transfixed upon that painting. That’s all I can remember.”


Book: Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

YouTube: Clay Weiner (“Videos”: Mothers Day) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAxfh8ukosQ

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

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  1. JD Jones

    I feel there’s some real resistance on the part of the presenters to address the true malignancy of bad mothers – they exist, they are a real thing. And this is hardly a judgement that’s made in reference to the failure of a mother to achieve some imaginary ideal. Abusive mothers – who are often personality disordered or addicts as well, cause real harm. It seems bad mothering is consistently rationalized and minimized on the podcast. A defense mechanism?

    • Brendan Robinson

      I also found the same thing. It is either that the presenters have really not had personal experience or that they have but have split off the experience as it is too painful and try are trying to come across as individuated.

  2. Julie Webster

    Yes 🙌 Marie- Louise von Franz nails the issues surrounding this painful predicament when she quotes Jung in ‘The Feminine in Fairy Tales’ – The Handless Maiden . I was amazed and thrilled when I stumbled on her explanation.


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