The bottomless, shameful pit
of the unmothered child,
trying to claw whatever he can to staunch his wound…..
seemed to me to be best expressed recently by the aside in some article I read that Donald Trump had claimed to own 9 billion when he only had 4.
Only 4 billion?!
And suddenly despite every fibre of your body screaming out against it you start feeling sorry for the man.
Only 4 billion..what an embarrassing out, dude.
His ability to make people sorry for him and the dramatic style employed by the man are narcissistically generated strategies of defence against shame or the prospect of shame. Like the flares released by fighter jets to put incoming missiles off the scent.
Problem is those flares are only partially effective..
and so you have to take evasive manouveres
Shame is very different from Guilt. Guilt is about what you have done, so it can be atoned in some way. There’s always some possibility of redemption.
But developmentally deeper and more ancient than the Guilt and Atonement story is The Story of Shame and for feeling bad about what you Are, let alone whatever it was you did.
The Gnostics preserved some ancient fragments of the pre-biblical Myth of Sophia. They are an allegory of the degradation of the Goddess.
”She fell into the hands of bad men who passed her between them. Some raped her. Others seduced her with gifts. She became a prostitute. Overcome with shame she no longer dared to leave her abusers.” The Exegesis of the Soul
When the sacred feminine at the back of mothering ceases to be collectively honoured, what will the way she holds her child communicate to that infant?
What a baby experiences of its mother is what baby takes itself to be. If the mirror is seen ‘through a glass darkly’ then what can baby make of its own reality?
The dishonour to the feminine becomes baby’s dishonour. His shame.
An’ yo 4 billion will NEVER be enough.
Balint calls it ‘the basic fault’. This gives rise to RD Laing’s ‘Divided Self’ or Lacan’s, ‘paranoid alienation’ all of which needs soothing with Winnicott’s ‘transitional objects’.
But not all cultures experience this. Liedloff (1986) describes the child rearing of the Yekuana Indians in Venezuela and notes,
‘they grow up not experiencing any gap or having any empty space in themselves. They do not spend their entire lives, (as we do) trying to prove they exist or making up for the missing sense of self.’
Crucially for the Yekuana, Wanadi, the sky God, has a good relationship with his consort, the Goddess of the Nadir who lives in the bowels of the earth. She is symbolised as a four headed snake crowned with horns. Four-foldness represents wholeness. As snake she is eternally self replenishing and her horns denote divine power.
This earth goddess animates Nature. The Yekuana experience all acts of Nature as participating in the body of the Goddess. Motherhood and being with children is a sacred communion with Nadir. And so they do not experience paranoid alienation.
We are tempted to describe certain phenomena, alienation, paranoid anxiety, anomie, bad breasts and the like as though they were of universal significance rather than the culturally specific expression of something now passed out of memory but still so faithfully acted out over time they seem intrinsic to human nature.
In my view they are outcome of deep and profound spiritual loss. Yahweh banishes Hokmah/Sophia from the divine stage just after the time of Solomon (3000BC) and this is the last time in Judeo-Christian literature that we hear of Her without the new bride’s curses being thrown at her heels.
Given Her place in our imagination for the eighty thousand years or more before that and we’re scarcely over blowing our noses.
Of course the stamping of ash and bone into the sacred places to eternally desecrate them was a bit unfortunate.
And the, you know, all the hacking down of stuff.
Yes, and the, you know..
We are the children of cosmic divorce who now live with daddy. We don’t see mummy anymore. And nor do we have feelings about it.
But we do hit each other a lot..
and break each other ‘tings..
At the same time as Yahweh was tipping Sophia/Hokmah into the sea the Assyrian God Marduk slays the Goddess Tiamat and the Sumerian Enlil deposes the goddess Nammu. It happened so long ago we are only dimly aware of it, but like the early and forgotten traumas of our own individual childhoods we still collectively experience the consequences at a symptomatic, visceral level. We collectively mistrust the body and demonise the instincts formerly championed by Sophia/Hokmah.
Henri Wallon uses the term ‘confiscation’ (Wallon 1949) to describe the emptiness that seems to be, from a western point of view, an intrinsic part of the developmental process from true to false self that is a substantial region in the underbelly of western civilisation. Confiscation implies that something once present has been lost or taken away and indeed it has. Baby has yet to learn of Yahweh’s divine truculence but soon gets wind from the non verbal cues of shame and rejection intruded in mother. And like all babies he holds himself responsible for the split he experiences in mother and begins to identify with her humiliation.
Confiscation is the felt result. ‘The loss which lies at the heart of confiscation’, says Berman (1989), ‘is no small matter. It amounts to a revolution of consciousness the crucial feature of which is the decision to mistrust the evidence of our senses.’ ie Nature.
Baby renounces the body as a way of knowing herself, sacrificing her own capacity to apprehend reality for one now rooted in shame.
With the loss of the continuum to the divine feminine, not only is the Universe suddenly unsafe but we ourselves cease to experience ourselves as trustworthy and have to compensate for it to the point of parody.