In our new series on relationships, we start off with the primary influence in life which is our relationship with our mother. In this episode, we discuss:
- A common pattern in personal growth revolving around healing the relationship with a bad mother.
- How your relationship with your mother influences your life.
- How to have an adult relationship with your mother.
Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.
Debra Maldonado 00:01
Hello, everyone, welcome to Soul Sessions with Debra and Rob of Creative Mind. How are you today?
Robert Maldonado 00:07
Very well, thank you. You look beautiful as always.
Debra Maldonado 00:11
So do you. I’m so excited because we’re starting a new series. This series is on relationships, my favorite top subject.
Robert Maldonado 00:22
We have an expert here.
Debra Maldonado 00:23
We’re not talking just about romantic relationships. We’re talking about family relationships, work relationships, relationships with team, with clients, if you’re a coach or business, relationship with yourself, which is always the most important relationship in your life. Today we’re going to talk about our favorite topic, the mother. The name of our podcast is “Did your mother ruin your life?” Did she, Rob?
Robert Maldonado 01:00
Well, we’re gonna answer it. Should we answer it now or wait till the end?
Debra Maldonado 01:07
Let’s answer it now.
Robert Maldonado 01:08
Okay. I would say yes and no. And let’s explain why we say yes and why we say no.
Debra Maldonado 01:22
One of the things that over the years — I’ve worked with so many women and some men — there seems to be a theme that every place they’re stuck in their life, it always comes back to the relationship with the mother, and not always that the mother was so bad. But that dynamic with mother-child. Let’s talk about that. What is the mother-child relationship? How does that really create a template for our life?
Robert Maldonado 01:57
It’s a big topic, the good thing is, there is a lot of good research on what is going on between the mother and the child early on. There’s attachment theory which we’ll talk about as well. But in general, Freud, in the very beginning — because psychoanalysis is really the basis of Western psychology — he saw the mother as the primary relationship for the child, meaning that it is the initial relationship that you have in life, as soon as you’re born you’re connected to this individual. Even before obviously, you’re in the womb. But as you’re born, you’re dependent on this incredible being to take care of you, to give you food, comfort, keep you safe. It’s like an oceanic experience. Freud believed that we’re always looking to go back there, back to that oceanic experience of feeling taken care of, fully enveloped.
Debra Maldonado 03:23
When I was a hypnotherapist, I was trained in pre-natal regression. We would go back into the womb with the client. I would take them through the experience, the memory, the womb memories. We think there’s all this trauma there. I would say 99% of them were just really beautiful. They said “I just felt so peaceful.” It’s really amazing that you’re a part of the mother’s body, she’s carrying you in her body. Even if she was the most critical, evil mother that you’ve ever had, she carried you, she gave you life, there had to be some sort of love or caring for you for her to basically birth you, because she carried you in her physical body, and you’re really one with her. Everything’s taken care of, you have the umbilical cord, you got your food, you don’t have to do anything, you just laying back. Then as we were born, we’re separated from that source. It’s like a metaphor for how we separate from the divine when we become human beings. We are one with the divine. Then we have this perception of separation. We’re always trying to get back. And the mother’s is like a godlike creature to us that we project. Now that I’m out of the womb, you’re still the source of everything, and in a way, psychologically and culturally, she is. Mother’s the one who feeds you, takes care of you most of the time in life. This idea in the culture that says “My parents screwed us up”, I hear a lot from clients— just a little background before we get into the data — a lot of them are mothers and they feel they don’t want to be a bad mother. There’s a lot of “I don’t want to be a bad mother, I want to be a good mother.” It’s such a conflict, because I think every mother struggles with that. When we think about blaming our mother for everything, I think unless they’re really damaged psychologically, like pathological, most mothers try their best or always feel like they want to do the good for their children.
Robert Maldonado 05:44
Before we get into Jung, who had a very different perspective on the mother and the mother archetype, the idea of blaming the mother, it does come from psychoanalysis because in psychoanalysis, which is the Freudian model, which is basically a medical model, since Freud was a neurologist, he was looking for what goes wrong in his patients, people become obsessive or neurotic, they have phobias that there’s really no reason to have — he was looking for the source of that, and obviously went to early experiences. It stayed in that vein of thought that we’re looking for some kind of initial problem, initial trauma that then caused this neuroses to appear. Whereas when we consider a coaching model, it’s not necessarily that way. We’re simply looking at what were the messages, the subtle messages that the individual absorbed from their experiences with the mother and with early experiences that remain unconscious. Unless the individual was able to examine those things, they pretty much remained in the unconscious mind, and are then operating throughout their lives.
Debra Maldonado 07:32
So what you’re saying is that a lot of people think “I need to find the root cause of why my life is so screwed up.” I don’t know if that’s Freudian to think who to blame for it, what is that initial core incident as they call it, the impactful event, that initial impactful event that screwed you up for life. I think that life is an impactful event, being born. All of us have had a way. I think that our approach is more like it’s not that there are certain people that have this trauma and that’s why their life is screwed up, and you got to find the core and heal that trauma. It’s more from the coaching model of we’re all dealing with an ego, we all have patterns that we have to deal with. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with us. Is that what you’re saying the difference between the Freudian and the Jungian approach is?
Robert Maldonado 08:31
Not so much Jungian, because Jung himself was actually working with more severe clients and patients, his patients were psychotic, they weren’t just neurotic. And he was also a physician and looked for the source of the problem. So there’s nothing wrong with that model. It’s simply that if we want to use some of this information about attachment, about what is going on between the mother and the child in a coaching model, in other words, where people that aren’t necessarily looking for symptom reduction or resolution to their internal conflicts, but a more enlightened way of being, then we can look at this information in that coaching model perspective.
Debra Maldonado 09:32
I’ve always found many sources of events in my life that could have formed different patterns, our life is filled with them. There’s a misperception that there’s a perfect, ideal life and some of us get screwed up along the way. I think all of us have to go through the challenges of life to form our character and different patterns in us, our fears. In humanity, it’s that compassion for ourselves and for the people around us that raised us that everyone’s trying to do their best most of the time. Even really severely ill people don’t have the capacity to do better, so it’s like having compassion for the state of humanity. But let’s go back to these early experiences and the mother and how they affect our life. Do we want to go into the attachment theory now or do you have something else to say before we move to that?
Robert Maldonado 10:44
Just to frame the approach that we’re taking a little bit further. Jung had this idea that we already have this template, which he called the mother archetype, that’s innate in us. We’re born with it. As we’re born, we project it on to our biological mother. The experience is a lot bigger than just relating to one individual, other human being. But like you were saying, it’s almost like that feeling of the divine, I’m relating to the universe in a way when I’m relating to my mother — from a child’s perspective, because we’re not reasoning at that age. In our first few years we’re responding and experiencing the world instinctually. We know our neurons are not committed, we have an excess of neurons to be ready to capture the world. That openness allows us to adapt to any situation. It’s nature’s way of saying “I’m going to give you the best possible chance here, I’m going to leave a lot of the neural connections open”, so that as you experience life, as you get a sense of what to expect in the world, it starts to prune and define those neural connections.
Debra Maldonado 12:34
We’re like soft clay, then we get hardened into a shape, the world shapes us and we shape ourselves as well by making decisions and knowing what feels comfortable, what doesn’t. It’s an exchange, it’s not like someone can force you to conform to be somewhere, you had to agree on some level. Your relationship with your mother, that early experience is a two-way street. It’s how you related and how she related, you’re creating your own understanding of the world. What I love about this concept of the mother archetype, which I read when I read Jung, this concept really stuck out to me that idealized mother archetype is this pure, divine, godlike image we project onto this little human woman who has her own patterns from her mother and her mother’s mother, and generational patterns, and cultural patterns of being a woman — all these things she had to deal with. And you’re projecting this ultimately divine thing onto this mere human and expecting her to be that way. It’s that disappointment of “You’re not giving me everything I need” that also plays into the role. We project onto the mother, and our expectations on her also create our image of her in our mind. We have an internal image of our mother. Everyone, even siblings, has a different internal image of their mother. Who your mother is, is basically your own internal image of what you decided she was based on that projection, your interaction and then your relationship. She’s not an externally fixed object. It’s dynamic, and I find that so fascinating, because we think people are just certain way, they’re the way they are. But there’s an internal image that we have that we project. We do the same thing with everyone in life, but that primary image is how we relate to the world and how we relate to others, it’s foundational. Is the world safe for me?
Robert Maldonado 14:55
That openness then allows for— let’s say our biological mother is absent— that an adopted mother can come in. Whoever really takes care of us and mothers us becomes that object of projection for us. We do know from research that the baby is primed to relate to one person in the first few months, then you get to about a year and later, they start to look for secondary attachments, to the father, to siblings, people that are taking care of them. And then further on to the community, to extended families.
Debra Maldonado 15:46
What if someone was adopted? Usually with adopted children, the birth mother doesn’t hold the baby because if they know they’re going to be adopted, not to bind. But what if the mother did hold the baby for the first couple of days and then gave up for adoption? Would that change the dynamic? Then I guess it’s always still a separation, because you’re biologically connected and then separated from her, even if she doesn’t hold you after birth, you’re still feeling that sense of loss.
Robert Maldonado 16:16
My sense is, the brain and nervous system are primed to absorb every experience, because it wants to give us the best chance possible. Whatever happens in those early experiences is recorded in a deep cellular neuronal level, to prepare us for life, saying “If this is what I have to deal with the rest of my life, I’m going to be ready.” We see that early experiences, the attachment pattern with mother, and what happens in those early years, are very important. They’re going to have an impact, whether we like it or not, we know it or not. It’s ingrained in our sense of ourselves and what we expect from the world.
Debra Maldonado 17:15
So we’re constantly trying to get back to that blissful ocean of bliss that we were in the womb, in life, when I find that security and safety again. That’s what the ego is trying to reconnect with. Even if the mother isn’t perfect outside of the womb, inside she created the environment for you for the most part, unless there was something really terrible, like drug abuse and all that stuff.
Robert Maldonado 17:47
For the majority of people, if we managed to get this far, somebody probably took care of it.
Debra Maldonado 17:56
We weren’t left out. Babies aren’t like puppies that can make their way and find scraps, babies can’t even walk, they’re really helpless. There had to be someone to love them. I just read a story about a little boy that was left in the subway in New York, 18 years later he’s going to college. A gay guy found him, he heard a baby crying, it was in a box. He saved it, he became his son. He was his mother, that wonderful experience. Even if you’re left, there’s always someone to find you and take care of you.
Robert Maldonado 18:34
There’s a whole number of case studies of feral children who were thought to be raised by animals or pretty much, survived in wild situation on their own. Fascinating, but we’ll do that in another call.
Debra Maldonado 18:52
When we talk about the mother, a lot of what comes to mind is Bowlby’s theory of attachment.
Robert Maldonado 19:02
John Bowlby, a British psychologist, and Mary Ainsworth did a lot of work on what happens in those early years as far as attachment patterns.
Debra Maldonado 19:20
A lot of people that use the attachment patterns are using it in more of a therapy model of something dysfunctional happened in the attachment, but we’re going to use it more in a coaching model.
Robert Maldonado 19:35
Our reasoning for that is that there’s been a call since the 80s for a positive psychology. We’re simply including that positive perspective, meaning looking not only at psychology as a way to fix people or to help people through traumatic experiences and mental health issues, but the typical individual who is functioning fairly well, but could use a lot of this information—
Debra Maldonado 20:09
— which is 90% of the population.
Robert Maldonado 20:11
— to help them develop their lives to their utmost potential — relationships, work, meaning. Life is so challenging now, it’s stressful, it changes very rapidly, we need all the tools we can get, we need those psychologies. Depth psychology just goes a little bit deeper than a lot of the academic psychology that looks more at behavior and thought patterns. Attachment theory falls in between because you can use it in behavior or in Jungian model. Because you are dealing with emotions and very early experiences, so you’re using those psychodynamic models to look at what’s going on there.
Debra Maldonado 21:07
Let’s talk about the attachment theory, just a brief overview.
Robert Maldonado 21:14
The basic idea is that those early experiences do form the way you then expect to attach and relate to others as you grow up into adulthood.
Debra Maldonado 21:28
You learn that initially from the mother. Everything before you go into that, everything we have in life is based on our relationship with it. We have a relationship with people at work, we have relationships with people in our family, we have relationship with siblings, parents, children. There’s a lot of dynamic, all these relationships in our life that we have to manage and how we interact with others really begins with the mother. We learn how close we can get to people.
Robert Maldonado 22:05
Very much so, and the basic idea here is simple. If you don’t examine your early experiences, if you don’t go back and say “What kind of experiences that I get and what is my attachment pattern?” That early experience, that early attachment pattern is going to remain with you for the rest of your life.
Debra Maldonado 22:29
And that’s where your mother can ruin your life.
Robert Maldonado 22:36
The good news is, it’s malleable. But you have to do that internal work. You have to provide your own pattern, or a more enlightened pattern, where you are able to choose in a conscious way. Because if you don’t give your mind to anything new, it simply has no option but to go back to its default mode of what I learned early on. You might be happy with the way it’s playing out, that’s fine. But even then, I would think that people would want to choose in a conscious way.
Debra Maldonado 23:17
If your defaults working okay, kind of avoidant — we’ll talk about them, but you could be like “I don’t need to change. I like being away, I don’t like to have a lot of relationships, I like to be by myself.” But you’re really not choosing it, you’re choosing it because it’s easy. It’s the default. Whenever it’s the default, it’s not a choice. Even if you like it, it’s not a choice. You have to look deeper. We do love programs all the time, we’d have people coming up to us saying “I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” We’re like “Okay, why do you need to tell us that?” It’s like a defense, “I’m choosing that”, but they’re really not because there’s something why they have to come up to us and tell us that. They really aren’t choosing but they’re saying they are. That’s a really good point, are we choosing the default? Or we are just feeling like we can’t change it? I guess there’s a way we move away from it. What is that called? The defense that you— you minimize it and say it’s just the way it is.
Robert Maldonado 24:42
The research shows that most of us, about 60% of people, fall into the category of a secure attachment style, which means about 40% don’t. But if you have a secure attachment, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to have emotional challenges, or breakups, or drama in your relationships. It just simply means you’re going to be able to bounce back, you’re more resilient, you’re able to bend with the flow .
Debra Maldonado 25:23
It doesn’t ruin your life, like these other styles that are insecure. We can have tendencies to be like that at certain periods, but it’s not at the spectrum of your so extreme. Is that what it would be? All of us have a tendency to be needy at times, or avoiding at times, but for the insecure person, it’s so extreme.
Robert Maldonado 26:01
It’s extreme, and it’s kind of a go to pattern. Most of us might feel vulnerable in some situations, that’s normal. But the insecure person, or the avoidant person, the fearful person that has these insecure attachment styles, that’s their go to pattern, meaning they always feel insecure and fearful.
Debra Maldonado 26:26
They don’t have the capacity to have any kind of— almost like there’s no other option, where a secure person can have both — at work I’m really good with people but when I get into romantic relationships, it’s a little weird, or I’m fine around my husband, but when I get around my family, it’s kind of neurotic. All these things show up in different ways. But when you’re really locked into insecure, it’s almost like that’s the only way you can function. So when we say these other things, you may say “That sounds like me a little bit.” I want to preface that by saying it doesn’t mean you’re insecure, it means that you have some of these tendencies. I think we all do, because when you read them to me when we first met, I was like “I think I’m this, but I think I can be all of them.” Because we’ve all had experiences in different situations in different times in our life where we feel really confident. We show up differently.
Robert Maldonado 27:26
And different people are going to elicit different responses from it.
Debra Maldonado 27:31
If you’re avoidant, someone who’s really grabby with you, you’re gonna have a different experiences. You might feel maybe even closer to that person, more comfortable than someone who’s needy around you. It’s really what their dynamic is. It’s a dynamic experience. Let’s go through the types. There’s avoidant, preoccupied, and ambivalent. The avoidant is dismissive and fearful. This is the person that is just saying “I don’t want to be really engaged”, kind of isolated person.
Robert Maldonado 28:10
Yes, can be, but it’s basically that you don’t feel you need that relationship. You feel independent. When it comes to intimacy and relationships, you’d rather not, you’d rather be home with a book than be out looking for a relationship, experiencing the intimacy that most people look for.
Debra Maldonado 28:40
So like the example of “I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” Would it be more the avoidant, but they think they’re choosing it, but that’s just their pattern of avoiding. Would it happen circumstantially? Someone had an intimate relationship or breakup, and then they decided “I’m out. I’m opting out of this love thing.” Or do you think it was formed from the mother?
Robert Maldonado 29:09
In the pure model, these patterns would be unconscious. The individual doesn’t think it through. In other words, they’re not thinking “I’m avoiding, or I want to avoid relationships.” They find rational reasons why, and it makes sense to them. I’m not interested while I’m focused on my career, that kind of stuff.
Debra Maldonado 29:35
The next one is preoccupied. A highly emotional reactivity. I think I was this at one point in my life, in my 20s. Just being so obsessed with finding love, up and down emotionally, oh my God, is he gonna call, and then where’s the next man. I liked reading a lot of books and trying to find that love. I didn’t even care about career, like love, love, love, I need it. Then also that preoccupation with what is everyone thinking about me, Mary’s mad at me, my friend, everything is so intense in a relationship.
Robert Maldonado 30:17
And just to connect it to early experiences, these would be coded defensive strategies in response to that relationship with the mother.
Debra Maldonado 30:30
So maybe the mother was avoidant and the child was grasping?
Robert Maldonado 30:38
Whatever worked for the child in that situation.
Debra Maldonado 30:42
If I get really needy, my mother will pay attention to me.
Robert Maldonado 30:47
If you’re preoccupied with relationships, you’re over sensitive to reading people’s cues, are they rejecting me or do they like me? You’re very invested in “like me, like me”, that’s the preoccupied attachment style.
Debra Maldonado 31:10
Would that also be the mother being that way, where you learn that pattern through her?
Robert Maldonado 31:18
The parent might be withholding affection as a way of disciplining the kid. She might say “I don’t like you if you’re acting bad.” The kid might get the impression that love and affection depends on being the good person.
Debra Maldonado 31:40
We all have that in a way, we all worry about what we do. Someone’s going to leave us if we do the wrong thing.
Robert Maldonado 31:46
Then you see those patterns amplified in adults. They play out in our relationships, in our work habits and all that. Then the ambivalent one is the person that’s all over the place. They’re happy, they might be secure in some situations, fearful and avoidant in others, and preoccupied.
Debra Maldonado 32:14
I feel like I was ambivalent when I look at this. Because when a guy was really needy for me, I was cold and let him get away. But when they weren’t interested, I was obsessed with every text they send me, so it was that mixture. In a way, like you said, it’s a defense. You’re always seeking the attention of someone who’s not going to give it back in a way.
Robert Maldonado 32:41
Yes, it could be one of the patterns that plays out.
Debra Maldonado 32:43
There’s so many ways, but when we think about the mother, how would a child create these attachment styles based on that early bonding with the mother? What works for you in that dynamic? Would it be not really blaming the mother, because the mother is going to be the way she could be? One way with every kid and each child has their own attachment style to the mother?
Robert Maldonado 33:13
Absolutely. Then you have to consider the larger context of what we know about genetics and epigenetics, and all that plays into the way the mother responds to the child and the way the child responds to the mother as well. In other words, genetics is the pre-programmed stuff. We come into the world with a certain level of intelligence, a certain predisposition, personality, all that is going to play into that relationship. I used to work in the hospital, and I’d go to the nursery ward sometimes. I could tell each little kid, in the first few days of life, they already have a personality, some you feel a bond with, or you feel that friendliness towards, and others are more difficult to get close to.
Debra Maldonado 34:10
So they already have that genetic disposition to have these styles. And then the mother could also interact with the child based on that. But again, just because it’s genetics doesn’t mean it’s permanent.
Robert Maldonado 34:25
No, not at all. I think nature gives us that flexibility so that we can work with it all the time, anytime. And then epigenetics is more interesting in the regards that not only our parents’ experiences are passed down to us, but our grandparents and great grandparents and even further down, their experiences, what the wars that they went through—
Debra Maldonado 35:00
I was telling you, my grandmother went through the Depression, but my mother was born after it. But she still was raised by a mother who went through Depression. The way she thinks about money, the way she looks at nurturing. My grandmother had 12 children, not all of them survived. She loved being a mom, the kids are the best, your purpose is to nurture children. So she kept having them. That was imprinted to my mom and she carried on those same patterns.
Robert Maldonado 35:36
We have to take everything into consideration. All the information we have about human development, and culture, and genetics, and epigenetics, look at the individual in that context. It’s not one thing that we’re looking for. All these factors are playing into. But luckily we stay in the moment and say “What’s going on?” Now, we can pretty much find a way to help individuals move forward in their attachment styles, because the way they are responding now in the moment or in the current situation with our relationships, that contains all the information you need to know, to be able to help that individual.
Debra Maldonado 36:35
That’s what I was going to get to because someone said “What about this type of helicopter negligent mom?” Every helicopter mom is not going to give this kind of attachment style. So instead of focusing on what your mom was doing, you can look at your life right now and look at your relationships, and say “Do I avoid relationships? Am I overly obsessed with keeping relationships and being really needy, and always being highly emotional when people don’t call me back, and always trying to keep it?” There’s people that always try to keep in touch with everybody. They’re always going through their speed dial and getting those connections, needing all that attention. Or are you sometimes with certain people needy, sometimes not? Or are relationships not really that impactful? But I think we all have a piece of those styles in us. They may be not extreme, but we want to look at what is our relationship with others? How close to do we allow people? How much are our emotions and self worth measured by others? Are we always needing others approval and acknowledgement?
Robert Maldonado 38:01
Here’s where we found the Jungian model of the psyche very useful, because if you think about these experiences, they were absorbed unconsciously. We weren’t thinking through “How am I going to relate to my mother today? Should I cry or should I not?” We were just responding instinctually to situations. But our body, our brain, our mind was absorbing all that information and storing it. It was integrated into our organism in a sense. So now, in order to change that, the only model we saw that really addresses the unconscious mind in a creative, positive non-fixing way, was Jung’s work and his individuation model, which we can think of as our ability to really find who we are and express that sense of ourselves from our own choosing, instead of from the conditioning of the culture and biology that we were talking about, the genetics and epigenetics. Those things are very powerful and have formed the way we see ourselves in the world but if we can change it, we can change it based on the Jungian model, because we know that’s on the surface. In other words, the way we’re expressing our persona, our personality, our conditioning is at the conscious level. We’re doing it to fit in to it.
Debra Maldonado 40:05
Just what we did as children. How do I survive in this environment with this person? What are the rules for me to not piss her off and have her keep feeding me, keep her love. Maybe it’s don’t cry, don’t make a fuss, that’s how mom is nice to me. When I make a fuss, mom is mad. I’m going to learn even non-verbally to stuff my feelings. We then create the persona of someone for who it’s not okay to express feelings. In Jung’s work, the shadow would be someone who’s highly emotional. We see people that are corporate and professional, they’re all locked up. They’re trying to change their life and maybe even meet a romantic partner, but they can’t get the motion going. They wonder why that happens with me. That would be an example. Not always, everyone’s unique. Here is a question, maybe you can answer that before we go to how to transform. Why would anyone develop that avoidant or fearful way of being? I think it’s because when you’re not sure of how people are going to respond to you, sometimes the best thing is to shut down. We don’t do it because we want it to connect, we do it to survive. The mother dynamic is all about survival. We want to connect, and we want to stay connected. But ultimately, if it’s not safe, we want to survive. She could be preoccupied with having 20 kids, and she’s not giving you the attention. Maybe the only way you got the attention is when you fell or you got into trouble. Then mom would pay attention to you, and you start to learn, I’m going to be this little trickster.
Robert Maldonado 42:05
There’s a lot of factors, all those factors that we mentioned play into it, or can play into it. Because if you notice, children who grew up in the same household can have very different approaches to relationships. They might be even close in age, or they might be even twins, they’ve done twin studies. One of them develops maybe a secure attachment style, while the other one doesn’t. What’s going on there? It has to do with the subjective interpretation of the child, because every child is going to interpret the mother’s behavior in their own subjective way.
Debra Maldonado 42:49
When we transform this relationship, I think the first step is don’t get preoccupied with blaming the mother and take responsibility, because if you blame your mother and hate her and have to forgive her, that’s okay. But you’re still giving her the power and saying that you screwed up my life. When you say that, it actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you say “She did her best. Maybe it wasn’t the best that I would want, but she did her best. It’s time for me to move on and choose my life.
Robert Maldonado 43:33
It begins with that self-inquiry. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, Socrates. What he means is that if you don’t take the time to examine your life and really rework it in a conscious way, you’re simply going to be playing out those pre-programmed conditioned patterns the rest of your life, because you’re not giving your mind anything new. You’re simply saying, this as good as it gets.
Debra Maldonado 44:10
This is the way I am because my mother screwed me up. For me, for years I said “I have trouble with men because of my father, the way he was.” That didn’t help me, blaming him. When I realized that I chose also the dynamic, everything started to shift right away when I took responsibility for my part in that dynamic and then actually changed our relationship. My early life relationship had changed. So many times we’ve heard our clients tell us “My relation with my mother is so different now after I’ve done this work.” It’s really going into taking that responsibility and examining your life and saying “What do I want to create now? This was the template that was given to me, that default operating system. It’s time for an upgrade. I could change it choose who I want to become.” Part of it is dropping the judgment of the mother, of what she did. Because a lot of times people tell me “I think about it now. She had so many kids, or she was worried about money.” You don’t know what was going on in her life. You look back from adulthood into childhood and think you remember it completely. You don’t remember the subtle things, and she probably didn’t communicate her pain or her struggle or things that she was dealing with. We have to just drop the judgment and know that she was trying to do the best she could. Not to dismiss the cruel, we know there are some cruel mothers out there.
Robert Maldonado 45:46
But even then, because if you understand conditioning and these genetic and epigenetic forces, then you start seeing individual behavior very differently. People are not really acting out of free will and free choice. They’re acting out of that momentum of conditioning that’s passed down, generation after generation. The good news is that we can free ourselves from that conditioning. That’s what Jung’s individuation model is about. It’s about that self-inquiry so that we can free our mind from past conditioning, not by pushing it away, not by denying it, but by understanding its nature. It is our conditioning, it is there to protect you in essence. The first principle is to survive. Did we survive? Yes, we got here. The second one is to fit into society, to develop a persona that’s acceptable for the world.
Debra Maldonado 47:10
A lot of times those are in conflict.
Robert Maldonado 47:12
Yes. But we made it somehow. If you’re here, you survive. You might not have the best persona or the best life in what you want. But it was good enough to get us here.
Debra Maldonado 47:30
And it’s flexible. The persona is just the mask. But if we identify with it, it does feel consistent. But we can be flexible. We know this because there’s a personality we have at work, there’s a personality we have with our family, there’s a personality we have with our friends or lovers, our children, teachers. We’re always having all these faces that we wear. It’s all based on how do I basically adapt to this situation? Safe face basically.
Robert Maldonado 48:08
Dropping the judgment is important, because that’s what holds that conditioning in place. You’re showing the way that the mind is judging and saying “If I don’t defend myself, the bad thing will happen, I’ll be abandoned, I’ll be lost”, because the child was in a vulnerable situation, they needed the parent to take care of them. The whole emphasis, all the energy was going towards “I have to be accepted by the mother so that she can protect me and take care of me.” But now we don’t need that.
Debra Maldonado 48:47
I think if you don’t do it, something will show up to force you to do it. I’ve seen a pattern with many of my clients and people I’ve known over the years, even friends that had aging parents, and had a really terrible relationship with their mother, like “My mother was terrible, she was a critical”, really negative. Then they’ve had to take care of the mother. The mother got sick, they were the only ones there. Basically, there was this healing of that relationship. They had to come to terms, they had to take care of their mother when they felt like their mother didn’t take care of them. But there was something about that situation that was very healing for them and very beautiful. All of them came out of it saying it was the most incredible healing experience they had. But we don’t want to wait till that day. We want to be able to reclaim a healthy relationship with our mother now before she gets sick. Those of you who’ve lost their mothers, we want to let them free. You have free them from that heavy judgment.
Robert Maldonado 50:01
Somebody asked “What about narcissistic mothers?” This is our own approach to these kind of questions, so you probably won’t find it in textbooks. We don’t like these labels because they dehumanize people by saying “you’re narcissistic, or you’re a narcissist.” They sound clinically like they have some validity. But human beings are not that simple. When we act in narcissistic ways, we’re acting in egoistic ways. Our behavior is not the best, we’re not doing our best, we’re not conscious and expressing the best in human nature. But we all do it. In other words, we all start out being self centered and egoistic and developing that self-centeredness as a way of surviving, and we’ve taken care of ourselves. Some people do get stuck, there are some people who do have more issues with it. But in essence, we want to look at human beings as their potential.
Debra Maldonado 51:22
And clinically, narcissism is primarily a male. There are some women too. It’s a clinical disorder.
Robert Maldonado 51:35
It’s a clinical disorder, and it should not be made lightly. Unless a person really is very pathologically narcissistic and has been diagnosed and people are trying to help them with those.
Debra Maldonado 51:49
I think people throw those labels around, it’s not your fault that it’s out there in the ether of internet wetland, everyone just using these terms. I love what you just said about dehumanizing them. Because even someone with a disorder shouldn’t be dehumanized either. If they’re mentally ill, they can’t control that. Like when you were working with kids with autism, to call them autistic, they’re not autistic, they’re children that have autistic behaviors or tendencies, but who they are is a human being.
Robert Maldonado 52:28
Even if they have been diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder, then you want to see them as needing help, not accuse them.
Debra Maldonado 52:45
Like they’re evil and trying to hurt you, that’s their intent. One of my clients once was talking about her narcissistic husband. I said, if he was diagnosed, which he was, imagine that he was in a wheelchair and was handicapped. Would you think he’s bad because he can’t walk? This person doesn’t have the capacity to love and to nurture. It’s sad. Yes, it’s sad that we had to deal with it. But you don’t need to label and feel that they intend to harm you. I think that’s the real freedom is that even someone who’s ill doesn’t have an intent to harm — even if they do cause harm, because they’re not capable of anything else. That’s really where dropping the judgment comes in.
Robert Maldonado 53:39
And it’s for our benefit relief, we’re able to really see people in this light of they’re doing their best given their genetic, epigenetic conditioning. They made mistakes, maybe they’re exhibiting some of these behaviors that we call narcissism, but we can still be compassionate, we can still forgive them. It’s for our benefit. We know that if we hold on to anger, resentment, that doesn’t hurt them, it hurts us.
Debra Maldonado 54:20
As a child, do we project our shadow onto our mother?
Robert Maldonado 54:39
The shadow can be projected on to anybody. Absolutely.
Debra Maldonado 54:47
So as adults, we have a relation with the mother, and then we’d continue to project the things that we push away onto the mother, other relationships. The key really is to face the unconscious, which the first step is always Shadow Work. What are we repressing or denying about ourselves, our own personality, that we weren’t allowed to express because of that mother-daughter dynamic or mother-son dynamic. Not to blame the mother, but you chose your safety kit to survive in the world. Your little personality survival, what wasn’t allowed to be expressed. We need to reintegrate that into our life. If your mother was mean, and you decided “I’m going to be super nice, because I don’t want to be like my mother”, it’s about how does that limit your life? How do we integrate that projection? “My mother’s mean, and I can’t be mean because my mother was terrible.” I need to see how that limits me and integrate that into my life. Not that you need to be mean. But where does that limit your expression? Where does that dynamic, those labels stop you?
Robert Maldonado 56:06
Following the individuation path, individuals get to a point once they’ve integrated some of their shadow, dealing with a mother archetype. We’ve seen from our own practice in coaching people through individuation that at the heart of many people’s individuation process is relationship with the mother archetype. It is a big part of coming to terms with “Who am I, what can I expect from the world?”
Debra Maldonado 56:43
This mother archetype, we project out to our human mother, then carry that identity, that perspective in ourselves. But when we do Shadow Work, then we’re free of that limited, just that’s the mother. We connect to a bigger picture of the mother, which is the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World is the mother, our bodies become our mother, everything material in the world becomes our mother. There’s actually a practice in Buddhism that says, everyone’s your mother, basically, there’s an aspect of all of us. There’s this really divine aspect of mother. She was basically a human stand in for you early in life. It’s a beautiful, I mean, what a burden it is for the mother to carry that for a child. I want to go back to our mothers out there, we have mothers and we have children, and the mothers that are really hard on themselves, they hear this and are like “Oh my god, I’m screwing my kids up, they’re gonna have an insecure attachment style. How can I prevent that? How can I have healthy children because I have this baggage from my mother?” What would you say to mothers out there for them to be empowered in raising children because you were working with children and families for many years?
Robert Maldonado 58:14
It’s almost like the definition of love is the willingness to screw it up. A good parent is simply saying “I know I’m not gonna be perfect at this. I know I’ll probably mess it up. But I’m willing to try and stay with it.” Or “If I made mistakes in the past, I’m willing to learn and retry and stay with it.” That staying, being there for the kid is the best mother really.
Debra Maldonado 58:51
That’s a good point. If you present to your children that you’re perfect, they have an expectation “I have to be perfect like my mother, I have to be just so good.” For the mother to be more transparent, keeping the authority of course, but you want to be transparent, I’m doing my best here, I’m struggling today. I’m worried about my mom, she’s sick, this is what’s going on with me. Telling the children what’s going on and being human around them and help them realize that life is not about perfection, it’s not about doing everything right all the time. Although we do need those structures and guidelines to behave and all those things that you don’t want to leave wide open for the child, but that flexibility to make mistakes and fall down, it’s okay. You’re not bad. You did something bad but you are not bad. If we can look at our mothers that way that the essence of her isn’t bad or evil. Maybe she did something, we’re not perfect, but who she is in the soul level is divine. To see our mothers as divine and see ourselves as divine in the world, no matter how much we screw up our relationships, that is really the essence of power. That’s where really we can begin to create our life in a new way. We’re not tied to the rigid society morals that everyone tells us we need to be in order to be liked and approved. A couple more questions. “Can avoidance type and neediness type flip? I see people who are on the surface that way, but the shadow is neediness. It’s almost like the avoidance is defending the neediness to come out.” That would be the ambivalent type, they flip, they go back and forth, they put the neediness in their shadow in certain situations, and then they put the avoidance in their shallow in certain situations. “It seems like the devouring mother would have kids that are rebellious.” Not always. Sometimes devouring mothers have devouring children. They feel like they’re needing the same. Every individual is different. What we create in our life, our mother’s a piece of it, but we’re the other piece, so we have to say she didn’t do anything to us. She performed something and we responded to it. That dynamic is what we created our pattern from.
Robert Maldonado 1:01:27
The devouring mother can kill the the child’s will to live — not in a physical way. Where the child doesn’t feel that they can go out into the world and create their own life. They’re always attached.
Debra Maldonado 1:01:57
I see people that constantly— think about your relationship with mother, are you constantly asking “Is my mother gonna approve of this?” Always checking in with her. I wouldn’t say too close but almost too codependent on each other. That relationship gets in the way of you making your own decisions or being your own person. We do need to break away from our mother. The boys do it naturally, because they’re boys, because they’re not identified. But for women, a lot of times they feel that since they’re women, they hang on a little longer. Part of individuation is becoming an individual apart from the daughter that your mother created and making that conscious choice of who you want to become. It’s not rejecting the mother, but it’s becoming your own woman.
Robert Maldonado 1:03:01
There’s a lot to that. But I wouldn’t do diminish a man’s response to the mother.
Debra Maldonado 1:03:10
But do you think it’s easier for him to break away?
Robert Maldonado 1:03:13
I don’t think so. It’s about the same. The challenges might be a little bit different. But I think everyone has to deal with the mother archetype somehow.
Debra Maldonado 1:03:26
In Jungian, they always talk about the father being more of a tie to the Son. But the mother is always the primary. And especially with men, that’s how they relate to women. It’s like their wife becomes their mother. Basically that same relating pattern that they learned from them.
Robert Maldonado 1:03:48
In a simple way think in terms of it gives you that sense of who you are and what you can expect from the world. Is the world going to be responsive to you?
Debra Maldonado 1:04:02
The world is your mother in a macro way?
Robert Maldonado 1:04:05
That’s right, at the archetypal level. That’s what we’re talking about, that it’s the way you experience life.
Debra Maldonado 1:04:14
Your relationship with your mother will teach you your relationship to the world.
Robert Maldonado 1:04:18
Yes. And again, the good news is you can always transform it, you can always evolve it, you can always expand that relationship in a conscious way.
Debra Maldonado 1:04:28
I also think that we overlook that we if we love our mothers and they did a great job, it doesn’t mean they didn’t teach us things that aren’t really that helpful for us. There may be some tendencies that you would think “I love because she’s that way”, like the perfect mother, the nurturing Mother, you may think “I always have to be that way in order to feel like a good person.” That can limit us as well. Even good qualities can limit us in our life. So not only looking at the critical mothers, and the devouring mothers, the narcissistic mothers, and all the labels that we have for them. Also looking at a perfect relation to your mother, you think “I’ve no problem at all. She’s the best mother in the world, but maybe she taught me some things that aren’t going to lead me to where I want to be.” Maybe there’s some things that you’re not seeing about yourself that you are basically by default, not choosing.
Robert Maldonado 1:05:24
Yes. Today, the families and mothers are under incredible pressure and strain. As a society, we need to support them, we need to help families survive and stay together.
Debra Maldonado 1:05:52
There’s a lot of blended families now, and step children, not being with the mother seven days a week, there’s a split, especially when they’re little.
Robert Maldonado 1:06:04
In our everyday life, we just need to start thinking how can we support mothers, families, kids, because they really are the foundation of society, of culture, of all the good stuff that we consider.
Debra Maldonado 1:06:25
None of us would be here if we didn’t have a mother, we wouldn’t have a humanity. Mothers birth humans into the world, it’s a beautiful job. It’s the toughest job in the world. The more compassion we can have for our mother, the more compassion we can have for ourselves and our own shortcomings and our own mistakes. I think this makes the world just better if we could just have compassion for the flaws and not uphold people to standards that are impossible, that we did as kids, we put our mother into impossible standards — you’re going to be everything for me, and if you don’t, I’m going to write a book about you when I’m 40, or write a sitcom about it. This is a great conversation, we’re going to continue with our series, we’re going to talk about love relationships, father relationships. Next week we’re talking about this phrase I never heard before, it’s called “father hunger”, which I’m excited to talk about. Father hunger, that’ll be next week. Then we’re going to do some more love, more work, other romantic relationships, personal relationships. If you would love to join us on our Facebook group. It’s Jungian Life Coaching with Creative Mind, we’d love to see you there. If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify. We also are on YouTube. If you’re on our channel right now, make sure you click this subscribe button below and make sure you do not miss any of our live sessions that we do every week here on Fridays at noon Pacific and bring you some Soul Sessions live and glad to answer your questions and enjoy every week when we do this.
Robert Maldonado 1:08:26
Thanks for all the great comments and questions.
Debra Maldonado 1:08:28
Yes, thank you everyone. We appreciate all your presence here and your willingness to open your mind to something new. And to all our mothers out there — we love you. Take care.
Robert Maldonado 1:08:41
See you next time.
Debra Maldonado 1:08:42
Bye bye. Take care