Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2/23/12—Absorbing the Mother

Today's Draw: The Moon from the Rohrig Tarot. What have you inherited from your mother? Is it possible you've inherited more than just physical and personality traits? Do you have memories, leanings and wounds you can't account for?

The Moon card is a card of the unconscious, a place of our most primal urgings, nightmares, motivations, fears and emotions. It is where the seeds of creativity are planted. The place from which our fears rush forth. All those answers we spend our lifetimes seeking are locked within this frightening and alluring place. 

The symbol to the right of the moon is Othala, a rune symbol of inheritance. From time to time I think about the things we inherit from our parents...the things that are passed down from generation to generation. For example, I have my mother's Irish features. I have her poetic, spiritual soul. And I have a funny way of saying "ing" words that, apparently, is common in American children of British parents.

These are the kind of genetic and social inheritances we all know about. But what I sometimes think about is, is it possible to inherit psychic scars...traumas? For example, when one of my brothers was in my mother's womb, she had a sudden and dramatic fear of heights while standing on a mountaintop. That brother is the only one in our family that was born with a terrible fear of heights. My mother only had that phobia that one time. So it's like something in the chemical change that particular day was transferred to him and latched on to. 

So, to the degree that a mother who, say, smoked crack, passes that chemical dependency on to her children, can there be more subtle ways of exchanging chemically coded information in the womb? Can the same thing be said about thoughts? Aversions? Fears? Traumas? And other high-octane emotions, good or bad? All those things change the chemical makeup of a person.

My mother died when I was 21, so all those kinds of questions you might ask your mother as an adult never got asked by me. So many of the things I would be curious about are lost to the ether, because there's no one alive who has the answers. And some of the things I'd like to know are things only she could have answered anyway, because they're more the kind of questions you ask yourself. 

She was the oldest of five children. She was, we believe, sexually abused by her father. Then he abandoned the family and the mother went to work, leaving my mother with the children. Then the Germans bombed their home for a few years during WWII and my mother was in charge in rations, so she decided who would eat and how much. All of this before she was an adult.

How can that kind of persistent stress not change your entire chemical makeup? And how can that not affect any child you carry inside you, even years later? I often wonder if I carry some of those psychic wounds inside me...if they are the reason behind some of the fears and defenses that I can't seem to find the origin of when I poke around in my murky unconscious.

Likewise, my mother was born in India and the first couple of years of her life were spent living there and in Egypt. She was blessed by Ghandi. Some of her first words were in Hindustani. She was weaned on the mystical energies of pyramids, sun gods and Ganesha. Though my mother had no religious allegiance and rarely brought these things up, how come I've been SO fascinated by mysticism, polytheism and more earth or elementally based beliefs all my life? The only religion actually brought into our household and encouraged in any measure was Catholicism/Christianity.

It's a slippery slope, because who's to say it's not behaviorally inherited from the way she carried herself in the world? The thing is, by the time I came along, she'd healed enough to be in a stable relationship with a good man who made her feel safe. My older siblings remember things that could be traced back to her childhood traumas, but by the time I rolled around in her mid-thirties, she didn't seem to carry those scars with her in a significant way anymore. But perhaps she did. And as for the spiritual stuff, more than anything for ME, the house was religion neutral or even religion-free. My siblings, however, were all raised Catholic.

It's an interesting thing to consider. I speak of my mother, of course, because a father only offers genes to the equation. And while I do often wonder if some of this stuff is encoded in the genes, only the mother offers the environment for growth. The plant may come from the fertilized seed, but it's significantly affected by the quality and chemical makeup of the soil it grows in.

What do you think of all of this? Are there aspects of you that can't find the roots for in yourself, but you can see how the roots might extend to your mother? Do you think the origins occurred in vitro or were they passed to you through social means? And if you're a mother, can you see how some intense emotional moment that might have happened during your pregnancy shaped your child in some way?


  1. An amazing post! According to Bert Hellinger, who developed Family Constellation work, the traits did not originate with our mothers either , but were passed along the ancestral tree appearing in the next generation to be healed.