In this episode, we continue our series on the Mother’s influence in life based on Erikson’s Stages of Development and enter the Adolescent and Early Adulthood stages.
- How do we determine who we are and our role in society
- Gender Identity and testing different roles with peers
- Dealing with struggles to form close relationships and the capacity to experience intimacy and love
- Examining your mother’s marriage or partnerships and the dynamics of relationships and rejecting or mimicking their relationship style
- Projections of parent image onto romantic partners
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Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Berndt Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We have continuation of our series on Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development and the mother archetype. Before we dive into today’s topic, which is how to find the courage to love, I want to remind you all to please subscribe to our podcast if you’re listening to us on iTunes, Spotify, or any podcast hosting service, so you don’t miss a single episode, especially the previous ones about the Erickson’s model we’ve been going through the past couple of weeks. If you’re watching us here on YouTube, please subscribe, just click on the button here in the corner of the video, and you’ll be notified of every new episode as it comes out. Today we are talking about how to find the courage to love. We’re getting into everyone’s favorite age, adolescence and early adulthood.
Robert Maldonado 01:35
We start out the series talking about early childhood. This is really important, it is an incredible work, and this is why Erickson’s model has stood the test of time, it’s still around, people still use it. Because it gives us a framework from which to understand the development of personality. Not only that, he breaks it down into really important elements at each stage, it’s like questions that we have to answer, these challenges, these tests that we have to accomplish.
Debra Maldonado 02:22
You said it’s like a video game. If you don’t pass this part, you have to keep doing it, and then you bring that back to the next stage. It’s really important to come to terms with these stages as you go through them. If not, it’s never too late. But where we slow down in our social development, psychological development, why we have problems as adults in our life, or why we struggle in certain areas, in love, work, our health. Last time we talked about all the way up to elementary school, which was a lot. Now we’re going into what happens at adolescence, when we start becoming little men and women, we go through the puberty and things start to change. What does that have to do with the mother archetype?
Robert Maldonado 03:15
We’ve been tracking these developments along with the relationship with the mother, we’ll get to why that’s important.
Debra Maldonado 03:27
Do you want to start with what this stage is adolescence in Erickson’s theory?
Robert Maldonado 03:32
Let’s start with Erickson though, just to remind us of who he was. He was considered a neo-Freudian, meaning he came after Freud and was carrying on the work of the Freudian theory. Freud had his own ideas of the stages we evolved through as we’re growing up. We’ll save that for another podcast. But his contribution was really important. There’s an idea that a lot of these theories are based on the individual theorists’ own experiences. There’s some of that with Erickson.
Debra Maldonado 04:18
In any type of psychological theory, the person puts themselves in that, you can’t not be influenced.
Robert Maldonado 04:27
He was raised by a single mother early on, then his mother remarried. He didn’t know that was not his biological father until later, which many of us can relate to right around adolescence. In adolescence, he puts this role confusion we’re going to talk about, because he himself went through it. We see that Jung himself went through this individuation process, the dark night of the soul that prompted him to write down his theory the way he did. There’s always that element, of course.
Debra Maldonado 05:08
In adolescence, we start entering the stage of identity versus role confusion. If you think about junior high, “Am I going to be the cheerleaders? Am I going to be the burnouts? Am I going to be the jock? Am I going to be the smart girl that gets all the grades, A student?” We end up sometimes deciding based on the group or the peers that were around me, you have a group of people that grew up in your neighborhood, you all go to school together, you played as kids, then you all fall into a category almost by default. Certain girls, when they were younger, almost had their identity ready, the little pretty girls and the nerd girls probably stayed friends, then in every romantic comedy you see the nerdy girl lose her best friend because she starts hanging out with a cheerleader. There’s this reorganization of who we are and where we fit in because we’re no longer at home and dealing with a role at home, we’re now dealing more and more with our role as young adults. Developing men, having their testosterone all over the place, the hormones. We start to think more as a person that’s interested in the opposite sex, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil that happens at that age.
Robert Maldonado 06:44
It can be a very confusing stage for a lot of people. And of course, the hormones don’t help. Then the social pressure now of being on social media is a whole other layer of stress for teenagers.
Debra Maldonado 07:08
You have an identity you’re developing. If you’re healthy, you go through this stage in a healthy way, in a more optimal way, you get certain about your role in who you are. You have interest in dating and connecting with other people, romantic interest, you have your crushes, you start thinking about the future, “what am I going to do for a living”, you start to even challenge authority of the adults, not be such a pleaser or go with the crowd. You’re standing in your own identity, maybe even rebelling against the mother in a way. Also self accepting, you feel good. But how many of us went to junior high that way? Not many, that’s the optimal. On the other side, there’s expression of confusion, you don’t know who you’re attracted to, you may not have an interest in romantic experiences, you feel left out of that, maybe you’re really isolated and no one’s attracted to you, so you feel afraid to even like someone because you’re not attractive, you lack confidence. Maybe hostile to authority, really rebellious but not in a healthy way.
Robert Maldonado 08:31
These are the spectrums, none of us are totally on one side or the other. Most of us are in the middle somewhere. There’s that sense of “I need to rebel, I don’t really want to just go along with the program.” Because that’s part of growing up, you need to assert your own identity.
Debra Maldonado 08:59
The harsh rebellion comes from anger, or frustration, or powerlessness. That’s the other extreme of “I’m going to just go and do drugs because my parents are very religious”, pushing away versus integrating. When we talk about the mother archetype, how does her role and the child relationship and projection onto the mother come into effect in this area?
Robert Maldonado 09:28
If we think about a woman’s trajectory as she’s going through this stage of finding her identity, a big part of it is does she identify with a mother or does she reject the mother role?
Debra Maldonado 09:49
I identified with the mother. My mother was the perfect loving mother, she was always there for us, I always felt safe. I felt very much attuned to her, wanting to have get married, have babies, that was early on. Many of my friends had the same mindset, it wasn’t about career or getting crazy. I was the good girl. My mother was an honor student, so I was an honor student. But I see a lot of people, my friends in adolescence, rebelling against the mother by doing drugs, or drinking, or staying out late, or sleeping around because for some reason, they rejected the mother. It has nothing to do with whether the mother was nurturing or not, it was more how the child saw that relationship with the mother. Did she see it as devouring, too pure, too good, or too self-righteous? They felt the mother wasn’t nurturing enough or not there enough, so they want to rebel?
Robert Maldonado 10:56
Rebellion doesn’t always express as drug use or out of control. Most often, it takes the form of the woman that rejects the mother’s role is going the opposite direction. If the mother is a stay at home mother, very nurturing, very caring, the one that rebels against that might be a business woman, “I am not going to do that.”
Debra Maldonado 11:34
Or the mother is not educated, and she sees that she’s powerless and can’t make her own money. The daughter’s like “I’m not going to be like that, I’m going to go out, study hard, get my education.” It could be either-or, but that’s really part of developing that identity. Even who you hang out with probably have the same type of aspirations as you.
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Robert Maldonado 12:54
This is where the negative mother complex comes into play and starts to take root in the individual.
Debra Maldonado 13:05
When you say negative mother complex, could you explain what that is?
Robert Maldonado 13:08
Jung’s idea of the negative mother isn’t what it sounds like. It sounds pretty bad. But it means that because we’re dealing with an archetypal image of the mother, there’re darker aspects of the mother archetype. We see in mythology the witch, the mean, critical mother, the devouring mother. The dragon was often associated with that archetype. There’re darker elements to the archetype. But keep in mind that it’s not that the mother was like that but we interpreted our relationship with the mother that way.
Debra Maldonado 14:04
We can watch our mother and say “She seemed really powerless in that marriage.” But we don’t know what’s really happening. That’s our projection. We don’t know that behind the scenes she’s running all the money, taking care of everything, and the father was really loving to her. In my family, my father wasn’t very affectionate in front of us kids. He loved her so much, but he didn’t show it. You see how a child can see and make an assumption about that relationship. So negative is maybe not globally negative, objectively negative but negative in the way you look at it. You might think being a loving, caring mother and a stay at home mom is negative. But it doesn’t necessarily mean negative in a global sense, it could just mean bad for you.
Robert Maldonado 15:03
Often the parenting that the mother has to do is interpreted as severe criticism or controlling, “I’m never good enough, I can’t do anything right”, all those things. Children often interpret things that way although it might be completely benign, the mother is simply trying her best to parent the child.
Debra Maldonado 15:33
A lot of times they’re under stress that the child doesn’t know about. Going through a divorce or a bad marriage, or even have mental issues that the child didn’t know. They take it personally, “you should have been better.” Your mother has clinical depression, but she should have been there for you. That resentment and not understanding that the mother was doing the best she could.
Robert Maldonado 15:58
For men, because the mother is often the counter-sexual parent, it plays into how men relate to their partners or women in general. If there’s a negative mother complex, there’s going to be that sense of overly obedient perhaps, or tends towards self rejection, or overly hostile to authority. The negative mother complex might be projected onto female teachers.
Debra Maldonado 16:43
What about womanizers? In junior high, they were players. Is that an aggression against the mother?
Robert Maldonado 16:54
It could be. It’s individually expressed, we can never be making sweeping assumptions like “This is going to happen this way.”
Debra Maldonado 17:05
Or everyone who acts this way is because of type of mother. Everyone has an interpretation.
Robert Maldonado 17:11
But these models help us understand in psychotherapy and in coaching, where these tendencies come from, and how they develop at the psychosocial level.
Debra Maldonado 17:25
These are coming from the conditioning of the person, they’re not choosing these roles. There’s gender confusion, but they’re not really choosing the role. It’s unconscious that you fall into these categories, whether you feel you’re sure of your identity or you’re still not sure. Would you say it’s more of confidence and a sense of self at that age where you feel that you’re accepted by the group and loved or attractive? I just feel so bad with the social media because it’s all about the liking and many followers, and it’s just starting so young. We didn’t have that growing up, we just had who had the party and who had the more friends show up. There’s a lot of acceptance at that age.
Robert Maldonado 18:15
I’d say probably they feel more exposed to a lot of people nowadays because when we were growing up, it was our little groups or cliques. Now social media puts it out there in a much broader space.
Debra Maldonado 18:34
If we don’t complete or come to terms with our identity, even if it is out of conditioning, but we choose something or our sense of self, maybe self confidence in the choices we make, even if it is out of conditioning, we move into the next stage. I hated junior high in high school, but 20s to 40s, the next stage, which is intimacy versus isolation. In your teens, you’re playing around with the romantic intimacy and who you are in friendships and intimacy. Not only romantic, but all friendships and close relationships. But in young adulthood, it’s time to get married, it’s time to have established yourself in the community. You are moving farther away from parents, maybe getting your first apartment or going away to college. This stage, expressions of intimacy are being able to maintain friendships, to have emotional and physical intimacy, being able to have sex and feel safe in a sexual relationship and an emotional relationship, to participate in games in groups, to be a part of your friends, have friendships, open and willing to interact, the ability to keep commitments with a relationship. “I’m going to commit to you, I’m going to stay with you” versus “I can’t make a choice”.
Robert Maldonado 20:12
I’ll read the opposite end of the spectrum. These would be extremes, but it gives you a sense of the whole spectrum. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you do not meet the challenge of developing intimacy, you tend towards isolation, which is sabotaging relationships, withdrawing from social interaction, avoidance, and defensiveness. This personality style matches well often with narcissistic personality traits on the opposite end of the spectrum, self-defeating behavior, maintaining isolation, questions about job performance. We know some of the research shows people are not happy in their jobs. If they’ve checked out, they just do the minimal, just to show up and get paid, they’re not really engaged in their chosen jobs or careers.
Debra Maldonado 21:33
But it has to do with identity too because if you question your job performance, you probably question your relationship performance. Why are people mistreating me, the same narrative. I often say that a lot of struggles we have in work are very mirrored to the same patterns we have in romantic relationships and friendships because it’s that relationship. How does the mother come into form with this? I think the devouring mother, the fear of getting too close. We did a lot of work with love and relationships early in our career, and many of the women told me “He’s so nice, but I feel claustrophobic.” That would be related to the devouring mother. It’s too close, it’s too much. You want it from the people that run away, but when someone really is getting closer to you, there’s a wall that comes up in a defensiveness, you can’t break down that wall, you don’t realize the wall is within you, you think the wall is outside of you.
Robert Maldonado 22:45
The way the mother archetype plays into this stage is that early on, we are in the realm of the mother, emotionally, psychologically, when we’re children up to the time we’re adolescents, we are still in her emotional womb, anything she experiences we experience. Our mind records it unconsciously. Even if we’re not aware of what’s going on with her, we pick up on her emotional states. After adolescence, as we start to move out into the world, we bring that along with us. This is part of another neo-Freudian theory, which is object relations. We internalize our parents and carry their voice along with us. The mother pertains to the way we see the physical world. Whatever imprint we received early on, that relationship with our mother — although keep in mind, it’s our interpretation, it wasn’t so much what she was doing, it’s how we were interpreting — we carry that imprint into life, especially the stage of 20 to 40, when we’re really establishing ourselves as an independent person, independent of our mother. We project the mother archetype onto the world.
Debra Maldonado 24:26
For men as well. Jung had said that if we don’t come to terms with our mother, we end up rejecting everything that’s feminine. If we hate our mother, we end up rejecting creativity, intuition, soft, emotional life. As women, we need to come to terms and integrate the feminine aspect of the mother archetype, or else we’re cut off from that beautiful part of ourselves.
Robert Maldonado 24:59
Not only that, if you think about jobs, that’s why it plays out in careers, because that’s the physical world that we see. If we had a good relationship, we perfectly aligned on the positive side with things, our mother was the best mother ever created. She treated us totally well, gave us everything we needed, we’d trust the world completely, we’d say “Of course, the world is going to be there for me, it’s going to take care of me, it’s going to nurture me, it’s going to give me what I need.” But none of us have that.
Debra Maldonado 25:40
It’s like a level of risk we’re willing to take because when we step into the unknown, if our mother was always there for us, it was predictable. We might be more able to take risks than someone who had a it very unpredictable, they can’t trust it.
Robert Maldonado 25:58
Again, it’s a spectrum. It goes from complete trust to complete distrust. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. But people that did not have a good relationship, because of their own interpretation, or because their mother was very critical and cold, or depressed — often parents are depressed and can’t communicate and connect with a child. Those experiences leave their mark on the psyche. Then the individual is never able to trust the world completely, which means they can’t trust others, can’t be intimate in a true sense because there’s always that hesitation, “I gotta protect myself, I gotta defend myself.” Now the good news is, you can change these patterns, we’d be in trouble if we couldn’t. That’s the whole idea of Jung’s work on shadow, on the unconscious.
Debra Maldonado 27:02
When we talk about intimacy and isolation, it’s that 30 year mark, halfway between this stage is the time for individuation, which means we have to integrate all the unconscious patterns we’ve pushed away or out. We can make a choice, we have to face our shadow and then create a new personality or a new persona, consciously make decisions differently. This is usually the time, if you’re between 35 and 45, and you’re closer to 40, you get more chances, you’re going to have that deep dark night of the soul. For me it happened when I was in 36. It was like everything I built up just fell apart, my job, my relationship, the place I lived. Like someone said “This isn’t good. Let’s start over.” We have to be willing to let go of this conditioned self, but it’s so hard because the ego is invested in maintaining all these patterns, maintaining the anger against the parent, or the projections of “this is the way the world is”. It’s a fear of being open to a new possibility. We all have that. Regardless of what extreme we are, in each of these stages, we all have that resistance to individuate. What individuation is, is that no matter all this stuff that we accumulated at all these stages, it’s time to be reborn. We have two births. One when we’re born in the physical body, and then when we’re born to our spiritual nature. It’s toward the end of this stage that we begin to individuate. That’s why it’s important to do shadow work, especially around the mother archetype because it has effects on so much of our life and relationships.
Robert Maldonado 29:00
In traditional societies, there was a marker, a stage or ritual, where you no longer were a child. But it happened fairly quickly. It was an event, a ritual you underwent that introduced you to the society of adults, if you were a woman into the society of womanhood, or if you were a man to the society of manhood. Some of those rituals are still there but they don’t have that potency anymore. Most of us are left to our own devices, we’re trying to find our own maturation process, our own rituals in order to mark the difference that we let childhood behind. We’re no longer in the womb of the mother, we individuated, at least biologically, socially, we are grownups. People go to the army, or they might go off to college, they might go off to another city. You went to Denver. I ran away, I went to Mexico City originally, very early on. Those experiences serve that purpose. But it’s done a little haphazardly most of the time.
Debra Maldonado 30:30
Everyone should have that quest in their 20s or 30s, where they just go out, be by themselves, and get intimate. When we talk about the courage to love and intimacy, you can’t love someone else, or have intimate relations with anyone else, if you’re not intimate with yourself. You have to know what’s going on beyond the mask, beyond the persona, the deeper you, your true nature. You can be comfortable opening up the doors. I always tell my single clients the ego doesn’t know the difference. You live in a house, it’s very safe. It’s like a guard dog that doesn’t know the difference between the burglar and the mailman. The mailman brings you a check for $1,000 or the robber is going to take the money, the ego doesn’t know the difference. It’s going to build up those defenses to let someone in. Individuation is about letting go of all old defenses that were created from the mind of a child, the mind of early life, not having all the information, just reactive and survival tactics that we use, to become more conscious, then decide “It’s safe to open my heart to someone.” It’s scary to do that. That’s why people text now instead of picking up the phone and saying “Hi, I’m Jim, I saw your profile. I’d like to chat.” Everyone’s texting back and forth. God forbid you call someone. That’s the battle we’re playing, the intimacy, the courage to open up, to let people in our hearts. It’s because we have to know what’s in our heart first.
Robert Maldonado 32:17
Jung says, the world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you. He means that if you haven’t done your internal work, you’re not aware of where you belong, who you are, what your purpose in life is, the circumstances of your life will tell you all that information, and often it won’t make you happy because the circumstances are generic. They’re not infused with the meaning of you, what you love, who you are. That’s individuation. It prompts us to define ourselves in a conscious way.
Debra Maldonado 33:08
If you don’t know who you are, the universe doesn’t know who to match you up with. I have so many clients I worked with early on that had these great relationships on paper. “I have the perfect husband, he’s good looking, he’s successful. We’re both rich, we’re both happy. We’re beautiful and young, but I feel nothing for this person. I feel this is a sham. I don’t love this person.” If you don’t figure out who you are, you’re going to be matched up with someone based on your persona. It’s not going to be that deep love relationship. It’s going to be “Your persona matches my persona, we’re compatible. We like the same sports, we read the same books, we have the same sense of humor, we come from the same background.” But that’s not where love comes from. It comes from a really soulful place. We have to know our own soul before we find our soulmate.
Robert Maldonado 34:12
Here we see the importance of Jung’s work. He was successful in developing a psychology that addresses this ancient need for people to ritualize the stages of development. Whereas when we see them in Erickson’s model, they’re cold because he’s simply talking about psychosocial stages of development. Jung’s work goes a little bit deeper. He says there are deeper mythological, mythopoetic archetypal elements in the psyche that carry us through these processes. We have to pay attention, we have to be in tune with the unconscious mind.
Debra Maldonado 35:05
Before I learned about Jung, before I met you, I think I was in my early 30s, I had a dream which I know now is the Animus dream. Anima-Animus is the masculine/feminine force within us that we project in relationships. I had a very profound dream. I was thinking this morning how it’s in us already, it’s not something we have to learn from the external, but we have to remember. There’s a deeper aspect of ourselves trying to communicate, telling us “This is the next step.” It was telling me “If you want this relationship, you have to do this.” It was beautiful. I remember this dream 20 years later. It is profound how our psyche and our deeper self has an intelligence that’s guiding us on this process. If you haven’t done shadow work by the time you’re 40, our next episode is going to tell you what happens if we don’t. We’re going to end this series in the next episode, we’ll talk about taking beyond 40 and toward the end of life, how we live the second half of life according to Erickson.
Robert Maldonado 36:30
Jung says life begins at forty.
Debra Maldonado 36:31
Everything up until then is practice. That’s the beauty of Jung’s work. When I was first doing personal development, it was all about fixing my childhood. I got to rearrange the furniture, make it better. With Jung’s work, we all have the opportunity to begin fresh again, we don’t need to carry all that stuff with us. It got us through the first part of life, but we don’t need it in the second part of life. That’s very liberating. We’ll see you next week. Hope you enjoyed this, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, click the button below. If you’re listening to us on Spotify, or iTunes, don’t forget to subscribe. We’ll see you next time on Soul Sessions.