Christi Taylor-Jones Psychotherapy Web Site

June 18, 2017

Blog on divorce – Intro


If you picked up this book, you may be thinking of ending an important relationship in your life, or maybe you already have. If you were the one who was left, you may feel heatbroken or relieved. You may feel confused, scared or hopeless. If you were the one who did the leaving, you may feel a sense of freedom and joy, but also guilty, insecure, afraid or any combination of feelings.

Rarely do we experience a singular emotion when we end a significant relationship. Sometimes our feelings are in conflict with each other. One moment we are filled with anger and resentment, the next moment we feel sad and sorry for our partner, for the loss, for how we were, how they were, and for getting involved in the first place. Even if it was an abusive or unhappy marriage, we may experience a wide range of emotions when it finally comes to its inevitable end. The reality is that long-standing, abusive and unfulfilling relationships seem to activate the opposites even more than “once-happy” unions that simply lost steam. That’s because outer conflict tends to reflect inner conflict. How we are with each other outwardly reflects how we feel inwardly. A highly conflictual relationship often signals inner turmoil, as well as outer distress.

The seeds of conflict begin long before the relationship ends; they’re sown at the beginning, often before we even met. Then suddenly it seems to have reached a critical mass. Something has to change: something has to die, in this case the relationship itself. The idea that when one door closes another opens carries a kernel of truth, but it’s limited because it assumes that the door opening is better than the door closing. For that reason, the fear of regret looms large.

In our ideal fantasy we believe that we will grow from our experiences. But hope that we can minimize the growing pains. Yet, for true psychological growth to occur things must first fall apart, really fall apart. The old way must completely die. In alchemical terms the old king or ruling principle must be sacrificed. That which contained us—our beliefs, our dreams, our fantasies and our projections must all undergo transformation in service of a larger perspective.

According to this view, transformation is borne of intense inner reflection and confrontation with oneself. It requires an understanding and appreciation of the psychological and spiritual forces that brought us together and are now calling for our separation.

When we pick a partner we pick more than that person. We pick a whole constellation of values, complexes and projected parts of ourselves as well as fantasy expectations of how things will be. This then becomes our reality, a reality that contains us, that makes us feel safe and whole and fulfilled. Separating from all that thus feels like dismemberment, as if we’ve lost a physical, tangible part of our being. It feels like death, and it is. You may be experiencing that death now, and it does no possible good to say it won’t last forever because when you’re in it, it feels like forever. That’s how we know we’re in it. And that is not an altogether bad thing. In fact, it’s the beginning of what can become a transformative experience, if we’re willing to fall to the depths of it..

When we separate, we have an opportunity to sort things out, to separate one thing from another so that we can see more clearly where we’ve been and where we’re going. We can become curious about what happened; what brought us together and what pulled us apart. What drew our lover to us? What drew us to him or her? Was it our ego that sought relationship or something else? Perhaps the Self? Were we attracted to our partner’s persona or to some other projection of who they were? What part of us is now compelled to end things? Is it the ego or the Self? And what parts of us still belong to our partner? Which parts can we not extricate from the relationship and why? Most of all, we may ask what now contains us, now in this dark time when we seem to have lost everything?

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung distinguished what he called our persona (the image we present to the world) from our true self (the unique constellation of human potential). If we become too identified with our persona, or self image, we lose a sense of who we are. Jung described the process of separating out who we think we are (including our acceptance of who others think we are, or who we think we “should” be) from who we truly are (our unique self), as a process of individuation. Individuation, according to Jung, occurs over a lifetime. It is therefore not a goal that is achieved, but an ongoing journey, one that may be undertaken consciously or unconsciously.

Certain events in our lives may push us deeeper into this process. A death or a break up with a significant other can serve as catalyst, plunging us into deeper layers of the psyche– into a confrontation with the ego which ultimately results in a more conscious relationship with the Self. According to Jung, the Self is the center of the personality, that inner guiding force that some call the god within. When we are connected to that source, we are in sync with our true purpose. This may seem a lofty idea, but our true purpose may not be the one we would choose or even the desired one. In fact it choses us more than we choose it. Furthermore, developing a closer relationship with ithe Self does not necessarily translate into happiness as normally defined, but as wholeness. According to Jung, wholeness, not happiness is the goal of life. When we are connected to the energies of the Self, we are connected to all human potentialities. We are connected to the whole of who we are.

Unfortunately, the journey to the Self involves a defeat of the ego and thus results in a subtantial amount of suffering. This suffering feels like death, which is why images of the crucified Christ and other religious figures often depict the process of individuation. The suffering is not for suffering sake, however. It’s more like growing pains or the pain of birth. For this reason, one does not attempt to end the suffering per se but to tolerate it until the true meaning of the suffering is revealed.

At this point, you may ask, what could possibly be meaningful about suffering? Who needs it? To heck with individuating; I just want to put all this pain behind me and move on. While that is certainly understandable, it is short sighted. Moving on without taking inventory of what happened can cheat us out of a richer experience. The reason for suffering is that it is essential for transformation and rebirth. Without death, there can be no rebirth. Without reflecting on what went before and what the psyche is aiming for now puts us at risk of replicating the past, often with someone or something just like we have now. There is no growth, no rebirth in that. There is only a continuation of the same sorrowful story.

You may now be saying to yourself, “But wait a second; I was not the source of the problem in my relationship. It was my partner’s fault. If he or she had not been unfaithful, alcoholic, critical, passive, abusive, violent or even evil then things would have worked out.” The problem is that you are the one who chose your partner or, more accurately, something in your psyche of which you were unconscious chose your partner. Are you curious what that is? If so, this book may be for you.

There are many questions to ponder when a relationship ends: What was the psyche wanting or needing? Why did it lead me to this particular person? Why not someone else? Was there something I was supposed to learn? Did he or she carry certain qualities that I needed to develop in myself, even if those qualities seemed vile or distasteful? Is there an aspect of my partner that I need to develop in myself in order to complete me? Can I become whole without him or her? Was my desire for this relationship driven by some psychological complex in me, some shadow part of my personality? Did I project my shadow onto him or her so I didn’t have to own it? Are all the reasons for the demise of the relationship conscious to me? Were there maybe some unconscious forces at work here that are bigger than either of us? If so, were they for better or for worse? Can I be whole all by myself? And who is this being I call my self? These are among the many questions that if explored fully can lead to greater understanding of who you are, why you entered this relationship and why you now need to leave it.

Answering these questions is a major undertaking; it’s a kind of self examination that requires courage, more courage than just leaving a bad relationship. Making relationship with oneself takes the greatest courage of all.

As you may already surmise, this book is not about getting over a lost love. It is not a how-to-book about surviving divorce and separation. It is not even a standard feel-good book about how to be happy following a failed marriage. It is instead a description of the journey involved in turning a painful experience into an opportunity for transformative growth. It is about emerging from relative unconsciousness into a person who is both conscious and capable of truly taking up the mantle of his or her life and living it as it was meant to be –to the fullest. It is about becoming a whole person onto yourself, rather than the other half of another person.

February 2, 2017




The Role of Personality Type in Marital Conflict

Susan complains that she and her husband don’t communicate. He says he communicates just fine; she just doesn’t listen. She feels frustrated. He feels unheard. Maybe therapy will help. Maybe the therapist can give them“tools” to help them better communicate.

Included in the therapist’s tool box are exercises aimed at improving communication, listening, reflecting back and making “I statements” like “I feel….” or “It’s my experience that….” Such tools are all well and good, but they often fail to address an important underlying problem, personality styles.

Borrowing from philosophers and observers of behavior as far back as the ancient Greeks, Swiss psychologist Carl Jung formed a theory of personality based on what he called personality types. A person’s type (or typology) is inborn, although somewhat effected by their environment. Type differences form a pair of opposites so that one cannot develop both pairs at the same time. The psychological energy goes primarily into one or the other. For example, we have an inclination toward either introversion or extraversion. That does not mean that extraverts are incapable of introversion, nor introverts incapable of extraverting, but one is dominant.

He also found that people have a proclivity toward one or the other perceiving functions, that is a lens through which they take in information from the world, both the inner and outer world. These functions he named sensation and intuition. Sensation types are more attuned to the concrete world of the senses (hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing) while intuitives pick things up in ways that defy objective data. They perceive things intuitively.

In addition, people make judgments (about the information they perceive) on the basis of either thinking (logic) or feeling (value). The Thinking Type makes decisions on the impersonal basis of logic and analysis, whereas the feeling type makes decisions based more on shared values and relationship.

Jung observed that one’s type was not solitary but rather worked in combination. Although one attitude (introversion or extraversion) predominated, it was tied to a function (thinking, feeling, perceiving and intuition). Thus, a person can be an introverted thinking or extraverted sensation or any other combination of attitude and function. He also claimed that because we do not just have one attitude or one function, that we must also have a secondary or auxillary function; that is, another combination. That means that a person may be an introverted thinking with extraverted sensation or extraverted intuition with introverted feeling and so on. The personality is thus effected by both the dominant and secondary functions.

Moreover, because there are four functions (thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) and we have all four but to lesser degrees of development, it makes sense that the function opposite the dominant function would be the least developed. So, for an introverted intuitive, the inferior or least developed function would be extraverted sensation. He called this the inferior function.

So how does all this apply to couple communication problems? Returning to the case of Susan and her husband, let’s imagine that Susan is an extraverted intuitive with introverted thinking (on the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory this is called an ENTP). Her husband is the exact opposite. He is an introverted sensation type with extraverted feeling (an ISFJ). That means she’s an extravert, he’s an introvert; she perceives things intuitively, he on the basis of objects reality. She makes judgments on the basis of logic (thinking) while he makes judgments on the the basis of feeling (relationship and values). As you can see, they view the world through very different lenses. She is an extravert, who is stimulated by things, people and events in the outer world and gains energy from them, while he is an introvert who is more oriented to his inner world and tends to reflect before acting. He is overwhelmed by too much outer stimulation and refuels by going inward or being alone.

Although we are often attracted to our opposite and may even enjoy what they bring to the relationship that we lack, we may find that over time those differences become annoying. This may happen early on or later, after we’re married, whenever consensus and the need for commonality becomes important. At that point conflict may arise. The feeling person may then see the thinking person as insensitive and uncaring. The sensation person experiences his intuitive partner as out of touch with reality. And so on. The extravert may want to go out more; the introvert to hang out at home more, or want their partner to be home more.


What couples with very different typologies conclude is that they have unreconcilable differences. And this is sometimes the case. But not always. Type differences are exacerbated by the idea that the other person is “doing this TO me,” rather than that the other person is doing this because they are being who they are. That is, they take things personally that aren’t inherently personal. The second problem is that each partner things they are “right” and the other person is “wrong.” their way of seeing the world is the right way. In short, they really don’t know who their partner is. Or they don’t accept that they are different.

To the degree that each partner has developed some sense of themselves, that is, they have a strong enough ego to tolerate differences the marriage is salvageable. To the degree that a person cannot tolerate without judgment the other person’s natural personality tendencies, the marriage is going to suffer.

This does not mean that each person will need to make some accommodations, but before doing that they need to understand how their typological differences impact the relationship. There may be other problems besides personality styles that create difficulties in the relationship, and those can be addressed separately. There may still be unreconcilable differences in the coupling that make the relationship untenable, but differences in typology can often be worked through. Over time we tend to develop other functions due to what Jung called the drive toward “wholeness.” Generally our inferior function remains problematic in some ways, but the other three functions can develop as we age, perhaps speeded up through work with an analyst.

Typology is only one aspect of a person and only one aspect of their personality. We still bring our complexes, our shadow tendencies and other conscious and unconscious issues to our relationship with other people. The hope, however, is that the more we know ourselves, the more adept we are at understanding and communicating with other people

May 7, 2010


With Permission of artist, Helena Nelson-Reed

After much resistance, I decided to join the wide world of blogging. Why not, I thought. It’s the new publishing super highway where any common Joe can voice their opinions and express their creativity (or lack thereof). Where else, I surmised, can a person bypass the throngs of traditional publishing gatekeepers who determine what’s worthy and what’s not, based primarily on marketability and an appeal to the lowest common denominator?

The idea was appealing. My resistance had more to do with inertia and introversion. It would involve a lot of work, and being by nature technologically-challenged, it would require working against my inferior function. Besides, as an introvert, it is hard to put myself “out there.” I’d rather sit back and wait for someone to approach me with an invitation to write an article or publish a book or give a talk, but since no one is beating down my door right now, that’s not an option.

So I am forcing myself to extravert, that is to put myself out there. And it’s all for a good cause of course because I, like all bloggers, believe I have something to offer. Why else make the effort? Besides, I had

support in this venture, someone else who thought it was worthwhile. In fact, the idea was not mine originally.

I simply wanted to expand my website with a link to articles relevant to Jungian psychology. Then someone suggested that I write my own articles and include them in a blog that I could link to my website. The idea intrigued me. I not only thought of articles I could write, but articles I’ve already written but never published. Then I thought of the two books that have been languishing in my computer while waiting to find a literary agent to shop them.

Of particular interest was a book I wrote on separation and divorce which described love, marriage and separation from a Jungian perspective. The book explains, in Jungian terms, the forces that bring us into relationship and those that call for separation. It explores the idea that separation is sometimes an inevitable and even courageous step, largely engineered by what Carl Jung called the Self or guiding principle of the unconscious. The impetus for the book came from my desire to help other people (men and women, gay and straight, married or not) find meaning in the loss of love.

The other book in my dusty drawer of buried manuscripts also deals with loss. This time it’s the loss of a parent. You can see a theme emerging here! The book was inspired by the death of my own mother just as I entered midlife. The book has been ten years in the making. It grew out of a need to come to terms with my own mother’s death and the psychological chaos into which I was suddenly and unexpectedly thrust. The book is titled The Way of The Butterfly; Journey Through Death, Loss and Transformation. It deals with our general cultural phobia around the subject of death, and addresses the effect that the death of the mother has on her surviving daughter.

Both books are works in progress. While I’m waiting to find a publisher, I will include chapters from both books on my blog so you can enjoy them in the meantime and even offer your feedback. I’d be interested to know what works and what doesn’t, what you resonate with and where your own story departs from that of mine and the other people I’ll introduce you to in my blog. In essence, you will be the editors. I will post articles, poems, stories, images, musing and general reflections on the human journey into the depths. The common thread will be transformation and individuation. To that end, I’ve decided to name my blog “The Way of the Butterfly; Stories of Individuation, Transformation and Re-creation. I hope you will join me on this new and exciting journey.

In my next installment I will publish a section from The Way of the Butterfly about birth trauma and its effect on the mother/child relationship. Please stay tuned…..

Birth trauma and the relationship with the mother

Excerpted from The Way of The Butterfly;Journey Through Death, Loss and Transformation

By Christi Taylor-Jones, MFT

Image from Frida Kahlo’s “Birth”

I awakened at 4 a.m. with a feeling of stark urgency. I rushed to my mother’s room to check her morphine drip. My younger sister and I had spent three days taking turns sitting at her bedside, afraid to leave her alone. We worried she might die alone or worse, that she’d suddenly wake up, realize her condition, and become aware of the pain that was now medically numbed by the morphine. We knew full well that she was beyond waking; she had entered a transitional coma. Nothing could bring her back to consciousness now, but the fear lingered.

When I entered her room, she lay coldly still on her bed, her face sunken at the cheeks. A small amount of liquid spilled from the side of her mouth. There was no heart beat or pulse. She looked weary, as if having battled to the very end. She was dead. My mother was dead. That realization suddently hit me. My mother, the woman who bore me, the woman in whose womb I almost died, the woman I’d fought with, the woman I’d turned to, the woman I’d sought approval from and raged at and laughed with, and cried to, the woman I loved and hated and yet so needed to be there for me, this woman, my mother, Barbara Eleanor Taylor, was dead. I collapsed to the floor and sobbed.

At 4:02 a.m. on August 17, my relationship with my personal mother, as I knew her, ended. I would stay connected to her memory, but over time she would merge in my consciousness with an image of the archetypal mother, someone beyond her individual human personality. She would become what she had been to me at birth, the eternal, universal Mother.

As we know, the Mother archetype gets constellated at birth, if not before. Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung defined archetypes as universal, pre-existant structures in the unconscious. While not experienced directly– because archetypes exist only in potential– they appear as images in personified form, often in dreams, myths and religious icons. Personifications of the Good Mother archetype include such figures as the Virgin Mary, or the Greek goddess Demeter, or any number of Earth Mother or fertility goddesses. The Mother archetype is also projected onto various animals like the mother bear or the lioness.

Archetypes, however, are imbued with both both positive and negative qualities. In her negative form the Mother archetype appears as a dragon or witch, like Baba Yaga in Russian fairytales, or the Greek goddess Hecate, ruler of the underworld and the crossroads in Greek mythology.

An archetypal projection is too big for any one woman to carry, and yet we project onto the personal mother aspects of either the positive, nurturing mother or the negative, witch mother. If our experience was primarily positive, we project the good mother onto her; if our experience was negative, we may project the negative or witch mother onto this woman who bore us. In such cases we experience only one side of the archetype. It often takes many years to integrate the two and to accept the duality of the woman we call Mother.

Our relationship with the Mother begins in the womb. Research on prenatal and perinatal development suggests that awareness and cellular memory, which precede cognitive memory, are already operating long before birth. Our ideas about ourselves and the world are being formulated even as we incubate inside our mother’s body.

Wendy Anne McCarty, professor of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology at Santa Barbara Insititute in California and the author of Welcoming Consciousness, claims that “During our gestation, birth and early infant stages, we learn intensely and are exquisitely sensitive to our environment and to relationships. Through our transcendent perspective, we have omni-awareness of our parents and others’ thoughts, feelings and intentions that arise from their conscious and subconscious minds. Through our human self, our experience is intricately related to our mother’s experience, the health of our womb and the physical/emotional journey at birth.”

Studies also suggest that ego development begins earlier than was once believed. It begins at conception. Our time in the womb and our actual birth experience are thus more significant than one would think. How we emerge from the womb, that is how we enter the world and how we are receive, directly affect our attitude toward life. It affects the way we perceive new undertakings―or beginnings, and it has special implications for traumatic entrances.

Jung noted that all births are traumatic, that the process itself is traumatizing and disorienting. Yet some births are notably more difficult than others, and some people are more vulnerable to its impact.

There is research to suggest that elements of the birth trauma get re-enacted each time we move into a new life pattern or new level of consciousness. Marion Woodman in The Pregnant Virgin claims that individuals with a normal birth seem to handle what she calls “Passovers” with courage and natural trust. If the birth was difficult, a person may “become extremely fearful, manifest symptoms of suffocating, (and) become claustrophobic (psychically and physically).” While those who were held back (at birth) may be very slow to move through change, and those born caesarian section may avoid confrontations. Furthermore, says Woodman, “If their mother was heavily drugged, they may come up to the point of passover with lots of energy, then suddenly, for no apparent reason, stop or move into a regression and wait for someone else to do something.” According to Woodman, this may be the point where addictions appear in an effort to avoid facing the reality of moving out into a challenging world.

Jung calls birth trauma a “famous obvious truism,” and Jungian analyst Edward Edinger suggests that early trauma may fracture the fragile ego-Self axis. Winnicott claims that the birth process is memorized and catalogued as it happens, and when there has been a physical trauma the premature mental response to the trauma creates an obstacle between mind and body. The encumbrance may affect the child’s relationship with its mother and with its relationship to the Self unless compensated by an unusually sensitive mother.

In an article published in the International Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, Jungian Analyst JoAnn Culbert-Koehn says events around one’s birth, or the days immediately following, leave a profound imprint and tend to be re-experienced at times of separation and transition. Culbert-Koehn was speaking as much from her research as her own experience. Having suffered a traumatic birth of her own, she knew its effects directly. In a paper she presented to the Society of Jungian Analysts of Southern California, Culbert-Koehn described her experience:

“During one very anxious period I tried to draw a picture of a baby being born and myself cutting the umbilical cord, as the moment of traumatic separation. This had actually been a fantasy around the birth of my first child. I became very frustrated as I drew. I ripped up a number of drawings as my hand moved spontaneously toward the baby’s head, not her belly. With a shock of recognition it occurred to me that I had been born with the cord around my neck. I had been a baby that barely made it out…I realized how much the anxiety related to my birth was reflected in my life. It manifested in my own experiences of giving birth, …… and in all my major experiences of separation.”

Culbert-Koehn notes that when the effects of one’s birth trauma are not experienced consciously, “they have a dark, pessimistic, agitating, stifling, debilitating and sometimes terrifying impact.”

I know of what she speaks. I too experienced a traumatic birth. I was delivered by emergency C-Section when the umbilical cord became wrapped around my neck. I was literally suffocating when doctors finally pulled me free. Though I escaped the grip of death, the death archetype had imprinted itself upon my psyche. From then on birth and death were fused together like Siamese twins.

The effects of my birth seemed woven into the very fabric of my life. I experienced the effects each time I moved forward in some way. The pull of death was always there, emerging with every attempt to bring something new to being. I experienced it with every exit and every entrance. It was as if something pulled me back and tried to stem the natural flow of life; to keep me small and insignificant and unborn.

Sometimes it manifested in outer events. Objects would break down, pets would die, financial resources would be snatched away or fail to materialize, relationships were aborted, marriages ended, careers hit dead ends, books and plays and projects were shelved or left to gather dust in drawers. Insurmountable obstacles seemingly appeared the moment before any new step could be taken into life. It felt as if I was always caught between the opposites, between moving forward and falling back into the abyss. I was unable to embrace a new attitude or potential opportunity without panicking and lapsing into an almost visceral sensation of impending doom. My immediate and automatic, unconscious thought was often, “I can’t. I can’t do it.”

Because my birth trauma was unconscious and unprocessed at the time of my mother’s death, I experienced its full affects when she died. It was as if I was still attached to the umbilical cord. Watching my mother die reconnected me with my original womb experience. I was gripped by the same suffocating terror, and literally could not breathe.

Years later, as the significance of the event was understood consciously and integrated, the umbilical cord was symbolically severed, and I was able to psychologically breathe on my own. But at times it still comes back to haunt me.

In my work with women who’ve experienced traumatic births or were born into psycholgical impoverished homes (which is its own trauma), I have noticed a certain anxiety about starting new endeavors or making life changes. Death , divorce and other losses are particularly difficult for these women. I am sure it’s the case for men as well.

One woman told of being born on the heels of several significant deaths in her family, including that of her mother’s mother. She thus entered a world of collective grieving. She had always fought depression, feeling that she was somehow a burden to others. When her own mother died, she felt enormous guilt, as if she should have died instead. By tracing her feelings back to her actual birth, we were able to help her reconnect with the abandoned infant that was her, and to separate her guilt and depression from that of her mother –and to finally release it.

In an Article in Connections, a newsletter for marriage and family therapists, Judith Fraser, herself a marriage and family therapist, retraced her tendency to get angry whenever she felt rushed in life to her experience being born by forcepts delivery. She describes her experience this way:

“I remember being born. I know some people might think that it isn’t possible, but I know first hand that it is. ‘Push,” the doctor said. “Push hard.” Mom, at eighteen years old and one of the last children of 12 kids did as she was told. ‘Push,” he said again. Momma screamed in pain. “The baby’s too slow,” the doctor said. “Let me get some forcepts around its head.’ I felt the cold metal clamp around my temples. ‘Not so fast,’ I muttered. ‘I don’t want to be rushed.’ Nobody heard me. The doctor continued to pull until I was inched into this world on someone else’s schedule. My first major obstacle was to overcome what the doctor thought of as something helpful. To this day I hate to be rushed. I struggle to take my time and do things in ways that seem right to me.”

Even if there is no physical trauma, a woman (or man) may enter an emotionally turbulent world that feels traumatic. She may have a mother who is over anxious or depressed; there may be spousal or child abuse or family fights. One woman tells of being born during the Vietnam War to a depressed mother whose husband was fighting overseas. Her mother was too despondent to care for her. Instead of bonding with her, the mother resented her. As a result, the woman never felt loved; she never felt that anyone was there for her, and she acted accordingly.

Another woman told me of being separated from a mother who became ill soon after giving birth. Unable to care for her infant child, the mother sent the baby to her own mother who lived far away. By the time the child was reunited with her mother, the bond was broken. The child was attached to her grandmother and could not be consoled when she was reunited with her mother. The reunifiation was experienced as another separation, this time from her grandmother.

Other women report feeling unwanted from birth. Maybe they were a caboose child or the kid who became a burden to a depressed or too intellectually active mother or a mother who wanted no part of motherhood and felt victimized by it. Such beginnings leave an indelible imprint in the psyche. The trauma experience activates the terrible mother archetype with which one must then struggle their entire lives.

Even when the mother is emotionally available and welcomes the child, there may be personality differences that create a chasm between them. According to Jung, we enter the world with a certain proclivity toward introversion or extraversion. We also develop a dominant personality style that favors either thinking or feeling on the one hand and sensation or intuition on the other. When the personality style of both mother and child is similar, there is a common understanding between them. However, when mother and child are polar opposites, there may be friction.

In the case cited above, the mother was an introverted sensation type; the child an extraverted intuitive type. The mother experienced her child as too energetic, too demanding of her time and energy, too curious and active. In short, the child was too much for her. She resented her child and felt devoured by her.

On the other hand, an extraverted mother may push and prod her more introverted child, wanting her to be more social, more outgoing, and more responsive. The mother in that case needs more active relating than the child is able to offer. Such children grow up feeling inadequate and disappointing to their parents and others. They feel there is something wrong with them.

These dynamics remain mostly unconscious to both parent and child. New mothers have difficulty admitting to negative or even ambivalent feelings toward their children, especially their infant child. They believe that as mothers they should be unconditionally loving. They should want to be with their child night and day. They should take readily to the task of motherhood and should not have angry, resentful or even fearful feelings toward their children. To admit such feelings triggers shame and fear. It is especially hard for women who themselves experienced rejection, disappointment or hostility from their mothers. They want to compensate for the harm done to them.

The irony is that the more a new mother denies such feelings and relegates them to the unconscious, the more likely it is that these feelings will be acted out. Only by holding them in consciousness and exploring their source can women come to terms with their unwanted feelings. In the process of integrating these parts of themselves they become more fully human and more accepting of their child’s humanity, not just their positive feelings but their darker and more frightening ones. The child of such a mother learns that mom is not perfect, nor are they and that it’s okay to be less than perfect. They are eventually able to integrate both the good and terrible mother archetype.

When my mother died I had not integrated the good and terrible mother, and I had not psychologically separated birth and death enough to re-integrate them in a healthy way. That was the task that was laid out for me upon my mother’s death. Her death became my psychological birth, and dealing with my birth was just the beginning.

Wendy Anne McCarty points out that, “Just having someone validate the (birth trauma) experience is healing.” Since many of her clients are young children, a life-long pattern of emotional difficulties is interrupted by early intervention. For others, this may not happen until later in life when they enter psychotherapy or some other avenue of healing is offered that enables them to re-experience the feelings consciously and thereby transform them.

For me, the death of my mother broke open the door to all my former demons and to life’s possibilities. It was the beginning of a long and arduous but powerfully transforming journey.

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