Mother, Father, Family
Here’s a quote from Jung on the key importance of the mother, father and family archetypes:
How is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all, whose ceaseless activity is everywhere apparent even in a rationalistic age like ours…. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery of father, mother, child, husband and wife… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles of religious and political life, in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.
Clearly, Jung thought that coming to terms with the mother, the father, and the family was very important psychologically. How does our experience of father and mother impact us? What is its particular significance?
As with most things in the realm of the psyche, the answer to that question varies immensely from individual to individual. However, we can be sure that a person’s individual experience of parents and siblings–their family–is going to have an immense impact on how the individual feels about her- or himself, the world, and his or her place in it. That experience is going to have a profound effect on everything from very mundane, ordinary, every day events right up to and including a person’s deepest and most expansive religious and philosophical convictions. Because, among other things, it is going to have an immense bearing on what the psychologist Erikson referred to as basic trust.
It can require a very major effort in a person’s case studies to understand the impact of that person’s father and mother on their psychic development, in all its complexity and dimensions, positive and negative. We can’t open all that up in one blog post. But here are a few questions to be thinking about:
The Mother and Father Archetypes in the Psyche
- The bond with the mother is the earliest bond, and the one with the greatest impact on a child. It has a great deal to do with the feeling of belonging in the world, and feeling good about oneself, about one’s own being. How has your experience of your mother left you feeling about your life, your value, and how welcome you felt in your family — and in the world?
- The bond with the father is deep, but has a rather different character than the bond with the mother. At its most fundamental, it has to do with how we feel about ourselves, also, but it has an aspect to it of how we feel about our ability to be effective and capable people who can get what we want and need from our lives. How has your experience of your father left you feeling about yourself as an agent in the world? How has it left you feeling about your own power and ability?
- If I am a woman, how did my relationship with my mother make me feel about myself as a woman? If I’m a man, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about women?
- If I am a man, how did my relationship with my father make me feel about myself as a man? If I’m a woman, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about men?
- Was I able to be myself in my family? Or did I learn I had to be someone else, someone more acceptable, perhaps? Someone tougher, or more capable? Or “less emotional”? Someone invisible, or someone “who doesn’t have needs”? Or more “masculine”? Or more “feminine”? Or did I get the message that I could just relax and be myself?
These are very emotional questions for people. Not without reason did Jung call these “the mightiest archetypes of all”. Exploring the painful territory around this part of one’s life has led to many a journey to healing in therapy. I know that to be true of many of my clients, and I know it to be true in my own life.
I’d be interested in your comments about the impact of the parental archetypes in your life. How did you internalize your parents and your family?
My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,
Website for Brian’s Oakville & Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca
Get “Vibrant Jung Thing” posts delivered to your email using the “FeedBurner” box in the upper right hand corner!
© 2009 Brian Collinson