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The image of the mother & father as archetypes

There is inherent in the archetype, in the collectively inherited mother-image, the same extraordinary intensity of relationship which instinctively impels the child to cling to its mother. With the passing of the years, the man grows naturally away from the mother – provided, of course, that he is no longer in a condition of almost animal-like primitivity and has attained some degree of consciousness and culture – but he does not outgrow the archetype in the same natural way. If he is merely instinctive, his life will run on without choice, since freedom of will always presupposes consciousness. It will proceed according to unconscious laws, and there will be no deviation from the archetype. But, if consciousness is at all effective, conscious contents will always be overvalued to the detriment of the unconscious, and from this comes the illusion that in separating from the mother nothing has happened except that one has ceased to be the child of this individual woman.

Consciousness only recognizes contents that are individually acquired; hence it recognizes only the individual mother and does not know that she is at the same time the carrier and representative of the archetype, of the "eternal" mother. Separation from the mother is sufficient only if the archetype is included, and the same is true of separation from the father.

Source - C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology and Weltanschauung. CW 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 723.

While it is not disputed that the character and life experience of the parents will be important to the developing child, the parents are also "not the 'parents' at all but only their imagos: they are representations which have arisen from the conjunction of parental peculiarities with the individual disposition of the child" (Jung, CW 5, par. 505). The implication of this for analysis is that all the events of infancy, inner and outer, may be regarded as 'real,' without undue concern whether the material is factual. Jung stressed three aspects of the child's relation to the mother:

  • Throughout maturation there will be regression towards her or her image.

  • Separation from the mother is a struggle.

  • Nutrition (human relating) is of prime importance.

If personal experience does not meet the archetypal expectation, then the infant is forced to try to achieve a direct connection to the archetypal structure which underlies the expectation, to try to live on the basis of an archetypal image alone. Pathology also results from confirmation by experience of only one pole of the negative/positive possibilities. Thus, if bad experiences predominate over good in infancy, then the "bad mother" pole of the range of expectations is activated, and there is no counterbalance. Similarly, an idealized image of the mother-infant relationship can lead to only the "good" end of the spectrum's being experienced, and the individual will never come to terms with the disappointments and realities of life.

As far as the father is concerned, the following themes appear in Jung's work:

  • Father as the opposite of mother, incarnating different values and attributes.

  • Father as an 'informing spirit,' as a representative of the spiritual principle and as the personal counterpart of God the Father.

  • Father as a model Persona for his son.

  • Father as that from which the son must differentiate himself.

  • Father as the first 'lover' and animus image for his daughter.

  • Father as he appears in transference in analysis.

What the child internalizes of his parents' marriage and their attitude to each other will affect his later experiences in adult relationships. From the symbolic viewpoint, the image the child develops of his parents' marriage is also a representation of his or her own inner world situation – the parents standing for opposite or conflicting tendencies within himself. The concept of Complex links the events of infancy and childhood to adult life. In analysis, images of babies or children may be taken as referring to the emergence of hitherto unconscious potentials.

Source - A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis (Individuation: Infancy and Childhood), Routledge 1986, by Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter and Alfred Plaut, pp. 80-81.

Art: Dominik Jasiński, 'Blossoming'

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