What is a devouring mother?
The emotions have the ability to consume you. Jealousy, sadness, betrayal, shame, infatuation, hate, and even love can tire you emotionally. When we say the word mother; the only things that come to mind are love and care. Most of us cannot relate the word mother to anything negative.
The concept of “devouring mother” is part of Carl Jung’s archetypes. The archetype “anima” is based on the idea that every man has an inner feminine side or there is a woman in every man. The anima archetype controls the relationship between men and women and the most prominent character in this archetype is the mother archetype.
According to Carl Jung, the mother archetype has both positive and negative traits and aspects. The negative side of the mother archetype is the “devouring mother”. Where the positive side of this archetype is giving birth, nurturing and caring, the negative side “consumes” her children especially her son. The negative side of the mother archetype according to Jung rules over the mother-son relationship. Gorgon from Greek mythology is the true depiction of devouring mother.
In Greek mythology, a Gorgon is a female creature. The name Gorgon derives from the ancient Greek word gorgÃ³s, which means "dreadful". The term refers to any of the three sisters having hair made of living, venomous snakes. It is said that their horrifying visage could turn those who beheld her to stone.
The “devouring mother” is a destructive person that can psychologically kill her son. She will take away the ability of her son to grow and evolve into a psychologically healthy mature person. According to Daryl Sharp, “At the core of any mother complex is.. a collective image of nourishment and security on the one hand and devouring possessiveness on the other”.
Effects on the children
The effects on son can range from homosexuality to Don Juanism. It becomes impossible for the son to get into a heterosexual relationship because at an unconscious level all his thoughts are tied to his mother and he turns into a homosexual. In Don Juanism, he tries to find his mother in every woman he meets.
[reference from “Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 162.]
In daughters, the devouring mother can either stimulate or inhibit the feminine instincts. In stimulated feminine instincts, the feminine side is intensified with exaggerated motherly instincts. In case of inhibition, the feminine instinct is completely wiped out and it stops to exist.
6 Ways to Deal with a Devouring Mother
If you have not lived with devouring mother, you can never understand how painful it can be. Devouring mother isn’t always bad; over-protective, over-loving, and over-caring mothers can also consume their children. An overprotective mother can be more dangerous, says Jordan Peterson; a clinical psychologist. According to Jordan Peterson, although rarely mentioned is the opposite of over-protective that is neglect which according to many can be more destructive and can do irreparable damage to the children. Her exaggerated love and care do not give room for the children to grow and be independent.
Dealing with devouring mother can be tricky as after all she is your mother and you need to think of respectable ways to deal with the situation. Here are a few ways to deal with a mother who is consuming you emotionally.
1. Share it with friends and family
It would be difficult for younger kids to identify and express any abnormality in their mother’s behavior. As they grow they will realize that there is something wrong in the way their mother is behaving or raising them up. It is better if the father or a close relative keeps an eye on the kids and their mother. The kids should reach out to get external help when and where possible. If you as a kid felt trapped, guilt-tripped and suffocated around your mother, seeking help from friends and family might have put you in a better position.
2. Set boundaries and enforce them
Dealing with devouring mother isn’t easy. Once you have grown up and moved out, it is better to set boundaries to save yourself from emotional drama. There is nothing wrong with asking for space. An over-protective can be over-demanding and this can be really troublesome for the children. It is ok to do routine chores for her without getting disrespectful but if she isn’t giving you space to breathe you should set certain boundaries. With this done, let her know that you love her but for your peace of mind you need to keep a certain distance.
3. It is not your fault
You should have a firm belief that if your “devouring” mother isn’t happy, it isn’t your fault. Some kids blame themselves for the terrible behaviors of their mother which affects their future life in many ways. The sooner you realize this fact the easier it will be for you to deal with your mother. Devouring mother often makes her children feel guilty for being overly attached to her and their inability to detach from her on an emotional and physical level. As a matter of fact, the real situation is the exact opposite. It is the insecurities of the mother that won’t allow her kids to live an independent life once they grow up.
4. Detach yourself emotionally
No matter how far away you have moved from your devouring mother, if you are still emotionally attached to her, you can’t get rid of the “being consumed” feeling. You need to detach yourself to get free. One cannot grow psychologically under the shadow of a mother who is consuming you by the day. For your own emotional and physical wellbeing, detach yourself.
5. You can’t fix her
It is a mother’s duty to take care of the children and not vice versa. To deal with your devouring mother, you need to free yourself from the feeling that you need to fix her because you cannot. It is time you fix yourself because you have suffered a lot at the hands of your mother. Getting out of emotional trauma will eventually help deal with the mother who made you go through it.
6. Try to spend some healthy time with your mother
Sometimes, to deal with the problem, you need to see it in the face. If your mother has caused you emotional pain, you should look into the reasons. Try and spend some healthy and quality time with your mother, because this is what she wants; your attention. Try to engage her in a healthy conversation. If it is too painful, you can start little. Try making a phone call once a week or video call her to let her know that you care for her.
What to do if I am dating or married to someone who has a devouring mother?
Devouring mother, as the name says, eats nothing but her children. It can be very traumatic for children who have spent their life with an emotionally consuming mother. They grow up believing low of themselves and have very low self-esteem. The children brought up in such households mostly are dependent physically and emotionally on others. Since the devouring mother is afraid to be alone, she instills it in her children that it is she who brought them into this world and they should serve only her.
Living with a person who has spent a good portion of their life with devouring mother can be quite tricky. If you are dating or married to someone who has a devouring mother, here is what you can do:
Maintain your independent space
The person who has a devouring mother can be very clingy. It is better to maintain your independent space. You should not shift into a house where your spouse or partner is living with their mother.
Make sure that your partner is financially independent
Dating or marrying a person who is still dependent financially on their mother should be a big no-no. You should never get into a relationship where the money is still coming from the mommy. Ask your partner to start working or get out of the relationship ASAP.
Create and maintain boundaries
Easier said than done but you need to make certain rules and live by them. Over-involvement of your partner/spouse’s mother will complicate your relationship. It will be better if you stop your spouse from consulting their mother in your household matters and decisions. You will find your spouse dialing their mother’s number every now and then and for petty matters; this could only lead to trouble. Create boundaries and maintain them to live a peaceful life.
Avoid Confrontations especially involving “the mother”
Neither get in direct confrontation with “the mother” nor involve her in your personal matters. Blame game won’t get you anywhere. Whenever you want to discuss something with your spouse about his/her mother, be sensitive. Never talk bad about the mother rather explain the need for “us” time without mom being part of it.
Living with a devouring mother can be a real nightmare. Although the kids get used to the kind of life they live, it can have a huge impact on their later lives. Whether your mother is the over-protective type or the neglecting type, you need to address the matter at the earliest possible time so you can save yourself from emotional and mental consumption.