Loss and Shame .

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?!

For shame!

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

alla time..

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.


The Continuum Concept.

Jean Liedloff wrote a great book called, ‘The Continuum Concept’. She describes in detail the process by which we lose our connection to Nature.

The Continuum, based on instinct and rooted in the body, has been interrupted.

Babies are born with inherant expectations.

top of the list….

that the mother/baby continuum is sacred…

but it ain’t… no mo’

”When the expected does not take place, corrective or compensatory tendencies make an effort to restore balance.”

Like Gilgamesh building de Mother’s bones into him walls….

which just makes things worse because those compensatory gestures have to run forever in order to maintain equilibrium..

which mean that…

”deprivation… will be maintained indiscriminantly as part of development. Instictive forces do not reason. They assume that it will serve the individual to be stabilised according to initial experience.”

that not a good thing…

Not if baby’s experience is that access to mother is restricted…

By her ‘avin no place of honour.

”…a mindless terror of silence. The motionlessness. He screams. Afire from head to foot with want, with desire, with intolerable impatience… He listens.. he opens and closes his fist. He rolls his head from side to side. Nothing helps, it is unbearable.”

Could we compare the experiences of the infant state, Israel?

Being lost in the Desert….

crying into the wilderness…   rending  garments and gnashing teath…with tears and lamentations and ‘wherefore art thou…..?’

For the first time people want borders on their land and start to fight over it, not because there’s not enough to go around but because a defuse panic of disenfranchisment is sweeping consciousness with the absence of Mum. The land is now a part-object, the down graded receptacle for the experience of the divine feminine, and land-to-have rather than Nature-who-provides.

Suddenly there’s a limit on plenty.

If  the Principle of Relatedness is repressed, all kinds of ontological insecurities will rush to the surface. And though, ostensibly, the person has become perhaps more competent and single minded, underneath they are clingy, vulnerable and controlling. The need for ownership it generates and the use of people as a means to an end can never be sated because the maw it is being used to fill is not of this world.

And the danger is not simply that I immediatly make war on my neighbour. That is the least of my worries. No, it’s that I’m liable to go to war with myself.

Capacity to hold together in times of stress -reduced.

Capacity for inner conflict resolution -reduced.

Capacity to use reason -reduced.

Compassion for self -reduced.

Of course we’re anxious. The inner facets of our psyches are actually less well hinged together than they might be. We need therapists like no other culture. Western Civilization is ontologically riven in its foundations. A fault line that gives rise to the eternal nameless anxiety of our age. Something isn’t quite right. A vague apprehension of having lost… something. An emptiness.

The perennial issues bought to the consulting room, though each is unique in its content, all have the grey tolling of self-estrangement, the anxiety of being un-held by the universe, the unnamed longing and creeping depression that was never supposed to be part of priviledge.

What we’re suffering from is a kind of divine homesickness, of redeeming the dark brother and revaluing the Mother, of really feeling in its proper context what we’re missing…

so that it can be different……

But we don’t because then we’d see who we are and have to act accordingly.

Which is tough..

and so we pretend its not a big deal.

back inna soup.

”The most common form of despair is not being who you are.” S. Kierkegaard.

Not knowing who you are is a lesser demon, one that can almost be house trained by comparison.

We can try to shore up not being who we are, but it takes increasing effort, lashings of co-dependence and covert agreement to a sado-masochistic arrangement thereafter….

which can be useful.

excuse me…?

If a person can’t be clear about who they are, if the temenos created by the Great Mother in which autonomy can safely be explored without loss is then cracked, and I can’t talk to me very well without turning into bits on the kitchen floor..

then definite roles and rules are life-savers.

Hurting and being hurt is predicated on someone-hurting and someone-else-being-hurt….. so the collusive blancmange of  the Mutual Admiration Society needn’t swallow you up.

Everyone knows where they are…

Me Tarzan on steroids

… you Jane on valium, and a little love is allowed into play..


Sure, when everyone is really clear about their roles, as limiting as they might be then anxiety is quelled because everyone knows what the rules are. And when anxiety is quelled a little love might be allowed. Its constricted somewhat but still a creative solution to the problem of how to be together without getting devoured.

I’m not into allat kinky stuff man.

S/M is rarely found at the flamboyant end of the scale. It has a mundane cousin far more common or garden. Circles of domestic spite, dumping and guilt tripping, that serve without fail to create difference and sharply defined identities. Doesn’t really matter what it is , so long as you’re being can be reconfirmed for the umpteenth time.. and if relatedness has to be sacrificed on the altar of ontological security…..

You wonder why the masochist stays, forgetting how much identity and emotion there is in being done to with a clean conscience.