6/11/2014 0 Comments
Primal desire for mother love / protection and Primal fear: mother as the devourer, which can be a realistic fear
Erich Fromm writes in "The Heart of Man":
The incestuous tie to mother very frequently implies not only a longing for mother's love and protection, but also a fear of her. This fear is first of all the result of the very dependency which weakens the person's own sense of strength and independence; it can also be the fear of the very tendencies which we find in the case of deep regression: that of being the suckling or of returning to mother's womb. These very wishes transform the mother into a dangerous cannibal, or an all-destroying monster. It must be added, however, that very frequently such fears are not primarily the result of a person's regressive fantasies, but are caused by the fact that the mother is in reality a cannibalistic, vampire-like, or necrophilic person. If a son or a daughter of such a mother grows up without breaking the ties to her, then he or she cannot escape from suffering intense fears of being eaten up or destroyed by mother. The only course which in such cases can cure the fears that may drive a person to the border of insanity is the capacity to cut the tie with mother. But the fear which is engendered in such a relationship is at the same time the reason why it is so difficult for a person to cut the umbilical cord. Inasmuch as a person remains caught in this dependency, his own independence, freedom, and responsibility are weakened.
Fromm points out an important psychological truth: in the unconscious and, yet, well-meaning pursuit for healing love and protection (mature eros), one may “find” a personal “mother” figure or a collective “mother-substitute” who are “in reality … cannibalistic, vampire-like, or necrophilic”  What Fromm seems to mean here is that such an imago as understood from the subject's dreams, nightmares, or visional experiences, are not only “regressive fantasy” (à la Freud) but typically in their totality also represent some kernel of a truth about the actuality of the suffer's problem or situation.
Fromm’s important observation of this “objective side”  of a personal or institutional neurotic split  typically plays out in unconscious manifestation of the power instinct: actions on the part of the “mother” figure or institution to control, or if that is not possible to devour and destroy the “rebellious” one. 
In my clinical work, this “script” frequently plays out in actuality in the lives of many young adults. Fromm’s advice — to “cut the tie with the mother” — often takes the support of an outside person (a counsel, pastor, rabbi, therapist) who loans the patient their own experiences of courage with an attitude of non-judgmental support until their own efforts to gain greater freedom, independence, and adult responsibility become manifested in their behavior and in confronting the more problematic actualities of life.
1 For more on Fromm’s meaning of this term, see Chapter III “Love of Death and Love of Life” in The Heart of Man.
2 I use this term psychologically to help the reader distinguish it from another categorial term referring to the “personal” or “subjective” aspect of any psychological framework.
3 Yes, sadly, I do mean that there are “neurotic” institutions which are in reality more destructive, immature, and even “toxic” than being constructive, mature, or nurturing.
4 Strong language, but the use of the term “rebellious” characterizes the conscious or unconscious frame shown by the behavior: the actions, decisions, or explicit standpoint of a particular personal mother figure or institution.
Copyright 2014, Robert Winer, M.D. (May not be used without permission).
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