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Understanding the Hostile Mother and her Shame: Insights from evolutionary science, anthropology, forensic psychology, and the myth of Medea

Understanding the Hostile Mother and her Shame: Insights from evolutionary science, anthropology, forensic psychology, and the myth of Medea

Modern Western cultures have eulogised the ideal that mothers evolved to love and protect all their children instinctively and automatically, and that neglectful, hostile or infanticidal feelings and behaviour in mothers are unnatural and perhaps pathological.

Modern mothers naturally internalise these cultural beliefs, so they tend to experience deep shame whenever they feel hostility towards their children. Tragically and ironically, this maternal shame makes it even more likely that they will act out their hostility.

Times:

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, London UK

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm, New York, USA

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$69.26

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Course Credits

CPD: 3 / CE: 3

Speaker(s)

Dr. Daniela Sieff, Dr. Brooke Laufer

Course length in hours

3 hrs of video content

Location

Online streaming only

Full course information

The expression of maternal hostility is always harmful to a child, but is it always unnatural or an indication of pathology? This intellectually stimulating webinar suggests there is a more historic and compassionate way to understand the hostile mother – one that moves the blame (and shame) from the individual pathology of the mother to the social and environmental factors that impact her.

The modern Western idealisation of mothers as instinctually loving can make it difficult to understand hostile mothers, who are typically perceived as being bad or perhaps even criminal. This presents problems for clinicians working with hostile and often shame-filled mothers. In contrast, clinicians who can make room for maternal hostility and shame, are better equipped to help mothers by allowing them to experience the full range of motherhood, including the energies of the Good Mother archetype and the Death Mother archetype. When these emotions are expressed in a safe therapeutic space they are less likely to be acted out.

A lack of understanding of maternal hostility also presents problems for mental health professionals and policy makers who are trying to prevent mothers from maltreating their children. Again, expanding the understanding of the range of emotions and behaviours naturally entailed by motherhood can help in the design of preventative programmes.

This course will offer a layered, compassionate and interdisciplinary understanding of hostile mothering. Although maternal hostility ranges from constant criticism to guilt-tripping to invalidation of the child’s emotions, this course will focus on the most extreme end of the maternal hostility – that of serious harm and infanticide.  If we can understand the apparently unfathomable end of this painful spectrum, then we are better equipped to understand maternal hostility in all of its less extreme forms.

Together Dr Sieff and Dr Laufer will bring the hostile mother out of the shadows, and help participants build a broader understanding of the emotional range of the mother.

Specifically, this seminar will discuss:

  • The continuum of maternal emotions and behaviour bequeathed to us by evolution and how maternal emotions and behaviour have evolved to be sensitive to a mother’s environment
  • How this evolved sensitivity to a mother’s environment may contribute to maternal hostility and how a lack of knowledge of evolutionary influences can create shame in struggling mothers
  • How maternal shame increases the risk that mothers will act out their hostility
  • How evolution has furnished humans not with a fully-fledged ‘maternal instinct’, but with a disposition to learn about mothering from what they observe and experience during childhood
  • The construction of motherhood as an institution, including the symbols and expectations that make it dangerous for mothers
  • The Jungian concept of an archetype, specifically the Good Mother archetype (ie the Virgin Mary) and the Bad or Death Mother (ie Medea)
  • What role shame plays in the Hostile mother’s infanticidal experience
  • Causes and correlations of infanticide, such as postpartum psychosis, race, and class
  • The lived experience of infanticidal mothers; the context of their lives vs. their representation in society
  • The prevention of maternal hostility as the expansion in the understanding of Motherhood

© nscience 2022 / 2023

What's included in this course

What you’ll learn

This course will offer a layered, compassionate and interdisciplinary understanding of hostile mothering. Although maternal hostility ranges from constant criticism to guilt-tripping to invalidation of the child’s emotions, this course will focus on the most extreme end of the maternal hostility – that of serious harm and infanticide.  If we can understand the apparently unfathomable end of this painful spectrum, then we are better equipped to understand maternal hostility in all of its less extreme forms.

Together Dr Sieff and Dr Laufer will bring the hostile mother out of the shadows, and help participants build a broader understanding of the emotional range of the mother.

Learning objectives

  • Explain the continuum of maternal emotions and behaviour bequeathed to us by evolution and how maternal emotions and behaviour have evolved to be sensitive to a mother’s environment as well as how this evolved sensitivity to a mother’s environment may contribute to maternal hostility and how a lack of knowledge of evolutionary influences can create shame in struggling mothers
  • Discuss the construction of motherhood as an institution, including the symbols and expectations that make it dangerous for mothers
  • Discuss the Jungian concept of an archetype, specifically the Good Mother archetype (ie the Virgin Mary) and the Bad or Death Mother (ie Medea)

You'll also be able to...

Develop the ability to interpret and modulate the body’s nervous system (sensory and autonomic) to regulate arousal levels in clients and for safer trauma therapy

Identify and acquire recovery options and strategies for trauma clients inappropriate for trauma memory processing, particularly for those who don’t want to and those who decompensate or dysregulate from memory work

Also develop the ability to interpret and modulate the body’s nervous system (sensory and autonomic) to regulate arousal levels for professional self-care

About the speaker(s)

Dr Daniela Sieff, D.Phil. is an independent scholar, speaker and author.  She has a doctorate from the University of Oxford in biological anthropology. Her particular focus was evolutionary approaches to human behavior and her research took her to a wilderness region of Tanzania to work with a traditional cattle-herding people. For the past 15 years, Daniela has been researching, writing and speaking about a variety of subjects, including emotional trauma and its healing, maternal hostility, and shame. She has taught or lectured at a range of institutions including, The Royal College of Psychiatry, The Royal Society of Arts, The Compassionate Mind Foundation, The Bowlby Center, the Tavistock Clinic, and various Jungian groups.

Daniela is author of multiple academic articles and book chapters. She is also the author/editor of ‘Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma: Conversations with Pioneering Clinicians and Researchers’ published by Routledge in 2015. She is currently writing a book about chronic (toxic) shame which will bring together evolutionary and psychodynamics perspectives. For more information about Daniela Sieff visit: https://danielasieff.com/

Brooke Laufer, Psy.D. is an independent scholar, writer, and clinician with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Brooke runs a group practice in Evanston, IL, where she specialises in women’s reproductive health. She has Jungian analytic training and a deep interest in motherhood, perinatal mood disorders, and infanticide. She serves as a forensic evaluator specializing in cases of infanticide and maternal filicide. Brooke works with women who have been incarcerated for infanticide and also runs groups for mothers who have experienced postpartum psychosis. Brooke has been writing and speaking on Medea as the Modern Mother from a clinical and Jungian perspective for the last several years, with the intention of bringing consciousness to the pitfalls of Motherhood. For more information, visit www.drbrookelaufer.com

3 reasons why you should attend this course

nscience UK is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. nscience UK maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

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