Psychologist Donald Winnicott famously said: Home is where we start from. He was referring to the need for the child to feel a secure base from which they feel safe enough to explore their world and be curious, returning to home for resourcing before venturing forth again.
Mother is usually our primary secure base, and our relationship with Mother forms the blueprint for our later relationships and perception of the world.
Mother is our first home, our world before we are born. Just as a seed grows in the dark nurturing environment of mother earth, we grow in the nurturing container of the womb.
Home is a symbol for a place where we feel belonging, where we find refuge, where we return to familiarity, comfort and ease. Home is the place we go to relax, rest and recover from our stresses and adventures in daily life. It is the place out of the chaos where we can most be our selves – at least that is how it should be.
Home is also a symbol of our psyche, our deepest essence of who we are and how we perceive and negotiate our world. Our psyche is influenced by our social and cultural conditioning, and the archetypal experiences that occur throughout time, place and culture as part of the essential experience of being human, including ancestral traumas.
When our relationship with home has not been positive, when it has been traumatic, frightening, unsafe, or non-existent, we learn not to trust ourselves, other people or our world. Yet we still need, and long for, safety, a sanctuary where we can rest and restore ourselves. Very often, a lack of a true sense of home embedded inside us leads to finding coping strategies that we think help us, but in fact they are false security that lead us away from true peace, calm and ease. These survival strategies may include addictive patterns that help us numb ourselves from the intensity of difficult feelings. We might find refuge in alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, relationships, risky behaviours, work.
In my book Haunted I wrote about some of these patterns, showing how they relate to the relationship with the Death Mother, who annihilates the true home of connection, welcome and nurturance and offers us only the false refuges of disconnection, rejection, and destruction. I wrote about the deepest deception of all – the Death Mother sets us up to believe that death, the annihilation of life, is the true place where we can finally feel welcome, and find peace from suffering. Through the archetypal influence of the Death Mother, we may seek to opt out of life, courting violence, risk, suicide, or disengaging with ourselves.
Coming home means learning how to return to our selves and to the natural peace, safety and welcome that exist there. Learning how to connect with, and trust, our deepest self. If you didn’t have a positive sense of home right from the start, before or around birth, then coming home to something that wasn’t there can feel impossible. We now know that secure attachment, a secure home base inside ourselves that we can access and trust, can be learned.
Psychological infanticide is an experience of our deepest self being killed off. We receive the message we are not meant to exist and there is no home for us. Psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold described this as soul murder -an attempt to destroy the self or identity of another person.
I’m not going to pretend this is easy. But I do want you to know, if you’ve experienced psychological infanticide and feel you’re not meant to be here, or if you’re a therapist working with people whom the Death Mother archetype is holding hostage, there are ways to free that deep self from its enforced living death – and to build a true sense of internal safety you can rely on and that truly nurtures and sustains you.
In my blogs I’ll be inviting a conversation about the Death Mother experience and how to be in life. I look forward to your comments.
With you on the journey. – Violet