On the occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to talk about something a bit different than what our pop culture and advertisers bombard us with around this designated day. I’d like to talk about what it means to “mother”, and how the way we think about nurturing ourselves dramatically effects our impact in the world.
In our contemporary dictionary and commonly understood definition of the word “mother, we refer to:
- A woman or female animal in relation to birthing her offspring
According to Carl Jung, we all unconsciously have a collective stored memory in our minds of what a “mother” represents, both good, and not so good. This “Mother” archetype, as he calls this, is an image and definition that is already stored in every person’s consciousness, long before we have the experience of our own “physical” mother. It is part of our shared humanity’s collective already wired programming, if you will. This wiring creates an already pre-conceived image of something in our minds without us even realizing it is there, and before we know what it is.
The “Mother” archetype, or pre-stored image, is actually the nurturing part within us all, both men and women, and the part of ourselves that when channeled and nurtured, gives birth to our ideas, creative flow, and fertile growth. (Think of our depiction of “Mother Earth”.) It is also the part of ourselves that nurtures, cares for, and cultivates. According to Jung, however, everything contains an opposite. It is also the part of ourselves that when not nurtured, can be mean, negative, and cruel. (Think “witch” in the Wizard of Oz, where we had the good and bad witch—all really both a part of ourselves.) Because it is hard for us to see ourselves or our physical mothers as someone who does not embody the nurturing, good witch part of this image, we project it onto stereotypes in our stories. (Think the wicked stepmother, the wicked witch, etc.) Our own birth mother could not possibly be wicked in our minds—nor could we ourselves be wicked. Thus, we project this non-nurtured, blocked part of ourselves onto an anti-mother figure so that we can reconcile this unbearable contradiction more easily. That is also why it is so hard for us to reconcile as a society how a mother figure could actually not be nurturing or kind to her children—and we idealize the physical embodiment of the archetypal image. We can’t bear the thought that we, our own mothers, or anybody elses’ mother, for that matter, is capable of cruelty and meanness. Yet we all are.
I try to very simply explain this Mother archetype to you today for this purpose. We all need to be nurtured. We all have the capacity to nurture. We also are wired for creative expression and fertile growth. Yet no-one else is responsible for our nurturing but ourselves. If we neglect our own nurturing, numb ourselves and stifle our creative expression, and feel uncared for—we have the potential to block our own positive mother energy and manifest frustration, negativity, and even pent-up cruelty as a result.
So on this occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to invite you to draw on the nurturing, creative, fertile mother energy within yourself, and ask yourself these questions:
What am I doing to nurture myself?
What rituals do I have set up to allow myself to be creative?
What creative expression have I stifled, and how can I make more room to express it?
I’d like to challenge you to some radical self-care, and to be kinder and gentler with yourself. Care for yourself as you would an infant. Be fascinated by your ideas, as you’d imagine a mother would to her toddler. Allow yourself some “me-time” to just doodle or draw or write your thoughts in a journal. Unblock and fertilize the rich soil of your own psyche. Allow yourself to be nurtured—and unlock your own capacity to really nurture others.
It really starts with you.
Happy Mother’s Day!