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Supplemental Essay: Matriarchal Orientation

This supplemental essay contains quotes and expanded explanations as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're not interested in the details.

In the main essay I said, Thus, alongside the more traditional male gender roles (authoritarian, spiritual, ascetic, etc.) there exist men who incorporate a "matriarchal orientation," such as rescuers of damsels in distress, Don Juan lovers, sensitive or effeminate men, artistic temperaments, men who never grow up and remain tied to their mother's apron-strings, etc.

Factors militating in the direction of matriarchal orientation

A "matriarchal orientation" develops as follows:

 

Recapping the N level: At the N level the infant starts life in thrall to the Great Mother and slowly "individuates" and creates itself as an independent entity. Erich Neumann calls this an "heroic" endeavor: "The 'heroic' character of ego-development, demonstrable in all phases, is perhaps most striking here at the beginning. Because any new development is connected with giving up security, with risking and taking danger and suffering upon oneself, it requires a 'heroic' ego. The child's growing independence and its exodus from the matriarchal phase dominated by the mother stands under the sign of the loss of security, of separation from the protection that the mother has promised and given so abundantly and for so long."[1]

 

At the S level: When the S level is reached, progress is marked by a transition from the matriarchal to the patriarchal stages. Neumann says that at such times of transition, "the Self always 'disguises' or 'clothes' itself in the archetype of the phase toward which progress must advance. At the same time the previously dominant archetype is constellated so that its 'negative' side appears."[2] So the Great Mother is perceived as the Terrible Mother, while the Great Father is represented by the Good Father. 

 

Neumann says that, up to this point, children of both sexes develop in the same manner: "In regard to the primal relationship to the mother, i.e., the first phase of childhood, the same conditions hold true for both the boy and the girl. [...] The progression from the matriarchal to the patriarchal phase is just as necessary for the female as for the male, at least in modern Western culture."[3]

Neumann says that the mother appears "terrible" to the developing ego "because she represents the element that 'holds fast' or 'arrests,' that hinders the development necessary and now 'due.'" In defense of the mother, Neumann adds that "This 'terribleness' is archetypal, that is, even independent of the personal mother's correct behavior." As described elsewhere, much of this conflict is "back-projection," in other words, an interpretation put on an internal conflict by the ego after the fact. The child is instinctually programmed to grow and develop independence; but at the same time growth and independence are terrifying and the ego feels the pull back to the womb: "It is difficult to step out of security into danger, out of the unconscious unity with a Thou into the loneliness of an independence and autonomy becoming conscious of itself."[4]

 

But Neumann says that the human species is programmed to grow in the direction of consciousness and independence and "to extricate oneself from participation mystique and to discover oneself as different and differing from others, that is, to discover one's individuality." As part of this growth process, "the matriarchal realm takes on the character of what must be overcome: the lower, infantile and archaic, but also abysmal and chaotic. All these symbols are connected with the Terrible Feminine, the devouring feminine 'Dragon of the Abyss.'"[5]

 

At the S level, the child perceives the Terrible Mother as an obstacle to be overcome. "Regardless how positively and correctly she behaves personally, the mother of the primal relationship must turn into a witch, for the child's early bond to her is, of course, a restrictive and consequently 'witchlike' power in the child itself, which the child must overcome in favor of its progressive ego-development; that is, 'matricide,' which belongs among the hero's tasks, is demanded of the child. But this ego is heroic because it performs the most difficult task: it slays what is most dear to it, the relationship to the mother, under the guise of the dragon that holds it fast."[6]

 

Neumann says that the child inevitably feels guilt at separating itself from the mother, in other words, at the prospect of committing "matricide." Some mothers register the growing independence of their child and oppose that independence by playing upon the child's feelings of guilt to reinforce the mother-child bond: "The attitude of the personal mother toward this archetypally necessary transition is extremely important. What is easier than to increase the child's growing guilt feelings, to demand the child be "good" and thus strengthen its now-regressive bondage to the mother!" Neumann describes such a clinging mother as "the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel' whose house is made of cake and sugar but who devours the child inside. Her anxiety about the child, like her spoiling it, are fetters."[7]

 

Neumann describes a healthier alternative: "In contrast to this, a 'good' mother in the same situation understands that in the development of the child's ego she necessarily must 'become a witch,' that she must be overcome and must set her child free. It is precisely her ability not only to protect but also to 'deliver up' her child at the developmentally right moment and consciously to expose it to dangers that are necessary for the development of its autonomy that characterize the 'good' mother."[8]

 

As described in the main essay, the father represents a positive model for the child "if the child can rely on a father figure who supports it in its evolution towards independence and hence relative liberation from the mother." Neumann says that "the representative of the patriarchy in the family is of decisive significance." But here too, problems can arise. Neumann says that that a weak or absent father figure can make it more difficult for the child to individuate properly. Conversely, a too-strong father can also be a problem: "an overpowering, 'threatening' father impedes the child's progression toward him," while a weak mother doesn't provide enough security as a base for the child to jump off toward masculinity. Thus, "It is always a question of the relative balance of the father and mother figures and of their elasticity, which conforms to the developmental needs of the child either by their stepping back or emphasizing their influence."[9]

 

Nor do the child's problems end there. Neumann also suggests that puberty can be a problem by virtue of social barriers on the way to progression. Modern man has no initiation ceremonies, and puberty is a fraught time with many challenges. A child can be so daunted by the partnering process that he remains stuck in a form of psychic matriarchal castration.[10]

 

There are also issues specifically related to the sexual aspect of the mother-child bond. Freud emphasized the sexual nature of mother-son relations in his description of the child's Oedipal instincts; and in the main essay I described development of the Anima as a means of freeing the child's sexual drive from association with the mother. In the main essay I said, With puberty and adolescence approaching, the son experiences an awakening of sexual interest in females; but the son recognizes that the Great Mother is an inappropriate target for sexual desire and thus must declare his independence from the Great Mother and find a new and different template for relating to females--one that allows for sex without incest.

 

In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Carl Jung also speaks of the sexual aspect of the mother-son bond. Jung says that "Because of the difference in sex, a son's mother-complex does not appear in pure form. This is the reason why in every masculine mother-complex, side by side with the mother archetype, a significant role is played by the image of the man's sexual counterpart, the anima. The mother is the first feminine being with whom the man-to-be comes in contact, and she cannot help playing, overtly or covertly, consciously or unconsciously, upon the son's masculinity, just as the son in his turn grows increasingly aware of his mother's femininity, or unconsciously responds to it by instinct. In the case of the son, therefore, the simple relationships of identity or of resistance and differentiation are continually cut across by erotic attraction or repulsion, which complicates matters very considerably." Jung goes on to say that, in the son, a mother-complex "injures the masculine instinct through an unnatural sexualization."[11]

 

So the anima (and the mother-son bond from which it springs) is a powerful influence on men. In The Fear of the Feminine Erich Neumann says, "The anima is that side of the male psyche associated with the Feminine that entices the man to adventure, to the conquest of the new. But it is also negatively associated with everything that signifies illusion and delusion, and indeed as madness it signifies a real danger."[12]

 

To sum up: Neumann says that the Terrible Mother represents "an enticing, seductive force sucking one downward." And it lurks in our unconscious throughout our lives. At times of stress, anxiety, and depression it can appear as a regressive pull, "a yearning for peace expressed as tiredness, surrender, and even suicide. The regressive tendency appears as a negative drive, as deadly incest with the Terrible Mother. [...] This danger is the basis of what Freud attempted to interpret as the death instinct."[13]

 

(In a separate essay I will discuss patriarchal orientation, in other words, where a boy may favor patriarchal values to such a great extent that he devalues and excludes the Feminine influence.)

Matriarchal orientation: Personality profiles

As described in the main essay, Neumann says that the feminine side of life is comprised of the following: A matriarchal group that represents mass emotionality, strong local ties & inertia, a bond to nature and the instincts via menstruation, pregnancy, and lactation, a tie to earth via the development of gardening and agriculture, and the strengthening of participation mystique via community life huddled together in caves, houses, and villages. Neumann says that these activities represent an N-level psychology of community, association, and collectivism: "All these factors reinforce the submergence in the unconscious which is a characteristic feature of the female group."

 

Therefore people of either sex who represent a focus on the Feminine influence may temporarily or permanently exhibit a personality defined by matriarchal orientation. These might include men (or women) with an overly collectivist or female-centric outlook on life. Jung and Neumann provide some elaborate personality profiles for males who represent this kind of outlook. For example:

1) Infantilized males who cling to mother figures (in other words, so-called "mother's boys"). Neumann describes such men: "[A] total mother fixation can lead to complete developmental failure, i.e., to a lack of autonomy [...] Here we find, for example, bachelors and eccentrics who still live with the mother, men who cannot separate from the mother and who, although often nearly fifty themselves, completely collapse following her death. [...] The man does not trust his own masculinity..."[14]

 

2) Men who split women into angels or whores. Neumann says, "[I]t results in splitting woman into a higher and lower femaleness, and the man can have a relationship to only one aspect at a time; that is, on the one hand the man worships the woman and achieves a relationship to her of supremely valuable friendship, but on the other hand a sexual relationship is possible, if at all, only with a prostitute or with a woman of inferior social status."[15]

 

3) So-called "Don Juan" types; what we might call "pick-up artists" today. Neumann says, "His failure lies in his inability to commit himself to a woman, and without exception fear of the Feminine lies behind his inability."[16] Jung adds, "In Don Juanism, he unconsciously seeks his mother in every woman he meets."[17]

 

4) Marriage to a mother or daughter figure. Neumann says that this is actually the model for a "patriarchal marriage," and "for the man this means that he can indeed overcome his initial mother fixation, but in his ego-development he can not project the anima on his partner in the patriarchal marriage." The anima is split off from the marriage partner is free to attach itself to women outside the marriage: "Thus the anima turns into a marriage-wrecker and seductress par excellence."[18]

 

5) Neumann suggests that some types of effeminacy or homosexuality in males may be grounded in "fear of the female body, either because the body itself is taboo, or because women, especially the female genitals, are feared as the terrible, castrating 'vagina dentata.'"[19]

 

6) Carl Jung adds a portrait of the poet: The poet pursues an unconscious vision of a beloved anima, which is based on an idealized mother figure. It comes to him as poetic visions from his unconscious: Goddesses, beautiful cities, feminine symbols, etc. The poet isn't traditionally a hedonist; he is pursuing poetic visions that are abstract and soothing to the point of leaving the world.[20]

 

Carl Jung stresses that in normal, daily life all these male temperaments have their positive, pro-social aspects. 

 

For example, of the "Don Juan" types, Jung says that it can be characterized by "bold and resolute manliness; ambitious striving after the highest goals; opposition to all stupidity, narrow-mindedness, injustice, and laziness; willingness to make sacrifices for what is regarded as right, sometimes bordering on heroism; perseverance, inflexibility and toughness of will; a curiosity that does not shrink even from the riddles of the universe; and finally, a revolutionary spirit which strives to put a new face upon the world."[21]

 

Of effeminate males, Jung says, "Thus a man with a mother-complex may have a finely differentiated Eros instead of, or in addition to, homosexuality. [...] This gives him a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from the limbo of the impossible. He may have good taste and an aesthetic sense which are fostered by the presence of a feminine streak. Then he may be supremely gifted as a teacher because of his almost feminine insight and tact. He is likely to have a feeling for history, and to be conservative in the best sense and cherish the values of the past. Often he is endowed with a wealth of religious feelings, which help to bring the ecclesia spiritualis into reality; and a spiritual receptivity which makes him responsive to revelation."[22]

 

In other words, none of the various personality portraits that I listed above intrinsically represents a form of pathology or mental illness. In normal day-to-day life these are all law-abiding, virtuous males who contribute positively to society. But they live their lives in the shadow of the Great Mother, and to the extent that they occasionally drift into periods of stress, anxiety, depression, personal crises, etc., the likelihood is that they will fall into various states of matriarchal castration in increasingly severe forms. Their problems will probably spiral increasingly around female figures or replacements for their mothers in their lives. Matriarchal castration tends to trigger a Great Mother fight. (See the main essay for more on matriarchal castration and Great Mother fights.)

Matriarchal orientation for females

It's worth saying a few words separately about how girls can get caught in matriarchal orientation as part of their developmental path.

 

Recapping the N level: In the transition from N level to S level, girls go through about the same psychological development as boys. As I quoted Neumann above, "In regard to the primal relationship to the mother, i.e., the first phase of childhood, the same conditions hold true for both the boy and the girl. [...] The progression from the matriarchal to the patriarchal phase is just as necessary for the female as for the male, at least in modern Western culture."

 

At the S level: But Neumann goes on to say that at the S level the girl's identity with the gender of the mother makes the association with the mother stronger and the bridge to the father weaker. Thus: "We have drawn attention elsewhere to the decisive significance of the fact that by separating from the mother and joining the father's world, the boy 'comes into his own' because the Self represented by the father archetype has the same gender as he does. The reverse holds true for the girl. Even after the Self has 'migrated' from the mother to the daughter, this childlike, daughterly Self remains identical to the gender of the mother archetype. This symbolic fact means that the mother-daughter relationship with its more intimate connection of ego and Self as well as consciousness and the unconscious is fundamentally closer to nature than is the mother-son relationship. [...] The girl's closer tie to the mother archetype and to the matriarchal phase make her separation especially difficult. Persistence in the primal relationship and hence persistence in an essentially unconscious, matriarchal existence is a distinct possibility and temptation for the woman... [...] The matriarchal world is essentially 'man-hating' because it is a world in its own right with values and attitudes differing from those of the patriarchate. The juxtaposition of matriarchy and patriarchy as opposites also includes a mutual devaluation; as we have attempted to demonstrate, this very juxtaposition is what makes the transition from the one phase to the other so very difficult for the child's ego."[23]

 

Matriarchal orientation for women: Personality profiles

In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Carl Jung says that when girls become too attached to their mother it can result in "an overdevelopment of feminine instincts indirectly caused by the mother, or with a weakening of them to the point of complete extinction."[24] Jung provides a couple personality profiles:

1) One type of "overdevelopment of feminine instincts" results in an exaggerated maternal instinct: "The exaggeration of the feminine side means an intensification of all female instincts, above all the maternal instinct. The negative aspect is seen in the woman whose only goal is childbirth. To her the husband is obviously of secondary importance; he is first and foremost the instrument of procreation, and she regards him merely as an object to be looked after, along with children, poor relations, cats, dogs, and household furniture. Even her own personality is of secondary importance; she often remains entirely unconscious of it, for her life is lived in and through others, in more or less complete identification with all the objects of her care. First she gives birth to the children, and from then on she clings to them, for without them she has no existence whatsoever." Jung says of such mothers: "Driven by ruthless will to power and a fanatical insistence on their own maternal rights, they often succeed in annihilating not only their own personality but also the personal lives of their children..."[25]

 

2) Another type of "overdevelopment of feminine instincts" results in "identity with the mother." The girl identifies with her mother to the point of "paralysis of the daughter's feminine initiative. [...] Everything which reminds her of motherhood, responsibility, personal relationships, and erotic demands arouses feelings of inferiority and compels her to run away--to her mother, naturally, who lives to perfection everything that seems unattainable to her daughter. [...] She is content to cling to her mother in selfless devotion, while at the same time unconsciously striving, almost against her will, to tyrannize over her, naturally under the mask of complete loyalty and devotion. The daughter leads a shadow-existence, often visibly sucked dry by her mother, and she prolongs her mother's life by a sort of continuous blood transfusion."[26]

 

Carl Jung stresses that in normal, daily life these female temperaments have their positive, pro-social aspects. Jung points out that as manifestations of the feminine, they represent mystery, challenge, and learning for the right male partner.

 

For example, concerning the second portrait ("identity with the mother"), Jung says that such daughters are often deemed good marriage material: So-called "white knights" love to rescue such helpless victims, and men can project whatever type of woman they desire onto such empty vessels. As wives, in turn, such women can be so devoid of their own desires that they become devoted, supportive spouses who inspire their husbands to great accomplishments: "But these women sometimes have valuable gifts which remained undeveloped only because they were entirely unconscious of their own personality. They may project the gift or talent upon a husband who lacks it himself, and then we have the spectacle of a totally insignificant man who seemed to have no chance whatsoever suddenly soaring as if on a magic carpet to the highest summits of achievement. Cherchez la femme, and you have the secret of his success."[27]

 

In other words, as was the case with the male variants of matriarchal orientation, neither of these female personality portraits intrinsically represents a form of pathology or mental illness. In normal day-to-day life these are law-abiding, virtuous women who contribute positively to society. It's only to the extent that they occasionally drift into periods of stress, anxiety, depression, personal crises, etc. that they fall into various states of matriarchal castration in increasingly severe forms. Matriarchal castration tends to trigger a Great Mother fight.

 

Summary

In this essay I have described how both males and females can represent matriarchal orientation, in other words, where either may favor a maternal point of view to such a great extent that they devalue and exclude the Masculine. This process may include being haunted by a "daemonic father." 

 

In a separate essay I discuss how both males and females can represent patriarchal orientation, in other words, where either may favor a paternal point of view to such a great extent that they devalue and exclude the Feminine influence.

Link: Return to Sensing (S)

~Posted November 14, 2023

References

[1] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 237.

[2] Ibid., p. 238.

[3] Ibid., p. 265.

[4] Ibid., p. 239.

[5] Ibid., p. 241.

[6] Ibid., p. 243-4.

[7] Ibid., p. 244.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., pp. 246-248.

[10] Ibid., pp. 250-251.

[11] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), pp. 85-86, pars. 162-163.

[12] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 254-255.

[13] Ibid., pp. 241-242.

[14] Ibid., pp. 257-258.

[15] Ibid., p. 259.

[16] Ibid., p. 260.

[17] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), p. 85, par. 162.

[18] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 261-262.

[19] Ibid., p. 259.

[20] C.G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 5), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton University Press, 1956), pp. 398-399 and 408, pars. 618-620 and 631.

[21] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), p. 87, par. 165.

[22] Ibid., pp. 86-87

[23] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 266-267.

[24] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), p. 86, par. 163.

[25] Ibid., pp. 87-88, par. 167.

[26] Ibid., pp. 89-90, par. 169.

[27] Ibid., pp. 97, par. 182.

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