In this post, we'll be going over ideas about shadow work for mommy issues.
First, let's quickly go over what shadow and shadow work is.
What is Shadow Self & Shadow Work?
Your shadow self, or shadow, is the side of yourself you have no awareness of. It holds all the qualities you disowned during your formative years.
Although you learned to repress these qualities and push them outside of your awareness, they still live underneath the surface.
They unconsciously guide your actions and are the unseen cause for many of the troubles in your life.
Shadow work is the intentional practice of becoming aware of your unconscious shadow and integrating these neglected qualities into your being—becoming whole.
This is a process of building self-awareness, self-acceptance, and universal Love.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."Carl Jung
Shadow Work for Mommy Issues
Depending on your experiences with your own mother, or lack thereof, you might have a positive or a negative "mother" complex in your psyche.
A complex is an unconscious bundle of expectations, beliefs, and emotions tied to a specific subject.
I typically use the phrase "image in the psyche" to refer to complexes. But I think it's worth going more into complexes in-depth for this topic since everyone has had a mother at some point and everyone has a mother complex.
A complex is an unconscious phenomenon that activates when we get in touch with its subject matter.
By the nature of the unconscious, it's pretty difficult to pinpoint the details of someone's complex because it is inherently outside of one's awareness.
This is why we have a tendency to forget our complexes even after we've recognized them.
Examples of a Negative Mother Complex
Here are a few examples of a negative mother complex:
- Intense memories of suffering associated with the mother
- Feelings of neglect related to the mother
- Lack of connection between yourself and your mother
Your mother complex is shaped by your experiences with your mother/mothering caretaker, or lack thereof.
Consider that every child in a family can have utterly different mother complexes.
For example, an older child may feel neglected by the mother who is breastfeeding the newborn sibling.
The older child can get a bit of reassurance knowing that the mother is capable is giving nurturance, despite not benefitting from it directly.
It's also important to consider a child's temperament. For example, a child who is naturally more neurotic is likely to develop a negative mother complex because they are naturally predisposed to negative feelings.
Neuroticism is a personality trait where a person is more prone to stress, negative feelings, and pessimistic perceptions. This is typically expressed by isolating oneself or acting out.
Signs of a Positive Mother Complex
Here are a few examples of a positive mother complex:
- You anticipate the world is a welcoming place
- You have a healthy expectation that things will go how you want
- A perception of life that allows things to come to you more easily
What a Wounded Mother Passes Down
Although a mother can inflict inner wounds on a child, sometimes this doesn't happen directly.
If a mother is already carrying her own wounds, she may unconsciously pass down these wounds onto her child.
This can also result in shadow beliefs that would make the child believe that they should approach the world with caution, or in worse cases, fear.
Understand that everyone experiences inner wounding from both parents. It's simply a part of development. How deep the wounds go depend on your experiences and temperament.
Check out Shadow Work for Daddy Issues.
The Absent Mother
Sometimes a child is left to deal with receiving their inner and outer needs on their own.
This can be because the mother has become physically ill and bedridden, dealing with post-partum depression, or some other factor that's cultivating an air of disconnection with her child.
To deal with this, the child may resort to looking within. Retreating into their own inner world to compensate for the lack of nurturance from the mother.
The child learns to play by themselves and converse with themselves to make up for insufficient mothering.
However, this can lead to a build-up of resentment towards the mother. While also leaving the child to grow up viewing relationships as unnecessary and puzzling.
This self-soothing can lead to the following as the child gets older:
- Food disorders
- Masturbating addiction
- Avoidant attachment style
How an Absent Mother Complex Impacts Your Adult Relationships
A person who has an "absent mother" complex is likely to believe that they can't trust others for their needs to be met.
And since they carry this unconscious belief, they assume their partner is the same way. Which can make them work harder on the relationship because they believe that's what it takes to keep someone around.
In other words, you're very accommodating to keep your partner happy.
Sometimes, a person will avoid relationships altogether and instead cope with their fear of relationships with food or other addiction.
The Naïve Mother
There are many cases where a woman is simply "too young" when they have their children.
Meaning that she doesn't yet know herself, and she's still naïve about the world or even how demanding a child can be.
A very young woman may not even know how to assert herself yet.
So not only does she have issues trying to meet a baby's needs, but she hasn't even learned how to get her own needs met.
This can lead a young mother to feel as if she's being consumed by her own child. To the point that a child's demands are activating hostile emotions within the mother, hence shaken baby syndrome.
How a Naïve Mother Complex Impacts Your Adult Relationships
Since expressing your needs was met with hostility by your mother, you develop an unconscious shadow belief that "It's not safe to have needs."
This causes a child to believe that their inner world is not a safe place. Thus, further disconnecting them from their own unconscious.
The inability to pull from one's inner resources makes it hard for someone to self-soothe in a healthy manner and makes one prone to attack themselves.
Examples of this include:
- Self-sabotaging behaviors
- Relentless negative self-talk
- Not caring for oneself
- Disregarding one's own needs
"I don't need anything and I don't need anyone."
It's not uncommon that people with a negative mother complex also lack early childhood memories due to a lack of emotional impoverishment.
The Engulfing Mother
The engulfing mother is particularly selfish and is heartlessly ruling their child's life.
When the child grows up, they develop a fear of engulfment. Where they feel compelled to attack anyone who "comes too close" emotionally or mentally.
The Critical Mother
A mother who is critical of their child teaches them to self-hate based on scrutinized qualities.
This can lead to a person constantly feeling as if they are being suffocated by the mind due to the psyche's constant shoulding.
The worst part is that these complexes are something we can activate within others.
If you have a critical mother complex, you'll often find that you unconsciously gravitate towards those who are critical, OR you will unconsciously provoke others in a way that causes them to recreate your "critical mother" experiences.
Sometimes you will even assume the role of your complex and use it against other people.
This is why mending your inner child wounds and purifying your psyche from shadow beliefs is so important.
Mother Complex: Son versus Daughter
It may be easier for the daughter to assimilate some of the abusive behaviors of the mother simply because it's easier to identify with the mother based on sex.
However, a boy may feel more estranged, so he's more likely to repress instead of assimilating these abusive behaviors.
It seems to be the opposite case when there is a negative father complex.
Mending the Negative Mother Complex
Exposing yourself to an accepting, feminine figure can help a person mend their negative mother complex.
It's by developing a deep relationship with someone who you would consider to be a "mother figure" that you may grow to accept your mother complex and, in turn, "smooth out the rough edges."
However, you must understand that mending complexes will typically take a very long time.
Griefwork over the Parent(s) You Did Not Have
All the symptoms a person has from a negative mother complex are part of the compensation for the nurturance their mothers were too inadequate to deliver.
You must acknowledge how hurt you feel.
A person with a negative parent complex is quick to say, "it wasn't that bad."
But this is denial.
This is the ego's attempt to keep you from feeling the uncomfortable emotions you need to process.
You must realize just because someone tried their best—doesn't mean it was good enough.
You are allowed to grieve over the parenting you deserved but didn't receive (and will never receive).
When you were a child, you were too puny and didn't have the mental capacity to understand what was going on.
So you learned to push your uncomfortable emotions into your unconscious.
It's by integrating the emotions tied to those experiences that you will finally be able to digest those inner wounds as an adult—
And make peace with yourself because of it.
When you finally integrate these emotions, there will be more energy available to you.
You will become more whole.
Before then, these psychic energies are still running within you. But they are outside of your grasp and unable to be harnessed.
It's by doing the griefwork that you can uncover and contain these emotions within your recognition—
Allowing you to integrate and harness these psychic energies for your own conscious efforts, as opposed to the unconscious influence they have played in your life up to this point.
Here are some resources I recommend:
Shadow Work Course is based on my in-depth research and personal experiences with shadow work, projection, sadomasochism, inner child healing, triggers, and all things shadow. This course is updated every year and gets new content at no additional cost. Learn more here.
A Light Among Shadows is a guide on self-love and being. This short course goes over consciousness, spirituality, philosophy, and makes sense of why people are the way they are. Recommended for people dealing with resentment and self-hate. Learn more here.
Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.
Manifestation Manual: The Path of Least Resistance bundle teaches you some holistic and systems thinking along with how to mend your inner child wounds so you can align with your higher self and move forward in life. This includes 20 video clips as a free bonus.
Shadow Play (or “DsR”) is a small sister website that goes over “sensual” shadow work through my BDSM experiences. If you are 18+ and are interested, go here.