The Mother Archetype, Expressing Her Shadow

*Note: I am using “she” here to mean the divine feminine energy force that associates to and expresses through the Mother Archetype. This is not gender related.

There are two other articles in this series that may be helpful to build fuller understanding of this archetypal energy + expression:

Archetypes Introduced: The Mother

The Mother Archetype, Dancing in Light

The Mother, Expressing Her Shadow

Archetypal energies have the potent ability to express in a conscious way (light) and an equally potent ability to express in a subconscious (shadowy) way. The latter is usually to the detriment of the individual expressing. It is the energy in its destructive or even self-destructive force.

We now turn to the shadow expression of the Mother.

The subconscious expressing the Mother essence is the destructive force of this energy. Most impacted in this destruction is the self. Other relationships also suffer at the expression of the Shadow Mother.

We can be certain that we are entangled in the Shadow Mother expressions when we recognize the following in ourselves:

Self-abandonment. This is the pattern of constantly putting the needs, desires, and wants of others before her own. She is constantly hustling to ensure everyone else is happy, healthy, nourished and taken care of, thereby neglecting her own nourishment almost entirely.

When was the last time she took the time to ask for someone to do something for her? She cannot remember. When was the last time she took a day, moment, hour off of her external schedule to please and nurture her own essence? She is not sure.

The self-abandoning mother archetype has forgotten the value of her own medicine. She is lost in the list of wants and needs of others, and has begun subconsciously rejecting her own.

This is often visible when we realize we no longer have any creative projects in our lives. They have been sacrificed upon the altar of being lovable, being needed by others, being a “good mother” to our physical children, or organizing external extravagance for everyone but ourselves.

We are lost in the illusion that being Mother means being selfless. And this is a slippery trail down a dark hall of shadows that leads us to forget our true essence. And it makes us feel grumpy, burnt out, overused, irritable and resentful.

Not asking for help. When the shadow Mother takes on the to-do list of others, and the entire world, without asking for help, she is not only denying the internal list of necessary to-dos in order to keep her inspired, uplifted, healthy and connected to self, she is also denying the ability of those around her to step into their own Mother archetypal energies that wil offer her sustenance, assistance, and nourishment in all its forms.

When we are full on in the shadow of the Mother, whatever we are working on, whether it's

parenting, creating for a project, or showing up for relationship, we are sitting on the belief that we have to do it all, and do it perfectly. And we cannot ask for help. We create an enormous and unbearable load for ourselves when we isolate in this way.

This is another and very specific type of self-abandonment. We feel we can help everyone else without receiving anything in the exchange. “Your thanks is enough,” we say. Sometimes that is true. Most often, a heart of service also does have to be served, and that requires us to be able to receive.

Receiving is extremely difficult for the Mother in Her shadow. This is a skill (and make no mistake, this is a skill) that she has forgotten almost completely. She feels acutely uncomfortable asking for help in any way. So, instead of rising into that level of discomfort, she refuses it and pushes herself further down the line towards burnout.

Often, when this facet of the shadow is expressing in our essences, we are feeling deeply afraid of how others will think about us if we ask for help. “They will know I am not perfect. They will know I can’t handle it. I will prove to be a failure. I will lose their trust. I will be less-than.” On and on. The reality here is that people actually trust us more when we ask for help, and they feel just as honored as we do when asked for time, advice, support, or are delegated a task that will be impactful for us upon its completion.

The Shadow Mother does not remember that all life has mother energies waiting to be expressed and can go to work on her behalf. Others want to help us. They want to give back. They want to express their deep care, too. So they wait for us to let it in. They wait for the Shadow Mother to re-member how to receive.

Merging Identities: Mother in Her shadow knows no parameters or boundaries between herself and the ones she loves most. If she is in relationship, she is lost to the identity of the relationship. If she is a mother to physical children, she embodies that identity at the expense of all others (think of couples who experience crisis after their children grow up and move away; this is often because one or both of the parents have embodied the shadow mother and have forgotten that they are more than just the parents of their physical children, and have lost important other archetypal energies needed for sustaining healthy relationship along the way.)

If she is a lover and partner to another, she merges completely with the needs, wants, desires and wishes of the other, and sacrifices her own to the shadow. “I” becomes “we” until there is no healthy “I” left.

We can do this with any identity that we allow to overpower the balance of the allness of who we truly are: Who we are at work, who we are professionally, who are in social settings, who we are in society, who we are in relationship with materials, resources, and possessions--these are all ways we can express the Mother shadow.

We lose feeling of our essence by merging with things, people, places, etc., that we mistake for being our true nature.

So many men and women fall into this. Myself included.

This is what can manifest as the shadow expression of when we embody an intensely devotional energy. We turn the focus of devotion to be completely externally facing, and forget that devotion to ourselves is devotion to the divine, medicinal essence that we are.

No Boundaries. This can be a whole separate article, and it likely will be.

Why? Because boundaries are integral and foundational for the preservation of the internal structure of our essence.

Boundaries separate the “I” from the “we” in that they help us differentiate where our container ends and the container of the other begins. These are physical boundaries, and they protect us on the physical plane of existence.

Boundaries also separate our own emotions, feelings and experiences from the emotions, experiences and feelings of the other. When we are over-devoted to someone or something, or are willing to lose, or unconsciously losing our identities to something or someone else, we no longer are able to differentiate between what is our experience, and what we are experiencing through the other.

Mother in Shadow does not express boundaries. She is likely unaware that she has them. Her time is everyone’s time (her children’s, her partners, her bosses, her friends). Her gifts are everyone else’s. She cooks, shares, loves and nurtures for everyone else's sake.

She is sacrificing self honor while chasing validation, love, nourishment, and sustenance on the unconscious level, driven by the belief that “the more I over-give, over nurture, and abandon my own needs, the more they will see how worthy, wonderful and irreplaceable I am.”

I think we may be aware of what happens here. It isn’t pretty. I know that from my own experience. People, situations and other externals will take and take and take.

If we don’t have presence with our own boundaries, and value ourselves enough to put protective parameters around our essences, there will be nothing left. We will become the one who is taken for granted, unacknowledged, expected to perform, and unseen for the cherishable force of nature we truly are.

And then, the apocalyptic path of resentment starts to call our names. It’s enticing, but gives a promise of total destruction via implosion or explosion.

Mother in Her Shadow has lost her voice. She has forgotten the importance of her nourishing essence. She has forgotten that, while her heartbeat is the rhythm of all life, it is hers to dance to with intense devotion. She has forgotten that, while her heart and body are spacious enough to give everyone a home, the first essence that must take up space there is her own.

Does this resonate?

What parts of the Shadow Mother are working their shadowy essences into your life?

The antidote to shadow is light. When we recognize where we may have been slouching through the shadows, we can also then begin to recognize new ways to dance into the light.

The shadow is not the home of failure. It is a very real part of all human nature.

What happens when we reclaim The Mother from the shadows? That is a journey unique to each individual, though we can infer that we will be more creative, more loving, more spacious, and more nourishing than ever before.


Because we will be sustaining for others and sustainable for ourselves.

And that looks, feels and sounds like Hallelujah.

➾If you are ready to make this journey to retrieve The Mother archetype from the realm of the shadows, I am ready to be your guide.

➾Work with me to restore your Mother archetypal energies from the shadows.

Find your mentorship program here.

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