Be your own mother and father now, parents to your inner child, kind and generous when appropriate, but equally tough and demanding when that is called for. Develop this inner family of love, strength, and wisdom so that you may guide yourself through the trials of life to fulfillment of all your dreams. For yes, that’s what it’s all about too, fulfilling your dreams. So dream big and enjoy every minute of it. What do you have to lose? Only your childish fears and reluctance to really grow up and take responsibility for yourself—good things to lose! And remember, you are the the only one who can take this on. It’s your life and your dream after all!
I don’t often dream of my mother. Last night, however, she appeared prominently. Chuck and I go to her house, a high-ceilinged dream house, the rooms dark, draped in thick white cobwebs. Looking up to the top of the refrigerator in the kitchen I notice a mother cat lying with her babies. Further up I notice more cats giving birth, kittens spilling out of every cupboard. I notice that they are everywhere, covering every available counter space, falling onto the floor. “Wow,” I say. “I didn’t know you had so many cats!” My mother waves her hand at them. “Oh those,” she says flippantly, “they’re nothing.” I look at her in astonishment, wondering how she can ignore what is right in front of her face. It’s then that a large spider, fat and round, about the size of a soccer ball swings over her head, trails of long white webbing blurring her face from view. “What’s that?” I say, again quite disturbed. “Oh that,” she says nonchalantly, “yes, that’s here too. It’s nothing.” I can see that she’s ignoring this massive spider in her midst as much as she’s ignoring the proliferation of kittens. Her house feels heavy and dark, the air stuffy, toxic with the smell of a hundred cats, cobwebs draped like linens over everything.
Upon awakening I am at first disturbed by this dream. The shiver that chilled me as I watched the huge spider leap over my mother’s head reverberates through me as I wonder at her nonchalance, her almost total inattentiveness to what is going on in her world. It blows my mind, until I remember that this is how she has always lived her life, ignoring what is right in front of her. If you have read my books, even the first one, you will know that this is the mother I got, a mother who carefully chose what to attach to and what to turn a blind eye to.
In my dream world cats and kittens have always represented feelings. According to Hopi myth Spider Woman was the weaver of the world, the creator of all things upon earth. In Animal Speak Ted Andrews writes that Grandmother Spider “kept and taught the mysteries of the past and how they were affecting the future.” Reading this I am able to view my dream in a different light.
Chuck wrote in his own blog this week of Mother Unconscious. He writes: “Mother is the most powerful being; she gives life yet in her wrath she might take it as well. Every child instinctively shudders at the dark side of the moon, Mother’s bad moods.” I take up the challenge of addressing that side of Mother Moon, her dark side, her bad side, her hidden side, and what it might mean to us her children.
I believe we all get the mother we need. Just how we figure out what she means to us is our challenge. I wanted a different mother, but here I am in my sixties and I still have the same mother I got. Now she is in her nineties and little has changed with her, but I have changed drastically. For the most part I am no longer her child. I don’t react to her the way I used to react, with fear and even loathing. When in her presence I am, for the most part, the mature compassionate woman that I have grown into, able to give to her in ways that I never thought would be possible. In fact, she sometimes calls me up and in a little girl voice declares: It’s your daughter calling! And then I know that, underneath it all, she really does know who I really am. At other times she calls up grouchy and angry. I never know which mother I will get when I talk to her, the light Mother Moon or the dark Mother Moon. Lately the dark side of Mother Moon has been showing up more frequently, and so I am not surprised by my dream. My unconscious has given me some fodder to mull over and work with.
In the context of mother daughter relationships perhaps what my dream world is pointing out will be helpful. I got the mother that was able to nurture her children for only a brief time. Soon I was pushed out into the world, perhaps too soon, but such hindsight is unhelpful, for the truth of my reality was that I had to learn how to be in that world at a very young age. It was not a friendly world but the world of the sexual predator that I walked innocently into, as many young children do. With nothing to go on except my own wits and a spirit that refused to be broken, I survived, just as many others do, the same basic strengths in place.
My mother had far greater knowledge of what was happening to me than she ever let onto. She made decisions to ignore certain things. My dream points this out. She ignores even her own feelings, the proliferation of kittens birthing right and left out of every available cupboard in her kitchen of my dream. She taught me how to keep my emotions and feelings hidden; they had no use in the world I grew up in. In her own way she was a supreme teacher; by her example I learned to be stoic.
It has taken me some maturity and a good deal of recapitulating of my relationship with my mother to realize just who she is and just what she has challenged herself with in her own life. Yes, I had to deal with the dark side of Mother Moon, but she did the same thing to herself and continues to do so to this day. My dream points out her true reality; she still does not allow feelings and emotions into her life. Though her house is flooded with kittens needing attention she is still the withholding mother, even to herself.
I know all this about my mother, but in her company or when she calls me on the phone I try not to forget that she too is human and that once I was like her, ignoring my own feelings, pushing them away as if they were my worst enemies rather than my saving grace. I now see her as humanly fallible and as frightened as anyone, unable to deal with her own deepest core issues. I see the spider leaping over her head, weaving her white webs over my mother’s face as underscoring this truth. My mother will go into the next world, to her death, without resolving them. Her defenses are superior to mine, her dedication to protecting her child self in the way she always has is firmly planted, unshakeable. I know personally the great pain of bearing the tension of such decisions.
I turn to the idea that Ted Andrews poses, that Grandmother Spider is keeping the mysteries of the past. Perhaps the spider in my dream is pointing this out to me and yes, I see this in my mother too, she has been the bearer of the secrets of the past, hers and mine. Perhaps she has been holding mine for me, holding what I could only find out for myself. Perhaps it was not her story to tell, to me or to anyone else; it is only my story to discover and resolve. Perhaps she is a good mother after all.
It is not my duty to point out her story to her either. It is my greatest challenge and singular compassionate duty to see her through this life, sometimes as her daughter, sometimes as her mother; whichever suits her is okay with me. I know she holds within her the seeds of her own transformation and that perhaps in her next life she will be able to plant them and let them take her on the transformative journey that will free her feelings and emotions to fuller life. I stand on the threshold with her at the end of her life, deeply amazed.
When I discovered that Art Garfunkel was coming to our little town, I knew I had to see him, to see what he had to offer now. The music of Art and Paulie, as he so affectionately referred to Paul Simon, has sung to my soul for the past 50 years. If the Beatles were the extraverted splash of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Simon and Garfunkel were its introverted soul.
Art is in the midst of his “mending tour,” having lost his voice three years ago. His voice, to my ear, was utterly beautiful, echoing the sounds of yesteryear to near perfection. He interspersed the music with personal poems and heartfelt stories from his magical life. His poetry was sweet, but it soon became abundantly clear who the real poet was. Paul is the poet, his verses channel the sober truths of spirit, while Art is the conduit, the beautiful songbird of spirit. Together, as Simon and Garfunkel, they captured a wholeness of spirit, light and dark.
The concert ended without answering my question: What do you have to say now, Art Garfunkel? The audience roared, seeking an encore. I couldn’t bear to see this icon forced to conform to such a mundane custom, but Poughkeepsie demanded it. Finally, Art slowly and gently stepped back on stage and said: “I’m going to sing you to sleep.” Then this Jewish choir boy from Queens sang Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And with that he delivered his message of now.
This prayer speaks to the truth that when we close our eyes each night and go to sleep we must surrender our consciousness, our soul, just as here in this childhood prayer, asking the Lord to hold it and protect it through the dark night that we might be born again the next day, consciousness rejuvenated into the light of a new day.
Each twenty-four hour day is a complete life cycle. We are born in the morning. We heroically go forth and take on the challenges of life and the world through the afternoon. Then comes nightfall when we must surrender life to Mother Sleep, who holds us in her arms and hopefully delivers us anew the next day.
Carl Jung writes in Symbols of Transformation: “In the morning of life the son tears himself loose from the mother, from the domestic hearth, to rise through battle to his destined heights. Always he imagines his worst enemy in front of him, yet he carries the enemy within himself—a deadly longing for the abyss, a longing to drown his own source, to be sucked down to the realm of the Mothers. His life is a constant struggle against extinction, a violent yet fleeting deliverance from every-lurking night. This death is no external enemy, it is his own inner longing for the stillness and profound peace of all-knowing nonexistence, for all-seeing sleep in the ocean of coming-to-be and passing away. Even in his highest strivings for harmony and balance, for the profundities of philosophy and the raptures of the artist, he seeks death, immobility, satiety, rest.”
Mother is the most powerful being; she gives life yet in her wrath she might take it as well. Every child instinctively shudders at the dark side of the moon, Mother’s bad moods. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called it the good breast and the bad breast, the one what nurtures and the one that withholds life. The child is powerless and beholden to the moods of the Mother Goddess.
In adulthood the relation to Mother, the source of life and renewal, transfers to the depths of the unconscious that each evening greets us in sleep. In sleep and dream we are unburdened of our daily tensions or haunted by nightmares from the depths. We are essentially at the mercy of the moods of Mother Unconscious. Art Garfunkel is wise to suggest we put our souls in good hands as we drift off on this momentous night sea journey.
However, the advantage of adulthood is that we are now fully able to engage and work with the mighty powers of the deep as we take our journey toward rebirth. Beyond our childhood prayer for protection we are now empowered to take full possession of our soul as we go to meet the deep instinctive forces that pressure us during life and challenge our ego fortresses.
Perhaps the storms of nightmare are connected to the raging great Mother who challenges our ego’s neglect of our deepest needs or deepest truths. If the ego can listen to its dreams, however terrifying, and face what is being asked of it to change in attitude and behavior, it might find future dreams of benevolent support for changes constituted consciously. The ego is also free to hold onto consciousness in waking dreams, where we confront the forces of the deep in their projections upon the relationships of waking life.
I appreciate most that the message Art Garfunkel gives now, after all these years, is to pay attention to the night and the power of Mother Unconscious. This is the playing field where all the terrifying forces in the world find their origin. This is the playing field where we are empowered to achieve the union and wholeness we seek to advance deeper into life.
As we lay ourselves down to sleep, let us hold onto our souls and go to meet the Great Mother in her love or in her wrath, as adults. It is up to us now to guide the Mothership, humbly respecting its power and truth.
Conscious in the dream, Chuck
The above quote is from Carl Jung Symbols of Transformation (C.W. 5) pp. 355-56
Food sustains life, satisfies the tension of hunger, and protects the body from illness and death. Food is Mother. For all, in utero, food was delivered from mother’s body and for many, post utero, this continued in the experience of nursing at mother’s breast. Finding our way in childhood to the independent obtaining of food—e.g., through opening the refrigerator door—is a giant leap toward gaining control over one’s security of survival, relief of tension and protection—the beginning of becoming our own mother.
Ruptures in security with actual mother in the early dependency years of childhood heighten the significance of gaining control over one’s own access to food. Food may become the safer and much more reliable mother when contending with a depressed, indifferent, withholding, competitive or abusive actual mother in childhood. Secretly, food becomes the real mother, while the actual mother is experienced as marginal at best.
In such rupturing circumstances food takes on the psychological role of soothing and caring for the emotional wellbeing of the child. The child may discover the excitement and reward of relationship with sugar, the soothing of anxiety with excess food, as well as the protective, dissociative numbing provided by a very full stomach. Excess weight may gather with excess food, which can protect the self from the sensations and feelings of rejection, lack of connection, and ridicule from without, as well as fear and sadness from within.
A hyper attachment to food in childhood may be the saving relationship that protects one’s autonomy and very vulnerable self through deeply turbulent formative years. In adulthood, these patterns of attachment will prove anachronistic and become impediments to more deeply satisfying emotional relationships. At the same time, they must be valued for the survival and protection they once afforded our growing selves, as well as their incubational functions at extremely vulnerable times in our lives.
The task in adulthood is to free the innocent self—still held in body utero—of its private dependence on food for excitement, calm, and protection and birth into full life and real human relationship. The challenge for the adult self is to fully take on the role of mother previously delegated and attached to food. We are charged with becoming our own living mother to our tucked-away innocent self. This is a real human relationship that asks us to be compassionate, supportive, accepting, and encouraging to our shy, innocent self who has waited for decades to truly come out and play.
The defenses that have long sheltered our innocence, with their attachment to the secure food mother, are formidable and deeply challenging of the adult self’s attempts to assume parental leadership within the personality. Those defenses see no wisdom in freeing our innocence into a world where, once again, it will be exposed to rejection and possible annihilation.
The adult self is frequently undermined in its attempts to assume control by waves of deep terror and intense cravings that seem compellingly unquenchable by anything short of the sustenance of food. Perhaps these may be interpreted as labor pains of the birthing process, the innocent self questioning the readiness of the adult self to safely deliver it into life. Sometimes the proving process of the adult self, as it proves its readiness, requires many false labor pains, ending in a return to food. But be assured, each round of labor readies the mother more fully to become the perfect mother to her innocence, which she will someday deliver to the world.
This evolving mother knows full well the limitations of the outer world archetypal maternal matrix that in childhood had it creatively adopting food as the more reliable mother. This new mother knows there is vulnerability and rejection and loss to face in this world, but she also knows that she is fully capable of protecting and helping her innocence through the unavoidable woundings of life in this world. But this mother also knows the utter joy and necessity of bringing her deepest needs and desires into life in this world as part of the fulfillment, completion, and individuation so necessary for wholeness and enjoyment of life.
Food Mother will always have her place, but the living Mother of the adult self is the True Mother to full mind, body, and spirit living.
Let that True Mother be compassionate and supportive of wherever we are, as well as firm and encouraging as she takes full responsibility for birthing innocence into life beyond the old protectorate of Food as Mother.
Appreciating the journeys we all take, Chuck
NOTE: Obviously we all have a True Mother inside us, men and women alike, and it is our challenge and charge to bring her to life, just as all of us have a True Father inside us too, but that is another blog!
The Earth is always patient and open-hearted.
She is waiting for you.
She has been waiting for you
for the last trillion lifetimes.
She can wait for any length of time.
She knows you will come back to her one day.
Fresh and green, she will welcome you
exactly like the first time,
because love never says, “This is the last time”;
because Earth is a loving mother.
She will never stop waiting for you.